Hats Off to Dr. Ben McClelland!

By Cathy W. Stewart

Dr. Ben McClelland, former Distinguished Professor and Schilling Chair of Writing at the University of Mississippi English Department and retired Director of the Writing Project at Ole Miss has been a dedicated Volunteer Editor of the Wildrose Journal for the past decade. Ben notified us last week that he is ready to retire from his role as editor of the Journal which caused me to reflect upon his many contributions to the Wildrose experience.

When I met Dr. Ben McClelland, he was always immaculately dressed and fulfilled the role of Distinguished Professor in looks and knowledge. I was always in awe of his presentations, his skillful teaching manner, and his abundant talent as a writer and leader. We all have professors/teachers who stand out in our minds as the best in their field and that’s what Dr. McClelland was for me.

Upon my retirement as an educator, I began the full-time role as office manager for Wildrose Kennels.  Much to my surprise, as Ben McClelland embraced his own retirement, he chose to purchase a Wildrose dog and learn the Wildrose Way.  Instead of seeing Ben in his professor regalia, I would look out of my office window and see him donning clothing from Wildrose Trading Company, a whistle in his mouth, and a gamebag across his shoulder.  I kept shaking my head in disbelief… the professor I revered was joining the Wildrose Pack!  As we wrote the history of Wildrose Kennels for our 50th Anniversary, I asked Ben to outline his experiences at Wildrose.

In December, 2010, Ben McClelland began a volunteer relationship with Wildrose Kennels, serving on the staff at Wildrose Kennels as a Resident Writer and Apprentice Trainer. In the spring of 2011 and 2012 he attended the Wildrose DAD conferences, interviewed participants, and participated in the training sessions.  He traveled to Dallas, Texas in November of 2011 to attend the Diabetes Friendly Foundation’s second annual “K9s for Kids” benefit at the Fashion Industry Gallery.  Several Wildrose DADs and their handlers were honored as the Foundation made it possible for other families to receive DADs.  McClelland wrote an online blog and posted several photographs from the event, which raised $12,000 to donate to Wildrose’s DAD Program. In 2014 McClelland’s Lifesaving Labradors: Stories from Families with Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs was published by KoehlerBooks. The personal narratives of the dozen diabetics, their Wildrose dogs, and their diabetic caregivers are the heart and soul of this book.  All book royalties went to the Wildrose DAD Program.

In order to develop a working knowledge of retriever training, McClelland engaged in immersion-style vantage points for two years in field exercises under the kennel staff’s guidance. Pictured below, McClelland sends Eider for a retrieve at the Wildrose Handlers’ Workshop, 2011.

In June 2011 McClelland purchased Mac as a seven-week-old puppy from a Kane and Molly (bl) litter, and trained him according to the Wildrose Way. Mac accompanied Eider and McClelland on regular visits to the kennel.

FTCh Gusty Garry
“Kane,” Imported 2005 is the kennel’s most prolific sire.
Mike Stewart (left) makes introductory remarks before McClelland (center) ran 13-week-old Mac through a basic obedience drill for puppy-pickin’ clients, July 15, 2011.
Mac, Knight, Eve, Eider, and Scout. The Mac Pack, 2019. Photo Credit: Katie Behnke

Over the years, McClelland added Scout (5-2016), Eve (1-2018), and Knight (10-2018) to the Mac pack, training each of them as well. Scout and Eve served as Wildrose broodstock.

Thus, McClelland gained a client’s view of the new-dog owner’s role as he and his dogs interacted with the Wildrose trainers in advanced- and young-dog training activities.  

In addition, Wildrose offered McClelland various other learning activities in those early years, including the introductory training seminar for new owners, the Retriever Training Workshop, and the Dog Handlers’ Workshop with Vic Barlow, Wildrose’s English partner, as well as the Associate Trainers’ Workshop and field work with Nigel Carville, Wildrose’s Irish partner.  Also, under the kennel’s auspices he participated in and wrote online blogs on two quail hunts and a dove hunt at Prairie Wildlife, West Point, MS, and pheasant tower shoots in Westervelt Lodge, Aliceville, AL.  Moreover, he accompanied Mike to Memphis, TN, for a demonstration at the Ducks Unlimited state headquarters during the annual meeting for Tennessee members.  

McClelland also established an online blog/journal and has authored numerous feature journal articles over the past decade.  He helped grow our small newsletter to the Wildrose Journal, a social media leader in its class with over 23,000 subscribers.

During the summer of 2011 McClelland worked with Chip Laughton in his North Carolina studio to select some images for Lifesaving Labradors and to receive instruction in digital photography.  Shortly thereafter, he traveled with two dogs to Vandalia, IL, in July, working for two days with Associate Trainer Jay Lowry, seeing his implementation of the Wildrose training methods and especially learning how to employ live-bird training exercises with retrievers.  Based on this experience, he wrote a brief blog and included a photographic slide show of Jay and his bird-training activities.  Jay has trained two dogs, Ruby and Charlie, which he donated to the DAD Program.  Both dogs are featured in this book.

In August of 2011 Trainer Patrick Allen and McClelland trailered five dogs to the kennel’s Colorado facility at Clear Creek Ranch.  While there, he attended Mike’s two-day adventure dog workshop in Buena Vista, CO, and reported on it in a blog that contained a slide show of 139 images.  

Returning to Mississippi, McClelland participated with Eider in a kennel-sponsored dove hunt at Prairie Wildlife.  Following that event, he reported on the activities of the day for the thirty-five participating clients and their dogs, publishing an online blog with a gallery of photos. 

On September 17 and 18, 2011, McClelland attended and blogged on the Orvis Cup and Family Game Fair Weekend at the Sandanona Shooting Grounds near Millbrook, NY.  The resulting online story carried a slide show of 115 images that he edited from over four hundred.

In the last week of September, 2011, McClelland traveled to Boston, MA, to work with Associate Trainer Tim Clancy to see his kennel operation and training activities.  In addition, he visited with Tim’s wife, Danielle, who was conducting the background training of DAD Roscoe.  He also wrote a blog and posted photos of this experience.

In late October, McClelland attended and reported on the blog about the Double Gun Classic at Wildrose.  This annual competitive shooting and retrieving event, a favorite of many gundog regulars, afforded him access to several prominent dogs and individuals in the Wildrose family.

In 2012 McClelland continued to participate in major Wildrose events, including dove hunts, pheasant pickups, associate trainer sessions, and dog handlers workshops. In October, 2012, he ran Mac in the Double Gun Classic. In the ensuing decade McClelland has enjoyed regular training for his dogs at the kennel and he has continued volunteer activities for Wildrose, primarily authoring feature stories for the Journal.

Ben’s many volunteer hours of work for the Journal are deeply appreciated.  Once a writer, always a writer so keep an eye out for an occasional article in the future penned by Ben. In the meantime, I hope to continue to look out my window and see the Ben I’m accustomed to seeing now with his training apparel working his dogs The Wildrose Way.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s