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Dog Leaps Into The Record Books

By Lee Hermiston from

Sean McCarthy took his 3-year-old dog, Jordan, down to St. Louis last weekend just hoping for a chance to compete in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals.

He left with a world record.

“We actually went down for the competition, and we weren’t even in it,” said McCarthy, 38, of Riverside. “They have a last-chance qualifier the day before the finals. We weren’t sure we’d even make it.”

During the open qualifying round for the dog diving competition, Jordan, a chocolate Labrador, launched herself 30 feet, six inches into the 19,000-gallon pool, nearly breaking the world record of 31 feet and easily qualifying for the finals.

Jordan squared off against six dogs, with each dog getting three attempts. After the first round, Jordan was in third place, and the dog in first place had just set a new world record with a jump of 31 feet, one inch. On the second jump, Jordan flew 30 feet, four inches, enough to move her into second place. On the third and final jump, she sailed 31 feet, two inches to set a new record.

“It was incredible,” McCarthy said.

Incredible is right, especially considering that just a few years ago, McCarthy, who owns five Culligan Water stores in Iowa, had no idea that such a competition even existed.

McCarthy said his foray into dog diving began when Jordan was a puppy. McCarthy recalls first thinking something was different about Jordan when he would take her to the dog park in Iowa City. While other dogs would walk into the pond, Jordan always leapt.

It was about that time that McCarthy saw a dog diving segment on the Late Show with David Letterman.

“I thought she could be pretty good at this,” he said.

McCarthy did some research and found a dog diving team in Des Moines. He later checked out a demonstration they hosted in Cedar Rapids and the rest, he said, is history.

Since then, Jordan has won two national championships in the speed retrieve competition, in which the dog runs off a 20-foot dock into a 40-foot pool to retrieve a toy suspended on the other side. Jordan will be competing for her third national championship Friday through Oct. 17 in Dubuque.

McCarthy said competing is more of a hobby than a means of earning a living, noting what he and Jordan earn rarely covers the travel expenses. But, he said, it gives him and his wife a chance to travel the country with their other two dogs and meet other people involved in the sport.

“There’s nothing better than having fun with the dogs,” he said.

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