No missteps for three-legged diver

Published 10:27 pm Monday, April 23, 2018

Dogs of all shapes and sizes will dive into the DockDogs competition this weekend at the annual Pet Lovers’ Extravaganza in Virginia Beach, and one of them will be doing the dog paddle with just three legs.

Sam — short for Sampson — is a 6.5-year-old, three-legged Chesapeake Bay Retriever living in Smithfield with his owner, Tawny Humphrey, and her family. He’s a furry firecracker that’s always eager to move and play with Humphrey’s other dogs and anyone else.

“We call him ‘pogo stick’ because he’s so bouncy on that one back leg,” Humphrey said with a laugh.


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Sam lost his leg after he was hit by a car when he was 1.5 years old. He was living in a foster home in Alabama after the injury about five years ago, when Humphrey discovered him on the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue’s website.

Smithfield resident Tawny Humphrey, 32, and her Chesapeake Bay Retriever Sampson will compete this weekend at the Care-a-Lot Pet Supply’s Pet Lovers’ Extravaganza in Virginia Beach.

Humphrey is a licensed veterinarian technician at the COVE Center of Veterinary Expertise in Suffolk and had previously volunteered with the rescue organization. The lifelong animal lover was already raising Molly, a female of the same breed, and other dogs but was ready to adopt another tan charmer.

She eagerly drove 19 hours from Smithfield to Alabama to do just that.

“I had zero care that he was missing a leg,” she said. “We were ready for another dog, and I wanted another Chessie.”

Sam didn’t need any coddling, despite his injury or the facial seizures he suffers at least once a month as a result of the accident. The ‘pogo stick’ just keeps bouncing as he darts at squirrels and toys.

“He doesn’t need to be babied,” Humphrey said. “He doesn’t care that he’s missing a leg. He really doesn’t even know that it’s gone, and he’s been like that since day one.”

Chessies are known to be powerful swimmers, and Sam showed the love of water the first time he started diving from the dock, Humphrey said. The first five or six jumps were more like awkward belly flops, but he eventually found his stride.

She started taking him to competitions organized by DockDogs, a governing body for regional, national and international canine aquatic performance sports. Sam competes in “Big Air,” the original and most popular DockDogs competition, according to

Owners throw a preferred toy off a 40-foot dock for their dogs to run and jump into the water as far as they can. The distance is measured from the end of the dock to where the dog’s tail breaks the water’s surface.

Humphrey’s chocolate lab once made it as far as 12 feet. Sam, with only three-fourths of the paw power, has leaped as far as 18 feet, Humphrey said.

“There’s a lot of people who meet him who can’t believe what he does,” she said.

This inspiring dog is a happy-go-lucky example of not letting a loss slow you down.

“If you think that you can’t do things because of a disability, you should try telling that to Sam,” she said.

Humphrey will bring Sam’s favorite decoy duck for his latest outing at the 11th annual Pet Lovers’ Extravaganza that’s being held this Friday through Sunday by Care-A-Lot Pet Supply at its Virginia Beach headquarters, 1617 Diamond Springs Road.

DockDogs will hold “Big Air,” “Extreme Vertical” and “Speed Retrieve” competitions. There will also be free daily contests for things like tail wagging, treat eating, best costume and sloppy dog kisses.

“It’s fun judging that contest, because you get all the puppy love,” Kaitlyn Morse, Care-A-Lot Pet Supply special events coordinator, said in a phone interview.

It won’t be just dogs, however. Morse described previous extravaganzas with birds, snakes and sugar gliders.

“It’s a lot of fun when meet you meet your first alligator,” Morse laughed.

There will be a kids’ zone with a moon bounce, face painting and arts and crafts. K9s in Flight will have its high-flying dogs pull off acrobatic stunts to grab mid-air frisbees.

This year will also have a new pet activity zone featuring a ball pit with hidden treats inside, “puppy Picasso” for dogs to roll and splash paint and an interactive pet photo booth.

The special pet memorial will allow owners to donate new or gently used toys in memory of their departed pets. Guests will also be able to write their lost pets’ names on a memorial chalkboard. Participants will be able to win a raffle basket that can then be donated at the winner’s discretion.

“If your dog really loved his (Kong dog toy), you could donate it to another dog, then watch that dog fall in love with it and carry on that legacy,” Morse said.

The Pet Lovers’ Extravaganza will be from noon to 6 p.m. this Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this Sunday. Visit or call 460- 9771 for more information.