ELIOT — Kelly Dailey adopted her brother’s dog, a Labrador-retriever mix named Shannon, after he committed suicide last year. Dailey struggled with grief after her brother’s death, but found she was often comforted when the 32-pound dog would climb onto her lap.

“I fell into a deep, deep depression, and I was heading down a rabbit hole fast,” Dailey said. “Shannon helped pull me out.

“So I thought: Dock Dogs. I had seen the competitions before and it looked like a lot of fun. I wanted to give her that. And the first day, the members of the Seacoast Club were so incredibly helpful and supportive, I was hooked. They helped me train her. And she’s an amazing dog. She proves to me every day she knows who I am.”

The dog was Dailey’s grief therapy. For Dailey, the only way to repay the high-energy dog was obvious. They joined the Seacoast Dock Dogs Club in Eliot so they could have fun together doing what dogs do best: playing fetch by leaping into water.

Dock Dogs is an Ohio-based organization that sponsors aquatics events for dogs and holds jumping competitions around the world. The Seacoast Dock Dogs Club is the only Dock Dogs-affiliated club in Maine, and one of only three in the Northeast. The nonprofit Maine club leases the land for practices and events from the Berwick Bark Park.

Nearly every member of the club seems to have a T-shirt made for their dog, touting Team Buck, Team Can-Can or Team Menno. Many members travel to events in other parts of the country.

Ray Sumner of Kittery dries off Camo, his 2-year-old yellow Lab, after the dog jumped 20 feet and 11 inches as members of Seacoast Dock Dogs performed at the Hops and Hounds event at Raitt Farm.

There are Dock Dogs-affiliated events across North America, like the Pet-A-Palooza in St. Paul, Minnesota, Woofstock in Toronto, and the Dog Days Canine Cannonball in Osage Beach, Missouri. Results from one event are comparable to another, since the dogs use the same Dock Dogs pools and docks.

“You can compete against dogs anywhere,” said Mike Ferron of Gorham, owner of a Lab-mix named Buck, one of the Seacoast club’s finest.

Last year, Ferron and Buck finished third in the elite division out of some 800 dogs at the Dock Dogs World Championship in Nashville, Tennessee. Buck was named the Dock Dogs Rookie of the Year.

The diminutive dog has a personal-best leap of 26 feet, 11 inches in the dock jump, and now competes in the semipro category.

“He loses his mind doing this,” said Ferron, who rescued Buck from an unexpected litter. “He just about goes crazy when he’s going to jump. For Buck, it’s all about being on the dock.”

Buck’s international success aside, the Seacoast club in Eliot is mostly about the camaraderie among canine fans and the serious dog love the members share.

“These are some of the best people I know,” said Dyane Delemarre, a Seacoast member from Rochester, New Hampshire, who was competing with her Belgian Malinois, Menno, on June 16 at the Dock Dogs event at Raitt Farm Homestead in Eliot.

“They’re dog people. They’re kind and helpful. And this brings you closer to your dog.”

Lisa Podielsky drives two hours from Lakeville, Massachusetts, to train in the summer with the Seacoast club in Eliot with her dog. She traveled to Nashville for a Dock Dogs event with 10 other Seacoast members. Last weekend, Podielsky stayed at the home of a Seacoast member in Maine in order to compete at the Dock Dogs event at Raitt Farm.

And yet, it matters not to Podielsky how her black Lab, Charley, performs.

“She’s average,” Podielsky said with a shrug. “She consistently jumps in the 15-16 (foot) range. She’s a rescue dog. A lot of the dogs here are rescues.”

At the Dock Dogs competition a week ago, many of the 100 members of the Seacoast Dock Dogs Club came to compete with their Labradors, Labradoodles, Lab-mixes, herding dogs, lap dogs, guard dogs and all manner of mutts. By noon, a line of more than 40 dogs was still waiting to get into the competition.

“If it wasn’t for Shannon and Seacoast, I don’t know where I’d be,” Dailey said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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