Celebrate the Whippet Breed

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.

 

–reprinted courtesy of "TODAYS ANIMAL NEWS".

The following is an exclusive inter­view with a canine who has become a legend in his time. . .Ashley Whippet who has become synonymous with the Frisbee.

In fact, the world series of flying discs has now become known officially as the Ashley Whippet Invitational in honor of the three-time world champion. News stories and press releases about the famous Frisbee fetcher would fill volumes. Ashley is even represented by a New York public relations firm. But we weren't really interested in the usual "canned" press hand-outs. We wanted to know first hand (first-paw?) what it was really like to be a real celebrity. And so with the help of a translator (Alex Stein).. .

TODAYS ANIMAL NEWS: Ashley, thou ­ sands of dogs owe the popularity of Frisbee catching to you. How did you become a star?

ASHLEY WHIPPET: Well, really by accident. As a puppy I was given to my owner and trainer, Alex Stein. And I grew up as his constant companion. He didn't have a wife or kids or anything so I sort of became like a son to him. Like I went to school with him and waited outside the classroom until we could go home together. And for fun and exercise we'd play with the Frisbee together. You should know that at that time Frisbee catching was pretty much a sport just for humans.

TAN: That sounds pretty ordinary. How could that lead to stardom?

AW: Well, you gotta remember that Alex is really a Frisbee freak. The more we did it the better we both became. And, in all modesty, I'm pretty darned good. When we'd go to the park or someplace we'd draw quite a crowd. People hadn't seen a dog that could run 35 miles an hour after a disc and jump nine feet in the air to catch one. So one day Alex got this crazy idea that almost sent both of us to the slammer. And it also almost darned near split us up for good!

TAN: You can go to jail for catching a Frisbee?

AW: Only if you do it right. Like tres ­ passing, and a few other charges. They were playing this big important ball game at Dodgers Stadium, and Alex figured that if a few people in the park liked our act, the crowd at the stadium would go crazy over it. So he smuggles me into the stadium and at the start of the ninth inning he goes running out onto the field, past all the guards, an we start doing our Frisbee number. Well, he was right about them going crazy over it. He figured we'd last about a minute before the fuzz caught us. But the crowd went wild. Even the ball ­ players liked our act, and we were out there in front of thousands of fans, and on national TV for eight minutes. We got more applause than the winning home run that night.

TAN: How long ago was that?

AW: Oh, that was about 1974, and that was really the start of the whole thing. But it was also darned near the end of it all, too. Alex saw that we had overstayed our welcome and started to (you should pardon the expression) high-tail it out of there. But the cops nabbed him and in the confusion I got separated from him. They hauled him downtown to book him and I just ran around, not really knowing what to do. All I could think of was that they'd probably slam me in the local pound. But I've always been a lucky dog and a nice 1 5-year old boy from Long Beach took me home with him.

TAN: Did Alex actually go to jail for that? AW: No, they just kept him a few hours and a good friend named I r v Lander posted $250 for bail and a fine. But now Alex didn't know where I was, and I thought I'd never see him again. By the time he got back to the stadium it was about three in the morning and the clean-up crews were cleaning up the mess. I guess he was just about frantic. He kept asking around and nobody knew anything. Finally he talked to some sportswriters and they thought it was kind of a good feature story idea and ran it in the newspaper. And lo and behold the boy saw the story and contacted Alex and he gave him a nice reward and we got back together again. By now we were sort of famous, in a small way. And talk about coincidences! This I r v Lander was promoting competitive events for human Frisbee players. So he had us appear at a couple of them as a sort of novelty attraction to show humans what a Whippet could do.

TAN: How did the human Frisbee players like your act?

AW: Not much. You see, none of them could jump nine feet in the air to catch a flying disc, or turn flips in the air at the same time. It made what they were doing look sort of tame. But the crowd loved it, so we kept appearing more and more often. Well, you can guess the rest. So far we've had about 3,500 dogs in competition in some 1,200 cities. We're even thinking of maybe inviting some human Frisbee players to appear at one of our competitions. As a sort of novelty attraction, you know.

TAN: So this has been your whole life for the past eight years?

AW: Yep. We got lucky. Some Los Angeles disc jockeys got together and sponsored something called the "Fearless Fido Frisbee Fracas". Awful name, but it got the whole thing started. Irv wrote the first set of rules and, with a few modifications, we still play by them. Now I'm on the road most of the year, between our contests and appearances at rodeos, and on TV, and at race tracks, and that sort of thing. I've done shows with Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and even Zsa Zsa Gabor. But the one that was really fun was when Jimmy Carter was president I taught "Grits" (that was Amy Carter's dog) how to play Frisbee. I even got a nomination for an Acadamy Award for a live action short short called "Floating Free".

TAN: It sounds like you've had a lot of miles and a few years of this. Do you ever think of retiring?

AW: Once in a while. You know I travel over 60,000 miles a year on my American Express card. You did know that I have my own American Express card, with my own name that I sign with a paw print, didn't you?

TAN: No. I don't even have one of those for myself. Let's change the subject.

AW: Okay, don't get touchy about it. I'm ten years old and in very good condition. I work out several times a week and watch my diet. I figure that I have three or four good years before I quit. My good friend Hyper Hank (who started his career by winning the Fearless Fido Frisbee Fracas) is already retired. But he's about 13 and his eyesight isn't as good anymore.

TAN: You look pretty trim and healthy, Ashley. What kind of a diet do you follow? AW: Good grief! I forgot to mention that? I am on a straight diet of Cycle Four. Cycle is made by General Foods who sponsor me and I should have gotten in a few plugs for it before now. But that really is my diet and it does help to keep me fit.

TAN: You mean that really is your diet? You don't slip in a few goodies here and there? AW: Well, I have to admit I indulge myself in an ice cream cone once in a while. Did I tell you that I have an Ice Cream Parlor named after me? It's at Yale University. And I really am fond of ice cream. Oh, and of course, I get a complete physical checkup at the veterinary hospital at least twice a year. In fact I just had my teeth cleaned a few days ago. Aren't they pretty? Good dental health is important for Frisbee players, you know.

TAN: So what happens to the Frisbee world when you retire?

AW: Oh, we've already planned for that. I have several youngsters, sired by me, that are already in training. One, Ashley Whippet, Jr., is already started. And I have a daughter named Kyra that shows a lot of promise. Her timing is still a bit off, like she is so enthusiastic that she jumps so high that she jumps right over the top of the Frisbee sometimes. But she'll get it put together in time.

TAN: It sounds as though you expect this kind of competition to continue for a while. AW: Actually, it gets bigger every year. For many people it's a chance for fun and fame that might never happen any other way. Did you know that three of the world champions were originally dogs from animal shelters? People came and chose them just to have a Frisbee competition dog. The dog may just be a mutt, but it's an opportunity for a dog and owner to achieve something great together. I will always remember a contestant arriving for the first time at the Rose Bowl and kneeling down to kiss the ground. He was actually crying, and said to his dog, "Josephine, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that you and I would wind up in the World Championships at the Rose Bowl"! That's sort of touching.

TAN: What suggestions would you have for someone who wanted to start a dog out right to be Frisbee champ?

AW: Well, we start our hopefuls out by always feeding and watering them right out of a Frisbee. This helps to build a positive mental conditioning. And when we start them catching Frisbees they learn to do it for the satisfaction of doing it well. No treats or things like that. And, of course, we use the accepted tournament quality Frisbees.

TAN: You mean that there is a difference in Frisbees?

AW: You bet your can of cycle (that's a plug) there is. Proper ones are less rigid and have an outside rim that is not as deep, and so is easier to get into the mouth of a dog. The folks at Cycle even have their own tournament Frisbees manufactured just for them by Wham-O. And, naturally, it is very important for the human to learn to toss one properly. This is a team effort, you know.

TAN: Well, if retirement is down the road for you, what do you plan to do then? AW: Oh, there are lots of things planned. We have a series of dog food commercials being tested now. Instead of some overstuffed Old English sheepdog or bulldog, they portray a lean, hard Whippet. Guess who?

TAN: Well, Ashley, it sounds as though the life of being a celebrity really agrees with you. Anything in particular that turns you on?

AW: Actually, I love the whole life. Meeting interesting new people. Performing. Sometimes, when I arrive in a new city and get to the stadium or park or whatever, I just can't help barking with excitement. I like ice cream and television. Whenever Alex leaves me, like to go to dinner, he turns on the television. So I watch a lot of it. Sports are good, and Boomer, and I always enjoy watching myself on the tube. TAN: Okay, so what turns you off?

AW: That's easy. Flies, I hate flies. I once ate a fly in the middle of a TV interview. I don't like the crowds at airports. And the hot lights when we are filming on TV bother me.

TAN: Is that all?

AW: No. One other thing really bugs me. The dumb questions that interviewers ask me!

TAN: Well, I guess that wraps up this interview, Ashley. •

 

Ashley Whippet, The Greatest Frisbee Dog Ever

Link to YouTube Ashley and Friends Video

Link to "The One and Only Ashley Whippet Video on YouTube

YouTube World Record Frisbee Catch by Whippet

Visit ashleywhippet.com