For Lee Fairchild, a world championship-caliber performance in the disc dog arena is all in the catch.
His four-footed companion, though, might scoff at that if she could talk.
Gracie, you see, exults in the chase.
Put it together, though, and they are two hard-to-beat competitors.
To prove it, they just came home last week with a world championship title in the MicroDog Division at the 2012 Hyperflite Skyhoundz World Canine Disc Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn.
A native Hoosier, Fairchild now makes his home at Goldsby.
He grew up running hounds in Beagle and coon dog trials and will tell you disc dog competition was never on his horizon until, by chance, he happened to be watching ESPN in 1998 or thereabouts.
That’s when he tuned in to coverage of the disc dog world championships and saw a man named Bob Evans competing with a dog named Luke.
What caught Fairchild’s attention was the fact Evans was 65 and Luke was 6.
And if the two could win a world championship at their respective ages, Fairchild figured he could too.
“I needed to get in something competitive,” he said.
So he began training his dogs, tossing a few frisbees which the dogs obligingly caught. It was all very satisfying.
“I thought they were very good,” Fairchild said.
So in 1999, he entered a local competition sponsored by Second Chance and was blown away by the the distractions for the dogs and the expertise exhibited by other handlers.
“Looking back now, they did awesome,” Fairchild recalled.
He began to train at different locations to get his dogs used to a variety of sights and sounds and a year later, he entered the Second Chance event again and placed second.
“I almost won,” he said.
He hasn’t looked back since.
In the early years, he confined his competition to toss and catch.
He bred his first disc dog to a working dog champion - a mating that produced General, a four-time toss and catch champion, and the foundation sire of Fairchild’s line.
Gracie, a General daughter, was the product of a subsequent breeding.
Around 2005, Fairchild began competing in freestyle. General was the Oklahoma state champion that year, followed by Gracie in 2006 and General again in 2007.
Gracie won consecutive regional titles from 2009 through 2012 and has competed at the world finals from 2008 through 2012.
She was fourth in the world in 2008 and won it all two years later.
The line continues with Gracie’s daughter, Dora, who excels at pairs competition, catching for two handlers Fairchild and his training partner, Chris Meyers.
Dora has competed three years at the world championship, finishing 4th, 6th and, this year, 2nd.
Meyers also competes with his own dog, Petey, a Jack Russell-cross, in the MicroDog division.
They finished mid-pack in 6th place at this year’s world championhip.
Divisions at the world championship are Open, MicroDog, Pairs and Sport. This year’s two-day event drew about 125 teams from 11 countries, including the United States, Canada, Austria, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Japan, Slovenia and Spain.
MicroDogs, which is Gracie’s division, is for dogs that measure no taller than 16 inches at the withers.
The judging criteria is PAWS - presentation, ahleticism, the “Wow’ factor, and success ration (a percentage measure of frisbees thrown and frisbees caught).
Meyers, from Moore, is a case manager with the Department of Human Services. Fairchild runs a program at the Lexington Correction Center in which shelter dogs are trained by inmates before being placed in forever homes.
Both men say they train and compete in disc dog “for the fun and love of the sport.”
“The people in this sport are awesome,” said Meyers. “I have never met a person I didn’t care for in disc dogs.”
Although Fairchild is partial to his own line of dogs, there was one Labrador retriever that is also very special to him.
It was a rescue Lab that came through the prison program.
“And I realized it had so much potential,” Fairchild said.
He took Prince home and his wife started working with the dog, putting a therapy dog certification on it.
Prince did therapy work for seven years, a welcome panting face at the Veterans Center in Norman, as well as the children’s center.
Fairchild stopped counting the hours the dog clocked in therapy work after 250.
After a lifetime in dogs, there are tons of memories, but no favorites.
“Me and Gracie definitely have a bond,” he said, “but my Lab brought so much joy into people’s lives. There have been several I’ve loved a lot.”