Rose Parade

New Years Day!! Rose Parade 2011

Wow!! What an incredible experience, I grew up watching the Rose Parade on tv every year but could have never imagined the grand scale in person. Our day started out at 3:30 am, Sam Dog was not at all used to getting up so early.
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We packed our snacks and supplements and headed out to the limo’s. All the dogs and handlers packed in for our ride down to the RV’s awaiting our arrival just off of Orange Grove where the float was staged. We got to hang out with Dick Van Patten and his son Jimmy while waiting for the parade to start, that in it of itself was quite an experience and very entertaining!

Around 7:30, we climbed up the stairs of the float to the dock. Riding on board along with our team was a wonderful Veterinarian, Dr. Ken Lian of Calabasas Animal Clinic and a photographer from the LA Times. We hadn’t practiced with two extra bodies on the dock, I think we were all wondering how this was going to work. Having Dr. Lian on the float turned out to be a blessing in disguise! Since we had to move pretty quickly, he was able to get towels, water and supplements to us as we barreled through the rotation. He fit right in without missing a step! Also on board was Joey Herrick, the president of Natural Balance Pet Food. Before founding Natural Balance with the Van Patten’s, Joey was a drummer on the John Davidson show. If you were on the parade route you may have heard Joey’s drum’s on the track that played as we cruised down Colorado Blvd. Joey also helped us coordinate the show, noting when the Camera’s were on, where the grandstands were, and even more importantly when to wait for the hill! After heading down a 12% grade, Joey laughed and mentioned that he’d never gone down the hill that fastHappy

The weather turned out to be perfect, the sun was shining and although the air temp was a little cold, the pool water was heated to over 70 degrees. The dogs almost didn’t even need the neoprene wetsuits! The Chessie’s onboard (Stanley, Henry and Sydney, all adoptees from Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue) had some great jumps, I think regardless of where you were seated on the route you could see Henry for sure! Sam Dog held her own, she may not be the highest jumper but she jumped nearly the entire parade route, only stopping for breaks I imposed on her. Not bad for the little foster dog that couldn’t even go a block in the truck without getting carsick over a year and half ago!

A little backstory, during the practice runs on the float, Sammi was hesitating on the dock while the float was moving. Being that we didn’t have unlimited practice time on a moving float, I had to get creative with training back home. First, to work on her balance and coordination, I had her Place in wagon as I pulled her all over my neighborhood. I kept her in the Place command while I threw her a tennis ball to catch as I was moving the wagon back and forth. Once she was steady and catching tennis balls without a miss, we moved onto the wobble board. A wobble board is just what it sounds like, a platform on a ball that wobbles. She had to maintain her balance on the board in a standing position, her “reward” was jumping off for a tennis ball. This not only got her used to maintaining her balance on an unsteady surface, but also jumping off of a moving platform. I have to say the training paid off, she didn’t hesitate once on New Years Day!!

Once the parade was over, we still had post parade to jump the dogs and entertain the crowds that gather to see the floats up close and personal. We put on a show every hour and took time to work the crowd and let the public pet the dogs. Of course Sam Dog was a natural at that part, she’s so used to getting attention in the booth at our own tradeshows. Sammi was having so much fun, I swear she completely understood the difference between “working” during the parade and just having fun jumping the remainder of the afternoon.

Finally as the day closed, we took the limo back to the hotel, little Sammi fell asleep with her head in my hands on the way back. I’m so proud of my little lab and how well she did! I’m still amazed at how far she’s come in the year and a half that I have owned her. It was truly a great experience and I’m so happy to have worked with everyone involved!

For anyone looking to add a new dog to their family or anyone interested in giving fostering a try, check out Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue or Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue...you never know, your next dog may take you on an adventure of a lifetime!

If you didn’t catch the Rose Parade here’s some footage from Camera Row, Sammi is wearing a pink rash guard and I’m in a yellow shirt on the top portion of the float...enjoy!


Rose Parade Week

These past two weeks have been a blur! I can’t believe New Year’s Day is almost here and how much work we have ahead of us.

Just over a week ago, we headed up to Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale for a final test run before the float began the decoration process. We were able to beat the rain for the actual test run around the block, but right as we pulled back in for a final jump routine in front of the cameras the skies opened up and poured down. Good thing we were already soaked from the dogs! You can check out more pictures of our practice run on the Dog Channel Blog.

Normally Sammi and I have to beg, borrow and plead for pool time from friends and neighbors. When the weather is warm we like to head down to the beach, but recently its been a little sharky out there (check out this video taken at Dog Patch). Little black dogs look a little too much like Sea Lions for my comfort level, so when we were asked to spend some time jumping in the pool at the Natural Balance training grounds for ESPN to film, we were stoked! It was probably the worst day of the big storm system that recently blew through Southern California, it was pouring outside. Luckily for us, Natural Balance kept the pool heated to a nice 78 degrees!! Sammi had a blast - how lucky could a dog be - she went from an unsure start in life, bouncing from home to home, to having her own personal chauffeur and dock diving in heated pools!!

That brings us up to this week, Rose Parade week! We’ve gone back to Fiesta Parade Floats to see the progress and do some jumps for the press. It’s incredible to see the float come to life, Fiesta and their volunteers have done a truly amazing job decorating the float.

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Here’s a view of the life guard tower (pictured left), this is where one of the float operators will be sitting, helping out with navigation. Volunteers are tediously adding onion seed to create the design on this surfboard (middle picture). Pictured to the far right, behind that little window is where the float driver sits.



Of course, the dock divers and skim boarders weren’t the only reason the media was there. This was the official weigh in of the World’s Heaviest float for Guiness World Records. California Highway Patrol was on hand to weigh the float with their commercial officer division. These are the same scales used by commercial officers to weigh semi’s when not near a weigh station.


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The float had to be jacked up and officers crawled underneath the float to position the scales...Quinn and Sammi J were on hand to supervise. Once the scales were in place the float was weighed - astonishingly, it was heavier than expected - the World’s Heaviest float came in at over 42,000 tons.

Stay tuned, next stop is the official float judging on friday! Don’t forget you can have your say in the Viewer’s Choice Awards. Vote for the Natural Balance float on New Year’s day in the 122nd Rose Parade. Text “FLOAT39” to “50649”, starting January 1st, 2011 at 8:00am PST, or Vote On-Line!

Rose Parade Test Run

The Rose Parade float is really starting to come to life! Last weekend we all headed up to Natural Balance for practice and some media coverage. We worked out the lineup, and started testing out what type of water gear we want to wear. Body Glove was there to fit all the dogs with rash guards and life vests for the Bull Dogs, not to mention they hooked us up with some really sweet swag!

Saturday morning we had our first test run on the float, at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale California. Having never been to the Rose Parade in person it was impressive to see the floats in person. This is our view from the top of the float,
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it gets really interesting when the float starts to move. It’s a little bit like trying to jump during an earthquake, the water sloshes from side to side until the float gets moving along at a steady pace. Sammi was a little nervous about jumping at first but after a couple of jumps she got comfortable with the movement. We spent most of our practice time working out the line up, moving the dogs around the float and figuring out what we need on the float to make sure the dogs are comfortable. We head back up next Saturday for more practice and media coverage. Those of you who have hung out with Sammi during pool practice will appreciate this...she targets anyone with a camera and shakes off right next to themHappy I think she secretly believes it’s her mission in life to get anyone dry completely soaked!

You can see more pictures and follow our adventure on Facebook
Soon we will have all the details of the TV series documenting the making of the float. I’ll keep you all posted!

Rescue to Rose Parade


On a cold night in March 2009, we picked up a small, scared 2 year old black lab named Sammi Jane. She had recently been turned into Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue by a family that could no longer take care of her or her litter mate. This was the first time in her young life that she had been separated from her sister, and was on her way to a new foster home.

Sammi was very nervous in new situations, she had almost no self confidence. She slinked around, hiding behind us, and submitting to every animal in the house. Even getting into the truck was a traumatic experience....she immediately began drooling just sitting in the driveway. A quick trip around the block meant Sammi would get carsick. Of course she was cute, but I had no idea how I was going to adopt this little dog out to an active family.

We slowly worked on building her confidence, taking her to new environments by herself and with her new pack. With each successful day, we saw her come into her own, raising her head a little higher with each accomplishment. Day by day, we got farther with the distance she could travel without getting carsick. As time went by, we soon realized that we were going to fail...this foster found her new forever home.

One thing was apparent with Sammi Jane, she loves water. She could swim for hours, if no one was playing with her in the pool she was happy to launch herself in and swim around entertaining herself. I had several friends involved in the sport of dock diving and knew Sammi had the potential to do well. With several training sessions at the Learning To Fly dock diving club and lots of practice, we had an official dock diving dog!

Fast forward a year and a half and several competitions later. As I’m getting ready in the morning for a day of lessons, I hear about dock diving try outs for the Natural Balance float on the KTLA morning news. I had to take Sammi and give it a shot! We showed up at the try outs with hundreds of other dogs competing for only 3 spots. We got a quick run at the dock and that was it, we were ushered out of the facility to make more room for the next line of competitors. I thought with so many dogs, it was a slim chance that we would make it for call backs. Later that week I received an email with the list of semi-finalists. I actually missed that were on the list until a friend posted a “congratulations!!” on my Facebook page. I went back and read the email and realized we made the cut for semi-finals!!

I was still nervous, not sure if Sammi knew what a big deal it was...but I knew she could feel the excitement. After a couple of rounds the judges made their decision, Sammi Jane along with two other dogs made the cut!!! We were going to the Rose Parade!!!!

Check back with us soon, all of Sammi’s adventures over the next few weeks will be chronicled here.