Amusing Monday: Stories of surf dogs and their human companions

Some dogs take to the water more than others, but it’s always great to see the stories behind dogs who excel at surfing — or other feats of athletic skill, agility or mental competence.

One such story involves a surfer dog named Sugar and her human companion Ryan Rustan, who says his dog changed his life in many positive ways. In the first video on this page, Ryan talks about being a surfer who was always quick to anger, an attitude that held him back in school and other endeavors. Things changed for Ryan when he found a hungry dog on the street in need of help. Ryan rescued Sugar, who in turn rescued him.

Sugar is this year’s winner in the Large Surfing Dog Division at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Championship in Ryan’s hometown of Huntington Beach (second video).

The Incredible Dog Challenge, which has been around 20 years, also features a small dog surfing event along with other challenges — both on and off the water. On YouTube, Purina features both a brief overview of the competition as well as a more complete version of the events, lasting an hour and a half.

The full list of videos for this year’s Incredible Dog Challenge can be found on Purina’s YouTube page, but I would like to call your attention to the water-related events. By the way, the winning team in the Fetch It Competition is from Olympia.

Another influential dog-surfing competition is the World Dog Surfing Championships in Pacifica near San Francisco. The third video on this page offers a quick review of the competition. Winners, photos and a video from the Bay Area’s KPIX-5 TV can be found on the Surfer Today website.

Gidget, a 5-year-old pug, has her own story to tell after overcoming an inherited disease and being named the overall winner in the Aug. 5 surf competition in Pacifica as well as an Imperial Beach competition on July 28.

According to a story by Rachel Baerchen, Gidget’s owner Alecia Nelson became worried following the young dog’s first year of surfing competition three years ago. Gidget had won third-place for small dogs in the Surf-A-Thon competition at Del Mar Dog Beach in San Diego, but something was wrong.

Gidget was looking skinny, and everything she ate went through her. Several veterinarians were stumped as to a cause, despite extensive blood tests. The young dog grew emaciated and was headed for a certain death.

“It was devastating,” Alecia told the reporter. “I love Gidget, yet I felt helpless. I knew I couldn’t give up and had to keep trying to find a solution.”

Eventually, Alecia found a vet who recalled a rare case he had treated previously. He wasn’t sure it would work, but he prescribed an expensive enzyme powder that Gidget would need to take twice a day for the rest of her life.

The treatment worked, and in time Gidget was given the go-ahead for further surfing ventures. Her disease was diagnosed as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, a progressive disease that results in a shortage of enzymes essential for digestion.

Rachel goes on to report in her story about Gidget’s many successes since her diagnosis and treatment, and she quotes Alecia as saying:

“It’s amazing, considering what we went through, that Gidget is healthy again, competing against amazing surf dogs, raising money for charity, and sweeping the 2018 Events thus far. I feel blessed and honored each day I have with Gidget.”

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