7 1/2 years ago my wife Christine and I spontaneously adopted a little red Aussie puppy. Love at first sight for me. We first decided to name him "Fred" but that didn't stick. As we were driving home with him Christine suggested the name "Nova". We tried this for a couple of days but I grew tired of it - too new age for me. So, since I was a lifelong hockey fan and the Stanley Cup Finals were starting, I suggested we go with "Stanley". To my surprise, Christine agree as she always liked proper English names for dogs. Stanley finally had his name.
A couple of weeks into his life with us, we found a small toy disc and thought he might like playing with it. I took him out to the yard and gently threw the disc a few feet. He took one look and pounced on the toy - picking it up and bringing it back to me surprisingly quickly. I threw it again, repeat, repeat, repeat. He brought the disc into the house. He slept with it. He would take it out into the yard and lie there by himself waiting for someone to come out and play with him. The disc obsession was born.
When Stanley was 6 months old, I took him outside to play in the yard. My first toss that evening got away from me and flew a bit high. The puppy ran after it, watched start to come down and then launched himself into a spectacular 360 degree helicopter flip, catching the disc and landing with a very proud look in his eyes - "Hey Dad, did you see what I did?" I was stunned! Holy crap - what kind of animal did I have on my hands?
I had seen disc dogs perform both live and on TV and had always thought it looked like a lot of fun to do. In the spring when Stanley turned 13 months old, I noticed that there was a disc dog contest taking place at Saratoga Springs, NY and Christine and I decided to take our little athlete and check it out. We had a BLAST and were immediately hooked on the sport. Great fun, great dogs, great people.
This was a huge life change for me. Up until then I was a serious triathlete, training 10 to 16 hours per week and competing in long distance races mutliple times per year. I soon realized that I enjoyed my time with my dog a lot more than the time spent on my bike. Exercising for an hour a day and then having time to play with Stanley was a lot more fun than biking 80 miles for 5 hours and then being exhausted for the rest of the day. Change was good.
Today, after 7 years of learning to play disc, learning to be a good positive dog trainer and adopting another 3 Aussies and most recently a Cattle Dog, Stanley and i haqve the opportunity to play at the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge Finals in Freestyle Flying Disc. I am so thankful for whatever universal forces conspired to bring this amazing pup into my life. Maybe its just maturity, but I believe this dog has taught me to live from the heart. Thanks Stanley for being a great dog. Thanks to my wife Christine for supporting me through my great canine obsession.
Whatever happens today, I'll never forget the day when he made that first insane catch in the back yard and changed my life.