by Mike Stewart

Wingshooters, especially waterfowlers, have lived this moment:  a shot bird drops directly into moving water making a dramatic splash which attracts the total attention of the gundog on duty.  With a prompt release, the trusty companion takes a direct heading to the marked fall only to discover the bird is no longer there.  The current of the stream has intervened and carried the bird adrift.  Totally convinced of the bird’s location, the dog ignores signals, whistles, and superlatives preferring to stay with the hunt at the point of “splash down.” All the while, the bird continues to drift out of sight.  Overcoming this disappointing scenario involving a determined hunting dog will take a bit of specialized training on moving waters such as a creek, fast run off, or river.  The conditioning will handily transfer to other types of water work such as birds down in high winds or picking a swimmer, a wounded bird making an escape on water by padding and diving.

The Wildrose Way is all about training for realistic field situations and the recovery of game.  No bird left behind.  Training on moving water addresses both goals.  Here are the steps we take to acclimate retrievers to birds that fall into moving water.

Step 1:  Watch

Lesson one is to teach the dog to watch a moving object on the water.  I prefer a tennis ball or a small bumper that floats high on the surface. An easily seen, attractive target.  With the dog sitting patiently at streamside, toss the object upstream making a splash.  Allow the object to drift past your location, hopefully holding the dog’s total attention.  As the target drifts downstream, release the dog for the retrieve. Gradually increase the distance and duration of the float.


  1. This is great steadying work.
  2. Do not look down at your dog. Your eyes/attention will attract the dog and disrupt its focus.  Remain still and follow the movement of the object with your eyes.
  3. Release the dog by name or command, but do not line the dog. Your movement will break concentration.  No physical movements on the part of the handler unless the dog has lost the object.

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Step 2:  Downstream Float

Toss a mark downstream causing a splash.  Maintain your dog’s steadiness as the object begins its float away.  Again your attention must be on the drifter.  Release the dog for the chase before it loses concentration.  Be prepared to assist initially by handling or tossing a few rocks to indicate direction.  Success matters.  Gradually extend distance, release time, and water speed.


  1. Do not attempt training on moving water for drifters until your dog is thoroughly trained on whistles and hand signals on water.
  2. Begin in shallow parts of the river where the dog can keep its footing and bound through the water. This will give the retriever a higher stance to see the object rather than swimming.

The dog learns to focus “eyes on the ball” scanning the water’s surface area rather than running to the mark and holding a hunting pattern.  Moving water training is sight work.

Step 3:  Upstream

Now the more challenging aspect of river training.  A mark is tossed upstream, creating a splash.  The object begins its downstream movement, yet our dog, upon release, again goes directly to the fall area.  Now the dog must realize that all is not what it seems.  The marked bird is on the move.  Again, assistance may initially be in order for success, but quickly previous lessons pay off and the astute waterdog recognizes the current’s direction and scans the water’s surface.  The dog has learned that birds will be moving downstream, so go with the flow.


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Step IV:  Extensions

Now real action may begin.  Using a handheld launcher, fire a bumper up or downstream, dead center of the water source as the dog patiently watches.  Release the dog for the mark to discover if the training has been successful.  The aware dog will head to the fall area, recognize the current’s direction, and scan the surface for the moving object rather than hanging in the fall area.  Now, we are training waterdogs!

Our final step will be to use cold game birds on moving water for a more realistic experience.

River training is an important step in finishing any gundog, upland or waterfowl.  Wildrose accomplishes this type of experience at our two river facilities in Arkansas and Colorado.  The exposure has paid huge dividends for our clients afield.

You never know when the occasion will arise that your dog faces the challenge of recovery of a drifter.  Best advice, go prepared.  These abilities may gain both you and your dog a round of admiration and compliments from fellow wingshooters.  You picked the one that otherwise would have been lost.

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Dos and Don’ts on Grooming

from Lanette Drewery – Wildrose Kennel Health Manager

  • Do not “over” wash your lab. Once or twice a month should be sufficient unless circumstances require otherwise – then use a natural shampoo. Though you may see animals washed on TV with dish soap, never use dish soap to wash your lab.
  • Never shave or trim a lab’s coat.
  • Do not put cleaner such as peroxide in a dog’s ear. A dog’s ear canal is “L” shaped and introducing liquid may cause more problems with bacteria.
  • Do clean the inside ear flap if necessary with a damp cloth.
  • If you do brush your lab’s teeth, do it routinely before a tartar “build-up” begins.
  • Trim nails once a month.

A Dremel tool with a sandpaper tip attachment is popular for removing nail growth quickly and with more precision.


Using a nail cutter tool is recommended. Seeing the “quick” with black nails if often difficult and may require professional assistance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Take Care of Your HERO – Brushing, grooming and cleaning keeps your lab looking fantastic and feeling great!

If taking a quick dip in the pond or romping in gulf ocean surf, labs are first in line for the challenge. If instead you’re working in heavy cover, tall grass or mud flats, chances are your lab will need attention before the day is done. Though cleaning may be necessary, look at it as another opportunity to take advantage of “bonding through grooming.”

muddyThe lab coat consists of a double layer; a course outer layer of hollow hair and a thick undercoat of fine hair that’s always growing. The softer undercoat helps to keep the lab warm in the winter a cool during summer months. Frequent brushing removes dead hair and dirt. The brushing may not be enough however, and a bath is required to remove mud, salt residue or an organic, Earthy pond smell.

Most commercial dog (and human) shampoos use a formula heavy in sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) or a similar, chemical derivative. SLS is a harsh chemical typically used for floor degreasers or as an automotive cleaner. However, using a SLS based shampoo can strip your lab’s coat of all important oils necessary for a soft, sleek and buoyant coat. Less buoyancy means your companion must work harder to stay afloat. Further, SLS can result in a brittle, dull coat and flaky, itchy skin.

A natural alternative to SLS is an oil-based shampoo formula. This type of soap or shampoo is made with saponified vegetable oils that clean without totally stripping the lab’s coat of naturally occurring oils. In addition, natural oil-based oil shampoos retain glycerin; a natural humectant. This type of shampoo can be used frequently without fear of performance degradation or causing itching and scratching that may lead to dreaded “hot spots.”

You may choose to use an “in-between” silicon oil based bath spray that will help to repel fleas and, with brushing after application keeps the coat slick and smelling fresh.

Demonstrate your love by checking your companion’s eyes, ears, feet, teeth, nails and coat daily. Look for mud, matted fur, sore spots or any area where the coat is rubbed off. This type of frequent attention is an important part of detecting and preventing common medical problems. Be gentle and make grooming together a happy experience!

Sheri Marshall
Lil’ Bud and Becky Shampoo and Pet Care Products Formulator

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Wildrose Adventure Dog Stories

Note: Since Wildrose Kennels officially launched its Adventure Dog Certification program in mid-June, 2011, participant interest and activity have been very enthusiastic, to say the least. With this issue we begin sharing the stories of some adventure dogs and their owners. Here is our debut story in the series. –Ben McClelland & Danielle Drewrey, Editors

Joe Weimer & Wildrose Leonidas, Roaming Shores, Ohio

At the end of February, in 2014, my wife and I drove the nearly 14 hours from Cleveland, Ohio, to Oxford, Mississippi to pick up our Wildrose (Ben and Jill) pup. At Wildrose we met a few of the friendly trainers who took us on a tour of the facility, we attended the puppy-training seminar, and we saw some of the trainers working with a few of the dogs. The most impressive thing was when the trainer took a dog into the flight pen off leash at heel and flushed all the birds while dropping the bumper. The dog and handler flushed the birds once again and, on command, the dog retrieved the bumper without being distracted by all of the flapping wings. I don’t know many people who have that much control over their dog. At that moment, I thought I want my pup to be like that dog: to be obedient in all situations so that he would be able to go anywhere with me. So the training began.

Leo2IMG_1984When we brought our new pup back to Ohio, we named him Leonidas (Leo) after King Leonidas of Sparta. The first week home Leo had a respiratory infection because he is a Southern boy whom we brought to Ohio’s -25 degree weather. It was extremely challenging trying to potty train a new pup in the frigid cold temperatures and about a foot of snow on the ground. Training began as soon as we got home and not a day went by that first year that we didn’t have at least one or two training sessions. After the first year of training, I felt that I had a good obedience foundation so we moved into more advanced training. In year two Leo received his Junior and Senior Hunt test titles and had a great first year of hunting: retrieving geese, ducks, and doves.

My wife and I love the outdoors and Leo is the perfect companion to go on all of our hiking and cross-country skiing adventures. Last summer we drove out west and hiked, with Leo right by our side, at Palo Duro Canyon in Texas; the Painted Desert National Park and Sedona, Arizona; Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Mount Olympus in Salt Lake City, Utah; and Telluride, Colorado, where Leo even rode in a gondola to the top of the mountain with us. We also hiked in and around Rigby, Idaho.

Leo even ate dinner with us at Sadie’s of Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pig & a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City, Utah, and also restaurants in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Sedona, Arizona, just to name a few. People would bring water out to Leo while we ate on the patio, for instance.

Most of the trip we stayed at La Quinta Hotels which are extremely accommodating to people with large breed dogs and they do not charge a pet fee. Another valuable resource was Bringfido.com. Bring Fido helped us find pet friendly restaurants, hiking trails, and dog parks so that we could get out of the car and stretch our legs. The western states are very accommodating to people with pets compared to Ohio, where there are limited pet friendly public places to go with your dog.

Once we got home from our trip, I received an email about the adventure dog program and couldn’t believe I didn’t sign up for it before our trip. The program intrigued me because it was a way for me to advance my training and bond with my dog. I don’t want my dog to get bored and neither do I, so this was exactly what we needed. Leo earned his Trail Rated and Adventure dog certification, and became Therapy Dog Certified. (I am a Physical Education teacher that brings his dog to work, how cool is that!)

When I took the Therapy dog class, which was a 6-week class, I didn’t know what I would have to do to get my dog do to pass the test. Three weeks into the class I signed up for the test and passed. The test involved obedience and a friendly, loving dog, all of which qualities Leo possesses.

Leo 3IMG_1994[1]Currently, Leo and I are working on our Master Trekker adventure dog certification. We just completed boating last week and, with only 2 merits to go, I have decided to do mountain biking and either horseback riding or tracking. I raised Leo to be quiet so alerting me with a bark once he finds a person might be challenging even though he has a great nose and is an exceptional tracker when we play search and rescue. The other challenge is trying to find someone with a horse that I can train with. So I haven’t made up my mind which one I will do yet.

Working with Leo on each sub skill for the adventure dog program has been easy because I had already built the foundation of obedience in that first year from following the Wildrose way of training. People make comments all the time on how well-behaved Leo is, but what they don’t know is how much work has gone into it. I took a lot of criticism from family and friends on how I was training Leo. Now that they have seen the finished product, I have people asking me for advice all the time. From my experiences people want a well-behaved dog, but don’t want to put in the time to get the dog to that point.

Leo 6IMG_1995[2]I also joined a retriever club so that I could have access to property to train on. It is obvious that anyone who sees Leo and me knows that we have a partnership, a team, whereas, a lot of other handlers that I come across do not have that same relationship with their dogs. When we are in the field working, there is a mutual respect where I get constant eye contact from Leo. One thing that stuck with me from reading Mike Stewart’s book was “capturing the dogs eyes, if you have their eyes you will have their attention.”  Leo might not be the best dog on marks but he is exceptional on lining blind retrieves and handling, which is all about trust in the handler.

When waiting to run a Hunt Test, I always get Leo out of the truck at least an hour before we run and you can find us cuddling under a shade tree or the truck’s tailgate. A lot of other handlers get their dogs out in just enough time to air the dog, then to the line they go. I very seldom ever raise my voice to Leo, whereas, I experience other handlers who constantly yell at their dogs in frustration. My wife laughs at me because I always give Leo a pep talk while in the holding blind waiting to run.  At family picnics I can sit Leo, without a tie out or leash, and walk away and his eyes never stop watching me while I am away from his side despite distractions everywhere. Wherever I travel, Leo goes and the majority of the time, unless required, I do not use a leash on Leo. He simply wants to be by my side and nowhere else, except when retrieving a bird, of course. Earlier I mentioned about forming a bond with my dog and the adventure dog program has helped to make our existing bond even stronger. I truly feel there is nothing that Leo cannot do.

Leo1IMG_1983[1]Some future goals that Leo and I have are to earn our Master Hunting Title, for which we will enter our first master hunt test this fall. A goal of ours is to never fail a hunt test, which is not very common from what I see among handlers and their dogs. I just began shed training in the spring and look forward to finding our first shed next year. I also want to start training him to hunt a blood trail so that if I ever lose a deer I can go home get Leo and he can help me track the deer.

Leo is now 2 ½ years old and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I pretty much take him everywhere with me as long as they allow dogs. Unless you looked down you wouldn’t know that I had a black lab at my side. He is truly a great companion. After a hard day of work Leo loves snuggling on the couch and getting a foot massage.

Who knows what our next adventure might be, but I do know Leo will be by my side. Adventure on!

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Wildrose “Quin Tess n tail”

pronounced “Quintessential”

by John Musser

Whelped on January 2, 2005, one of five females, of Angus and Tess II, at Wildrose Kennels near Oxford, MS., beloved Musser family member and devoted gun dog….. lovingly put to rest July 1, 2016.

IMG_2403With retirement in sight, my wife, Melanie and I were actively discussing our respective bucket lists. On one occasion I announced that there was one thing I had always wanted. Melanie at once gasped, “oh no, you want a boat.” No, I said, I want a hunting dog.“ No problem she said, If you want a dog, why wait, get one now.” Just so we were clear I explained it wasn’t just any lab that I wanted. I went on to detail the attributes of the quintessential hunting dog I desired. When I finished we shared the understanding that this was going to be an endeavor requiring a serious commitment and considerable resource. You don’t have to call me twice to dinner! The saga had begun.

Researching the internet led us to the renowned Wildrose Kennels, but to be sure we made the trek from Michigan to Oxford to meet the trainer and see the operation first hand. We were extremely impressed. Their reputation for turning-out labs with the exemplary gun dog qualities I desired was instantly confirmed once Mike and Cathy walked us through the process and showed us around the operation.

We first met our Tess on February 18, 2005. She was distinctly unique among her four sisters due to her shyness, sleek coat and wagging tail. Thus the AKC registration, “Wildrose Ouin Tess n tail”. I remember Mike’s parting words to each of the new owners on pickup day, “Each of your Wildrose dogs are very special – don’t screw them up!”

Tess (or “wiggle-bum”, as she was affectionately called by my grandson) was certainly special. She was a very quick start with her obedience and basic training and showed an intense desire to please almost from the day we met her. Most who met Tess during those first few months expressed amazement at how well mannered she was around other dogs and strangers. Though sweet she was, when it was time to train she was all business. Ditto at dinner time.

Tess was a great traveler. On our first trip together while checking-in at a hotel the desk clerk was reluctant to allow Tess to stay in our room. I reasoned that Tess was less likely to make a mess than my brother who they were allowing in the room. All the while we were discussing the situation Tess sat at heel quietly. After peeking over the front desk to see how Tess was behaving, the clerk said it would be ok for Tess stay in the room but they might have to reconsider the decision regarding my brother. Just to show off, the next morning we went to the continental breakfast with Tess. She sat quietly outside the breakfast room until we finished and had checked out. Knowing her passion for eating, that episode told me a lot about whether she was steady enough for prime time in hunt South Dakota.

Before we knew it the time had come to return Tess to Wildrose for her next level of training regimen. Mike and his staff worked with Tess everyday for six months. When we came to get her after this training Mike took me on a walk to demonstrate what Tess had learned. I was so proud of her. This was my dog following each command without hesitation or fault. I was astonished when Mike brought her to the caged pheasant pen. Mike proceeded to throw the bumper into a dozen or so pheasants at the end of the pen. With pheasants flying every which way he sends Tess into the fray to retrieve the bumper. Holy Toledo, how could any dog stay focused, but she did. That little demonstration nearly popped the buttons on the front of my shirt. Somebody call South Dakota and warn the pheasants that Tess is ready and she’s coming soon to town!

Soon thereafter Tess and I were pheasant hunting in South Dakota for the first time. My dream had come true. This was the real world and Tess had some things to learn and so did I. Mike always said developing a Wildrose gun dog was more about training the owner than training the dog (right you are, Mr. Stewart). Despite my best efforts Tess turned out fantastic.

One lesson taught early on was when Tess learned about barbed wire, the hard way. A bird got winged and I sent Tess to run it down. Tess got momentarily snagged on a hidden fence but broke free and ultimately found and retrieved the bird to me. She suffered a gash above her eye and a slash on her leg. Fortunately the car and first aid were close at hand. It also helped that there was an emergency room doctor in our hunting party. After we cleaned her up we covered the dressing on her leg with duct tape as that was all we had. A bit later we called it a day and posed for pictures with the dogs and harvested birds. Unfortunately I sent a copy of the pictures to Melanie and within seconds she emailed me back wondering why Tess’ leg was all taped up. I had no choice but to confess she had been hurt. After reassuring Melanie we took Tess to the local vet to get stitched up. Tess never skipped a beat and hunted full-tilt the remainder of our trip. Lessons learned – introduce your dog to barbed wire before you hunt and be sure to crop pictures of the dog as needed before sending them to your wife.

After the first year of hunting with Tess and even though I was delighted with her performance I felt she could benefit from the advanced training offered by Wildrose. In the interest of brevity let me just say it was well worth it. What was good before became great and what was great became outstanding.

Before we could get to South Dakota the second time Tess was diagnosed with heartworm, despite having been on a rigorous preventative treatment program almost from birth. She became very  debilitated and gained a lot of excess weight due to the steroid treatments. For months we couldn’t even let her play in the yard. The recovery was slow and at times we thought we might be fighting a losing battle. Through it all Tess was incredibly stoic and kept fighting, never not wagging her tail. Finally she started to improve but not enough to allow her to hunt. It hurt to leave her at home when I went to South Dakota that next year.

Tess and I spent the next summer rehabilitating.  Amazingly, she  made a remarkable recovery and was on top of her game as we returned to South Dakota. If there was a retrieve to be made she did it. If there was cover you wanted her to hunt she never balked. If other dogs couldn’t locate a cripple Tess would often make the retrieve. Her nose was her best asset and a marvel to behold when she would position herself to wind and locate downed birds. No question she really knew her business.

In the off season Tess and I would practice by playing hide and seek the bumper in the basement, which was half finished and half unfinished. I’d have her sit while I hid the bumper in the unfinished side and then I would send her for the retrieve. You could not fool that girl. The same was true outdoors as she demonstrated weekly her prowess by locating and retrieving the Sunday New York Times (the size of a snow goose) wherever in the shrubs it had been tossed by the delivery boy.

Tess’ troubles didn’t stop with the heartworm. As time passed chronic joint arthritis continued to worsen and the effects became more evident. While there was no indication of diminished interest in hunting even up to the end, you could see her losing mobility bit by bit. Increasing the type and dosage of various medications seemed to provide some comfort for her but after a few more years it was clear the meds weren’t doing enough. In good conscience I couldn’t hunt her any longer. Her obvious pain was hard enough to witness but It was truly heartbreaking not to take her hunting.  At that point we decided to keep medicating her until such time she no longer had reasonable quality of life.

Near the end Tess was pretty sedentary, mostly staying to herself, but continued to rise whenever the other dogs rose to go outdoors. She often would take a short swim in the pond with our two other Wildrose labs. Sometimes we would toss a bumper into the pond for her. She always made the retrieve and returned to heel at my side until I accepted her retrieve. She had such joy in her eyes when she was making these simple retrieves. The same look I had seen so many times before when Tess was retrieving birds.

The only thing that rivaled her excitement for hunting was her passion for eating. She would literally lay in front of the bag of food to guard it from any assault by the other dogs. It’s the only time I have seen her bare her teeth. Without fail, each time she was going to be fed she would crank up the tail wagging and starting doing the rocking horse dance. You could always tell when it was time for Tess to eat because five minutes before or after her designated feed time she would come sit in front of us with her bowl in her mouth. Eating time, like hunting time, was happy time.

We knew our days were numbered with Tess and we often discussed what would be our sign the time was here to let her go. We decided that when she no longer rose with the other dogs or showed a lack of interest in eating we would know that was the end. One morning, wondering why Tess hadn’t come to roust us from bed, as she routinely did, we found her still in her bed, clearly not interested in getting up, not even to eat. That was Tess’ last day.

Tess was family to be sure and we were most certainly blessed to have known and loved her. What a sweetheart, what a devoted friend, what a brilliant huntress, what a stoic soldier……our quintessential Wildrose Tess.

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Tomato Pie. Chef Rich Lo Russo style

submitted by Mary Ann and Jeff Buckner – Owner of Wildrose Rebelpie

  • 1 unbaked pie crust  (I use Pillsbury)
  •  2-3 cups shredded mozzarella
  •  2-3 large tomatoes sliced 1/2 inch thick
  •  4 chopped scallions
  •  Chopped basil to taste
  •  Sea salt and black pepper
  •  1/2 cup Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  •  Extra virgin olive oil drizzled over top

Fill pie shell with mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle basil and scallions over the top.  Place slices of tomato on top to cover cheese.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then cover with Parmesan cheese.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 375 degrees till bubbly.

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Dog Dreams, The Main Thing, and Portion Control A Miscellany of Episodes on Reading Your Dog

By Ben McClelland

I began writing this article on routine dog care. I typed out a litany of tips: do’s and don’ts, including vaccines; vet visits; extra hydration in hot, humid days; no table scraps; effective skunk spray remedies; and much, much more. As I read over what I had typed, my eyes glazed over. And I figured many of you readers might have the same response. After all, the folks at Wildrose (i.e., Mike Stewart and Lanette Drewrey) give great health advice in the puppy picking talk. The Facebook page carries lots of helpful advice, as well. And readers can always “Google” any topic on which they need instant information.

I started casting about for another article topic.

Dog Dreams

At that moment I glanced over at Mac, who was asleep, curled up on his bed, lying on his side, and he began an afternoon dream. As I watched and listened to Mac dreaming, I became totally engrossed in his antics.

Bingo! There’s the article topic, I thought: canine body language. What can we learn by reading our dogs’ bodies, waking and sleeping? Have you ever wondered what your dog dreamed about and why? Alexandra Horowitz described her dog, Pumpernickel’s, dream:

This morning I heard her barking in her sleep—the muffled, jowl-puffing bark of dreaming. Oh, does she dream. I love her dream-barks, falsely severe, often accompanied by twitching feet or lips curled into a teeth-baring growl. Watch long enough and I’ll see her eyes dancing, the periodic clenches of her jaw, hear her tiny whimpers. The best dreams inspire tail wags—huge thumps of delight that wake herself and me (Inside of a Dog, 213).

Those are the same as Mac’s dream antics, except that he does not wake himself with tail thumps, but usually moves into a quieter sleep mode. Horowitz reviews some of the theories about the dreams’ meaning, similar to those for humans, such as replaying physical feats or rehearsing social engagement with others.

What is not observable from his body language is why Mac can snooze all afternoon and wake up just in time for his late afternoon walk, which is followed by his regular feeding time. As it turns out, without any outside stimulus, a dog will sleep until it senses—by an internal clock—that it’s time to wake up. Horowitz explains that a “pacemaker” in the dog’s brain follows Circadian rhythms throughout the day, including “feeding-related cycles,” regulating the dog’s activities (212-214). So, at the appointed hour Mac wakes according to his internal clock, leaves his bed, and hovers around me impatiently until I lead him out for his walk in a local park, after which we return to the house for his daily feeding.

0.Mac (McClelland) copy

For as much as I read Mac’s body language when he’s around the house, I should’ve been more observant one day in the field last fall.

Make the Main Thing the Main Thing

Because Mac is a healthy, high-drive, five-year-old, I greet him for our morning exercise time, checking the weather, but simply expecting him to be physically AOK. On this cool fall day in 2015 we worked several water retrieves (memories and marks) at Wildrose. Mac worked eagerly and vigorously for over a half hour, launching into the water for each retrieve and swimming a good distance for some long ones. We returned to the truck, I loaded him onto the tailgate (his usual resting place), and I went to the flight pen to take some pictures for an article on the kennel’s bird program. Then I returned to the truck to fetch Mac to make some shots with him at the pigeon recall house. When I approached him, I noticed that he had thrown up fluid on the tailgate and he did not lift his head when I came up to him.

This is the point at which I should have been reading his body language carefully. But, no, my mind was focused on the wrong thing: I was in a hurry to take pictures. I mistakenly thought that he was just tired. Standing next to him, I called Mac down, told him to heel, and I began walking briskly down the road toward the recall house. Mac, however, was lagging behind, his head low. I urged him to come to heel and he obeyed slowly. After a few more yards, he became very woozy—ataxic—and collapsed. His eyes rolled back in his head and his gums turned white. He was out and appeared down for the count.

Fortunately for me and Mac, Blake Henderson and Lanette Drewrey were there to assist in a rescue. With unconscious Mac loaded in her truck, Lanette went into Nascar-driving mode and rushed Mac to the vet, who revived him. After some saline drips Mac appeared normal, unfazed. Meanwhile, I recriminated myself repeatedly for being so heedless of the early signs of Mac’s obvious distress.

(As I was driving my truck to the vet, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with Lanette, I wept, certain that I had lost my dog. And it was all on me. I had raised Mac from seven weeks, worked with him through the Gentleman’s Gundog training regimen, and hunted with him through two seasons.)

That day and over the next several weeks vets in Oxford and at Mississippi State University’s college of veterinary medicine completed a full medical workup on Mac, taking x-rays, EKGs, and running batteries of tests on everything. Mac wore a portable heart monitor for twenty-four hours and the reading was sent off to a clinic in New York that specializes in canine cardiology.

Because Mac became ataxic and collapsed without any apparent reason, the vets suspected EIC (exercise-induced-collapse) syndrome. (Ataxia is an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movements, symptomatic of some central nervous system disorders, not due to muscle weakness [Merriam-Webster]). Therefore, a blood sample was sent to a clinic in the Midwest that specializes in EIC. (For more information on EIC refer to Hoskins’ article, listed below in Works Cited.)

All of the tests reported no sign of any physical or neurological disorder and no indication of EIC whatsoever. Duck-hunting season was upon us. I was very concerned about what to do with Mac. Should I take him hunting or retire him from the field? Reviewing all of the data and various written reports with me, Mac’s vet (himself a hunter and an owner of Labrador retrievers) said, “Considering the thoroughness of these results, if I were you, I’d take the risk. He’ll probably be just fine. And if he drops dead on a hunt, at least he will have died happy.” We both had a good laugh, but as I left the office, I still worried about Mac.

1.2013-01-04 MacScansSky(4.5x6)Eventually, I decided that I would take Mac hunting. On opening day I was a nervous wreck, watching his every move. On his stand while decoys were set out, he looked up into the dark sky and whimpered, a sure sign that ducks were already circling. I tapped him on the head to settle him. And soon the action began. He performed just as he always had, retrieving with enthusiasm throughout a morning with three shooters.

On the truck ride home, I put him in the backseat of the truck, not in his truck-bed box. I wanted to keep a watchful eye on him. After napping on the ride home, he was fine, same playful Mac as he always had been. And he went on happily working throughout duck season. I say “happily” because he perks up every morning when he sees the waders and hunting gear loaded in the truck. Talk about reading body language, I swear he smiles on the ride to the blind, as he peers around the bottom from the ATV. The episode of collapse was a fluke, and a preventable one, had I read Mac’s body carefully.

Portion Control

As most of you have probably experienced with your Lab, they are voracious eaters. A Kane and [Bl.] Molly offspring, Mac stands tall and has a long body. And he is always hungry. If he puts on an extra couple of pounds, it’s not very noticeable on his big frame until he sits, and then the thin part of his hourglass figure thickens a bit. After he was neutered and added a couple more years of age, his metabolism appeared to slow a bit, so I have had to keep an eye on his weight, especially in the off-season.

Dr. Brian Zanghi, a Ph.D. research scientist at the Nestle Research Center, visited Wildrose and gave excellent advice on nutrition when he made a presentation to the staff. Three articles on his nutrition research appear in the Wildrose Blog archives (May, September, and November of 2014) for any readers who wish to review his findings. I found very useful his suggestions on how to determine a dog’s body condition:

Three key things to observe for are

1) the “hourglass” shape of the body when viewed from above, with a narrowing at the abdomen;

2) a tuck in the belly when viewed from the side; and

3) the ability to slightly feel the individual ribs, possibly without being able to see them. Of course the relative thickness of a dog’s coat will affect this observation.” (“Wildrose and Purina Partner on Nutrition,” Wildrose Blog, May 17, 2014).

Reading your dog’s body daily is the key to a keeping him at a proper weight. Food portion control and regular exercise go hand in hand in managing a dog’s weight, just as they are with our bodies. (I just wish I could be as disciplined in food portion control for myself as I am with Mac!!)

Now I’m off to look up some related article topics: What about dogs eating grass and dried earthworms?

Works Cited

Horowitz, Alexandra. Inside of a Dog. New York: Scribner, 2009.

Hoskins, Johnny D. “Exercise-induced collapse in Labrador Retrievers,” http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/exercise-induced-collapse-labrador-retrievers

McClelland, Ben. “Wildrose and Purina Partner on

Nutrition,” Wildrose Blog, May 17, 2014.

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Meet FTW Broadbog Billy “Billy”

Billy (1)

DOB:  September 21, 2013

Imported June, 2016

Billy is our most recent arrival to join our team of excellent Gentleman Gundog sires.  Billy’s sire is International FTCh Waygreen Apollo “Scott,” who was trained and trialed by Wildrose UK partner, Nigel Carville.  Scott qualified three consecutive years for both the Irish Kennel Club Championship Stake and the IGL (British) Retriever Championship earning a Diploma of Merit in the latter in 2015. In 2016, Scott further distinguished himself by placing first in two conformation shows, one with the British Kennel Club and another with the Irish Kennel Club.


Interestingly, Billy’s grandmother, Shimnavale Delta, is a Wildrose dam.  She has produced exceptional puppies during her tenure at Wildrose.



Billy has the drive, stamina and natural gamefinding ability one would expect from a British Field Trial Winner.  Like his sire, Scott, he is a handsome Labrador.  Billy has the classic conformation and temperament of a gentleman’s gentleman making him an excellent sire for the Wildrose lineup of superb sporting dog companions.

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Meet FTCh Shimnavale Excalibur “Taz”


DOB:  May 27, 2010

Imported, 2016

FTCh Shimnavale Exalibur, “Taz,” joined the Wildrose sire lineup in 2016 just after competing in the 2015 Irish Kennel Club Championship Stake.  Straight away Taz distinguished himself as a superb retriever whether on land or in the field.  Boldness in water, excellent handle and superb scenting abilities combined with a delightful personality make him a perfect Gentleman’s Gundog.

Taz’s sire is International Field Trial Champion (Int. FTCh) Marranscar Blackcap, known to us as “Drake.”  Drake, trained and handled to distinction by Wildrose partner, Nigel Carville, earned many field trial awards including a Diploma of Merit in both the IGL (British) Retriever Championship and the Irish Kennel Club Championship Stake. Wildrose has produced quite a number of successful dogs in the past sired by Drake.  Additionally, we imported a finished dog, Storm, who is a direct son of Taz and he, too, has developed into a dynamic gundog.

Taz-5 (1)

The three-generation pedigree of Taz’s dam, Greenbriar Cocoa of Shimnavale, is outstanding with 100% of the dogs earning Field Trial titles.  Further, her 4th generation lineage combine some of the most notable names in UK retriever history including:

FTCh Saxaphone Express

FTCh Pocklea Remus (IGL winner)

FTCh Lafayette Tolley

FTCh Kennefer of Leadburn

FTW Greenbriar Solitaire

Excalibur’s competitive career in the UK has been impressive totaling 17 field trial awards of which 6 were 1st place.  These do not include his novice stake awards.

Member of the Winning Irish CLA Team, 2013

Member of the Winning UK team at Chatsworth, 2013

Qualified and participated in the 2015 Irish Kennel Club Champion Stake

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Glenshee Ghillie of Craigenross (May 4, 2001-April 22, 2016)

By Bill Behnke

Somebody once told me that bringing home a puppy is pretty much assured to be a “countdown to sorrow.”  I didn’t realize how much truth there was in this statement until this morning.  Today I lost a very special friend.

Field Trial Winner Glenshee Ghillie of Craigenross (“Ghillie”) was born at Wattieston Farm in Kilbirnie, Scotland and was imported by Wildrose Kennels in 2003.  Later in 2005, Wildrose imported Ghillie’s littermate, Field Trial Champion Gusty Garry (“Kane”).  Both Kane and Ghillie possess an impressive pedigree with 12 titled ancestors of 14 in a three-generation pedigree, including FTCh Pocklea Remus on both the top and bottom of their bloodlines.

Ghillie wasn’t my first dog and he will not be my last; however, he will likely be the dog that I will always have the fondest memories of. My story starts in 2006.  I had been hunting pheasant in North Dakota regularly with a group of friends and it became obvious to me that the hunters that enjoyed the experience the most were those that had their own dogs.  For the rest of us, pheasant hunting in the Dakotas was an absurd combination of shooting, cross-country running and hide-and-seek.   Upon returning from North Dakota in 2006, I invested various bottles of good wine and several long nights perusing the Internet looking for breeders of upland trained hunting Labradors.  In my quest, I repeatedly came across many recommendations and endorsements for Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi.

I will not go through the whole story of contacting Mike and Cathy.  Getting “pre-qualified” for a finished Wildrose retriever involved writing a long letter describing my hunting experience and exactly what I wanted and expected from a retriever, sending off my deposit via FedEx and then pacing around waiting expectantly.  Being a new to the process, I expected finished retriever to arrive almost immediately much in the way a Coke drops out of a soda machine after you put in the last quarter.  Needless to say, I really didn’t know what I wanted nor did I know what to expect during the process.

In February 2007, Mike contacted me and indicated that he “may” have a retriever that “might” be well suited to my relatively ill defined needs.  The only catch was that I would be required to travel from Alaska to Oxford to participate in the Basic and Advanced Handlers Class before he could determine if this yet unnamed dog would be a good fit.  Additional details regarding my prospective hunting companion were scarce and Mike was reluctant to send any photos until he had an opportunity to meet me.  I’ve been through a few job interviews in my life and in every way it appeared that I was being interviewed to determine if I was “suitable” for consideration.  While somewhat frustrated with the next hurdle in the interview process, Sandy and I made immediate plans to travel to Wildrose that March.

A day prior to the start of 2007 Basic Handlers Class, Sandy and I made the 3,300 mile journey from Anchorage to Oxford.  Our plane landed in Memphis shortly before 4PM and we didn’t waste any time driving straight from the Memphis airport to Wildrose to meet our prospective retriever.  Mike and Cathy were having dinner when we arrived and, after waiting impatiently for them to finish, Mike gave me my first introduction to Ghillie.

After some initial discussion, Mike began to introduce me to Ghillie’s handling skills. Off lead Ghillie heeled along side Mike first turning to the right and then to the left.  Mike followed by working Ghillie through some lining and casting drills.  Then it was my turn.  Ghillie walked next to me on a lead as I walked around the yard, he sat when I asked him to sit and he did a few short retrieves.  Casting left, right or back was somewhat beyond my very limited abilities.  Regardless, after five minutes I had firmly decided that Ghillie and I were a perfect pair and I pulled out my checkbook to seal the deal.  This is where the interview recommences.  Mike took the position that he needed to see me work with Ghillie further during the Basic Handlers class before considering if Ghillie and I were a good match.  Clearly my bonifides needed to be further tested before Mike was willing to seriously consider parting with Ghillie.

As I am frequently reminded, my first trip through the Basic and Advanced Handlers Class was a train wreck.  Cast left with your left hand, cast right with your right hand  – this all seems simple in principle but proved much more challenging when there is a dog on the other end of the command.  All through the training, Ghillie remained patient and willing.  He seemed to know intuitively what I wanted him to do and would respond slowly when the command didn’t exactly match what he knew to be the desired outcome.  After three full days of training (and daily attempts on my behalf to complete the purchase), Mike reluctantly consented to letting Ghillie return home with us to Alaska.  It was a wonderful day that I will always be thankful for.  Sandy and I are truly indebted to Mike and Cathy Stewart for enhancing our lives in so many ways.

Ghillie returned to Anchorage to become my full-time companion.  He came to work with me and, when possible, he traveled on business trips with me.  I work in a high-rise that prohibits dogs – a policy that was reversed after others in the building met Ghillie.  It wasn’t too long after Ghillie came home that he was properly “badged” such that he could join me in frequent business meetings at AT&T’s headquarters building in Anchorage.  There were very few places I went that Ghillie wasn’t welcome.

At his core, Ghillie was a true “Gentleman’s Gundog”. We have hunted for pheasants in the open fields of Oregon, Montana and the Dakotas and we have chased covies of quail in Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  Ghillie and I have sat in countless blinds hunting waterfowl in Alaska, Mississippi and Arkansas.

When not hunting, Ghillie enjoyed adventures.  Our trips took us from Cold Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida and from Boston, Massachusetts to San Diego, California.  Ghillie has traveled in fishing skiffs in western Alaska, party barges on Red Shirt Lake, corporate jets, commercial turbo props, floatplanes, seaplanes and helicopters.  His quiet nature and solid obedience skills made him easy to take along everywhere.

Ghillie not only won our hearts, he touched others in a similar way. Wildrose protégée such as Buzz, Andy, Dino, Dakota, Ash, Diver, Sasha, Leah, Foxy and most recently Shelby have all found their owners through Ghillie’s influence.  Ghillie has served well in his role as an ambassador for Wildrose in Alaska.

It has been a few months since Ghillie was able to participate in any of my long evening walks with Ice and Opus.  We often wander the same routes each night and something seems missing when Ghillie is not there.  I guess that’s a feeling I’m going to have to get use to and it makes me sad.  I will forever think of Ghillie as being a very special best friend.

Good-bye Ghillie…. I want to thank you for everything you taught me. Rest well my friend…I love you.

Ghillie is returning to Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS and will be laid to rest beside his brother Kane in the Wildrose Gundog Memorial Cemetery

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Eastern N Carolina Strawberry Pie

Submitted by Dawson CherryFullSizeRender

In the South, homemade pies/cakes/food in general are good for lots of things (funerals, graduations, sickness, etc).  This story leads to another highly valued use for strawberry pie.  Recently on our travels in Western NC, Wildrose Deacon and I had eyed a rolling, high grass meadow in the middle of a power line access for some good birddog training.  Well after a few loud retrieves (DT launcher in play) in this gorgeous meadow, the landowner that bordered the power line reminded us that we had not gotten permission to use the area.  Immediately we apologized and got our gear to leave.  Fortunately, the landowner happened to see his last retrieve as he walked up.  Deacon had made a beautiful find up and over the hill in deep thick grass where marking and nose finding ability were paramount.   The conversation switched to hunt tests, dogs, labs,  ground hogs, turkeys, etc.  Miraculously, as the conversation ended, the landowner further reassured me that we could use the land as long as we got permission in advance.

Upon returning home, I shared the story with my wife, Molly (cue eyes rolling, telling me not having permission = trespassing in her most lawyerly tone).  She had just finished making my Mom’s strawberry pie recipe, and had baked not one, but 2 pies.  Sensing an opportunity, I traded a couple of husbandly foot rubs for the other pie to go to the landowner.  Immediately, I went to the landowner’s home to offer further apologies and, of course, one fresh strawberry pie.  Overcome with good ole Southern kindness, he reassured me that he was glad for Deacon and me to use the new training grounds and wanted to know how the DT launcher worked.  He went on to further tell me that his wife had thought I had shot my dog repeatedly!  They had heard the noise, then seen the dog, then the dog had disappeared amongst the high grasses.  I quickly went about reassuring her that I would never shoot my dog and again explained my high-powered dummy launcher.  Well we all had a great big ole laugh and a sigh of relief (Deacon was in the truck, proof he was alive and well).

This proves once again that a strawberry pie is a cure for anything!!

Recipe for Ginny Mom’s Strawberry Pie:

1 prebaked 9-inch pastry shell

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. powdered sugar


1 box fresh strawberries

1/4 c. water

2/3 c. granulated sugar

4 tsp. cornstarch

Whipped cream

Grated coconut for garnish (opt.)

  1. Use a store-bought pastry shell or prepare and bake your own according to your own recipe. Cool.
  2. Blend cream cheese and powdered sugar. Spread in bottom of pastry shell.  (If too much cream cheese, cut in half.  Depends on your preference).
  3. Rinse berries, hull and sort, reserving largest and best berries. Crush enough remaining berries to make 1 cup.
  4. In small saucepan, mix water, granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add crushed berries. Bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until thick and clear. Cool.
  5. Press whole berries, tips up, into cream cheese.   Spoon cooled strawberry mixture evenly over berries.
  6. Chill for 3 to 4 hours. Sprinkle with coconut, if used.
  7. When ready to serve, top pie with whipped cream or serve cream alongside.
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