Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Who Started This Sport of Disc Dogs?

Vader, the Disc Dog and the history of the sport of Disc Dogs

(first published Fri, May 2nd, 2014:)

I don't know about you, but as I get more involved in getting better with Vader and our disc routines, I get more exposed to folks in the sport with their dogs. 

But I started wondering about the history of this sport or more specifically, why I am experiencing the occasional claw in the back of the neck and oozing vital life fluids?

I started to wonder just how far back one has to go to see the first disc dog performance or information?  Did kings and queens have some kind of realm of entertainment with discs and dogs?  Will there be silent films or sepia tone pics of men in suits throwing discs for their dogs between fox hunts?

It seems the origins of the sport may not be quite that romantic.

Believe it or not the sport of disc dogs became a public thing in 1974.  Or at least, the world caught on that there was something to it on August 5th, 1974, when a 19-year-old, named Alex Stein broke into a nationally televised baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds, with his dog, named Ashley Whippet, and started doing tricks on the field.

How did this come about?

A few years before that night, a young man, a college student named Alex Stein received a dog as a gift from a girlfriend, and according to sources, when his dog was at a ripe young age of 3 weeks old, Alex figured his dog would be famous.  He named him Ashley Whippet.

While he was a puppy, Alex weened him using Frisbees to feed him.  Then as the dog got older and Alex would throw a disc, the dog would go after it, thinking FOOD!

What's astounding is that at the ripe young age of 6 months, Ashley was reported to be able to get 12 feet in the air to catch discs. 

{Safety Thought:

Now-a-days, there are restrictions on young dogs in competitions so they do not injure their growth plates at an early age.  A growth plate injury might not be evident right away, but will make its presence known in latter years.}

Aside from that, Alex spent a lot of time taking his pup to the college greens every day and having fun while crowds gathered.  (One of my favorite things to do is to hit up the Stanford quad and play with Vader.)

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Back to that Televised Baseball Game Audition...



Ashley Whippet, the first famous disc dog

So while Alex was trying to figure out how to get him and his dog famous, he had tried television and other resources, but was met with resistance when folks who weren't familiar with disc dogs didn't think it was something that would sell to advertisers or what not.

In an attempt to crack open that can of fame, Alex thought he'd try something crazy, and that crazy was breaking into the nationally televised baseball game, at the bottom of the 8th inning.

While on the field he had his dog hitting high speeds and chasing 90-yard tosses and jumping high in the air to catch discs.

His demonstration started out in such an entertaining fashion that they stopped the game for 8 minutes and one of the TV announcers continued to announce... the dog action!

Alex was arrested and hauled off after his trespassing stunt. And true to form, no one from the PD bothered with the dog, but Ashley was caught and removed from the field by a kid in the stands. Alex and Ashley were reunited several days later and they had made their mark on the world, letting people know what kind of fun people can have with dogs and discs.


After that demo, Alex did shows at football games and TV shows and later had a hand in bringing about the Frisbee Dog World Championship series.  And later, you may have heard of the Ashley Whippet competitions.

The rest is history.

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And that's the basis for what we disc dog competitors enjoy today. Now you know!

This is a cute, OLD, news piece that focuses on Alex and Ashley.   (Wow, look at the hair and fashions!)


Sources:

.wikipedia., LA Times, (<-- great piece), Ashely Whippet Museum.

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