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Canines flip over a disc competition

Maggie had reason to be nervous Saturday morning. The other competitors were not only more experienced than she, but most were much larger. The wet grass was slippery, and a breeze was beginning to kick in _ just the kind of distractions she didn't need.

But the 1{-year-old Australian shepherd from Tampa managed to pull out second place at the ninth annual dog Frisbee competition in St. Petersburg. Never mind that Dustin beat her by a few points. She has years to perfect her skills.

As part of the Come 'N Get It Dog Food 1991 Canine Frisbee Disc Championships, St. Petersburg held a contest Saturday morning at the Woodlawn Complex, 1450 16th St. N. Six dogs, some from as far away as Miami, competed for T-shirt prizes (for their owners) and a chance at the world championship.

Lining up before 9 a.m. and sniffing out the competition, the dogs waited patiently to be called to the center of the playing field. Each dog had 90 seconds to catch as many throws as possible, and then 90 seconds to dazzle judges with tricks.

Despite stopping after one catch to take a break on the sidelines, the bushy black Dustin is St. Petersburg's dog disc king this year. Owner Doug Songhurst of Pinellas Park taught his 6-year-old shepherd to catch five flying discs in rapid-fire succession, play leapfrog and perform all kinds of eye-catching tricks.

Lacey failed miserably. The tiny, 4-year-old sheltie was more interested in running on the grass than catching that disc-shaped thing her owner, Barbara Kelton, kept throwing.

Merlin, a beautiful black border collie from South Florida, thrilled the audience with mid-air twists and spectacular leaps. He dropped the flying disc too many times, though, and wound up without a prize.

David Wilcox's sleek Doberman, Alexis, caught almost every throw but did not return the disc fast enough and lost points for speed.

Merlin's brother Rusty, a white-and-brown border collie with nine years of disc experience behind him, kept his cool and won third place.

Although Maggie is a newcomer, her bounding enthusiasm helped her win second place.

"I feel honored and proud," said Maggie's owner, Toby Elozory of Tampa, grinning widely after the hourlong event.

The next Florida community competitions are June 8 in Coral Springs and July 4 in Greenacres. For more information, call Come 'N Get It at (800) 786-9240.