Dog Town delivers day three of the GoPro Mountain Games
The first time Katie Priebe’s six-year-old lab Tucker saw water, the pup gave a foreboding hint of her future job.
“The first time he saw the water, he ran off the dock and jumped over a pontoon boat,” Priebe described. Shortly after, she took him to a competition in Saint-Paul. Upon seeing the competition pool, Tucker “went crazy”. The following weekend he made his debut, and the rest is history.
“I knew when he was a puppy that he wanted to be a dock dog. He thinks that’s his job,” laughed Priebe.
The Oakdale, Minn.-based pair have been coming to Vail for five years. For the final four, Tucker finished the season as the No. 1-ranked Iron Dog — the competition that includes big air, extreme verticality and speed recovery events — in the world. Even with the accolades, Tucker is a pretty regular Joe — or dog. He doesn’t have a specially designed treadmill for training or a swimming pool for daily training in his backyard.
“He doesn’t spend a lot of time in the pool outside of competition. I try to save that for the competitive excitability unless we’re working on something,” said Priebe, who admitted when she discovered her dog’s special gifts she had to “learn pretty quickly.” which implies elite dock dog performance. She relied on advice from Team Stihl’s Tom Dropik, another Minnesota-based dockdog trainer.
“He’s been doing it forever,” Priebe said.
Tucker won the dog duo event at the Mountain Games last year. Next weekend, he’ll be heading to Deadwood, South Dakota for Wild Bill Days. Even though he won his sport’s crystal globe four years in a row, he’s still chasing that elusive world championship title. His next opportunity is October 12-16 in Dubuque, Iowa.
“He’s got a second, a bunch of thirds and made a lot of finals,” Priebe said as Tucker – growing up on Instagram @tuckeranddually probably deserves more followers given his accomplishments – dragged into his shady kennel, a nearby fan blowing cool air into its muzzle.
“Maybe this year.”
Fans can check out Tucker — Priebe said he enjoys meeting people — the rest of the week as the Dueling Dogs and Dockdogs qualifiers and finals continue.
Rebel hopes her paws can fill really big footprints
Greg and Kathy Willis – the first couple to be in the DockDogs Worldwide Hall of Fame — are no strangers to GoPro Mountain Games. Their hall of fame golden retriever, Rowdy, who once jumped 27 feet, has been No. 1 in the standings seven years in a row and has consistently wowed Vail audiences.
Rowdy died aged 12 last year, but his lineage lives on in Razor, Kathy’s dog.
“They are of the sporting line of Golden Retrievers. That’s why they have the sportcoat and a whole lot more riding. High, high drive,” she said.
“He is also a very good bird hunter.”
On Thursday, Rebel, a sweet and carefree walleye who showed up at the last two GoPro Mountain Games, was looking to fill some really big shoes — paw prints. True to its name, the pup isn’t always ready to listen, eagerly plodding along the dock during its turn. His jubilant and hilariously provocative persistence screams, “Let go of me already!”
“He’s a creeper,” smiles Greg as he lovingly laments his pup’s tendencies
“It’s still a work in progress because he’s very excited.”
Mountain Dog Photo captures dogs at their best
When the pandemic hit, Charles Townsend’s field of outdoor lifestyle photography went dormant. Like many who found their entrepreneurial spirit caused by COVID, Townsend had an idea — however, he wasn’t very serious about it.
“When business closed, it was kind of a joke that we wanted to be photographers and start a dog portrait business,” he said.
“And then it really happened and it took off.”
Mountain Dog Photo was born.
“People love their dogs and we thought, why not create wall art that immortalizes them,” he said during a brief lull at his Dog Town booth. Moments of peace are rare during the week of the Mountain Games.
“It’s the biggest event of the year for us,” he said, noting that the Lionshead-based photography company took photos of 427 dogs at last year’s event. This year, he said they were “focusing more on the experience.” For $250, dog lovers get a premium piece of art that can be shipped to their home before they return. Outside of the Mountain Games atmosphere, Townsend said the company hosts in-studio and outdoor sessions.
“We have great places where dogs can look great in the mountains.”
Like everyone else at Dogtown on Thursday, Townsend enjoys being with man’s best friend.
“It’s so much fun,” he said of the genre.
“Whenever we get the chance to photograph or work with dogs, I travel too much to own a dog, so that’s how I can experience it.”
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