There are no cash prizes luring him, no endorsement deals to land, but Gosch will be among 260-plus teams for the start of the week's events Wednesday, according to Ray Lowman, director of the Skyhoundz Canine Disc Competition Series. As the sport grows in popularity and caliber of competitors, it's worth noting that Gosch and Hippie Chick come from good pedigree, so to speak: They qualified through the Mid-Atlantic Disc Dogs (or MAD Dogs, for short) circuit, a 130-plus-person club with members stretching from Florida to Toronto. Maryland alone is sending over 10 qualifiers to the Skyhoundz world championship.
"Every type of disc dog event that's out there," said Lowman, 73, an Annapolis resident and procurement director for MAD Dogs, "we offer to our club members and we put them on."
This is Lowman's 12th year with MAD Dogs, a nonprofit organization. The founding group had all of 18 members. Over time, normal, dog-loving folks such as Linda Kriete began to join, and its ranks ballooned.
Kriete's friends introduced her to the sport about 15 years ago. The pitch to the data entry technician was simple: "Come on and hang out with your dogs and us and have fun." MAD Dogs was still a small club back then, and for the Silver Spring resident it was "more of a social thing," competitive but still very much laid-back.
Kriete's dogs then weren't into the sport as much as those she has now, and maybe that was best for all involved, onlookers included. When she first went out, Frisbee in hand, she didn't know how to throw it. The disc didn't hover like a flying saucer over the expanses of park grass; it was more like a balloon wildly deflating in midair, the direction uncertain, the result rarely good.
At competitions, tents would line the edges of the field. "Well, I used to hit the tents more than the field, so they'd be like, 'Watch out, Linda's coming.'" she recalled, laughing. "I'd be lucky to get a point back then."
It wasn't until this year that she qualified for her first Skyhoundz world championship, with her 2-year-old border collie, Dax, but her time with MAD Dogs was no less memorable during those early days when she struggled to throw straight.
Dogs led her to the organization, but their best friends kept her coming back. Indeed, of Gosch's roughly 800 Facebook friends, he estimates 700 have disc dog ties.