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Dogs rise to challenge at flying disk contest

Matt Derfler and his dog One Eye Jack

Matt Derfler and his dog One Eye Jack compete in the freestyle event at the Alan Michalak Memorial Everything's Jake IV Disc Dog Competition in Sayville. (July 10, 2010) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

When Pixie Chick, an Australian shepherd, rocketed off Frank Montgomery's back to catch a neon-orange flying disk in midair, the crowd of dog lovers and owners from the region cheered louder than they had all day.

Pixie Chick, 9, who lives with Montgomery in Annapolis, Md., was one of 24 dogs competing in the Alan Michalak Memorial Everything's Jake IV Disc Dog Competition in Sayville Saturday.

Dogs and owners competed in distance and accuracy, freestyle, and spot landing contests - with an additional distance championship in honor of event founder Alan Michalak, of Sayville, who died unexpectedly in September at age 52.

More than $300 was raised for Michalak's four yellow Labradors, including Jake, for whom the competition is named and who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Michalak's wife is taking care of them.

"It's Alan's wish that this would always go on," said organizer Dan Huebner, 48, of Manorville. When Huebner looked out into the crowd of more than 300 people - five times that of last year - he smiled. "The amount of people here, this was Alan's dream."

Pixie Chick and her daughters, 2-year-olds Chicklet and Hippie Chick, all qualifiers for the world championships in September, behaved like the seasoned competitors they are. Others like Daisy, a 2-year-old golden retriever whose owner entered her on the spur of the moment, spent most of the time in the crowd rather than chasing the disks thrown by owner Mario Messina.

"But in the backyard, she's a champ," said Messina, 44, of Glen Cove.

Hippie Chick and her owner, David Gosch, 43, of Baltimore, won the spot landing portion and the distance and accuracy event.

"She's just the ultimate dog," Gosch said.

Corrine Brewer, 53, of Southbury, Conn., fondly remembered meeting Michalak at a competition in 2004. He won that year in a tie-dyed shirt, cutoff jeans, bandanna and bare feet, she said.

"He really embodied what this sport is all about," said Brewer, president of the Yankee Flyers dog disk club. "It's about your dog."

Brewer, who competed with her Australian shepherds Merry, 8, and Kangaroo Jack, 5, said she was proud of her personal best in the long-distance event with Jack - a 162-foot catch - which won them first place in the women's category.

"I love this dog. He could get no points and I'd still love him," she said. "He's my best friend."

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