Chris Mashburn is a body technician at Dean’s Collision Center in Rome, GA. He does all of the vehicle restorations for the shop, working primarily on muscle cars and trucks built in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
He said that he loves restoring peoples’ dreams one car at a time, but he also has another passion that keeps him busy when he’s not on the clock. Her name is Mindy and she is not Mashburn’s significant other, but rather his three-and-a-half-year-old border collie who is a professionally-trained competitive Frisbee dog and currently ranked 14th in the world.
It all started when Mashburn bought a little 10-week-old bundle of fur and named it Mindy. “She is the first dog I’ve ever owned, because I was a cat person for many years, to be honest. I knew I wanted to get a dog that could become a professional Frisbee dog, so that was my goal when I got her.”
Mindy comes to work at the shop with Mashburn every day, letting her chill in an area that is away from the shop floor. During lunch, they practice their routines and then it’s back to work until closing time.
The competition season can take Mashburn out of the shop for extended periods, but fortunately, Mashburn has a very understanding boss, he explained. “Billy Dean is the owner and he likes dogs too and he knows that this is something I really enjoy, so he lets me go to all of the competitions. We plan it all in advance, to make sure that it does not impact the production schedule here at Dean’s.”
The duo has developed a strong bond and that’s why Mashburn and Mindy are improving all the time and finishing high in all of their most recent competitions, he said. “Mindy picks up on my emotions and feeds off me when I’m excited or anxious; it’s pretty amazing. I get amped when the routine is going well and she can feel it too. When it comes off perfectly and we’re happy with the performance, it’s a rush for both of us.”
The Frisbee training process requires that both dog and master be dedicated to becoming world-class performers together. At 14 weeks, Mindy went through a series of obedience classes and then slowly the disc was introduced to the mix. At the age of 18 months, Mindy was ready to compete at the highest level, although not every Frisbee dog is ready at the same time, according to Mashburn.
“You have to make sure that they’re mature enough physically to do the routines,” he said. “At 18 months, the plates in their backs and the muscles in the shoulders are probably developed enough to start entering competitions, so we made certain that Mindy was 100% ready before we did anything strenuous with her. She was ready to go when the time came and her enthusiasm for this sport has grown tremendously. It’s like she was born to do this!”
When they entered their very first regional competition in 2013, both Mashburn and Mindy were nervous and at first a little overwhelmed. But once they got out there and started the routine, everything fell into place.
“There were 18 dogs entered and some of them were really good and since we had zero experience, we thought if we finished in the top 10 we’d be delighted,” Mashburn said. “We over-trained actually and I guess it paid off, because we finished 5th overall. It was a pleasant surprise and at that moment I realized that Mindy could possibly become a world-class Frisbee dog.”
After competing in eight different events last year, Mindy and Mashburn were ready for the big time when they traveled to Tennessee for the Skyhoundz Classic World Canine Disc Championship in Chattanooga, TN. “It’s definitely one of the largest competitions in the world, so both of us were pretty excited,” Mashburn said. “There were teams there from China, Japan, Russia, Colombia and the Czech Republic and they were all good. It’s an international sport now.”
After fixing cars for many years, Mashburn now enjoys old classic vehicles. “I did insurance work for awhile and the money is better, but I love doing restorations. There are no cycle times or super-tight deadlines to worry about when it comes to doing restorations and I’m in this for the long-run, because I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”
After competing in 35 events in seven states, Mashburn and Mindy are ready to hopefully break into the top 10, possibly even next year, but time is on their side, because Mindy hasn’t even entered her prime yet.
“She is getting better and so am I,” he said. “I’ll be working with Mindy until I’m 60 years old, so who knows what the future holds? But right now I am focusing on working with her every day and watching her as she becomes a better Frisbee dog.”