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Photo by Kim Langevin

“Oh my gosh, that little dog can jump 14 feet?”

It’s a question owner Angela Crawford is familiar with. After all, not many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels participate in Dock Diving, and 14 feet is an impressive distance to jump. But getting questions like this, and watching the excitement of the crowds at any Dock Diving event is Angela’s favorite memory. That, and showing other people that Cavaliers can do anything they set their minds too.

The Star of the Show

The first time Angela and Shawn took Athena to the Florida beach, she ran out into the waves with no hesitation. She chased the birds. She walked up and down the coastline.

She’s always loved water — and Dock Diving is a natural extension of that love.

Angela had never heard of Dock Diving (and had no idea that Athena would be the first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to participate in the sport). But Athena was an exuberant puppy in 2015, and Angela and her husband Shawn needed to find an outlet for her energy.

Photo by Connie Fore

Angela discovered the sport from a simple Google search, and they weren’t sure how Athena would perform.

Athena brought the same energy she had at the beach to the swimming pool. Without hesitation, she launched herself off the dock — something many dogs don’t do their first time at there. She barked at all the other dogs on the dock to let them know she’d arrived — it was her dock now.

After a few months of practice, she gained the confidence to run across the full dock.

Athena is the embodiment of the English and Greek royal roots of her name: she is bold (and a little bossy) and will always let you know when she’s arrived.

“She’s just so full of energy. There’s never a dull moment. She’s known for her personality. I mean, you go to a dock diving event and I guarantee you, if she’s there, you’ll hear her because she brings everything.”

The little spitfire is the star of the show. The claps and cheers of the audience motivate Athena to run faster, jump farther.

Athena holds the breed record of distance jumping at 14 feet six inches. After six years of Dock Diving, Athena has traveled all over the country to Dock Diving events and has gotten invites to Nationals.

Athena, Angela, and Shawn have even encouraged other Cavalier owners to get involved in the sport. People will ask: “How did you get your dog to do this? My Cavalier’s afraid of water.”

Angela and Shawn are always happy to share their knowledge, and love inspiring people to get their Cavaliers involved in the sport in person and on Instagram.

“We never imagined she would take us to the places she’s taken us,” Angela says.

Now at eight years old, Athena is working toward her ninth title in Dock Diving.

Photo by Connie Fore

Expanding to Other Sports

“Hey, why don’t you try this?” other handlers asked. “Why don’t you try Barn Hunt? Fast Cat? Agility?

Shawn and Angela said yes every time.

“She’s always so over the top, so we wanted to try to tame her down a little bit by trying new stuff,” Angela says.

Though Dock Diving will always have first-place in Athena’s heart, Fast CAT is a close second.

In Fast CAT, Athena puts her backyard-lizard hunting skills to work chasing a lure as fast as she can. Athena runs nearly 23 miles per hour — “she has no off button,” Angela says — and consistently ranks in the top three fastest Cavaliers six years in a row.

In Dock Diving, dogs race off a dock to dive as far as they can. Other sports like Rally and Agility require canines to follow their handler’s commands and think about the course they are going through. Participating in multiple dog sports lets Athena hone her talents and become a more well-rounded dog. Her athleticism has also included Trick Dog, Canine Good Citizen, and Barn Hunt. Athena even achieved excellence in Lure Coursing, which she’s now retired from.

“The goal is to just keep her happy and healthy,” Angela says.

Photo by Mark Baer Photography

You Can Get Started in Dog Sports Too!

Anyone can get started in dog sports. Like Angela, you can start by finding a local trainer, club, or mentor. You’ll learn a lot just by attending trials.

With any dog sport, start slow and take your time. Angela advises trying sports that align naturally with your dog’s interests. It’s okay if progress comes slowly. Make sure you have fun!

“It’s all about spending time with your dog and having fun. Not every day is going to be successful,” she says. “Not every day is going to be a title or a qualifying jump or run. Just keep going with it.”

Join Athena on Instagram!

Follow Athena‘s adventures on Instagram! Following other dog athlete’s journeys on Instagram is an excellent way to learn about different sports.

Any breed — including mixed breeds — can participate in dog sports like Trick Dog, FAST CAT, and Diving Dogs.

Think your dog has what it takes to be Dog Athlete of the Month? Use the hashtag #ThisIsAKC on Instagram.

Related article: Diving Dogs 101: How to Compete in Dock Diving Step-By-Step
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