Mattie, an energetic and aerodynamic whippet, literally jumped for joy this week at the prospect of going for the gold.
Mattie, a sleek leaper, is on her way to the Come 'N Get It Canine Frisbee World Finals.
In a practice session at South Park earlier this week, the hound's owner, Chris Breit, of Lawrence, had Mattie show off her leaping and disc-catching skills. She was ready and willing. Mattie eagerly dug through her owner's bag, pulling out Frisbees and dropping them at Breit's feet.
"WE HAVE to hide the Frisbees in the house or she'll get them out and jump on the bed in the morning wanting to play," Breit said. "There's two words we can't say around the house Frisbee and pizza."
Breit donned a sweatshirt and wrapped an elasticized weight-lifting belt around his thigh to prevent scratches as Mattie repeatedly bounded off his body to grab Frisbees out of the air. She vaulted off his back, stomach, chest, and leg, leaped through a hoop formed by his leg and arm, and even snatched the disc out of her owner's mouth.
The twosome has grabbed top honors at all local competitions for the last three years.
Mattie tied for first place at the Southwest Finals in Dallas, Tex., on Aug. 25, and was awarded an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., in mid-October for the world finals.
While in Dallas, Mattie and four other dogs performed in front of about 50,000 spectators at a Cowboys football game.
"UP TO that point, it was kind of a lackadaisical game," Breit said. "The biggest roar of the whole game came when the dogs came out."
During the '70s Breit competed solo in human Frisbee games. "People would say, `that was pretty good, but do you have a dog?'" he said. "I said, well, I can't beat 'em so I'm going to join 'em."
So he went looking for a dog.
While choosing a puppy from a litter, he rolled a tennis ball, and out of the packe of 5-week-old whippets, Mattie was the only one to pick up the ball and bring it back.
"I knew she was a natural retriever," Breit said.
Mattie's food and water were served in a Frisbee to help her get familiar with the disc, and Breit got rid of all balls and other playthings, except disc-shaped ones such as TupperWare lids.
After about nine months of chasing a rolling Frisbee across the floor and playing tug with it, Mattie started jumping. Now she's at her peak.
THE FINALS will feature two rounds. In freeflight competition, the dog-owner team is judged on showmanship, agility, and consistent throw/catch teamwork. Mini-distance awards points based on successful completions between thrower and dog and various distances, testing both accuracy and strategy.
"Mattie's forte really is her speed in the mini-distance and catching the disc in the air," Breit said.
At 4 years old, Breit said, "she's developed her muscle tone now so I'm not afraid to get her jumping high."