Robert McLeod is delivering his anti-bullying speech in the gymnasium of Fort Saskatchewan Elementary School. He encourages the students to be themselves, to be unique.
“That’s kind of my presentation. I used to figure skate and was bullied when I was figure skating, so that’s where I bring in the story of the bullying. So I connect with kids on that, and let them know you can do something different.”
McLeod’s best friend Davy is kind of different.
He has big ears, short hair and he wears a dog collar. During the session inside, Davy anxiously awaits in McLeod’s vehicle outside.
“He works when he wants to,” said McLeod, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
The anti-bullying seminar is over and Davy is out. While McLeod is describing his bosom buddy, Davy jumps into his arms.
“He’s a six-and-a-half year-old Whippet. Whippets are the second-fastest dog in the world behind a Greyhound.
He can run about 40 miles an hour.
Davy Whippet is a medium-sized dog. His back is black, his belly, nose and paws are white. His legs are long and lean. His entire body from snout to tail is totally aerodynamic.
Davy and McLeod are a dynamic duo. They compete in Disc Dog, where dogs and humans team up for Choreographed Freestyle Catching or Distance Catching. McLeod and Davy are experts in Distance Catching.
“Frisbee combines man’s greatest tool – which is his hands – with his greatest dream, which is to fly,” said McLeod – who has his diploma in electrical engineering.
WATCH: Frisbee Rob and Davy Whippet on the Saturday Morning News
Frisbee is a trademark held by Wham-O for a brand of flying disc. But Davy and McLeod are pretty much always clear for take off.
The tandem hold several world records, including the Distance to Canine Catch – a standard they set on Oct. 14, 2012. Davy and McLeod combined for a 402-foot heave and retrieve in Thorhild, Alberta.
“It was an 18-year old record. Some people had attempted it, no one had broken it.
I knew he had the speed and I had the throw.
McLeod would be considered an all-around athlete.
“I played everything. I was Athlete of the Year in Grade 12… hockey, soccer, rugby, golf, badminton, track and field, used to figure skate.”
He’s 32 years old. He’s fit and he’s strong and his Frisbee throws are absolutely out of this world.
“I’ve actually thrown it 700 feet on my own, so I have the Canadian Distance Record and my goal is the World Record in distance. I’d love to throw 900 feet some day. No one has ever thrown 900 feet officially.”
McLeod taught himself the distance throwing technique about 15 years ago and he generates an immense amount of torque during his massive flings, which have been clocked at 135 kilometres an hour.
“I get a lot of spin on the Frisbee. I get more than pretty much anybody I know, but it’s all physics.”
Davy – who continues to lay like an infant in his partner’s arms throughout our interview – loves the sport, but has his dog days too.
“If he’s running and he steps on a rock and hurts his paw on a rock he’s going to stop. If it’s cold in the woods he’ll run in the woods and hide on me. That’s happened in competitions before,” McLeod chuckles.
It’s very humbling. You drive 36 hours and he doesn’t catch a throw in the final and you finish fourth.
“I can’t control that and you start learning how the relationship affects him. Am I babying him too much? Should I be tougher on him? But he loves this.”
Davy made three incredible catches during the 100-yard throws we witnessed in the school yard. The Whippet is fast, intense and has amazing leaping ability.
McLeod, meanwhile, is world-renowned for his throwing ability and is conducting a throwing clinic in London, England this summer. Sort of like what he’s doing for the students at Fort Saskatchewan Elementary, providing a Frisbee tutorial.
There’s over 150 different throws.
“I show them some of the different things you can do with it, explain the different disc sports, teach them throwing-catching and play games.”
Born in Edmonton, now living in Calgary, McLeod also teaches the students to use their imaginations. In fact, he’s writing a children’s book featuring Davy as the main character. McLeod pulls a Frisbee out of a basket and reads the inscription.
“The original Frisbees, and they still say it: ‘Play catch. Invent games.’”
And with dogged determination, McLeod is focused on preventing bullying while re-inventing the game – which was huge during the 70s and 80s.
“The World Frisbee Championships in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California – 50,000 people would watch. So I want to get it back to that point where Frisbee is the thing to do. This piece of plastic costs $1.50 and there’s so many different things – 10 different sports you can do with it.”