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Dogs compete in annual Sayville event

Carley, a five year old Border Collie, is

Carley, a five year old Border Collie, is pictured with a frisbee in Heckscher Park in Great River. (June 29, 2010) Credit: Photo by David Pokress

For these dogs, Frisbee is serious stuff - a sport that involves vaulting off their humans' backs, turning flips, leaping more than 4 feet into the air and dashing 70 yards forward, all in the name of catching a disc before it hits the ground.

"What usually grabs people is the freestyle routine. It's a minute and a half, choreographed to music, and we go out there and do tricks," says Dan Huebner, 48, of Manorville, who is organizing Saturday's Everything's Jake IV Disc Dog Competition in Sayville. "The dogs love it. They hear the applause and the people going nuts, and it actually makes them accelerate."

THE BASICS

More than 50 dogs from the tristate area are expected to compete in Saturday's fourth annual event, including several disc dog world champions. But newcomers are also encouraged to participate - beginner, intermediate and advanced divisions are designed to accommodate all skill levels.

In the past, competing canines have included a papillon, a corgi, a Labradoodle and, most commonly, border collies and Australian shepherds.

"It would blow your mind to see who competes," Huebner says. "You don't even picture the little guys, who are right down at the ground, trying it. But you never know what kind of dog might show up."

THE LINEUP

For the first time, a fundraising distance throw will be held in honor of event founder Alan Michalak, who died last year. Proceeds will benefit Michalak's four yellow Labradors, including Jake, for whom the event was named - and who recently was diagnosed with cancer.

The competition, which is otherwise free to both participants and spectators, includes three points-based contests: distance and accuracy; spot landing, and freestyle.

During the distance and accuracy event, contestants will have one minute to make as many throws as possible on a field marked with increasingly longer distances, such as 10 yards or 40 yards.

Spot landing, meanwhile, requires dogs to catch discs thrown into circular landing zones, all assigned various point values.

DANCING DOGS

Perhaps the highlight of Everything's Jake: the freestyle contest, which emphasizes variety, innovation and the athletic skills of both canine and thrower.

"You'll see people practically dancing with their dogs before they even throw the Frisbee," Huebner says. "The dogs vault off our bodies, they weave in and out underneath us, and we do a whole lot of different throws. You see dogs get incredible height and still catch the Frisbee, and they're so well-trained that they're always ready for their next move."

Huebner, who has been competing with his 5-year-old border collie, Carley, for three years, participates in 15 to 20 disc contests across the East Coast each year.

"I'd really like to see more people from Long Island get involved in this, because they don't know what they're missing," he says. "It's been a great bond for me and my dog - she's obsessed."

Alan Michalak Memorial Everything's Jake IV Disc Dog Competition: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Gillette Park, 115 Gillette Ave., Sayville. Registration starts at 9:30, 631-258-9800, discdanandcarley@yahoo.com. Admission: Free

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