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Whistler canine going up against the world's best

Sherri Fleck and her retriever Sable heading to Iowa for Dockdogs event

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Sable would chase balls, sticks and almost anything else thrown into any body of water all day if it was her choice. Sherri Fleck's dog lives for playing fetch. It is the dog's calling, and her focus on the activity is singular.

On a sunny afternoon with only a handful of people at Rainbow Park, Fleck and Sable are practicing for the Dockdog World Championships in Dubuque, Iowa, from Nov. 13 to 17. A few people with dogs trot out to the dock while the pair practice. Sable barely takes notice of the four-legged friends expressing an interest in whatever item she has just retrieved from the lake. Sable acknowledges the presence of other dogs with a growl, clearly communicating that the plastic toy in her mouth is hers and hers alone.

Sable found good success at the Dockdog event held at Whistler Olympic Plaza the weekend of July 27 and 28. Following the Whistler event Fleck decided to seek out other competitions for Sable.

She took Sable to a number of events this fall to qualify for the international event in Iowa. They went to Victoria for a competition then they travelled to the Canadian Regional Dockdogs event in London, Ontario.

"She ended up winning her Iron Dog division so she is now 2013 Canadian Warrior Iron Dog Champion," said Fleck.

Sable's best Big Air jump is 7.1 metres (23 feet and four inches). The best jumpers in the world are jumping only slightly farther at up to 7.3 metres.

As an Iron Dog competitor Sable is going to compete in Big Air, Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve at the world championships. Fleck is hoping Sable will finish on the podium in Dubuque.

"She gets so excited," said Fleck when asked how Sable reacts at competitions. "Even coming to the lake she gets excited."

Sable can sometimes be loud and eager about jumping into water. After more than 30 minutes of jumping into Alta Lake and climbing out again Sable was still shivering each time she climbed up onto the dock at Rainbow Park. Despite her cold state she kept going back into the lake to retrieve her toy, undeterred.

"You can just tell that she loves the competition," said Fleck. "We even got a little suit for her this year."

The suit, which features a maple leaf on a red background, is going to be ready for Sable in time for the event in Dubuque.

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