BUCYRUS – Christie Auck’s dog makes a splash – one jump at a time.
Barry, her beloved black Labrador Retriever, is a big winner on the competitive dock diving circuit.
Yes, he jumps off docks – motivated to fly past a toy before landing in the water. Barry has worked his way to several titles in the North America Diving Dogs (NADD) competition.
“He gets so excited when he sees the pool, and he’ll look at the other dogs before it’s his turn,” said Auck, who got Barry two and a half years ago after the tragic loss of her other black lab. . “It is a very good dog. It is a very sweet, calm dog. But when he gets to the pool and the water, he goes crazy.”
Since qualifying in regional NADD events and the national showcase in Springfield, Missouri, in October, Barry has won ribbons in all three disciplines of dock diving — Distance Jumping, which is the most popular, and Air Retrieve’s “special splashes.” and Hydro Dash.
So far, Auck said, her black lab has beaten other canines across the country for titles like Dock Senior, Dock Master and Dock Senior Advanced. He has also wowed judges by earning ribbons as Air Retrieve Senior and Hydro Dash Senior, all at NADD events approved by the American Kennel Club.
He is a water wonder. Auck said that when she first got Barry as an eight-week-old puppy, she noticed that he loved playing in the water. So much so that she often dragged him to Riley Reservoir in Bucyrus, Amann’s Reservoir in Galion, and even Lake Erie so he could get his floating toys and play.
First, she bought Barry a small plastic kiddie pool in the backyard. “It’s funny because I didn’t think or know about a dog sport at the time,” Auck said. “He just kept playing in the water. It was pretty funny, so I kept getting something bigger and bigger for him.”
She then bought a Rubbermaid cattle ranch until Auck said in September 2020 that she decided to look online for indoor dog pools. Then she discovered The Gated Dock in Shelby, a sprawling canine enrichment center off Rt. 98. And she met her mentor – owner and trainer Marie Buckingham.
At the facility’s outdoor pool, and with Buckingham’s coaching, Barry was able to run off the dock and jump 10 to 12 feet out, Auck said. “He was so excited and so fearless. For dock diving, toy drive is a big thing, and I always work and play with him, he has toy drive and he loves swimming.”
In December, Auck and Barry traveled to North Fairfield for a dock diving mini clinic. In February 2021, they drove Buckingham and her dog Diamond to Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, for Barry’s dock diving debut, which was held there at the Rustic Lodge Diving Dogs facility.
Barry first tried an air retriever in another indoor facility in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, in March. “We introduced air retriever, and let me tell you, air retriever is his favorite game,” Auck said.
“When he has his pick and sees his toys, he’ll grab that Nerf bumper and bring it to me.”
Barry’s jumping skills earned him qualifying spots at the North Central Regionals in Amana, Iowa, and the Northeast Regionals in Willimantic, Conn. In the long jump, his personal best is 22 feet, three inches after twisting his body in mid-air around the toy, Auck said.
Auck and her husband, Matt, who have six other dogs, love being on “Team Barry”. In fact, she said it’s only fitting that his registered full name is Barry Bjorn Giovanni. The Italian surname means ‘gift from God’ and they have adopted the slogan ‘Bjorn to Swim’.
While the dog sport has made Barry boastful, it has also given its owner a newfound passion—and the confidence to take her own “dive” and pursue new life goals. Auck is now The Gated Dock’s premier dock diving instructor and a trained and certified judge for NADD.
Because this “girl and her dog” are reaching new heights. One leg at a time.