Meet our Dock Diving Friends from Team Hawaiian by Heart!

These Dock Diving Pups are Making Waves In and Out of the Pool, and We're Happy to Support This PAWsome Team Through our Plato Wags Back Mission!

Team Hawaiian by Heart is a Denver, Colorado-based “team” of 6 dogs and their two humans, John Van Soest and Heather Ratynski, who participate in DockDogs® competitions and are training in multiple dog sports, mainly agility and Mondioring. Their focus is on having fun and demonstrating the importance of supporting the animal rescue community and their favorite charity, Chase Away K9 Cancer. They also strive to inform dog parents on how to best provide a happy and healthy life for their canine companions through exercise, nutrition, and regular veterinary care.

Long ago, John fell in love with Hawaii and has dreamed of moving there for many years. Since John is of Dutch descent, he came up with the joke that he is “Dutch by blood, Hawaiian by heart.” It became a slogan for their family and embodies what the HBH team desires in life…living in a beautiful place where you can be active and healthy while taking the time to enjoy what is most important. They do their best to spread a little “Island Spirit” wherever they go!

DockDogs originated in 2000 at ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games as an exhibition event to keep the crowds entertained in-between the “real” events, but when the spectators began to number in the thousands and traffic attempting to enter the venue became backed-up for blocks, the potential of the sport was realized. DockDogs has now grown to over 30 Affiliate Clubs and over 22,000 registered teams. DockDogs is comprised of three sports: Big Air (the “long jump”), Extreme Vertical (the “high jump”) and Speed Retrieve (a doggie drag race) with Iron Dog consisting of teams who compete in all three disciplines and receive scores for their performance in each.

Heather Ratynski and John Van Soest have dedicated their lives to adopting and fostering dogs who have behavioral and/or physical challenges. Heather has a diverse background that includes experience in animal welfare, non-profit management of an animal health foundation, and as a hospital administrator for a large veterinary practice in Denver.

She is co-founder and current president of Rocky Mountain DockDogs and also served as the Western Region Zone Representative for DockDogs Worldwide for 4 years. In 2010 she was given the sports’ most prestigious honor: Sportsperson of the Year. She currently works in the pet retail industry and enjoys competing in endurance sports such as running and triathlon.

John is a cloud sales engineer and the dogs enjoy the fact that he frequently works at home. He is a dedicated athlete who has completed 10 Ironman triathlon races and spends most of his spare time training for triathlon.


Founded in 2006 by Cera Reusser, Chase Away K9 Cancer brings together people and dogs from all walks of life to combat and eventually defeat this horrible disease. They are a grassroots effort with volunteers from all across the country where donations and net proceeds from merchandise fund canine cancer studies and help to raise K9 cancer awareness.  Chase Away K9 Cancer is a fund held within the National Canine Cancer Foundation which is the parent non-profit 501c3.

Since it’s inception, these efforts have raised over $881,887.93 and have helped to fund 18 studies. Much of their support comes one dollar at a time, so every donation makes a difference.

Chase Away K9 Cancer also aims to build a community where people can find comfort and understanding; where no one will say “it’s just a dog” and where we can honor the efforts of our volunteers and the dogs that they love.

Our ultimate goal is to see the day where no one will lose a beloved best friend to cancer.