Shannon Taaffe held a dog toy loosely in her hand while her 7-year-old dog’s eyes stared it down. She let out a shout and flung the toy in the air.
Prospect did the rest.
“I love him,” Taaffe said with a smile. “He’s my heart and soul. Love him to death.”
The black dog, part Dutch Shepherd and Staffordshire terrier, shook the water off his fur upon retrieving the soaked dog toy. Prospect soared 27 feet 6 inches on his first practice jump of the day.
“Our current national champion is here this weekend,” said Steve Mize, the organizer of the North America Diving Dogs event at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
For the last five years, Taaffe and Prospect have traveled the country competing in diving dog competitions. The dog is given a runaway and sprints, on command, towards a long, rectangular pool. The goal for the thrower is the toss an item far enough ahead of the dog that the animal soars the greatest distance possible.
In Prospect’s case, those leaps have been record-setting.
“He tracks that toy,” said Taaffe, who lives in Lakeland. “He is so small. He has to get that power behind him.”
In 2015, Prospect set the record for the longest jump – 30 feet 6 inches. He was a world record holder – for about five minutes. His mark was surpassed by another dog.
A year later, he set a new top personal mark of 32 feet 1 inch at the 2016 Incredible Dog Challenge put on by Purina Farms in St. Louis, Mo. He entered three competitions in 2016 and took first place in all three.
Still, no world records.
“Now I’m determined to get it back,” said Taaffe. “I mean I’m happy regardless just jumping with him and doing what we do but it’s been my goal.”
Taaffee, who owns six dogs, has Prospect’s name tattooed on her left wrist. The next opportunity to set a record is when the duo tries to defend its Purina championship in September.
“Our bond is just amazing.”