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Going to Extremes

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Photo by Anthony Tortoriello

These pets take sports to a new level

By Renee Krejci

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, recognized as the founder of the modern Olympic Games, once said, “All sports for all people.” He believed sports could bring the people of the world together. Sports are also a great way to bring people and their pets together. But our furry friends aren’t just chasing tennis balls and running agility courses anymore. From Twiggy the waterskiing squirrel to Tyson the skateboarding Bulldog, pets are taking it to the extreme. It’s all sports for all pets, now.

Hang ten with your best friend

Every summer since 2006, dogs and their guardians have gathered in Imperial Beach, CA. But they’re not there to doggie paddle—they’re there to catch some waves. Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition (LoewsSurfDog.com) is the nation’s largest surfing competition for human’s best friend. Last year’s contest had close to 60 canine contenders and more than 2,000 spectators. The surfing dogs and their guardians are judged on their confidence level, length of ride, and overall ability to “grip it and rip it.”

Want to get in on the action? Teaching your dog to surf is a slow and steady process, just like balancing on a board. Start by introducing your dog to the ocean and letting him get a feel for the movement of the waves. Next, introduce him to the board on land. Make sure his time with the board is a fun time, not a scary one. Once your dog is comfortable on the board, push it slowly to the water’s edge. Then you can try paddling out into the water with your dog on board. Don’t forget your canine’s life vest!

For more tips on how to hang ten with your best friend, check out The Dog’s Guide to Surfing by Kevin Reed (TCB Cafe Publishing).

Scuba dooby doo

If surfing just seems like skimming the surface of extreme sports for Fido, maybe he should try scuba diving. That’s right—dogs can scuba dive. It’s definitely not as popular as surfing, but it’s possible. Mutley, a rescued mixed-breed dog from Redding, CA, is officially certified by the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). Her guardian, Gene Alba, a seasoned diver, created a special $40,000 wet suit and scuba system for his beloved pooch. But just when you think dogs get to have all the fun, in comes Mutley’s feline sister, Hawkeye, who also scuba dives. You read that right: a scuba-diving cat. Most cats won’t get anywhere near a bathtub, yet alone a swimming pool. But one day Hawkeye decided to jump into the pool with Mutley, as the two like to do everything together. Once Alba realized his cat didn’t mind the water, he built her a $20,000 scuba system, and now Hawkeye happily goes on dives. Scuba diving might not be for everyone, but for Mutley and Hawkeye it’s a doggone good time.

Wagging for waterskiing

Twiggy is no stranger to the water. For more than 30 years, Lou Ann Best of Deltona, FL, has been training squirrels to waterski. Like Shamu, there has been more than one Twiggy over the years, each beloved as the famous touring waterskiing squirrel. Twiggy has appeared in several movies, magazines, and on various talk shows. The waterskiing squirrel is known all over the world.

But a Midwestern canine is giving Twiggy a run for her money. Cliff Bode of Schaumburg, IL, a Chicago suburb, taught his Jack Russell Terrier to help drive his boat three years ago. But he wanted to do something else fun. “I had remembered about the waterskiing squirrel, and I thought if the squirrel can ski, I’m sure I can teach my dog to ski.”

He was right. Duma the waterskiing dog (TheWaterskiingDog.com) is quickly growing in fame, making appearances at boat and trade shows across the country and in Canada (and on the cover of Tails!). She got her start cruising the Chicago River, life vest, goggles, and all. “We’d drive around, and people would just be going crazy [about] her goggles. It was really cute,” Bode says. “She’s super-balanced, and she doesn’t like to fall in the water, so she’s anxious to stay on that board.”

Duma, who will be 4 years old in July, has been waterskiing for two years and boat driving for three. Bode says he has never given Duma a treat to get her to waterski or drive the boat. It’s just something she enjoys doing.

Think your pet might enjoy waterskiing? Bode suggests experimenting with different boards to make sure you have the right amount of flotation for your dog’s weight. Then take it slowly and easily. And, of course, always wear a life jacket.

Bulldog on board

Tyson Skateboarding

Photo by SkateboardingBulldog.com

Anyone who’s a fan of talk shows, YouTube, or the Internet in general has probably seen footage of Tyson the skateboarding Bulldog (SkateboardingBulldog.com). After being featured on Countdown with Keith Olbermann five years ago as the “mystery of the skateboarding Bulldog,” Tyson rocketed to fame. He has since been featured in several commercials, TV shows, and movies. But it all started when now 7-year-old Tyson was a 6-month-old puppy going for walks in downtown Huntington Beach, CA. His guardian, Jim Blauvelt, says Tyson would go ballistic when he saw a skateboarder and would try to attack the skater. Blauvelt thought Tyson hated skateboarding. Then six months later, Blauvelt let Tyson play with a skateboard in their backyard. This greatly excited Tyson, who eventually started stepping on the skateboard while he played with it. This gave Blauvelt an idea. “The next day or so, I took him out into the street out front with a retractable leash and a more stable longboard,” he says. Almost immediately, Tyson was skating back and forth in front of the house. Soon skateboarding became customary after walks, and Tyson would skate for hours each day. “He totally just loves it,” Blauvelt says. “It’s not something that I taught him. It’s more that I kind of enabled him. He’s just a skater.”

Blauvelt refers to Tyson as the “original skateboarding dog.” “Now there are a lot of other dogs [who] have seen Tyson, or their [guardians] have, and they’ve gotten their dogs involved in skateboarding too,” Blauvelt says. “We’re pretty proud that Tyson is a trendsetter in a way.”

Last year, the CBS reality show Greatest American Dog launched Tyson’s fellow skateboarding Bulldog, Tillman, into the limelight. The two have since participated in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade in January this year on a skateboarding Bulldog float, sponsored by Natural Balance pet food. Tyson doesn’t skate as much as he used to do when he was younger, but Blauvelt says his dog is now an accomplished and aggressive skater, capable of maneuvering around objects and steering corners.

If you’re considering making your dog a skateboarding star, Blauvelt’s advice is to keep it fun, a lesson that can be applied to all extreme sports you try with your pet. “The only reason we do it is because it’s fun, not because we have any sport goals in mind or anything like that. I’m not a professional dog trainer. Tyson just begs to skate every day,” he says. “If your dog begs to do anything, if it’s play with a Frisbee or play with a ball, you should be out there doing it with them.”

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