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This golden retriever brings home the gold regularly

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 9:43 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A Bay County man suffered a heart attack six years ago. He said when he woke up from surgery, one of his first thoughts was to get a dog. It turned out not to be just any dog, the one he brought home would eventually achieve national acclaim.

Dakota is a champion-bred, five-year-old golden retriever. His human (owner) is Robert Jones.

“The word Dakota literally means friend,“ said Jones. ”Dakota was born on Valentine’s Day. So the heart connection from my heart attack in October to him being born on Valentine’s Day, it was, is a divine connection.”

Dakota is no ordinary dog.

”In 2020, in Ultimate Air, he won the Ultimate Air Games championship. And in 2017, he was the junior division national champion. 2020 he was the senior division national champion, and 2017 he was fourth place as a senior,” said Jones.

And it’s no leap to say Dakota has hops. The pooch excels at dock diving.

”It’s like long jump,” said Jones. “And so his longest job has been 24 foot.”

He’s also a reigning barn hunt national champion.

”Its origins are back to the 1800s where people used to go around farm to farm offering to sell their ply of ‘we can remove the rats from your farm and in return, you’ll pay us,’” said Des Miller, owner of Agility Paws in Crestview who helped train Dakota.

Barn hunt involves finding enclosed live rats in bails of hay then completing an obstacle course-like setup. Jones helps guide Dakota on the course. The fastest time wins. And with an average time of 104.2 seconds per run, Jones says out of roughly 20,000 dogs, he and Dakota are the fastest team at the highest level all-time in the sport.

”It’s fun work,” said Jones. “So whether it’s hard, we work hard at it, but it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of enjoyment for both of us.”

Jones brought Dakota to Miller when the dog was just a puppy.

”We saw some very good, positive things from Dakota that made us say, decide that he should further pursue it,” said Miller.

And while Dakota racks up the ribbons and medals, his biggest win is keeping Jones grounded.

”I live vicariously through him [Dakota]. I live for his enthusiasm, that’s the whole reason [I do it] is for his enjoyment and his enthusiasm,” said Jones. “Whether we place, no matter how we do, as long as he has a good time, it’s what it’s all about. With the severe PTSD that I have, it gives me a reason to wake up every day and he gives me motivation.”

Jones served several years as a Bay County Sheriff’s deputy. Dakota and his other dog Sky help keep his severe PTSD in check.

”Dakota is a piece of Robert,” said Miller. “And when they come together and become one, they can lean on each other and they do. And that’s an amazing part of the bond between canines and humans.“

”He [Dakota] means everything to me,” said Jones. “I would give my life for this dog. He’s my child.”

And it’s probably safe to say Dakota would give his life for Robert.

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