WILKINSON — The customized van pulled into the parking lot, and the family from Carmel began to unload five of their 15 dogs who were scheduled to compete in the Dock Diving Championship this past weekend. The event was hosted by Youngblood’s Natural Animal Care Center and Massage pool where some 50 dogs from all over the state took part in the high-flying animal showcase.

“The ones who dock dive, they just love it,” Erin Saywell said. “As soon as we pull in the parking lot, they start barking and screaming because they want to get out and into the water.”

Sam Youngblood bought the old church and property sitting at 310 S. Main St. in Wilkinson a few years ago after her animal care business out-grew two previous locations, and she turned it into a real animal health and training center. For 10 years now, the business has focused on making sure dogs have healthy food and care. Three years ago, Youngblood started hosting numerous dog diving events, attracting participants from all over the state and country.

“It has become so popular,” she said.

The International Dog Sports competition this past weekend offered dog lovers a chance to enter their four-legged friends into three different categories — velocity (speed), an event called eclipse (jumping and grabbing) and then the traditional horizon, dock diving with all of the action happening in the large dog pool on the Youngblood’s property.

They had nearly 50 dogs compete in their August competition heading into the championships this past weekend. All the dogs who competed for a championship had to get an invitation in order to compete.

“International Dog Sports is hosting several jumping events throughout the country and Canada this weekend,” Youngblood said. “So the dogs here might be competing against a dog jumping in a completely different place ,which makes it kind of interesting.”

Youngblood noted dog dock diving is a great way for owners to bond with their pets, and the activity helps get the dogs moving without much force on their joints.

Stephanie White, Morristown, had a black Goldendoodle named Bentley, 3, competing and said the best part about the event is the friendships both she and her dog have made.

“All these dogs are friends,” White said with a laugh. “They like to compete, but it’s really about the dog party when they all see each other.”

White said the first time Bentley tried dock diving he had to wear a life jacket, but now he’s good enough to compete for a championship.

“He jumps, swims and will be competing in all three events,” White said.

Izzy May is an instructor at Youngblood’s and was one of the judges tasked with recording and watching the competition. She also had three dogs competing — G.G., Thor and Kitsune — and said dock diving is a great thing for her animals.

“I love coming here because this is a huge family-based group where everyone cheers for all the dogs,” May said. “One of my dogs wasn’t even jumping at the beginning of the year and now she’s competing for a championship.”

Zen Laya, a big 3-and-a-half-year-old St. Bernard, is one of the best jumpers in the nation. She’s owned by Emily and Chandler Curtis of New Palestine. The couple, who helped with judging, say they have five dogs and started entering their dogs in dock diving events about three years.

“The hardest thing about dock diving is not having a pool to practice in, and then we finally found this place and it’s a real gamechanger for the dog community,” Emily Curtis said.

The couple noted there are not many sports for dogs where they can go all-out in a safe manner without some joint impact like they can with dock diving.

“We have a few older dogs as well as our big dog, and dock diving is low impact and it’s safe,” Emily Curtis said.

The businesses retail store, which Sam Youngblood’s mother Kim Youngblood helps run, is full of all-organic pet products, from raw foods to toys and treats, and a store cat named Toothpick Charlie. The center also has a large training room, a massage area, a classroom and, of course, the large pool designed for dock diving events.

“This whole business stemmed from me wanting better health for my animals,” Sam Youngblood said. “I just knew I could do better than traditional health care.”

Kim Youngblood noted they feel blessed to have just celebrated their 10-year anniversary and hope to continue growing the business.

“It’s a joy what we do here,” Kim Youngblood said. “This is our mission because we want to help people and we want to help animals.”

One look at the dogs competing, landing in the pool with a splash, it’s clear to see the Youngblood family has, like the dogs competing, hit its target goal.