When Bako Bullyz founders Frank and Donna Ruiz were looking for something special to do for their annual March event, they decided to make a real Splash: On Saturday, dogs of all breeds will take part in Luck of the Splash Dogs at the Kern County Fairgrounds.
That inclusiveness is exactly what the group was looking for, according to Donna Ruiz.
"We just wanted to try something different. We always do dog shows in Bakersfield, and it's usually the pit bull community. After five years, we can open it up, break the stereotype."
Promoting awareness and education in the local pit bull community was part of the reason the Ruizes created Bako Bullyz in 2009. Donna Ruiz works as a representative for the American Bully Kennel Club (ABKC), which sanctions the annual dog show.
"The American bully is a smaller, calmer breed," Ruiz said of the cross between an American pit bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier. "The American bully is more lazy, laid-back."
"We wanted to educate the community, (for people to) see what they can do and how they can show them. To see them as a show dog, not just a guard dog.
"We have a good understanding here, but Kern County still needs some work."
Although the group now gets an impressive showing at events -- drawing nearly 4,000 to its last Lights Out show at Sam Lynn Ball Park -- organizers wanted to draw other dog lovers in the community.
"We wanted to bring out Splash Dogs so everybody can enjoy our event."
Although the collaboration is new, the Splash Dogs organization is no stranger to Bakersfield, having taken part in the Kern County Fair and sportsman shows in the past.
For this event, all dogs are invited to participate in the dock jumping competition, although some breeds have a slight advantage.
"It's mostly herding dogs -- Labs, retrievers -- I've seen. But if their dogs love the water, they can try."
Owners can register dogs online (splashdogs.com) or sign up on site starting at 9 a.m. Registration is $20 per dog (noncompeting dogs are allowed to attend the event for $5).
Open practice starts around 9 a.m., including demonstrations by seasoned dogs. Handlers can also familiarize their dogs with the space.
Ruiz said the event will take place in a 20-by-40-foot pool with a 40-foot AstroTurf dock. Participants are encouraged to have a two-person team: one to toss the toy off the dock for the dog to aim for and another person to guide the pooch out of the pool.
"It's a support team. You're coaching the dog. The person on the other side is good if some dogs are new so they don't panic."
Contestants will be divided into three heats -- 10 a.m, noon and 2 p.m. -- and allowed two official jumps. Those with the highest scores move to the finals at 3 p.m.
Guests can switch between watching Splash heats and the ABKC multi-breed show, which begins at 11 a.m. and continues through the day, as well as a variety of pet-themed vendors.
Admission is $15 for adults and free for children under 12. Part of the proceeds will go to benefit Alpha Canine Sanctuary.
If Saturday's event is a success, Ruiz said she has big plans for the group, whose first show took over the parking lot of CLS Pet Store downtown.
"What we would like in the future, we would like to bring this out, a whole pet expo -- Splash Dogs, breed show, a whole variety of everything."