Don’t think dogs can fly? This weekend a group of incredibly agile canines will prove you wrong.
Kathy and Andy Moore are founding members of the Appalachian Air Canines disc dog club and organizers of the annual Flying Frisbee Fest slated for July 8 in Lovettsville, featuring up to 40 human/canine teams showing off cool tricks and great catches.
The Moores, who live near Lovettsville with two human kiddos and four pups, have been putting on the fest for 13 years and will also be competing with their partners Star and Sunny.
In the world of disc dogs, herding breeds are valued for their intensity and intelligence, and the Moores are partial to border collies and Australian shepherds. Andy teams up with Star, a lean border collie, whose speed and accuracy help her rack up points at every competition. Kathy works with Sunny, a miniature Australian shepherd/border collie mix who’s skilled at the jumps and freestyle tricks that fans love.
“When you see the world class champions, most of the time they’re members of the herding group,” Andy said. “However there’s no hard and fast rule. We’ve seen all kinds of breeds compete at a world class level and in our club.”
Visitors at AAC competitions can check out amazing moves from a range of breeds including Labrador retrievers, pointers, shelties, pit bulls, standard poodles and plenty of mutts. And dogs are only part of the equation. Disc dog competitions also require plenty of skill and training on the part of human handlers.
“It’s absolutely teamwork—it has to be good on both sides,” Andy said.
Disc dogs have always been a big part of the Moores’ life together. The couple met when they were competing with National Capital Air Canines disc club. In the late ’90s, Andy got involved with the disc dog scene through a co-worker and adopted his longtime border collie partner, Jessie. Meanwhile, Kathy found her talented Aussie, Jazz, through a Maryland breeder and joined the club in 2000. Jazz and Jessie were even included in their handlers’ 2005 wedding.
“They walked down the aisle with us,” Andy said. “They were the ring bearers.”
The Moores’ honeymoon was a trip to the Skyhoundz world championship competition in Atlanta where the super talented Jazz was a competitor.
“Jazz was a natural,” Kathy said. “I always say I was her handicap.”
Meanwhile the NCAC club had disbanded, and the Moores and some other members launched Appalachian Air Canines in 2004, seeking a more laid back approach than some other highly competitive clubs. In the world of disc dog competitions, AAC is relatively relaxed despite regularly hosting some world class competitors at its events.
“We get out there and we’re competitive. … But we make it fun and it’s laid back, Kathy said.
The more relaxed atmosphere and shorter competitions were also a plus when the Moores’ twins, Claire and Stanley, were born in 2007. The brother and sister have grown up attending disc events and can even hold their own in competition.
“I like it when I throw the Frisbee and see the dog catch it because they’re so graceful,” said 10-year-old Claire, who recently earned third place in the club’s beginner division.
As Jazz and Jessie reached the end of their lives in the past few years, the Moores brought on new partners Sunny and Star who are becoming seasoned competitors. The Moore household is rounded out by Tango, a gorgeous Aussie who’s a great family dog but has no interest in discs, Kathy said, and 4-month-old Aussie Rex, a promising competitor who Kathy is training with rolling discs and short throws.
AAC generally hosts one competition each month during the season which runs from March through October. Events are held in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, including some great locations in Loudoun in past years: Great Country Farms, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens and at area wineries. The Moores’ July event held each year at the Lovettsville Game Protective Association is a fun annual tradition for club members and also attracts new competitors and plenty of spectators.
Teams are scored in several challenges and rack up points throughout the season to compete for the cumulative Club Cup. There are also a champion and reserve champion for each individual competition. At each event, competitors can earn points in three separate challenges: toss/fetch (canine/human teams see how many catches they can make in 60 seconds); freestyle (an observer favorite where teams execute cool tricks and are scored on presentation, athleticism, wow factor and success/accuracy—or PAWS); and a third accuracy challenge usually left up to the discretion of the event organizer.
AAC encourages new competitors in the beginners’ division, and non-members are welcome to compete for a small registration fee to help cover costs.
“We love people to come out and try it,” Andy said. “We want people to do well and have fun.”
The Appalachian Air Canines Flying Frisbee Fest takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 8, at the Lovettsville Game Protective Association, 16 S. Berlin Turnpike in Lovettsville. Entry fee for non-members is $10, and the event is free for spectators. For more information, go to aircanines.com.