By SARA ARTHURS
He’s a champion athlete who can run, leap and catch. He has set several world records in just two and a half years, and was Ohio’s sole representative in his sport’s international finals in 2016.
Jackson is also a good boy.
That’s what his human, Steve Chasse, tells the 4-year-old Australian shepherd during a Northwest Ohio Disc Dogs event held recently at 50 North. The club offers games in which dogs catch Frisbees and leap over obstacles, scoring points for how well they do.
Chasse leads the club with his wife, Cindi. Along with Jackson (who competes under the name “Action Jackson”), their border collie, Legacy, also participates.
Cindi said Legacy, almost 2, does well for his age. He has been competing for about a year and is nicknamed “Leap’n Legacy.”
Jackson’s many accomplishments include first place overall champion in UpDog Challenge International Finals in 2018. A year earlier, he was overall versatility champion, Maxi Division, among more than 120 teams. (The versatility award was no longer offered after 2017.)
Steve and Jackson have set world-record scores in seven of nine UpDog Challenge Level 1 games, and still hold five of those, Cindi said. They have set five record scores in Level 2 games and still hold four of those records.
In Frizgility (Level 1), they were the first to complete seven loops and seven 10-plus-yard catches. They have since surpassed that, and hold the record score out of about 10,600 total UpDog rounds of that game, Cindi said.
“In 4-Way Play (Level 1), they were the first team to achieve five quads, and remain the only team to do so to date, out of about 10,200 total rounds … of 4-Way played by UpDog teams,” Cindi said. (Legacy recently completed four quads; only 59 teams out of about 10,200 total rounds played by all UpDog teams have achieved that or better.)
Jackson has competed in disc events in 10 states and two Canadian provinces. He and Steve plan to add to that list this summer.
He started his illustrious career playing Frisbee in the backyard. Then Steve tried an UpDog Challenge game called Frizgility — a combination of agility obstacles and Frisbee — in Michigan with him. Steve’s “addiction to the sport was instant,” Cindi said.
Jackson, too, appeared delighted during the 50 North demonstration, eagerly running to catch the disc to responses of “Good boy.”
“He loves it,” Steve said.
Steve said Jackson is naturally agile, but training has improved his skills. If the humans are throwing discs inconsistently in the backyard, as was Jackson’s early experience, it helps, because the dog must learn to be prepared for anything.
Steve and Jackson compete in several other disc dog organizations, but UpDog offers a particular variety of games and involves strategy. Through it, they’ve found camaraderie, Cindi said.
Participants in the UpDog Challenge disc organization can play nine different disc games. Dogs earn digital “achievements” when they reach a milestone or accumulate points, which are posted on their websites.
But in reality, “everyone’s playing for fun,” Cindi said.
Steve has also been recruited to judge UpDog events.
The Findlay club began this spring and is one of several in Ohio. Cindi said Emily Arnett of Putnam County initiated a Facebook conversation, and together she and the Chasses recruited enough people to start a league.
Josh Barker, who was also at 50 North the day of the demonstration, said his Belgian Malinois, Enzo, “loves playing Frisbee.” He noted the more experienced disc dog people have welcomed the newcomers.
Cindi, too, said it’s a “great sport for new people,” who cheer each other on. She enjoys meeting like-minded people, and the community is very supportive.
“The bonds out there are amazing,” she said. This includes bonds between the humans and their dogs, as well as among the humans themselves. Still, “You remember the dog’s name more than the person’s name,” she said.
Steve said although it’s a competition, the atmosphere at the events is friendly. He’s received pointers and learned strategies from people he has met.
And it is “a great workout for the dogs,” Cindi said. They play five minutes and they’re content.
“They’re just, they’re happy dogs,” she said.
The Chasses have been married for 25 years and were drawn together by dogs. They had known each other as coworkers, but their relationship grew closer after Cindi — who then had a golden retriever — was asked to watch Steve’s dog, a husky/Lab mix.
Competitions are open to all breeds. In games involving leaping over obstacles, smaller dogs are given smaller obstacles.
And, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Senior dogs participate, too. Owners will throw a frisbee to a 15-year-old dog so it rolls, so the dog doesn’t have to leap to catch it. The dog still scores points.
In addition to these games, there are events that include costumed freestyle routines to music — sort of like Olympic ice skaters, only, well, dogs.
Locally, Cindi said 50 North has been willing to let the competitors use its space, which is fenced on three sides and has a pavilion for shade. The Findlay club is part of K9 Frisbee Toss and Fetch, which, four times a year, runs competitive leagues where clubs around the world play in their hometowns for five weeks. More than 70 clubs participate in North and South America, Europe and Asia.
The next official league won’t be offered in Findlay until mid-August, but a series of doggie “play dates” will be held throughout the summer leading up to it. Dogs and humans can learn how to play at these events, which will be held at 6 p.m. June 12, June 19, July 10 and July 17. All play dates are free and will be held at 50 North, 339 E. Melrose Ave.
Dogs must have a reliable recall or the ability to play safely on a long lead. Dog-safe discs will be available to borrow. Some play dates will feature demonstrations and try-its for various UpDog Challenge games.
Contact the group or learn more through Northwest Ohio Disc Dogs on Facebook, or by email at email@example.com.
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 firstname.lastname@example.org