This will be Part I of II parts of this story featuring the history of Ashley Whippet, the most famous Frisbee dog of all time. There are several people who contributed to this article, including the breeder, the owner, and the founder of the Ashley Whippet Museum. I will run Part II tomorrow.
All information on this page provide by Lisa McLaughlin Schneider, Breeder
If you have questions about Ashley Whippet, visit Lisa’s Web site at Jule Too Border Collies
It all began in the 1970’s when a new sport caught the fancy of Americans. The sport combined athleticism and grace,and began what would become one of the most popular dog sports ever. It involved running at speeds up to 35 miles per hour and catching an object ten feet in the air. The greatest athlete who ever played sport was the first to popularize the event, which today has grown far beyond the imagination of those who began it over thirty five years ago.
At the age of six months, Ashley Whippet was already attracting crowds on the Ohio State University campus. He became the creator, and the most accomplished practitioner, of his chosen sport. He became the Michael Jordan of his sport and established a standard that will most likely never be achieved again in his event. Ashley performed at the Super Bowl, at the White House, on television, and was featured in a movie. Upon his death, he received a glowing tribute in the pages of Sports Illustrated.
Ashley Whippet was bred by the Lisa McLaughlin, whose family who had owned whippets since the 1960s and was born on June 4, 1971. Lisa met Alex Stein, an Ohio State student who was friends with Mike McLaughlin, her brother, and who was in the same fraternity. Alex began dating Lisa and she gave Ashley to Alex. Rumor has it that Ashley got his name because of his cigar-ash color and also in honor of Ashley Wilkes, one of the characters in Gone With the Wind. Ashley’s coloration would later change to black and white, and the dog would go on to change Alex’s life.
Frisbees were popular objects on college campuses in the early 1970’s and no doubt other Frisbee fanatics taught their dogs to catch the whirling discs, but no other dog possessed the artistry, grace and sense of drama that Ashley was to display.
Alex, a sophomore at Ohio State University, introduced Ashley to Frisbees as a puppy by using them as dishes for Ashley’s food and water. Ashley must have been born to play Frisbees, because by the age of six months he was entertaining hundreds of people on the OSU Oval with his acrobatic catches. Ashley loved to perform in front of a crowd,” said Stein. “He’d jump up and twist and contort his body on a catch because he knew that’s what people liked.”
As Alex began to realize the gifts that Ashley possessed, he decided to pack up and move to Hollywood. Alex began contacting agents, telling them about his dog that could run 35 mph, leap high into the air and catch Frisbees. He did not get the response he expected. One scout at a famous agency hung up. Others said they didn’t handle animals. Calls were not returned, and Stein realized he needed to find another way to get some attention for Ashley.
Upon hearing that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be hosting the Cincinnati Reds on NBC Monday Night Baseball, Stein suddenly got an idea. On August 5, 1974, just before the Dodgers came to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning, Stein and Ashley Whippet dashed over the wall separating the fans from the players and raced into centerfield. Alex would throw the Frisbee, and Ashley displayed his ability to make twisting, leaping catches, closing his jaws on the Frisbee at just the right moment to bring cheers from the crowd. NBC trained its cameras on Ashley for several minutes as he raced under throws as long as 90 yards and hauled them in like a canine Lynn Swann.
When Stein and Ashley came off the field there was confusion and bad news. Stein was arrested for trespassing and subsequently had to pay a $250 fine. Even worse, in the commotion Stein was separated from Ashley and feared he would never see his dog again. Luckily, the news began to get better. After three days, a Long Beach youngster who had taken Ashley home read an article in the paper about the incident and returned the animal to Alex Stein. Another call came as well but this one from the Los Angeles Rams’ halftime coordinator, who eventually signed Alex and Ashley to perform at two games that fall.
Ashley’s popularity began to rise, invited to appear at the World Frisbee Championships (at that time for humans only), as well as on the Tonight Show and as a guest of Merv Griffin. As Alex and Ashley’s message was spread on Frisbee, countless dog owners began training their pets to emulate Ashley.
The World Frisbee Championships inaugurated formal Catch & Fetch competition in 1975. The object of Catch & Fetch is to complete as many throws as possible in a two-minute span. The throws must cover at least 15 yards, and extra points are awarded if the dog has all four paws off the ground during a catch. Ashley not only had sure jaws and ample hang time, but also possessed the discipline to return swiftly after each throw, allowing his master the opportunity to make more throws. Other dogs rivalled Ashley in athletic talent but lacked the requisite discipline to rise to the top.
Ashley reigned as world champion from 1975-77, appeared on Wide World of Sports, and was featured in an Academy Award-nominated documentary, Floating Free, filmed during the 1977 nationals. He got to rub noses with the rich and famous, playing with Amy Carter’s dog Grits on the White House lawn. There were appearances on Monday Night Football and at halftime of Super Bowl XII.
By 1980 Ashley was no longer competing, but he still toured the country and was capable of seemingly impossible feats. One occurred at the Rose Bowl, when he ran the entire length of the football field and made a great catch of a Frisbee just before it was about to hit the ground. “Call me crazy, but I swear that Ashley took a bow, acknowledging the well-deserved tribute from the huge crowd in the stadium,” wrote Irv Lander in his biography of the dog, appropriately entitled Ashley Whippet.
Ashley served as spokesdog for the Gaines dog food company and spent time with his family of 60 sons and daughters and 12 granddogs. One of the daughters, Lady Ashley, went on the road promoting Gaines products.
Recognized as the creator of his sport, Ashley lived long enough to see the national Catch & Fetch series officially renamed the Ashley Whippet Invitational in 1982. Ashley laid the foundation for the disc-dog sport and led an active, athletic life until his death March 11, 1985 at the age of 14. The disc-dog event attracted more than 15,000 dogs over the last few years. Loved by everyone, and universally acknowledged as the greatest Frisbee-catcher ever, Ashley Whippet lives on today in books and on web sites.
A copy of Irv Lander’s official Ashley Whippet biography can be found at his link if you have interest in purchaing the book about this great athlete:http://www.dtworld.com/product_p/p20.htm
While there might be some wonderful dogs out there in the world of Frisbee catching, there was only one Ashley Whippet, and he remains the standard against which all others are measured. The legend of this star athlete will continue to inspire others for years to come.
In late 1999 USA Today recognized Ashley Whippet
as one of the Great Athletic Animals of the Century
The article went on to say: Ashley Whippet
At a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game in 1979, Ohio State student Alex Stein and his dog dashed uninvited onto the field between innings.
Stein tossed his Frisbee long distances. His dog, Ashley Whippet, ran it down at speeds up to 35 mph and leaped 9 feet in the air to catch it in his teeth.
Fans cheered. Stein was fined $250. A star was born.
Ashley Whippet would go on to perform at the Super Bowl and at the White House.
“I was blessed to have him,” says Stein, who now operates a delicatessen, Deli on Rye, in Hudson Village, Ohio.
He and Ashley Whippet won the first three World Frisbee Championships from 1975-77 at the Rose Bowl. The tournament, now 25 years old, is still held in his honor in Washington, as the Alpo Canine Frisbee Disc World Finals.
Ashley Whippet died in 1985. Stein has the cremated remains in an urn.
Doggone Flying Saucer
If a cow can jump over the moon, a dog can jump over a tree — and that’s what this agile whippetseems to be doing. Ashley is anacrobatic dog who has performed at the White House and the Super Bowl. He’s also the world championFrisbee-catching dog — he can leapmore than eight feet in the air to snag one of the whirling disks. Whippets are considered among the fastest domestic animals andhove been clocked at 35 m.p.h.
You might want to visit the Ashley Whippet History website here: Ashley Whippet History Page