An excerpt from Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide by Peter Bloeme and Jeff Perry, Co-founders of Hyperflite, Inc.
No one actually knows the identity of the first person to throw a disc to a canine, but the credit for first popularizing this activity must go to Alex Stein, owner and trainer of the legendary three-time world canine disc champion, Ashley Whippet. Besides being his registered name, Ashley actually was a Whippet; a breed that looks like a small Greyhound—sleek, smooth, short-haired, athletic and very fast.
Ashley was born in Oxford, Ohio on October 2, 1971. Stein received him as a gift and took him everywhere. He soon discovered that he had no ordinary run-of-the-mill dog! Ashley would chase, leap, spin in the air and catch just about any disc thrown (which at the time were large diameter Super Pro Frisbee discs).
Stein had the intuition that Ashley could make it in show business, so he boldly moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Hollywood, California; the land of opportunity for the unusual.
When he called the various talent agencies, he told them he had a dog that ran 35 miles-per-hour, jumped nine feet, spun in the air and caught flying discs. They answered, You have a dog that can run how fast, jump how high and catch what? then hung up. But Stein didn’t give up; he approached Wham-O, a maker of Frisbee discs.
At first, Wham-O showed little interest, so Stein dreamed up a way to attract their attention. He wanted to demonstrate that Ashley was attention-grabbing, exciting, newsworthy and entertaining. Fortunately for the sport, both Stein and Ashley had great courage and determination.
So in August of 1974, Stein smuggled Ashley into Dodger Stadium during a nationally televised baseball game. Between the seventh and eighth innings, the duo borrowed the outfield from the major leaguers and performed for eight minutes before Stein was arrested. Their debut almost turned catastrophic when, during the arrest, Ashley disappeared.
Irv Lander, then Director of the International Frisbee Association, happened to be at the game and bailed Stein out of jail. For three days, both men were sick with worry at the thought that Ashley might be lost forever. Fortunately, a boy who had seen the performance found Ashley roaming the stadium parking lot, took him home and cared for him until his parents could get in touch with Stein.
The crowd at Dodger Stadium loved the impromptu show and their exploits brought the pair national publicity.
After that memorable baseball game, Stein and Ashley became legendary among disc dog aficionados, performing at Super Bowl XII, The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Late Night with David Letterman and even at the White House for Amy Carter. Then, when competition began for canines, Ashley ran away with three world titles.
Why Ashley was so talented no one knows. Whippets, in general, are not renowned disc dogs. Still, we have never seen a dog more beautiful and graceful, as fast or as high a leaper as Ashley was. After an action packed life of entertaining millions and popularizing an exciting activity for owners and their dogs, Ashley Whippet passed away on March 11, 1985 at the age of 14.
In his lifetime, Ashley set the standards for the sport. Yet he was just the beginning. People often ask us who is, or was, the greatest disc dog. We can’t compare Ashley or other great dogs of the past with the champions of today because of the sport’s rapid growth and development. New tricks, rules and training methods have all added variables that make comparisons impossible.
Alex Stein toured for a number of years with Ashley’s pups, Ashley Jr., Ashley III, and Lady Ashley as a member of the Ashley Whippet Invitational Celebrity Touring Team. Several years ago he settled down, got married, and had a daughter. Recently he moved his family to Stowe, Vermont and opened Edelweiss, a Deli/Convenience Store (2251 Mountain Rd, Stowe, Vermont 05672). If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by. The food is excellent and there is no better storyteller of the days of old than Stein who is always willing to serve up another one.
Thanks to the legendary exploits of Stein and Ashley, disc dog competitions are flourishing. At least five canine competition series, employing a variety of competitive formats, exist today including those staged by a veritable alphabet soup of organizations such as the AWI, FDDO, Skyhoundz, UFO, and USDDN. Today, the Hyperflite Skyhoundz Canine Disc Championship Series is the largest and most well-attended canine disc competition series in the world featuring approximately 150 competitions. In the Skyhoundz Series teams compete for World Championship titles in four distinct divisions – MicroDog, Pairs Freestyle, Open and Sport. For those fortunate enough to qualify for the World Championship, a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience awaits. To find out whether a Skyhoundz competition is being held near you, or to learn more about canine disc sports, please visit, www.skyhoundz.com.
Reprinted with permission from Hyperflite, Inc. www.hyperflite.com.
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About the Authors
Hyperflite co-founder, Peter Bloeme is currently director of the Skyhoundz Championships. In this role, he manages more than 100 Local Championships, 10 World Championship Qualifers, and the World Championship — reaching millions of consumers with messages of canine health and fitness.
Bloeme’s career of tossing, skipping, bouncing, spinning and twirling a plastic disc into the air began in 1974 when he won the Junior National Frisbee Championships at the age of 15. In 1976, at the age of 19, he won the World (human) Frisbee Championships at the Rose Bowl in California before 40,000 disc fans.
In 1983, Bloeme added a new element to his sport – a black and white Border Collie named Whirlin’ Wizard. The two went on to win the 1984 World Canine Frisbee Championships making Wizard, at less than 2 years old, the youngest dog to ever win the title. At the same time, Bloeme became the only person to win a world title both by himself and with his dog.
In 1990, Bloeme added a little magic to his routine – literally – with the addition of Magic, a black and white Australian Shepherd. Over the years, Bloeme, Wizard and Magic performed hundreds of disc dog demonstrations at sporting events including Major League Baseball, National Football League, World League football and National Basketball Association games.
Bloeme and his canine companions have also performed numerous times before sold-out stadium crowds all around the world. They have performed half-time shows at sporting events and have made public appearances in countries including Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Sweden. Perhaps his most notable appearance was at the 1995 Japanese Baseball All-Star Game in Hiroshima, Japan where, after the seventh inning, the game was stopped for a ten minute exhibition by Bloeme and four Japanese dogs. Bloeme’s performance was viewed live by a sold-out crowd of 40,000 fans plus an estimated 26 million people on television through the Tokyo Broadcasting System.
During the 1970’s, Bloeme served as technical advisor to CBS Sports for a half-hour television special on Frisbee and toured Europe as a representative of the International Frisbee Association.
Bloeme and his dogs have appeared on television in the U.S. hundreds of times, including featured appearances on shows such as “Good Morning America,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and on CNN and ESPN. You may remember seeing Wizard opening the Disney movie, “Flight of the Navigator.” In a Miller Lite television ad, Bloeme was responsible for the on-camera Frisbee action. Wizard even had a walk-on role in the spot. Bloeme has also served twice as the color commentator for Animal Planet in their one-hour show on the World Championships.
In 2001, Bloeme, Jeff Perry (1989 World Champion & Hall of Famer) and Greg Perry founded Hyperflite, Inc., a company dedicated to developing advanced disc technology. Their first disc, the K-10 for dogs was introduced in July of 2001.
Bloeme is author of the book, Frisbee Dogs: How to Raise, Train and Compete, a 192-page paperback, illustrated with over 300 photographs and the book, Skyhoundz Images, an 80-page hardcover photo book on the sport with captions in English, Japanese and Spanish ($19.95 U.S.).
Bloeme also co-produced, along with Jeff Perry, the internationally-acclaimed Disc Dog Training DVD, the top-selling disc dog training DVD of all time and Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide. At 360 pages, and featuring more than 600 color photos, Disc Dogs! is the most thorough and authoritative canine disc publication in existence.
Hyperflite co-founder Jeff Perry and his mixed-breed, animal shelter adoptee, Gilbert won the 1989 Canine Disc World Championship in Dallas, Texas. Prior to taking the World title, Perry and Gilbert won the Southeast Regional Championship for three consecutive years. Gilbert and Perry went on to be featured on NBC’s top-rated “Today Show,” along with numerous appearances on CNN and ESPN and other national and international media over the years. As a member of the ALPO Canine Disc Celebrity Touring Team, Perry was a media spokesperson for the 10-year period in which ALPO sponsored the Canine disc Championships.
Throughout the years, in countless interviews and public appearances Perry has extolled the virtues of adopting shelter animals. According to Perry, shelter mutts make wonderful companions and great disc dogs.
Perry and his canines have performed hundreds of times before sold-out stadium crowds at professional football and baseball games all over the world. Internationally, Perry has performed before huge crowds at Olympic Stadiums in Berlin and Barcelona and has made public appearances in Canada, China, Spain Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Gilbert and Perry were featured entertainers at the prestigious “Colare de Oro,” the Italian equivalent of the Westminster dog show.
While performing in Japan, Perry met the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan (the future emperor and empress of Japan) after one of more than 200 shows that he performed in Japan over a five-month period at the Animal Kingdom in Nasu. While in Japan, Perry and his dog Cosmic K.D. also entertained thousands of spectators in the Tokyo dome.
From 1990 to 2005, Perry served as the Chief Judge of the World Canine Disc Championships.
Perry, along with Peter Bloeme and Greg Perry, co-founded Hyperflite in 2000 and, shortly thereafter, designed and patented the revolutionary K-10 disc, the first canine disc designed exclusively for canine competition.
Perry, along with Peter Bloeme, co-produced the internationally-acclaimed Disc Dog Training DVD, the top-selling disc dog training DVD of all time. In addition, Perry co-wrote Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide, the most authoritative book ever written on canine disc sports.
In his spare time, Perry also serves as a Contributing Editor for Flying Disc Magazine.
A strong proponent of the health and fitness benefits of canine disc play for dogs and owners, Perry founded one of the first canine disc clubs in the country. Over the years, Perry has taught countless canine-disc aficionados to throw flying discs and helped even elite-level competitors improve their throwing abilities.
In addition to his canine disc activities, Perry still finds time to engage in some of his other favorite pursuits, climbing, backpacking and flying. Perry, a skilled pilot, has flown powered aircraft and hang gliders for more than 25 years and has logged more than 2000 hours in many types of aircraft. In fact, his aeronautical experience and understanding of aeronautical principles were instrumental in the design of the Hyperflite K-10 disc.
Perry received a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) in Journalism from the University of Maryland, a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) from Mercer University and a Master of Laws in International Law (LL.M.) from the University of Miami.