Top Dogs

Sports are a good way to measure a culture. Cricket, for example, reflects the English culture that developed it. In the same way, football (Australian-rules style, natch) rules Australia. In the upcoming World Cup soccer championships, one can witness how a nation's culture dictates its style of play--from the methodical Germans to the passionate Latin-American players.

While televised sports serve as a dominant cultural indicator in America, too, a more accurate portrayal of the common citizen may be found by looking in parks or other open fields of grass where sport accessories are as simple as some good sun, good vibes, a cooler and a Frisbee. These flying discs have inspired game hybrids such as disc-golf and disc-football, but the most interesting is a competitive sport in which the flying disc is paired with the eager-to-retrieve dog. It isn't hard to imagine the pleasure of this pastime.

Besides camaraderie, the mutt's master gets to play owner, manager, coach and quarterback of his own little team. Despite the human's control, it's obvious the dog is the real star of the team. The high spirits and infectious energy of the canines are probably most responsible for the sports popularity. The "ooooh"s and "aaaah"s heard after a stunning trick are results of the "cute" factor as much as they are the "Wow!" factor--an actual scoring category as set by the Skyhoundz Canine Disc Southwest Regional Championship, one of the groups that sponsors competitions between human/canine trick teams.

Some of Skyhoundz's other basic scoring principles are based on distance, accuracy, style, presentation, athleticism and difficulty. There are also regulations with the traits of the four-legged competitor in mind. Official time-outs are allowed for "nature breaks," and any necessary cleanup is to take place after completion of the round. Another understandable (but not very politically correct) rule is that female dogs in heat are not allowed to compete and must not be brought to the competition site.

That such a sport even exists is a true indicator of our pet-centric culture if there ever was one.

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Mark Hughes