By DONNA BALANCIA
SAN DIEGO — It takes a lot to build a champion, but Rex is special. Not only is he a world champion high jumper, he is a cancer survivor. And he is also a dog.
Rex, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois doesn’t dwell on his struggles, after all, he has more important things to do — like jumping off a dock and into the water. He is a champion canine aquatics competitor.
“Once he’s on that dock, he’s very serious,” said Rex’ owner and trainer, Lianne Shinton of San Diego, Calif. “He thinks it’s his job.”
Rex competes in the sanctioned competitions held and presented by DockDogs, which holds competitions and events around the country for canine aquatic athletes. Dogs enter the contest and leap from a 40-foot dock into a 40-foot pool and while they’re in the air, they have to nab the prize, called a bumper, suspended overhead.
Rex’ specialty is the high jump — he was named World Champion in 2010 — recording an average jump of 7 – 10 feet.
It’s all in a day’s training for Rex, who, with owner Shinton, travels to events around the country. Shinton and her boyfriend Bret Geller own IQ K9 Training, a Southern California-based company developed out of their love for dogs. Shinton loves working with animals, going back to her time at a veterinary emergency clinic, where she found Rex.
“Rex was a rescue,” Shinton said. “But he’s always been such a wonderful animal with a great attitude.”
The clinic is also where Shinton made the most depressing discovery of her life: When the doctor told her that her best pal Rex had cancer.
“We got it all, and he is fully recovered now, but it was touch and go,” Shinton said.
Shinton doesn’t regret one moment of devotion to her athletic animal.
“Once he gets on that dock, he is focused and very serious,” Lianne said. “He’s got a great on-off switch. But when he’s on that dock it’s very serious. He thinks its his job to get the bumper and win.”
Aspiring Dock Dogs have to be at least 6 months old, but few that are involved are actually that young.
“If you have a Lab or a Chihuahua and he likes the water and loves his toy, then you might have the making of a great Dock Dog,” Shinton said.
And don’t worry if your dog may be getting a little too old for the sport.
Rex is getting up there, at 6 years old, he’s at the older end of the Dock Dogs competitors. So nowadays he is eyeballing his next age categories: The Veteran division and the Legend division.
And Rex still has plenty of competition left in him. He is looking forward to Chino California when he will go up against the top Dock Dogs in the world.
“Rex is just amazing to me,” Shinton said. “He has overcome his challenges with grace. They say dogs can teach us a lot. And Rex has taught me we can overcome anything with strength and determination.”