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Farewell Bear, Hello Boo
When Chris Roberts first brought home Bear nine and a half years ago, he knew he had a Frisbee dog right away when the young puppy retrieved a disc some 20 times in a row.
Since then the two went on to travel all over the disc golf land, spreading cheer and retrieving countless lost discs from the water and even winning USDGC’s Golden Rake Award along the way.
On Labor Day, The USDGC lost one of its most fond volunteers when Bear died from cancer complications. Roberts, of Salisbury, Md., said he’d seen his friend slow down over the years, but his illness had surprising speed.
Roberts, 63, remembered the first time Bear went underwater to fetch a disc. It only took a few minutes of persuasion by Roberts before the nearly two-year-old Lab/ Chesapeake Bay retriever dipped his head in little by little in a creek running through a disc golf course. Soon enough, he was all in and the Bear Disc Diving Dog legend was born.
His breakthrough came at the 2005 Worlds in Allentown, Pa., when Bear worked the whole week with water 6 feet deep in some places. On the third day he was going underwater for 30 seconds at a time and coming up with discs, said Roberts.
At their first USDGC in 2005, Bear pulled out 45 discs in an hour. That same year, Roberts said competitor Kirk Yoo asked them for retrieval assistance for a yellow disc of his. Amazingly, the first two Bear pulled out were the exact discs and color just not Yoo’s. It wasn’t until Bear pulled out the 6th disc that Yoo recognized it as his.
What was amazing about Bear, said Roberts, was that he could teach himself. He noticed that Bear could grab the underwater discs with his mouth easier if they were up-side down, and if they weren’t positioned that way he’d work the disc with his paw to flip it.
“He was uncanny, some of the things that he did,” said Roberts.
Bear’s reward for his hard work was running down rollers Roberts threw. “That was his thing. He really liked rollers … His game was to get the disc before it fell down,” said Roberts.
“He’d get them all day long,” he added.
Bear had joined Roberts for so many of his disc golf rounds that he knew the difference between doubles, casual and tournament play. During casual play, Bear would lighten up and horse-around, but during more serious rounds he’d be the perfect gentleman.
Bear also knew when Roberts was tossing multiple discs off a tee. And after Roberts had finished throwing a mulligan, Bear would race off toward the discs and always return with the worse throw.
Talking with Roberts you can tell he’s full of these heart-warming stories and you soon realize how deep of a bond they had.
“Quite honestly, if I didn’t have Boo I’d still be in tears,” said Roberts, referring to Bear’s 15-month old protégé.
For a youngster, Boo has caught onto disc retrieving fairly fast. He first went underwater at 6 months old and he recently retrieved 45 discs at the Vibram Open. He’s actually progressing in several disc diving categories faster than Bear’s progression, according to Roberts.
“He’s doing everything Bear did. He (Boo) did 6 months sooner,” said Roberts.
Watching Boo you can tell he’s a multi-tasker because he likes bringing back multiple discs at a time. His current record stands at 4.
Roberts got Boo in Delaware through a local classified listing while on his way to New York with Bear on hand. Roberts said it was touching because while puppy shopping, little Boo picked up Bear’s leash and started walking with it.
“It was kind of like he picked Bear and I picked him,” said Roberts.
At first, Roberts said Bear was a little indifferent with the little pup, but then he became more of a father/brother figure to him, playing tug-of-war and schooling him on the disc diving dog ways. As Boo progressed in his skills, he became more of a retrieving match with Bear.
Roberts witnessed a changing of the guard a few months ago when the dogs were both in the water and Boo grabbed 2 out 3 underwater discs before Bear did.
“Here’s the master. Here’s the pupil. Finally the pupil is as good as the master. It was just like that. I was watching it unfold,” said Roberts.
Boo may have the disc diving part down, but he may have a ways to go before he gets his Golden Rake Award. Roberts said he was floored by Bear’s Golden Rake in 2011.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Roberts, adding that he was already blown away by Bear being displayed on the staff badge that year.
“People give me credit and I’ll take it, but the dog was really an unbelievable dog and he would have been a great dog no matter who had him,” said Roberts, who felt blessed just to have Bear.
Check out videos of Bear and Boo on You Tube. Here’s a link of Bear playing with Boo (as a puppy).
Bear PDGA # 34043
Boo PDGA # 56000