DockDogs competitor has day to remember

Published 12:20 am Sunday, May 1, 2016

NATCHEZ — Susan Barnes stooped to one knee and hugged Jordan, a 9-year old chocolate lab, as tightly as she could as tears trickled down her cheek on the Natchez bluff Friday evening.

The scene at the DockDogs long-jump competition was a strong, emotional moment for the Iowa native, whose attendance at the event was still up in the air after the death of her dog, Tanner, of 17 years earlier in the week.

“I was still deciding whether I was going to come this week or not, but I did it for him,” Barnes said. “I knew he would want me to be here.”

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DockDogs was in Natchez Friday and Saturday as part of the city’s tricentennial Ironman Outdoor Games.

Tanner, a German shorthaired pointer, and Barnes had roamed the DockDogs circuit for 12 years together, covering countless miles traveling to events across the country, side-by-side competing as one.

“It feels like he made a 1,000 jumps,” Barnes said, holding back tears. “Twelve years is a long time.”

When the duo started out on the circuit together in 2005, Barnes said there was only one other shorthaired dog in the competitions with the rest being a mix of labs and chesapeakes.

“He came out and made the (DockDogs) finals for three straight years,” Barnes said. “It was unbelievable and something he loves to do. And my part was to train him and be a good partner. He took me on so many great rides.”

Two years ago, however, Tanner suffered from kidney failure, prompting Barnes to start the Never Give Up Tour, whose message is described as “inspiring others to keep their dogs active and healthy through active lives.”

Last October, Tanner and Barnes competed for the final time as a tandem.

“He used to jump 24s and 25s, and everyone gets caught up in scores,” Barnes said. “But to me, it was about the relationship with him.”

Barnes added the strong showing of support from the DockDogs Community also played a role in her attendance this weekend.

“It’s always exciting to come and see your friends, but it’s bittersweet for me,” Barnes said. “But the people here understand that relationship, and they understand how hard it is to lose that special dog.”

Alongside Jordan, a friend’s dog and affectionately referred to as “Air Jordan,” Barnes had a strong showing at Friday’s event as Jordan leapt 22 feet, 9 inches.

“I’ve been embraced by the DockDogs community so much,” Barnes said.