DockDogs the Stars of the Show at SEWE

Crowds pack Brittlebank Park, craning their necks to see how far the dogs will jump in the DockDogs competition. It's one of the must-do events at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. People of all ages cheer on the dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds - the ones who fly high and the ones who put on the brakes when they hit the edge of the pool.

Deb Feller’s yellow Labrador mix Doni - short for Adonis - got his start as a DockDog at SEWE when he was a year old. He did OK on the long-distance jump, but was unsure on the vertical jump, Feller recalls. That year Feller carefully observed the competition so she could better train Doni for his next DockDog event.

After a year of research, exercises, training and practice, Feller and Doni returned to SEWE. That year Doni had an impressive long-distance jump of 18 feet and 2 inches.

Feller was hooked - and so was Doni. After that second SEWE competition, Doni jumped 23 feet at a competition in Georgetown. He swept the awards, Feller says.

Feller discovered a whole world of DockDog competitions that can lead to the invitation-only world championship.

"We went chasing titles all over the Southeast and into Ohio and Kentucky," Feller says. "We finally got enough jumps and events under our belts that we were invited to the world championship."

In his first world championship, Doni jumped 25 feet, 10 inches.

Now Feller and her partner Laurie Uebelhoer take Doni and his brother, a black Lab mix named Sirius, to competitions all around the country. They also have a new pup named Ella who’s beginning to make a name for herself as a DockDog competitor.

DockDog fever has spread through their family, and even Uebelhoer's teenage granddaughter is training (and winning) as a youth dog handler.

"It’s just a silly hobby we do with our dogs and we love it," Feller says. "And our dogs love it. We load up and every time we get off an interstate, Doni and our new pup Ella, their heads pop up like, 'Where’s the pool?'"

Feller knows spectators enjoy watching the dogs almost as much as she enjoys training and competing. "Everyone loves to see a dog do good tricks and they love to see athletic dogs," she says.

Whether it's DockDogs or retriever demos, dogs are a big part of SEWE. It's why people will brace the chilly winds from the Ashley River each year to see which dog will jump the farthest and which one will stop just short of the jump.

"I promote SEWE like crazy among DockDogs competitors," Feller says.

DockDogs registration opens daily at 9 a.m. at Brittlebank Park. Spectators can watch the competitions from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19

To learn more about the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, visit SEWE.com.

Sponsored by: Southeastern Wildlife Exposition