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State champs in town

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Posted: Sunday, October 22, 2006 10:00 pm

Sydney, a 3-year-old female McNab/Queensland Heeler, may not have an ear for music like people do, but she understands what's happening when she hears Billy Squires' CD, "All Night Long."

"When she hears the music, she knows it's competition," Lodi resident Donna Malmlov said.

So does Foster, a 5 1/2-year-old Australian heeler, who captured the Golden State Disc Dog championship with Malmlov's husband, Steve, on Sunday afternoon at Hutchins Street Square.

Foster, who nearly died in 2005 after swallowing a small toy, took the Ashley Whippet Invitational world championship late last year in Arizona. He also won a regional in San Bernardino in April, in Colorado Canine Challenge in August and in South San Francisco last month. And on Sunday, he took top statewide honors.

Lodi was also a winner because it got to host the Crusty Classic Disc Dog Championship. Usually, the Malmlovs and other Northern California competitors have to travel to Southern California for canine Frisbee tournaments.

But Donna Malmlov managed to persuade Lodi to host the Crusty Classic on the west lawn area of Hutchins Street Square.

Several competitors came from Southern California and some came from as far away as Washington and Montana.

"We just like road trips," said Pat Erickson, who drove 8 1/2 hours from San Diego to Lodi with her husband, Al, and their dogs, George and Gracie.

"It's about meeting the people," Erickson said. "It's a good hobby, and our dogs love it. Our kids are all grown and have their own lives."

On the other hand, Jill Teer of Dogs of the Golden Gate, enjoys the relatively short drive from her Vacaville home to Lodi.

"It's the first year (the competition has been held) this far north," Teer said.

But Erickson doesn't mind the long drive from San Diego.

Kiana puts everything she has into flying after a disc during this weekend's Statewide Disc Dog Championship held at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi. (Mitchell W. Podraza/News-Sentinel)

"What's the difference, sitting on a couch having a conversation or sitting in a car having a conversation?" Erickson said.

In the freestyle competition Sunday afternoon, dogs frolicked on the lawn area at Hutchins Street Square while catching Frisbees thrown by their masters while accompanied by their favorite tunes. Music ranged from "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen, the Led Zeppelin classic "Rock and Roll" and "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, and even some rap music.

In addition to the dogs and their owners enjoying the mild autumn weather, people peddled nutritional dog food, T-shirts and canine massage. Susan Wright of Sacramento says she gives pooches special massages before and after the competition.

"We're asking a lot of our dogs to be athletes out there," Wright said. "Sometimes just chasing a ball, they can end up twisting something."

The Crusty Classic is named after Steve "Crusty" Walsh, a devoted member of Disc Dogs in Southern California who died of brain cancer in 1999.

"This was great," said Donna Malmlov, who secured the Hutchins Street Square venue and arranged for sponsors. "Usually, we try to tag in with another event that has its own crowd, but this was cold turkey."

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

Top awards

Golden State Disc Dog champion: Steve Malmlov of Lodi and his dog, Foster.
Best in the West: Josh Matsus from Washington state, with his dog, Kas.
Malmlov said Matsus beat him out for Best in the West because Matsus outperformed him in the "bullseye" competition, which tests throwing accuracy in addition to the dogs' ability to catch the Frisbee.
Source: Disc Dogs of the Golden Gate.

First published: Monday, October 23, 2006

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