August 28, 2014 in City

Doug Clark: Frisbee dog champion lets fur fly in interview

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Doug Clark photo

Walter, Spokane’s award-winning Frisbee-catching dog, is seen with his owner, Michael Paul.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The first thing you learn in journalism school is that the public never gets tired of stories about cuddly animals.

Or cuddly cannibals, for that matter.

Unfortunately, with none of the latter to write about, I drove to a North Side park on Wednesday to interview a small, brown-and-white, Frisbee-catching rock star named Walter.

I was actually invited to the park by Walter’s proud owner, Michael Paul.

Almost immediately the master told me this lurid tale about how Walter was the byproduct of a scandalous liaison between a working border collie and a pampered house pet of the Jack Russell persuasion.

Apparently this cad of a collie jumped a fence and sneaked into the terrier’s ranch house one night when the cow folk weren’t paying attention.

As Kardashian trashy as this coupling might sound, the salacious union did produce an extraordinary athlete.

From the second I showed up, Walter put on a show, performing the following steps over and over again.

1. Walter races 30 or 40 feet down the grassy park in a fur blur.

2. Walter somehow manages to wind up under the soaring white Frisbee, which has been rocketed hard by Paul.

3. Walter leaps into the air, chomping gracefully onto said Frisbee before it falls to Earth.

4. Walter trots back with a smug look on his face and deposits the slobbery disc at Paul’s feet.

What a little showoff.

Oh, I know. Dogs are supposedly our best friends.

Which is really sort of sad, if true.

After hanging around humans so long, you’d think the canines would be better judges of character.

I’ve owned a number of mutts over the decades.

Cinder. Sunnybrook. Bunli.

I even miss Elvis, my deceased cantankerous cockapoo, although he wouldn’t have chased after a Frisbee for a dish of steak tartare.

Elvis’ deficit of a work ethic was epic. His lone talent was the ability to launch into an insufferable, ear-splitting whine whenever I’d start playing my guitar.

Like I need more critics.

Coming off a first-place win this summer, Walter, a proud member of Spokane Disc Dogs, is currently in daily training for a Sept. 21 catch-off at Mirabeau Point Park.

Part of Spokane Valleyfest, this open-to-all competition takes place at 9 a.m. with registration a half-hour earlier.

Rules boil down to: Dogs win points for catching Frisbees.*

(*Using the brand name is probably technically wrong, but I don’t give a Hula Hoop. Every flying disc is a Frisbee to an old-school guy like me.)

Long catches are worth more than short catches. Leaving the ground to make a catch is even better.

And just like the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, no biting is allowed. Well, unless your name is McEnroe, that is.

As with all Hyperflite Skyhoundz-sponsored events, said Paul, everything is free from the watching to the competing.

But as great as all this family fun appears to be, I had to wonder …

What goes on in the mind of Walter?

As luck would have it, Paul gave me a few minutes with Walter while the panting pooch caught his fifth or sixth wind.

DOUG: “Walt, you’re a Frisbee-catching dynamo. I get it. But are you having any fun?”

WALTER: “I guess. But not in the way you’d think.”

DOUG: “Huh?”

WALTER: “The exercise is great, sure. But come on. You think I’d chase Frisbees all day if ol’ what’s-his-name didn’t get such a kick out of it?”

DOUG: “You mean you’re doing all this for Paul?”

WALTER: “Of course. He’s sensitive and tends to sulk when I let him down.”

DOUG: “So there are other things you’d rather do?”

WALTER: “Mos def. Whataya take me for, some kind of one-trick Pomeranian?”

DOUG: “Never. So what would you do?

WALTER: “Well, being a dog, politics has always held an appeal.

DOUG: “Politics? I never would have guessed. Are you talking about City Council or higher?”

WALTER: “Oh, it doesn’t matter.”

DOUG: “Really?”

WALTER: “Sure. Just being around all those other fanny-sniffers I know I’d fit in.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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