“She looked so proud of herself — it was a Frisbee golf disc,” said Mason, recalling that day in Grand Vue Park four years ago.
Mason stuffed the disc in her backpack and took it home, glad that Daisy had picked up the item so it didn’t stay in the woods.
That was just the beginning of Daisy’s obsession with finding errant discs from disc golf, also known as Frisbee golf, a game that is similar to regular golf, except baskets are used instead of holes, and players try to land their discs with the fewest throws.
The public park has two popular disc golf courses, and Mason figured someone was playing and mistakenly threw the disc into the woods, and either didn’t retrieve it or couldn’t find it. The park is large, with four miles of walkways surrounding the disc golf courses.
On subsequent trips to the park, Daisy would run into the trees and come back again and again with golf discs in her mouth.
“That nose would go up in the air, and I knew she was going to take off and go for it,” said Mason, 72. “She knew somehow there were lost discs in the brush and the weeds.”
The discs started piling up.
“I was shocked — she’d bring them to me, like ‘Look what I found!’” she said.
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Mason didn’t want to leave the discs out in nature, and didn’t know what else to do with them. So she continued to take them home and toss them into a box in her basement.
When Daisy found many more discs on her outings as time went by, Mason got a bigger box for her dog’s growing cache.
Then last month, when Daisy’s collection reached 143, Mason said a friend gave her an idea: Sell the discs as a fundraiser.
“There were so many,” she said, noting that Daisy found an additional 12 discs over the next several weeks, boosting the number to 155.
Players at Grand Vue use their own discs, said Ben Bolock, the park’s assistant general manager, and if their throws go astray, they’ll often leave their discs in the woods if they can’t immediately find them.
“We don’t have the staff to go looking for them,” Bolock said.
That’s where Daisy comes in.
Mason, a retired school bus driver, said her 4-year-old Lab doesn’t get excited about finding water bottles or stray balls like some other pups, but she immediately lunges off the walking path on her 25-foot leash if she knows a disc might be nearby.
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Bolock said he believes that Daisy can quickly find missing golf discs in the woods because she picks up the scent of the plastics and other materials they’re made from.
“I believe she can smell them, and that’s why she immediately starts for them and sniffs them out,” he said. “She’s an incredibly smart dog.”
After Mason told Bolock about her dog’s obsession, she arranged to bring the golf discs over to the park in three box loads. She and Bolock then decided on a plan last month:
If a disc had the owner’s name on it, they’d give the person an opportunity to come and pick it up, with an option of also making a donation to the Marshall County Animal Rescue League.
Discs that didn’t have names on them or weren’t claimed would be sold starting in September, with proceeds going to a park fund to help maintain Grand Vue’s disc golf courses and buy new equipment as needed, including baskets.
“We’ll sell them to the public for $5 or $10 out of our retail store at the park, then put all of the funding back into the disc golf course,” said Bolock, noting that the store sells new single discs for $20, and also offers T-shirts, ice cream and snacks.
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Brand name discs typically sell for about $15, he said, although some people pay much higher prices for custom designs.
Bolock posted a photo of Daisy with the discs and a notice on Facebook, telling people, “Looking for your disc!? Daisy may have found it!”
“This is all in the early stages, but I think Daisy’s Discs is going to be a fun success,” said Bolock, 41. “People are really excited about it. There’s no telling how many discs might still be lost out there, and Daisy just might find them.”
Mason said Daisy is a patient and gentle dog who gets along with three cats at home and is training to become a therapy dog at nursing homes, public schools and libraries.
“I basically devote my life now to educating her,” said Mason, who has two grown sons.
“She’s the love of my life and she’s made me a proud mama,” she said. “She’s very sociable and loves everyone she meets, especially people we come across on paths in the park.”
Mason said she has walked at the park every day for the past 10 years, and she started taking Daisy along four years ago as a 6-month-old pup. She fills her pockets with small pieces of cheese or dog treats so she can reward Daisy if she finds a disc on their daily walks.
Daisy’s best friend since puppy school, a neighbor dog named Zoey, sometimes tags along on the outings, she said, but Zoey lets Daisy do all of the disc hunting.
“In the past week, Daisy has found three discs, a pair of gloves and a pair of sunglasses,” Mason said. “When she brings something to me, I quickly take it from her before she can chew on it.”
At home in Marshall County, she said she plays fetch every day with Daisy, using a dog disc made of canvas that she picked up at a local farmer’s supply store.
“Whenever I see that nose get busy, I know that Daisy will be on the move,” Mason said. “She’s a retriever — it’s what she was born to do.”