Dog Town delivers at day three of GoPro Mountain Games
At the Mountain Games even the furry friends are world-class competitors
The first time Katie Priebe’s six-year-old lab, Tucker, saw water, the puppy gave a prescient indication of his future line of work.
“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 St. Paul, Minnesota. Upon seeing the competition pool, Tucker “went insane.” The next 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 it’s his job,” laughed Priebe.
The Oakdale, Minnesota-based pair has been coming to Vail for the past five years. For the past four, Tucker has finished the season as the No. 1 ranked Iron Dog — the competition which includes big air, extreme vertical and speed retrieve events — in the world. Even with the accolades, Tucker is a pretty regular joe — or dog. He doesn’t have a specially built treadmill for training or pool for daily practice in his backyard.
“He doesn’t get pool time much outside of competition. I try to keep that for excitability for the competition, except if we’re working on something,” said Priebe, who admitted when she discovered her dog’s special gifts, she had to “learn pretty quick” what entails elite dockdog performance. She’s leaned on the council of Tom Dropik of Team Stihl, another Minnesota-based dockdogs trainer.
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“He’s been doing it forever,” Priebe said.
Tucker won the dualing dogs event at the Mountain Games last year. Next weekend, he’ll head to Deadwood, South Dakota for Wild Bill Days. Even though he’s won the crystal globe of his sport four years in a row, he’s still in search of that elusive World Championship title. His next opportunity is Oct. 12-16 in Dubuque, Iowa.
“He has a second, a bunch of thirds, and has made finals a lot,” Priebe said as Tucker — who’s growing Instagram @tuckeranddually probably deserves more followers considering his accomplishments — hung out in his shaded kennel, a nearby fan blowing cool air into his snout.
“Maybe this year.”
Fans can check out Tucker — Priebe said he loves to meet people — the rest of the week as the qualifying and finals of dueling dogs and dockdogs continues.
Rebel hopes his paws can fill some pretty big prints
Greg and Kathy Willis — the first couple to be in the DockDogs Worldwide Hall of Fame — aren’t strangers to the GoPro Mountain Games. Their hall-of-fame golden retriever, Rowdy, who once posted a 27-foot leap, was the top-ranked golden seven years in a row and routinely wowed Vail audiences.
Rowdy died at the age of 12 last year, but his lineage lives on in Razor, Kathy’s dog.
“They’re from the sporting line of golden retrievers. That’s why they have the sportcoat and a lot more drive. High, high drive,” she said.
“He’s a pretty good bird hunter, too.”
Looking to fill some pretty big shoes — paw prints — on Thursday was Rebel, a sweet, happy-go-lucky golden who has showed up at the last couple of GoPro Mountain Games. True to his name, the pup isn’t always keen to listen, impatiently inching up on the dock during his turn. His jubilant and hilariously defiant persistence screams, “Let me go already!”
“He’s a creeper,” Greg smiled as he lovingly lamented his pup’s tendencies.
“It’s still a work in progress because he’s very excited.”
Mountain Dog Photo captures canines at their best
When the pandemic hit, Charles Townsend’s outdoor lifestyle photography domain went dormant. Like many who found their COVID-caused entrepreneurial spirit, Townsend had an idea — though, he wasn’t super serious about it.
“When business shut down, this was kind of a joke that we wanted to be photographers and start a dog portrait company,” he said.
“And then it just actually happened, and it took off.”
Mountain Dog Photo was born.
“People love their dogs and we figured, why not create wall art that immortalizes them,” he said during a brief lull at his Dog Town booth. The moments of peace are rare during the Mountain Games week.
“This is the biggest event of the year for us,” he said, noting that the Lionshead-based photography company took pictures of 427 dogs at last year’s event. This year he said they’re “focusing more on the experience.” For $250, dog-lovers get a high-end piece of art that can be shipped to their home before they return. Outside of the Mountain Games atmosphere, Townsend said the company does studio and outdoor sessions.
“We have some great locations where dogs can look great in the mountains.”
Like everyone in Dogtown on Thursday, Townsend loves being around man’s best friend.
“This is so much fun,” he said of the genre.
“Anytime we have the chance to photograph or work with dogs — I travel too much to own a dog, so this is how I get to experience it.”
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