For most canines, blindness would be an obstacle to even catching a Frisbee, much less at a world-class level. But for Pepper, a Labrador-Beagle mix who died from natural causes in her owner's arms at the age of 91 (in dog years) on Sept. 6, loss of sight was just another fork in the road to a dog regarded as "the Babe Ruth of Ultimate Frisbee."
Pepper was sired by a Naval Academy midshipman/black Lab named Col. Franco aboard the USS Bonesmith in the port of Mobile, Ala., shortly after the start of World War I. Her father died in combat in 1916, orphaning young Pepper, whose mother, Maid Trudy, had worked in a nearby brothel that catered mainly to servicemen. Pepper quickly fell in with a crowd of young sailors who took solace in watching the young pup spring off the sides of various craft, fetching any object in sight. Yet when it came time for the USS Bonesmith's second sojourn overseas, the sailors dropped young Pepper off at a nearby naturalists' colony, where she would become one of the early practitioners of a sport that would become to marijuana what basketball is to Gatorade: Ultimate Frisbee.
Roving about the Ultimate pitch, Pepper was far quicker to the disc than her human counterparts, making her nearly impossible to guard. She also patented the "extreme molar toss," a form of Frisbee-flinging that lesser dogs strived to mimic. But then disaster would strike: An evil rival—a basset hound named Cleofus—bit into Pepper's eye sockets as the pair vied for a long, high toss, rendering her blind. But Pepper proved to be the Seabiscuit of Ultimate pooches, recovering in one year's time and utilizing her sharpened senses of touch and hearing to reclaim her rightful perch atop the sport.
Upon retiring to Seattle, Pepper would devote herself to a life of leisure with equal vigor.
"She was such a blanket hog," says her owner, Katherine Fountain. "But I couldn't have cared less. She was my doggie, my Pepperoni, my muffin. You're my good, good dog—yes you are, Pepper. My good, good dog."
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