At the 1991 track & field world championships in Tokyo, U.S. long jumper Mike Powell leapt 8.95 meters—29 feet, 4 ½ inches—to notch a world record that has stood for an incredible 22 years. On Saturday at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge at the Rio, a Belgian Malinois named Hudson jumped 31 feet, 3 inches. Not bad for a pup chasing a plastic chew toy above a small pool.
The competition, in Las Vegas for the first time, was a regional qualifier for the Incredible Dog Challenge Finals, October 4-5 in Missouri. Along with dock diving, where large dogs sprint across a platform before launching themselves as far as they can into a pool in pursuit of a toy, the two-day competition included events like pole weaving, an agility course, Jack Russell hurdle racing and freestyle flying disc.
Instead of the primped and primed pups on display at more traditional shows, these animals here were four-legged athletes, showing off speed, strength and agility with ears perked and tails wagging. As the announcer called out the breeds of dock diving competitors, one handler paused to interject “and a rescue!” before sending her dog flying toward the pool.
Like Hudson and his impressive jump, the winners in every category were indeed incredible. But it was the moments around those victories that felt the most vibrant to me. Like when a dock-diving pooch emerged from the water and leaped into his owner’s arms for a hug, dripping and happy. Or when six Jack Russells piled up at the end of the hurdle racing, a crowd of tiny white tails wagging as they all tried to squeeze through the exit chute at the same time. Or when a dog entertaining the crowd with disc tricks between events paused mid-show to do his business. As his handler stooped to bag it up, the crowd just cheered. Even incredible dogs have to go to the bathroom.