Dogs are Lawrence Frederick’s best friends and for the past 30 years he has taught them several dozen “wow” tricks with Frisbees.
Frederick and his four-legged friends have performed more than 10,500 shows world-wide, won national competitions, entertained millions and he’s bringing his highly acclaimed Disc-ConnectedK9s show to this year’s Shenandoah County Fair.
“It’s the first time in the history of the fair that we have had a dog show,” said Thomas E. Eschelman, the fair’s general manager, adding they are “world champion dogs.”
None of the dogs are purebred.
“All of my dogs are adopted,” said Frederick, 62. “They come from shelters, homeless off the streets and sometimes people give a dog to us. They are not bred to be world champions.”
Still, Frederick has 17 times reached the championship finals at the Ashley Whippet International World Frisbee Championship, named after Ashley Whippet, the first famous Frisbee dog who helped create the sport.
Frederick won the event’s Lander Cup twice in 2008 and 2010 with Harley Davidson, now a 14-year-old Border Collie.
And Frederick’s Zorra in 2014 and Flash in 2010, both Border Collies, won the Skyhoundz World Champions Open Division.
The secret is “love, developing the bond, the trust, the training and making it all fun,” said Frederick, noting Zorra, age 11, will perform at the fair.
Frederick has worked with 42 dogs over the years with his personal Frisbee fascination beginning when he started tossing the disc around at the age of 12.
It became a passion when he attended tiny Glassboro State College (enrollment less than 13,00) in New Jersey (now Rowan University).
Frederick played on the college’s Ultimate Frisbee team, which won national college championships in 1979 and 1980 and later played Frisbee Golf and Ultimate until “I blew out my knee in 1989.”
Today, requests for Disc-ConnectK9 shows come from all over the world. They have performed for Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, in Israel, the Middle East, Turkey and are going to the country of Columbia later this year.
“We are at the pinnacle of the sport and the only international performing team,” said Frederick, “and our show is a little different from others.”
He attributes his success to hard work and specializing in Frisbees, while other dog shows add gimmicks, he said. The dogs chew up more than 32,000 Frisbees a year
He is on the road 46 weeks of the year performing in county fairs, at NFL half time shows, on TV programs and for special events.
Domestically, he travels in a 2016 Newmar Coach with 90,000 miles on it, specially outfitted to haul 13 dogs and nine contracted dog handlers, the youngest handler being 33 years old.
“I don’t hire younger people because they generally don’t have the work ethic or the ability,” said Frederick. “It looks like fun, but it is work.”
His wife used to travel with him and perform but now stays in Jacksonville, Florida where she works for Venus Fashion, which Frederick said sells $10 million worth of products a week.
“She does very well,” he laughed.
Otherwise, she would be, like the rest of the team, beginning the day walking the dogs, picking up after them, feeding them and working them every three hours daily.
“When on the road, we stop every three hours and work them,” he said. “It’s non-stop from when you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night.”
With two to three shows most days, only two or three dogs are used in each show, Frederick said.
For those who attend the Shenandoah County Fair, Frederick notes there will be three shows a day, each 30 minutes long with different dogs and tricks.
“Whether you are 9 or 90, you will enjoy it and expect to have some fun,” he said
Frederick’s dog breeds include border collie, German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Texas heeler, miniature Australian shepherd and mixed breeds.
The oldest dog performing will be Easy Rider, 13, a Texas heeler and the youngest Copper Top, 18 months old, a border collie who was adopted out of Harrisonburg.
“Most of my top dogs are between 4 and 8 years old,” said Frederick. “Right now Galaxy is my best dog, and she is only 2 but she’s an exception.”
After the show, Frederick says they sometimes let audience members pose with the dogs and occasionally allow a child to throw a Frisbee.
“When I work with a dog, I want them to know I am the only person they should work with,” he said, but “Easy Rider knows he can play with other people.”
Frederick is happiest “whenever I am playing with my dogs.”
But after thousands of shows world wide, “there are two things that will keep me from going back” to a venue, he said. “First is an unsafe surface for my dogs.”
He noted one show had just laid down sod patches and when Zorra, a world champion at the time, came off her back doing a trick, her leg went into a seam in the sod and she broke her leg.
“Second are places where people are idiots,” he said. “They think their fair is the best ever, and they are nasty and difficult to deal with.”
“I try to be gentle and treat people like I want to be treated, and there are two places I will not go back to if the same fair general managers are still there,” he said.
“Some fairs I have gone to for 20 years and those people are like your family, you stay in touch, send Christmas cards, watch people grow up, get married have children,”he said. “That makes up for the couple of idiots.”