A Boy and His Dog: Nathan Swinney and Wildrose Kim
By: Dr. Ben McClelland
Popular literature is filled with poignant stories featuring an adventurous boy and his faithful four-legged companion. Wildrose has its own version of this tale involving two members of our family: Nathan and Kim. Our story begins a while ago.
Kim (Silversnipe Reformer) came to Wildrose as a British field trial winner, possessing a calm demeanor to go with her excellent gundog skill set. As a dam, she produced several outstanding litters of pups. During her productive time here, she also stayed sharp as a gundog, going afield with staff members, as do all of our sires and dams.
When Facilities Manager Clint Swinney hired on the staff, he began hunting with Kim, taking her to his home for each season, where his wife, Anna, and their three-year-old son, Nathan got well acquainted with her. Precocious Nathan took a special interest in Kim on these visits, hanging out with her as much as he could. Their bonding began here, even though he was just a tadpole and Kim was his dad’s hunting dog.
Anna Swinney, Wildrose Retail Manager, often brought Nathan with her to our onsite retail store, whereupon he would seek out Kim, walking her around the grounds and bringing her into the store to cuddle with. Everyone could see something special developing in their relationship together. Nathan became excited every time he could come to the kennel and Kim perked up each time he came for her. Joyful in their companionship, they were a joy to behold.
After Kim’s final litter in June, the Swinneys brought Kim home to stay. Always when Wildrose sires or dams retire, Mike and Cathy Stewart carefully select loving homes for their retirement. The Swinney home was the obvious choice for Kim. As Nathan embraced Kim, his parents told him that she would be his dog—his very own dog. Instinctively, Nathan, who was six years old, assumed the role of pack leader. Not only did he issue commands, which she obeyed to a tee, but he also took over the daily chores of feeding and caring for her, including giving her meds. What’s even better is that now Kim is his hunting dog. On his outdoor adventures Nathan has his BB gun in hand and Kim heeling at his side.
Nathan underscores the benefit of having a companion, saying, “Now that Kim is my dog, I have someone to go hunting with me.” If ever a father’s pride shows, it’s in the look on Clint’s face as he tells about this keen relationship that his son has developed with his dog.
Not only did Nathan take immediately to Kim, but she naturally found in him her favorite human. In the Swinney home and out, Kim looks to Nathan as the pack leader. No matter who gives her a command, she looks to Nathan for affirmation before obeying. If Nathan leaves her sight, she watches till he returns again.
Anna says, “Nathan finds joy and purpose in the mundane tasks of feeding and caring for Kim, and he spends his days seeking out more adventures for them to have, be it bird hunting in the yard with his BB gun, or performing retrieves with her to keep her in shape. Every day with Kim is an adventure to him.”
Anna was raised in a home where dog-human relationships are special—her mother is Rachel Thorton, DAD dog trainer extraordinaire—and she’s read a lot of stories of beloved boy-dog duos, such as Travis and Ol’ Yeller, Billy Coleman and his redbones, and Timmy and Lassie. Highlighting the special love story that she witnesses daily in her own home, Anna says, “Somewhere, right near the top of that list, you’d see Nathan and Kim.”
Anna sums up the meaning of their relationship for Kim this way, “Kim found joy and fulfillment in running field trials in the U.K., and loved her life at Wildrose, but the life of retirement where she plays the role of Nathan’s companion has proved to be her greatest adventure of all.”
When Nathan and Kim cozy up on the floor and he reads to her, their contentment is evident. What could be more fulfilling for a boy than to live in a loving family and have a dog of his own—a dog who has found her forever home and her heart’s content.
Gallery: Nathan and Kim (photos by Katie Behnke)