Jumping for joy

Published 3:52 am Saturday, April 1, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Bill Camp's road to disc dog glory began in 1986.
But, the German Shepherds he was training to perform high-flying disc-catching acts were too large.
Not to mention they were too heavy to balance on Camp's back and could not complete the aerial flips.
It's now more than 19 years later and Camp and his second group of dogs are about to be stars of the big screen with the release of Disc Dog 101.
The original pure bread black Labrador Jumpin' Jack, who was the star of Camps numerous shows during half time of professional basketball, baseball and football games, has died.
Now, a new Jumpin' Jack has emerged to lead Camp's performances. And, the youngest pure bread black Lab still performs while wearing the same Superman cape as the original.
All of Camp's performers have been rescued from area humane societies by the ‘disc dogger.' In all, Camp said he has rescued 17 dogs over the years. The original Jumpin' Jack was even named as the dog rescue of the year by the South Bend Humane Society in 1997, Camp said.
For almost 20 years, Bill Camp's Famous Flying Dogs have been performing for professional and college sports teams, including the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Notre Dame basketball.
But, for the most part Camp said he and the act will take a year off from half time shows and from competing in the Skyhoundz World Championships. Camp said he and his wife Lynne will spend the majority of the time finishing up a new home. The couple's house on 1113 Wightman St. in Niles was destroyed by fire back in February.
Since the fire, the couple have been staying at a local hotel, which is also where Camp and the dogs can be spotted tossing and chasing discs around the side yard.
Jumpin' Jack and Belle - who is a rare breed of Texas Healer and a three-time disc dog world finalist - along with the others have not been completely without work, though.
Disc Dog 101 is a dog training DVD starring Camp and his dogs, along with two other top professional trainers, Tad Bowen and Jim Foley. The instructional video gives dog owners basic pointers on puppy training and tips on how to master the more advance techniques, such as how to vault your dog off your back.
Camp and Belle have perfected the trick. He begins with Belle sitting calmly at his side. Then, with one motion of the arm, Belle zips under Camp's legs and sprints after a disc thrown by Camp. Belle snags the disc out of the clouds and makes a return run toward Camp, who is waiting, crouched over with a another disc in-hand.
Belle then leaps on to Camp's back and springs herself into the air with the new disc clenched between her teeth.
The film itself even has a hometown flavor. The trainers and dogs spent three days shooting the film in Buchanan, which is also home to Grapevine Productions, who contacted Camp about doing the video in September of 2004.
One of the more difficult parts of the shoot was breaking the nearly 20-year habit of using the term ‘frisbee'. Camp said the product is copyrighted and the owning company did not want to be a part of the video.
The first 500 copies of Disc Dog 101 were delivered to Camp on Thursday. Bill Camp's Famous Flying Dogs will be selling the DVD's during a performance at the home-opener of the minor league baseball team South Bend Silver Hawk's on Monday, April 10 at 6:30. The Silver Hawks will be facing the West Michigan Whitecaps at Coveleski Regional Stadium in South Bend, Ind.