Dayton couple’s ‘big air’ dog a winner |

Dayton couple’s ‘big air’ dog a winner

Karl Horeis

When two-year-old border collie Gabriel Angel was a puppy, he wasn’t real active.

“He was a pretty quiet puppy – it wasn’t until he was about 6 or 7 months old that he showed interest in playing,” said his owner, Todd Bobula of Dayton. “But when he started playing, boy, that was it.”

Gabriel Angel, or Gabe, as his fans call him, won first place at the San Diego Pet Expo last weekend in Del Mar, Calif. Gabe is a “dock dog” meaning his trainers get him to run to the end of a dock and jump as far as possible before hitting the water. The sport is also called “big air.”

Gabe’s final, championship distance for the pet expo was 21.03 feet – a full foot farther than the second-place finisher, a black lab named Dwight.

Gabe has his own public relations person – Bobula’s wife Fran.

“He’s a real crowd pleaser when he jumps,” she said, smiling at the energetic black and white pooch. Gabe actually catches the Frisbee thrown to encourage him on while most dock dogs simply follow it into the water.

“He just caught one in San Diego and everybody was like, ‘YEAHHHH!.’ We video taped it. We’ve watched it like three times already.”

Sunday the dog was eager to catch a cloth disc again and again, jumping into a lake off Lakes Drive in Dayton despite the chill. Eyes glued to the toy, he looked away just long enough to expend nervous energy by spinning around.

While their dog is now rated one of the top 20 dock dogs in the nation, the Bobulas are relatively new to the sport. They first got into it after watching dogs jump during the ESPN Great Outdoor Games – Reno last July. Now their license plate reads “RDGSFLY.”

Todd Bobula bought Gabe for his wife because she was losing another collie named Shania to epilepsy.

“He used to be mine but as you can see that’s no longer the case,” she said while her husband and his dog warmed up in the cab of the truck.

The two spend every waking minute together, with the dog riding along in Bobula’s truck while he works at the family business, Bobula’s Septic Service.

“He never leaves my side,” Bobula said.

Big air or dock dog jumping is a sport dominated by black labs.

“This is a water-dog sport,” said Todd Bobula. “That’s why it’s so cool that Gabe’s doing so well.” Border collies are traditionally known as herding dogs, not water dogs.

Bobula made a portable dock he can set up at the lake for training.

“It’s just a small one I can stick in the back of my truck,” he said.

The couple will take their award-winning collie to the Super Retriever Series in New Orleans next month.

“We’ll place in the top 12,” said Fran Bobula.

National Geographic film crews filmed the dog at the Del Mar competition for use in the series “Dogs with Jobs.” The Bobulas aren’t sure when it will air.

For more information on dock dogs, go online to