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  Dogs take to the skies this weekend in Surfside

Discs will be flying and jaws chomping Saturday morning during Surfside Beach’s annual day for athletic dogs.

A Skyhoundz Disc Contest at the town’s H. Blue Huckabee Complex off Glenns Bay Road will showcase dogs and their distance and accuracy at catching flying discs.

Debbie Ellis, the town’s recreation supervisor, said each dog entered receives two 60-second rounds to flash their skills, and points are tallied for awards in first, second and third place.

About 15 to 20 canines, and their respective disc-flinging owners, usually take part in this annual town contest begun a decade ago, Ellis said. Many pairs return every year, some from as far as Columbia and Charlotte and Wilmington, N.C.

“We’ve had labs, border collies and Dobermans,” she said, also tipping her hat to one Boykin spaniel – the S.C. state dog – that has competed.

Jeff Perry is co-founder of Hyperflite, a Roswell, Ga.-based maker of canine discs and the sponsor of the 2011 World Championship Week, which concludes Sunday in Chattanooga, Tenn.

As dogs barked in the background during his call Tuesday from the Volunteer State, Perry said local canine-disc contests such as Surfside Beach’s make up a collective farm club for people and dogs, and can lead to higher level competitions, much like Major League Baseball teams have development teams in dozens of cities nationwide.

“A lot of people get their first start at these local competitions,” Perry said. “You might not even be aware of them, but you go to the park and get hooked.”

Hyperflite’s world championships started in 2000, and they have grown with two other big events annually: the Skyhoundz DiscDogathon Championships, which include spot landing and pairs’ distance/accuracy, and the Skyhoundz Xtreme Distance Championships.

A certain dog breed does not guarantee any trend or dominance in the sport.

“A good ol’ all-American mutt,” Perry said, such as a dog bought from a shelter or rescue organization, “can compete right up there with purebred dogs.”

Unlike the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual show, for example, where a certain look occupies a judge’s eyes, Perry said any breed or mix could harbor potential in its paws.

“These dogs are all about athletics, and they come in all breeds,” said Perry, whose late pitbull mix won a world title in 1989. “All you have to do is have a dog that really loves you, and it’ll do anything you want.”

Perry remains in awe of how canine-disc exhibitions at halftime of National Football League games captivate crowds in the tens of thousands.

“Instead of going to the restroom, people stay in their seats,” he said. “People are amazed by the athleticism of the canines and what they do at these shows.”

He said it’s not just all-American mutts that command the limelight at world championships, which have taken place since the mid-1970s.

“Sometimes it’s all-Canadian, or all-European or all-Japanese,” Perry said. “It’s all kinds from around the world.”

Ellis said Skyhoundz provides the discs for entries in Surfside Beach’s event, and the plaques for the top finishers. Still, she adds a little perk to the prizes.

“I usually just go to a local pet store,” Ellis said, “and pick up some treats and make small goodie bags for first, second and third.”

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