The Dog Diving Helmet - Funny Patents Part 4

The Dog Diving Helmet - Funny Patents Part 4

The Dog Diving Helmet - Funny Patents Part 4

People love to bring their pets along for the ride, and this is especially true for dogs. We live in an age of dedicated dog parks, doggy daycares and dog friendly restaurants. But there are limits, of course. Most people wouldn't take their dogs to work, for example (but some do).

So where do you draw the line? While not everybody will agree on where that line is, most people would probably draw it somewhere on dry land.

But even on that point there are exceptions, and if you want proof you need look no further than the latest entry in our Funny Patent series: the Canine Scuba Diving Apparatus!

Unlike some of the other funny patents we've covered, this is no mere idea. This isn't just some bar napkin sketch mailed to the Patent Office in a hasty burst of inspiration - this is a real, actual invention! It was designed, built, tested and used many times in real life situations by it's inventor.

Illustrations from Dwane Folsom's 1997 patent filing Illustrations from Dwane Folsom's 1997 patent filing

U.S. Patent number 6206000 B1, filed in April of 1997, was submitted by inventor and dog diving enthusiast Dwane Folsom. Yes, you read that right: dog diving enthusiast. As in, the sport of dog diving. Which is also a real thing, with competitions and everything! Sound too weird to be true? Just check out the homepage of NADD, the North American Diving Dogs association!

According to NADD, dog diving "is a canine sport in which dogs are enticed to run the length of a dock and leap as far out into the water as possible to compete for height or distance". There are also competitions in which the dogs will attempt to dive to the bottom of a swimming pool and touch the bottom with their nose, which is a bit closer to the kind of diving we think of when we hear the word "scuba" (although "snorkeling" would probably be a better comparison).

Diving Dog in action. Photo Source: American Kennel Club Diving Dog in action. Photo Source: American Kennel Club

So dog diving is a real thing, and this dog scuba diving suit is a real invention. Dwane Folsom's patent filing opens with the following line:

"The invention is a special modified scuba diving apparatus intended for use by an animal, and more specifically the famous diving dog “Shadow.”"
Dwane Folsom diving with his dog Shadow Dwane Folsom diving with his dog Shadow

"Shadow", as you may have guessed, was Dwane Folsom's furry little diving buddy. She was a Labrador retriever mix and apparently had a penchant for underwater activities, as well as other sports like motor cycle riding & water skiing.

The patent goes on to describe in detail the suit's helmet, fresh air supply and venting system for exhaled air, and even a system of weights to compensate for boyancy. And by all accounts, it worked brilliantly. According to this news article from the 90's, Folsom says that Shadow is quite the diving enthusiast. "She looks forward to it", said Folsom.

According to the article, Shadow had a whopping 30 dives to her credit at the time of writing, at depths of up to 3 meters. That may not sound like much to an experienced diver, but it's important to remember that the possible health risks (such as decompression sickness, or concerns about how thermal regulation works when animals are submerged) are not well known - so it's best to play it safe!

While Shadow's extensive diving record is impressive, it's worth noting that Shadow wasn't the first dog to take on scuba diving. That distinction goes to celebrity dog Benji, who undertook the worlds first canine scuba diving feat in the early 1980's during a television future that aired on ABC Television Networks.

Benji in his diving suit, cira 1981 Benji in his diving suit, cira 1981

There have been others since who have taken their dogs diving as well, but it's not exactly the easiest activity to get into. For one thing, a complete dog diving suit will cost upwards of $20,000 which puts it out of reach for most pet owners.

Another issue is that their are no training courses or certifications for diving with dogs, although that hasn't stopped the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) from having a little April Fools Day fun with the idea.

Maybe someday, dog diving training will be a real thing... Maybe someday, dog scuba training will be a real thing...

While Dwane Folsom's Shadow and the famous Benji have shown the world that scuba diving with dogs is possible, it has yet to catch on as a main stream activity. And perhaps that's for the best. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to taking your pets with you!

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