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Fran Shepherd

At the AKC Diving Dogs Challenge, the best diving dogs from across the country come together to compete in distance jumps, Air Retrieve, and Hydro Dash. The 2024 competition, which will take place February 24 and 25 will feature “DD,” a 10-and-a-half-year-old All-American Dog owned by Susi Evans of Denver, CO. Despite her senior status, this dog is ready to make a big splash at the Glendale, AZ, competition.

DD, short for “Dicey Diva,” has been wowing the crowds of all kinds since she was a puppy. She even did a Southwest Airlines commercial when she was just 10 months old. DD loves Diving Dogs events, and her 2023 jump average was 20 feet 6 inches, with her best jump at 21 feet 3 inches. DD has a total of 112 lifetime splashes and took third place at the 2022 NADD Nationals in Hydro Dash. She’s even an accomplished Flyball dog, too, and her age isn’t slowing her down.

Over a Decade of Competition

Because of her size, DD competes in the “lapdog” class of Diving Dogs. But don’t let the name fool you, she’s no lapdog! Though just 19 pounds, DD is a little dog built for speed.

DD came home at 8 weeks old and, from the beginning, Evans said she knew there was something special about this puppy. “She was a breeze to train. She’s so smart, she’s so athletic, and she just loves doing anything with me,” she explains. Evans also notes that DD is a very independent dog, “She’s not the type of dog who will be snuggly with you,” she says. Instead, she says, DD wants to get to work.

Fran Shepherd

At this year’s AKC Diving Dogs Challenge, DD will be the oldest dog competing, but you’d hardly know she’s 10 by looking at her launching off the dock. Since DD is in such great condition, Evans says they haven’t had to slow down or make any accommodations when it comes to sports.

Because she’s such an intense athlete and she’s getting older, Evans is very careful with DD’s health and conditioning to keep her feeling her best. DD is still in incredible shape and more than ready to hit the docks. For her health, DD is on a very strict diet, supplements, and muscle builder. She also follows a regular conditioning plan, including being on the treadmill every other day, to stay in shape.

Flyball Champion Turned Dock Diving Star

In addition to being a force on the docks, DD’s dog sports career actually started with Flyball. She’s a dog who loves to keep busy and has had an extremely successful Flyball career.

“This dog has done everything with Flyball,” Evans proudly recalls. DD got started in Flyball at just a year old. She’s a Regional Champion, a Regional MVP At the AKC Canine Flyball CanAm Classic, and has been in the Finals twice. Plus, she just earned her IRON DOG Award for being a dog who earned at least one Flyball point for 10 consecutive racing years. She even performs as part of halftime shows for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets Basketball team.

In 2020, DD took her first leap to get involved with Diving Dogs. Evans explains that during the COVID-19 lockdowns, she was looking for something to do with her high-drive dogs. Because Flyball is a team sport taking place indoors, social distancing wasn’t possible. Diving Dogs, on the other hand, takes place outside. “We used to call it the ‘pandemic flyball’ because they were able to use similar skill sets,” Evans says.

Dana Nichols - Altitude Dog Photos

DD is a dog who only has one speed: very fast. In many ways, DD and Evans’ other dogs treat dock diving with the same drive and intensity that they approach Flyball. “They’re racing like they’re racing the Flyball lane — they come on the water at full speed,” she says, describing speed in dock diving. It’s DD’s love of Diving Dogs that makes Evans love the sport too. She confesses that she really gets into the sport alongside her dogs. “I am yelling and clapping at them, and I get into it with them,” she explains. She says she especially appreciates the way that the sport is an opportunity for her dogs just to be themselves.

DD’s Routine at Home

Evans notes that living with a dog with as much energy and drive as DD isn’t for everyone. While she’s a dog with some quirks, Evans says, for the most part, she’s quiet and easy to live with. When she’s not on the dock or at Flyball, DD is a dog who enjoys her downtime and relaxing. In the same vein, she knows when it’s time to work and is ready to go. During the warmer months, Evans has a pool in her backyard that the dogs use to practice. In the winter, she uses an indoor dock for practice twice a month, then goes to Flyball every week. She also does gym work to improve her core conditioning at home to keep her in shape and avoid injuries. When she’s not racing Flyball lanes or leaping from docks, DD enjoys chasing squirrels in her backyard.

Looking Forward to the AKC Diving Dogs Challenge

DD won’t be the only dog in her home traveling to compete at the AKC Diving Dogs. Evans will be at the AKC Diving Dogs Challenge with all three of her All American Dogs: DD, “Snap,” and “Cava.” Snap was the 2022 National Champion and jumped 34 feet in regionals, and Cava is an alternate for Air Retrieve because of the random draw entry. Cava is also the National Champion in back-to-back years 2022 and 2023 for Distance Jump.

Fran Shepherd

Because there’s no veterans’ division in the Lapdog category, DD will be competing with dogs of all ages, including very young dogs. But Evans says she’s not concerned. “She’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs, they give you everything 150% every single time, whatever you do with her, that’s how special she is,” Evans explains. She’s hoping for good weather, but she feels confident about DD’s abilities regardless. Going into the AKC Diving Dog Challenge, Evans’ primary goal is just for DD to have a good time.

The AKC Diving Dogs Challenge participants making a splash! The AKC Diving Dogs Challenge is taking place February 24-25 in Glendale, AZ. Stay tuned for ESPN broadcast information!