Frisbee-tossing Pasadena man lets leaping dogs fly

NEIGHBORS

February 08, 2002|By Peg Adamarczyk | Peg Adamarczyk,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IN THE WORLD of Frisbee-catching sky dogs, Jimmy is a high-flying hound.

On many evenings, you can see the 3 1/2 -year-old Australian cattle dog and his master, Frank Buckland, happily practicing in the back yard of Buckland's Pasadena home. A small plastic disc flies from Buckland's hand and Jimmy retrieves it - in midair.

As a team they have won a regional championship and have even competed for a world title. And now they're about to make their television debut.

They will appear on Maryland Public Television's Outdoors Maryland show at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

"He's a great dog, and we have a lot of fun competing at these events," Buckland said. "I can't wait to see what we look like on TV."

Buckland, 56, who installs flooring in computer work areas, has always been an animal lover and owner since his childhood days in New Mexico. Animals that have called the Buckland household in Pasadena home have included the usual assortment of cats, dogs, birds and bunnies that his children adopted over the years.

Most of the pets have come and gone, but two found a special place in Frank's heart. The death of one of those treasured pets almost kept him from finding the other.

Back in the early 1980s, Tank, a pit bull, was the apple of Frank's eye. He and the sturdy dog would play with the Frisbee in the back yard for hours.

The duo went to events to show off their teamwork with a Frisbee and have fun. This was in the infancy of the sport.

"Tank was always popular with the crowd since he looked exactly like the little dog in the Our Gang comedies," Buckland said. He even added a little eyebrow pencil to enhance Tank's Petey-like ring around the eye.

But home in Pasadena, Tank attracted a different type of attention - pit bull bad press.

"We had to erect a kennel and keep him chained inside because of complaints," he explained. One day, Buckland came home and found that Tank had strangled himself when the chain got hooked on the kennel's fence.

The loss proved so devastating for Frank that he could not really get close to another animal until three years ago. That's when his son gave him Jimmy.

Buckland had a new, 35-pound friend whose intelligence and natural Frisbee-catching abilities were just waiting to be developed.

"I began to think about getting involved again," he said.

The man-and-dog team has gone beyond the old-style Frisbee exhibitions to participate in freestyle, accuracy and distance competitions sponsored by the National Capital Air Canines club and another group known as Skyhounds.

In 2000, Frank and Jimmy won the Northeast Regional championship and traveled to compete in the world title held in Central Park. The team placed eighth out of a field of 12 regional champions.

"He performed well for being so young," Frank said.

At last year's regional finals, held in Annapolis, Jimmy and Frank worked hard to recapture the title. They failed, but they were filmed by a crew from Outdoors Maryland, a program that highlights people and events around the state.

The show highlights sports that involve a growing number of dog owners and their pets in various canine athletic events.

One of the most exciting is called "fly ball," a relay race in which the dogs run over a series of jumps, hit a lever, catch a ball and run back to their "team" and tag the next dog.

There's also an "agility" training display that involves an obstacle course, ramps and tunnels - a playground for dogs.

And, finally, Frank and Jimmy display their teamwork in the freestyle Frisbee competition.

The program will be rebroadcast at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and March 30.

Junior Honor inductees

St. Jane Frances School in Riviera Beach has announced the induction of 18 eighth-graders into the school's National Junior Honor Society.

The new members are: Lisa Berry, Starr Bye, Brittney Byrd, Lacey Curry, Richard Davis, Gregory Heck, Kayla Hess, Molly Hurman, Samantha Martin, Jessica Mulcahy, Alyssa Pridgen, Monica Przybysz, Chelsey Rush, Amanda Schultz, Meryl Seidel, Michelle Serafin, Christie Stuffins and Jessica Vetock.

The induction ceremony took place Jan. 23 at the school.

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