WALLINGFORD — More than a hundred onlookers watched as about a dozen dogs showed off their disc catching abilities during the 26th annual local Skyhoundz competition.
The dogs were competing in the Parks & Recreation department’s annual competition at Doolittle Park. The local event was started by current Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michelle Bjorkman when she was an intern.
“It’s just a fun event, fun family event,” Bjorkman said.
Skyhoundz hosts some of the largest disc dog competitions in the world. At the local competition, each dog and owner had 60 seconds to catch as many throws as they could, gaining extra points with distance and style.
Wallingford resident Jim Millspaugh and his chocolate Labrador Dolan came in first place for the second year in a row.
Ed Jakubowski of Salem came in second and third, with his dogs Deacon Blue and Alex.
Jakubowski has been competing with his disc dogs for more than 40 years. Over the years he’s taken care of roughly 20 dogs, but currently has seven, including four who competed Thursday night.
Jakubowski has competed at the national level and judged competitions, including international ones.
He first started competing with Homie in 1978 as a way to occupy the dog. The hobby turned into a passion.
“I just enjoyed being with the dogs. It allowed me to be up close and enjoy what the dog was doing,” he said.
While Dolan and Deacon Blue are experienced, Bjorkman said many of the dogs that compete are beginners.
“People know...they can be a complete novice or they can be a complete professional,” Bjorkman said.
The mix of breeds is just as varied as the differing skill levels. Small, big, furry and short-haired dogs competed.
“You usually start off by sliding the disc on the ground or rolling it on its edge, you don’t have to start off in the air,” Jakubowski said.
The handler should practice making their throw consistent. Once the dog is in the air, Jakubowski said, there’s no time for correction, so the throw needs to be good.
Bjorkman said the Wallingford event has seen a decline in attendance since it first started. She credits that to an influx of other local disc events around the state.
Jakubowski said during his 40 years in the sport the number of leagues has grown from one to several. The sport has also gained in popularity in Europe and Asia.