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Auburn Dog Makes a 'Splash'

by Michelle Miller

He's a small fry dog with a super-sized jump.

Auburn canine athlete Mickey D, named after the McDonald's restaurant where his owners got him, has proved himself a successful local dog in the sport of dock jumping.

His owners, husband and wife Jim Powell and Sandra Stewart, of Auburn, toss his yellow birdie toy out into the water and the Yellow Labrador leaps after it. His personal best jump is 22 feet, 10 inches.

Mickey D wasn't the top dog at the Splash Dogs competition June 8 -11 in Auburn (that honor went to Shari Robinson of Panorama City in Southern California and her Border Collie Nevada Pup, who leaped 25 feet). But Mickey D was the top Auburn dog in the running with his 21-foot, 6-inch jump that got him 11th place in the Pro Finals.

Mickey D has big shoes to fill. Jim and Sandra's last Lab was Cash, another dock diving star who died last year.

"Mickey D was easier to train," Stewart said. "Jim was at the pond jumping our other dog Peja when he threw the toy and Mickey D jumped and grabbed it. People say, 'How did you train him?' And we say, 'By accident.'"

But the 17-month-old pup is certainly in his "terrible twos." He's eaten wooden doorknobs, the siding off the house and the barbecue. He also has a problem following commands on the dock, as Powell often has to repeatedly order him to "stay."

"You know that book, 'Marley and Me?'" Stewart asks about the novel chronicling an unruly Labrador. "It should be 'Mickey D and Me.'"

"He's a very, very high maintenance, spoiled dog. The way we lost Cash, we treat this one with kid gloves and he knows it. He thinks he's a lap dog."

Mickey D's top prize so far is first place at a Dock Dogs competition at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in January. A $250 first-place prize was awarded, but Stewart said their expenses were around $1,000.

"It's been the greatest experience in life, probably because of the wonderful people we've met and friends we've made. It's kind of like family. Everyone cheers for everyone else's dog. Sure, in the top 5 it gets tense, but we're not in this to get rich."

Stewart and Powell's dock jumping calendar for the rest of the year is full, from trips to San Diego, Oregon, Reno and Las Vegas. They won't fly with Mickey D in coach, so they drive.

"He's a pretty sweet dog. He adores my husband," Stewart said. "He barks in the morning and won't stop until they get to the pond."

When they met their breeder at a McDonald's in Sacramento to pick up Mickey D, Stewart asked for the lightest color dog that was most active.

"Be careful what you ask for," Stewart said, laughing. "But it amazes Jim and I that we ended up with another dog who excels in this sport."

Tony Reed - 600 Bailey Road, Suite 400 - Pittsburg, CA - P. 925-783-6149 http://www.creativeanswer.com