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Dog's no master of the flying disc

July 19, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

I tried, heaven knows I tried. I made him sleep with a Frisbee, I fed him in a Frisbee, I made the Frisbee his constant companion.

But Jake Biscuit never mastered the Frisb - I mean, he never mastered the plastic flying disc. Sorry, for a second there I forgot that I worked for a newspaper (Industry Motto: "Trying to Confuse You With Vague Product Descriptions - Such as 'Canned Aerosol Cheese-Like Substance' - So We Don't Have To Use Brand Names, Since 1833").

So when you saw the headlines last week that a Hagerstown dog had won the flying disc-catching contest at the Great Outdoor Games, I hope you didn't for a second think it might have been Jake.

The winner was in fact a dog named Split, a border collie owned by Hagerstown's Ron Watson. He said there is an amazing connection - Ron said this, not Split - between dog and man that allows for such a finely choreographed pitch and airborne catch.

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"It's like you're quarterbacking, and you have Randy Moss doing tricks and backflips," Watson told The Herald-Mail's Karen Hanna following the competition.

I've seen the footage, and just like Randy Moss, Split also wagged his bare tush at the crowd. Actually, I haven't seen the footage because I'm writing on Friday and the show didn't air on ESPN until Saturday. I don't want to create a Mitch Albom situation here. But I just assume he wagged, because all dogs do.

Even Jake. But catch, he could not. The dog is fast as lightning, so tracking was no problem. But he would always wait for it to settle gently - barking at it insanely, as a general thing - to the ground before snapping it up and furiously pounding back to me like some kind of miniature Pony Express.

I would sit there for hours, minutes actually, puzzling over how to get it through the animal's lemon that I wanted him to grab the flying disc before it hit the ground. But there is no good way to explain things to a dog.

I would even put the Frisbee in my own teeth, after wiping it off, of course, with a boxed facial paper tissue product. I tried tossing it to him at short distance, but it would just hit him between the eyes - an event that, for some reason, seemed to make him enormously happy.

Plying the waters of Jake's cognitive processes always put me at risk of capsizing, so I fell back on sheer repetition. 'Course that didn't work, for reasons that anyone who has ever owned a terrier will understand.

After a half-dozen tosses, Jake stopped contemplating the Frisbee as a component of recreation and began to contemplate it as an component of diet. He would flop under the nearest tree and commence chewing, and by the time he got around to returning it, the disc's aerodynamics had been severely compromised.

Watson said he made the switch to the brainy border collies because "... I wanted a smart dog. My dog as a child was an idiot, a complete idiot."

Ron. I know the feeling.

In fact, my only shot at ESPN is if they come up with a contest to see which dog can stare uninterrupted for the most number of hours into a chipmunk hole.

Anyway, I guess this makes Hagerstown 1-1 on ESPN this summer. Bad news on Willie Mays, good news on Frisbee dog. And good news for people who like to watch bizarre sports over the weekend.

Although not quite as bizarre, I dare say, as one that was scheduled at Martinsburg's Motorcycle Mania Bike Week: coleslaw wrestling. (Can I say coleslaw, or would that be "shredded cabbage, carrot and homogenized egg solids product?")

Jeff Wilkins, organizer of the bike week, says he's been flooded with requests from people looking to get in on the pit that will contain 500 pounds of coleslaw and 150 pounds of vegetable oil. Me? I don't know. Seeing women wrestle in coleslaw is all right. I guess, although personally I've always preferred creamed corn. Just a question of artistic preference, I suppose.

Either way, it should be fun. The only down side that I can see is that newspaper photo caption writers throughout the Tri-State will be salivating to write: "I fought the slaw and the slaw won."

Indeed. One couple even wants to get married in the side dish. That's rich. What do you exchange, vows or salad forks? Who performs the ceremony, a preacher or a cafeteria worker?

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together in the presence of mayonnaise..." Just remember, guys, 40 years from now you have to show the photos to the grandkids. Do you really want them to see you there on your wedding day thigh deep in cabbage, wearing a Hooters T-shirt and hoisting a Budweiser - I'm sorry, a carbonated malted beverage product?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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