DockDogs and Mutton Bustin are annual delights at the Clark County Fair
RIDGEFIELD — The out-of-town professionals call it the DockDogs Summer Camp because they get to spend so much time in Southwest Washington, competing all 10 days at the Clark County Fair.
And yes, there are professionals in this sport.
“Everyone said I couldn’t do this for a living. So far, I’ve proven them wrong,” said Kristi Baird of Brown Dog University in Gig Harbor.
And yes, this is a sport.
Can’t say these dogs are not athletes.
Those athletes need trainers — coaches if you will — and that is what brings Baird and a dozen or so other dog owners to Clark County just about every summer for the DockDogs competition.
Baird could not say for certain how long Clark County has been a destination on the tour. She thinks it started way back in 2006. And there was one year when the dogs were not at the fair.
“By popular demand, we came back,” Baird said. “The crowds are huge every year.”
And why not? It’s fun to watch the trained dogs jump 20 or more feet into the pool on a hot summer’s day. It’s also fun to see a dog run to the edge, stop, consider life’s options for a second, then jump in the pool anyway.
The DockDogs competition is just one of so many things to do at the 2019 Clark County Fair.
On Tuesday, fairgoers also got to see some Mutton Bustin — children riding sheep, rodeo style, for as long as they could hold on to the animal. Most went down within a second. Some stayed on for almost the length of the arena.
Some children smiled and could not wait to try it again. Some cried, and wished their parents had thought of something better to do.
Never work with children or animals, the old Hollywood saying goes. Only because children and animals have that “awe, too cute” factor.
We will get back to Mutton Bustin in a bit, but down at the dock, it is all about the dog days of summer.
Earlier this week, Sounders the Whippet broke the DockDogs world record in the Outdoor Big Air competition. Sounders was recorded splashing down some 32-feet, 2-inches beyond the dock. The previous record lasted seven years and was owned by Sounders’ grandma, Cochiti, and that record was set, yep, at the Clark County Fair in 2012.
“There is magic in Clark County,” said Angel Graham, also a professional trainer in the sport. She is from Roslyn, about 80 miles east of Seattle.
Baird, Graham, and others are competitors and also close friends, traveling the country with their dogs.
“We joke that we spend more time with each other than our husbands,” Baird said.
The traveling is just part of their world, but long engagements, such as the one at the Clark County Fair, are welcome. It gives them a chance to stay in one place for a bit.
Oh, and along with the owners and dogs, there are physical therapists for dogs.
Jan Robinson said she sold her house years ago and lives in an RV, traveling the circuit, providing canine massage, gait analysis, and other needs for the athletes. Her business is called Fitwoof.
Baird was competing with three of her dogs this week, but she said there are more than a dozen dogs competing this week that she has helped train. Bobby McGee, a rescue from California, competed Tuesday afternoon.
Baird said she has been a dog trainer for most of her life, and in 2004, she started training dogs to take the leap. Now, she said, she is booked over a month out. Her business is busy. A lot of people love to see their dogs take flight.
People aren’t the only ones thrilled with the sport.
“They love this,” she said of the dogs. “For them, the best day in the world is when they get to play in the big blue pool.”
“How could you not have fun watching dogs belly flop in the water?” she asked. “This is the funnest thing in the world.”
Some children, though, might think holding on to a sheep for dear life is pretty fun, too.
“It was like riding a bull,” said 5-year-old Graydon Trotter of Ridgefield.
His older brother, Maddox, 7, was disappointed with his ride. He didn’t get hurt, but he was bummed because he wanted to win.
The sons of a former rodeo cowboy, they both wore rodeo vests and had the bull-riding helmets with a faceguard. They meant business.
Audrey Howard, a 7-year-old from Willamina, Ore., had one of the longest rides of Tuesday’s afternoon session and was likely going to be a finalist. However, she was not 100 percent sure if she would return. You see, when she did get “bucked off” the sheep, the sheep then stepped on her arm and leg.
Howard said she was proud of her performance. She also knew what she’d say if she ever spotted that sheep.
“Don’t ever do that again,” she said.
Georgia Anderson, 3, of Vancouver, and Paige Gaylord, 5, of Amboy waited in line a long time before they could ride. They were seen holding hands, like sisters, as they prepared for their turn.
Turns out, they had just met, in line, that day. Yes, making friends at Mutton Bustin.
This children’s event started with a 5-year-old girl singing the national anthem, too. Maya Stern said she was “a little” nervous when she started.
There were probably a few hundred people in the grandstands — the biggest audience she had performed in front of in her entire life.
When asked how she thought she did, she responded “good” while giving a thumb’s up.
A split second later she revised her answer.
“Awesome,” she said.
The Mutton Bustin was a one-day event at the fair, but DockDogs will hold multiple performances every day of the fair, which runs through Sunday.
Plus there are all the other things associated with fairs: Rides, food, livestock, vendors, and more.
Check out this link for the schedule for the final days of the fair: http://www.clarkcofair.com/documents/2019%20Master%20Schedule.pdf