Carnage a canine champion


By Tammy Watts

ARCANUM — Not many can boast national championship titles in two different sports, and a namesake beer at the tender age of six. Then again, Carnage is no ordinary dog.

“He’s pretty calm today,” chuckled Russell Rex, owner of Carnage, a mix of Border Collie, Border Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Whippet. While his demeanor remained mild, relaxing at his home of AR Winery in Arcanum, this 30-pound force of nature won the 2021 North America Diving Dogs National Showcase Championship, Elite Division, in Springfield, Mo., held Oct. 27 to 30. His longest jump was an impressive 28 feet, with a two-day average of 27 feet, 9 inches, to take home the title. This accomplishment would be phenomenal by itself, yet “dock diving” as the event is commonly called, was not the canine’s first love.

Carnage was custom bred for the sport of Flyball by Craig Knowles of Monroe, Mich., a longtime friend of Rex’s. Flyball is a relay sport requiring intelligence and athleticism, in which dogs negotiate a series of low hurdles, then use their paws to activate a spring pad that releases a tennis ball. They catch the ball in the air, and return to their handlers. Rex, who has been involved in Flyball for the past 22 years, said dogs need a full year before they can compete successfully. His experience, combined with Carnage’s natural abilities, were a winning combination, when Carnage earned his first National Championship title in 2017.

Coincidentally, it was also in 2017 that Rex took Carnage to a local dock diving event. Although Rex had planned on being a mere spectator, he was encouraged by one of the participants to let Carnage try it. The dog surprised him by jumping eight feet on his first try.

“I’ve never seen a dog who loves the water like him,” Rex said of Carnage, adding that if he smells the faintest whiff of chlorine, he becomes excited and heads for the bag of swim gear. In the years following his chance foray into dock diving, he trains and competes at K9 Splash Zone in Brookville, currently holding four medals won at events held there.

Dock diving became Carnage’s sole focus in 2020, as Flyball events, held mostly in Michigan, were canceled under the more draconian COVID-19 restrictions in that state. Dock diving became known as “Pandemic Flyball,” as traditional Flyball trainers and their canines migrated to the sport. Much to the chagrin of long-time dock diving participants, Flyball dogs began to dominate the events. Rex was even told at one point, “Take your Flyball friends and go home! This was more fun without you.” While not diminishing Carnage’s outstanding performance at the National Showcase, Rex points out it was due in part to this “perfect storm” of circumstances that enabled his win.

In addition to the restrictions and closures which caused Carnage to shift priorities to dock diving, the creation of a Premier Division in the competition bumped him to the top of the Elite Division. Divisions are based on distance jumped, and in prior years, Elite qualifiers jumped a minimum of 24 feet, with no top limit. With the addition of the Premier Division, Elite jumpers max out at 27 feet, 11 inches. Since Carnage has a season average jump of 27 feet, 9 inches, he is nearly unbeatable in his division now.

However, Rex and Carnage are not ones to rest on their laurels. While Rex is enjoying giving a discount on a special beer, a blackberry wheat appropriately named “Flying Carnage,” in honor of his championship season, he hints on what the future may hold.

“We’d like to get a Disc club started,” Rex said.

If that happens, Carnage will no doubt excel in that event as well.

To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Tammy Watts, email [email protected].

No posts to display