Sausage & Cheese English Muffins

By Kirk Parker, Wildrose Carolinas

12 servings – ½ English muffin

Prep time 30 mins + freezer time


1 package of English muffins (6 whole)

2 lbs or packages or ground or link Italian sausage

2 8 oz containers of pub cheese (gourmet spreadable sharp cheddar)


1 – Brown sausage in a skillet (if using links, remove casing first to separate out ground sausage.

2 – Break English muffins in half and toast.

3 – Place halves on baking sheet

4 – Once sausage is browned, mix in pub cheese until melted.

5 – Scoop sausage and cheese mixture onto English muffin halves.

5 – Enjoy hot or;

Place baking sheet with muffins in freezer until frozen.

6 – Remove from freezer and place in Ziploc bag for freezer storage.

To reheat, remove from freezer and heat in microwave until hot.

For best results, place in toaster oven or bake for 5-1o minutes to ensure crisp muffin.

Kirk and Wildrose Gamble
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Meet Guy Billups IV, President of Wildrose Texas

Edited by Dr. Ben McClelland

Guy Billups IV

Wildrose Texas is full-service, comprehensive training, breeding and boarding facility located 15 minutes south of downtown Dallas. Wildrose Texas is hosted on the grounds of the historic Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club, the oldest duck club west of the Mississippi River.

Bordering the Trinity River, the facility has access to 780 acres of superb environment: cover crop, grass fields, timberlands, and vast water resources. The state-of-the-art kennels for boarding and training dogs, along with its antique cabin storefront and office are nestled lakeside under beautiful huge oaks, a classic location indicative of the Wildrose experience (Wildrose website).

Originally from Oxford Mississippi, Guy Billups is a graduate of Rice University with a degree in economics. Guy was raised with AKC Field Trial and Hunt Test Labradors, which ignited his love for the breed. While attending Rice, Guy discovered the Wildrose Way and applied the training methods with his English Labrador, Missy. Remaining closely connected with the Wildrose facility in Oxford, Guy was approached with the opportunity to leave the world of finance and open a campus in Texas. Unable to pass on the chance to work with more of these wonderful dogs and grow the pack, Guy, his wife Kelsey, and their baby, Guy Cameron, relocated from Houston to Dallas, and proudly opened Wildrose Texas in 2017. Since then the kennel has grown, as has the family. Now there are three boys—Guy Cameron, Zane Charles, and Walker Caleb. Kelsey has covered the roles of wife, mom, engineer, and kennel operator.

Here’s Guy’s story in his own words.

I became involved with the Wildrose Way, while living in downtown Houston. I had two problems: one, the dogs I had grown up with weren’t manageable to live in a Houston house, even with a yard; two, I was in college, so no paying someone else to train my new dog, Wildrose Missy, and honestly I wanted to train the dog myself. With these two facts, the dogs and methods I had grown up with would not work. Honestly, the methodology of being able to train the dog myself with limited resources was the most enticing thing to me of the Wildrose Way. Missy was a lot of fun to learn how to train. She was very soft, so no barging my way through training. She wanted to work with me but like the very typical British lab, she didn’t like getting in trouble. This was a perfect mix though. 

I’m really an outdoorsman of any excuse. Have always loved to fish and hunt. In high school it was bow hunting deer and big game, if the ducks weren’t around, something about the camaraderie, water, dogs, multiple species, and calling has always engaged me with duck hunting. I love the scouting and exploration, kind of like fishing new spots, too. I hadn’t hunted ducks in the first couple years of college, but when one of my good buddies took me on my first teal hunt, it reignited the fire all over. That hunt started the search for a dog. Along came Missy, the dog that got me into this; really, both of us learned how to duck hunt in the public marshes along the coast of Texas. 

I grew up hunting with my dad and family. Teska was the dog that really claims that time period for me. Then there was Joe, a Chesapeake retriever. Then there were the coonhounds, Walker and Casey. But it was mostly all about duck hunting. However, after starting the kennel I have found pheasant hunting, and truth be told, if I had grown up somewhere with grouse or pheasant hunting, I might be a stronger upland addict. Being on the move and exploring with your dog is what it is all about to me.

I attended my first Double Gun in 2015 and after that experience I had really just wanted to get involved as an associate, but nothing really materialized until Joe Crafton came along and everything kind of came together on this new opportunity for the Texas campus. Joe and I have gotten to know each other after opening the kennel. A very successful man in his own right, he spends retirement serving on the boards and as president of charitable organizations like Parks Cities Quail Coalition and Boys Scouts of America, among many others. He did a great job casting the vision for the kennel here in Texas and the Dallas Hunting and Fishing club. Both have been quite the story of success over the last 5 years. Our campus evolved to where it is now through pure stubbornness and hard work. We have a 70-run dog kennel, living quarters, and a retail shop. A separate facility houses our puppy nursery and brood stock. We are fortunate with our location to be both inside the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, and also located on an 800-acre active duck club.

Following duck season this year, we held several pheasant shoots here on the grounds, with are around 2000 pheasants shot in the two months. This has proven to be a huge advantage for the dogs in training here. After all, “Birds make the bird dog.”

The Wildrose brand has been built carefully over time and it means the world. People know what they can expect and trust from us at all of our locations, including Wildrose Texas. So by being Wildrose, we have a high standard to reach to maintain that reputation and brand.

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Wildrose History Part III

Front gate at Wildrose Mississippi

The Model

As the “new” Wildrose began its journey in Oxford, it was important early on to embrace a vision, a clarity of purpose, a desirable outcome.  No one could have foretold at that time the different opportunities, challenges, successes and, of course, the setbacks we would face or the many lives we would touch over the decades.  Upon reflection, it is obvious that it was an exciting pursuit of a passion:  building something new, traversing unchartered waters.  A euphemism comes to mind, “The essence of an adventure is not knowing how it will turn out.”  Okay, that’s inspirational but still, a business needs a clear vision of purpose and an action plan to make things happen.

The perfect business model to guide the Wildrose build was the motorcycle company, Harley-Davidson.  In the late 1970’s, Harley set out to re-engineer itself to become an iconic brand by first producing a product exceptional in quality, then create a passionate following among enthusiasts, a dynamic loyalty to the brand, a tribe. The brand logos had to be recognizable. Their dealer services were to exceed expectations. The Harley custom-fit approach to motorcycling embraced a lifestyle, an emotional band of followers.  The perfect strategy for Wildrose. 

Back to the vision:  to have a trusted, recognizable brand, one must find a solution to a problem.  That problem then becomes an opportunity.  The retriever market in the 1990s was heavily concentrated on performance Labradors produced from competition lineages.  These were bold, hard-driving Labradors bred to meet the tough demands of the competition world.  Training methods were largely focused on a force methodology (force fetch, e-collars, etc.) with less regard to developing a dog’s natural hunting instincts. These were excellent Labradors for the competition market and wingshooters were often making the mistake of acquiring retrievers for their hunting purposes from performance lineages.  These dogs were often powerful prospects to cope with for the average wingshooter.

Mike Stewart training 1998

Problem = Opportunity

The hunter was in search of a sporting companion, both for waterfowl and upland pursuits, retrievers equally proficient at game recovery as they were compatible in the home.  A calm temperament and ease of handle were important traits.

Enter Wildrose.  Our primary purpose was clear:  to produce the “right stuff,” a British Labrador possessing natural gamefinding abilities with a biddable temperament then train these dogs to meet each client’s desirables in a low force, easily applied manner.  The outcome:  A dog of duality – an enjoyable companion.  The Gentleman’s Gundog.

Now the plan. With this niche market identified, a path of orginality was chosen in our breeding standards and training methodology.  Wildrose became a closed kennel with no breeding of outside dogs and training dogs from our bloodlines exclusively.  This was a commitment to continuous improvement focusing on improving genetics through health testing and careful selection of bloodlines while gaining valuable feedback by training these very dogs.  Both elements went into our mating selections.  Generations later, we can still detect the results of the efforts as a few of our heritage lines are in their 4th generation.

They say publicity follows new things and so it was in the early days of the “new” Wildrose.  The foundation of the brand was established, and its uniqueness was soon recognized by the media and wingshooting enthusiasts.

The Way

Wildrose is first and foremost a sporting dog training enterprise.  From the onset, our training methodology was designed to bring out the natural abilities of our dogs and apply controls.  Initially, the curriculum was developed by hunters for hunters emphasizing game location and recover.  WIngshooters loved the result.  Gradually as our clients’ interests broadened, so did training options. The Wildrose Way proved to be applicable for service companions, adventure dogs, pointers, flushing spaniels and even search and rescue K9s.  While there is versatility in our training program options the basic core skills vary little between disciplines:

  • Compatibility
  • Obedience
  • Patience
  • Socialization
  • Control afield
  • Delivery of a retrieve
  • Confidence

Actually, the initial training process for any of our programs is very similar:  gundog to therapy companions, essential behaviors for a Wildrose Labrador are largely universal.  The departure in the training curriculum occurs about midway in the basic programs.  For example, gundogs move on to hand signals while therapy companions and adventurers focus on public access.  

Each Wildrose training program is supported by a training track, a detailed checklist for the trainer’s guidance.  When the dog completes any training courses, the client/handler receiving their dog works with the trainer to complete an in-depth check-out evaluation.  This process is designed to review the dog’s skills and communicate handling functions, all to promote a successful transition. Completed documents are downloaded into a permanent portfolio for each dog.

In 2006, our initiatives to support our clients’ successes with their dogs involved producing our first DVD, “Basic Gundog Training.” The step-by-step presentation became highly popular which led to the production of a second DVD for upland gundogs.  Both of these features are now downloadable to mobile devices at

Early on, Ducks Unlimited recognized the value of training handlers with their dogs to meet the needs of waterfowlers.  Their membership at the time reported a 65% ownership of one or more dogs so the interest was there.  Wildrose began featuring Drake the DU dog in training segments on DUTV, “The World of Ducks” in 2001.  The segments became highly popular as waterfowl enthusiasts trained along with their dogs weekly.  The tips were later carried on by Deke on the show as well as online on the Ducks Unlimited website, (2001 to date)

Drake and Real Duck at the Memphis Great Outdoor Fest 2001
Drakes first filming for DUTV with host Mark Pierce
Deke and Drake, The DU Mascots
A snap-shot from Deke, the New DU Dog’s You Tube clip

Both our DVDs and workshops sparked an interest in our methodology with Paul Fersen of Orvis who realized the potential for publishing a book detailing the Wildrose Way.  Sporting Dogs and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way was published in 2012 and is now in its 5th reprint remaining a popular training resource for sporting dog enthusiasts in America and abroad.  Photography was beautifully captured by Chip Laughton and the detailed drill patterns were completed by Orvis.  I cannot thank Chip, Paul and our supporters at DU enough for helping make the Wildrose Way training methodology a recognized, popular brand in itself today.

The Influencers

The Wildrose journey has been made possible by many contributors, those who joined the quest impacting “The Wildrose Way” in a variety of ways.

The most senior of these contributors is Lanette Drewrey.  By 2001, training and calls about services were expanding rapidly.  Then there was also the tasking of animal care. We needed staffing! Lanette was working part-time for our veterinarian, Dr. Harland, and attending Ole Miss.  She was a natural fit for our developing program.  She came aboard in 2001 providing support with health care, matings and puppy care responsibilities.  Also, a part-time kennelman was on hand to work on the facilities.  That was the complete Wildrose team at the time.  Talk about multi-tasking!! We did it all.  As the company grew, so did Lanette’s contributions:  developing health protocols, genetic selection, and detailed record systems that now encompass over two decades and four generations of Wildrose labs.  She also supported the development of our unique Super Learner Series for puppies.

Another long-term career team member, Blake Henderson, joined in 2007 as a kennelman and has since assumed many roles… trainer, grounds developer, even contributed to building and mechanical maintenance tasks.  Now, Blake draws on his accumulated experiences as the General Manager at Wildrose Mississippi.

Steven Lucius is old timer with a family legacy at Wildrose.  His brother, Charlie, worked at Wildrose as a kennelman while attending Ole Miss then served as a trainer for a period afterward.  When Steven arrived in 2008 to pursue his degree at Ole Miss, he naturally was drawn into the Wildrose creed.  Upon graduation, he, too, pursued a career as a full-time trainer.  Steven embraced the opportunity to become a partner in the business and today is co-owner of Wildrose Carolinas. 

Danielle Haise (now Drewrey) came to us in 2012 as a part-time health care provider while attending American Military University.  She was an excellent caregiver with an obvious love of dogs.  Six months later, she approached me and asked about becoming a trainer.  My response was immediately, “Let’s go.”  Danielle progressed as an obedience trainer, puppy backgounder, service dog trainer and adventure dog specialist.  Today, Danielle still is involved with training but her primary role is office manager and director of placements, a vital “tip of the spear” position with the Wildrose clan.  Danielle also designs our Wildrose Journal.

It is satisfying to know that Wildrose has presented opportunities for career advancement internally that several of our team members have embraced:  John Murphy, Tristan Hamlin, Will Zizman, Bryan Pala, Erin O’Reilly, Alex Callahand, and Ryan Alderman who all started at one position and advanced to another within Wildrose community.

So many great people have contributed as staff members over the years that I dare not attempt to list for fear of omission.  I just wanted to recognize these individuals of longevity and express my sincere appreciation for their commitment.

Previously mentioned in the story of Wildrose is Nigel Carville of Astraglen Kennels, N. Ireland. Nigel is a longtime influencer and major contributor to the success of Wildrose.  Since 1999, Nigel has shared his training style and knowledge which we have incorporated into our “Way.”  He helped carefully select genetics for importation and remains a trusted counsel and supporter of Wildrose.  An enormous amount of gratitude goes out to our friend, Nigel.

Our first training workshop was offered in 2001.  Vic Barlow from England was a co-instructor, the first of many involving his participation.  Our initial class had 12 attendees and without a meeting building at the time, the class was accommodated in my home garage with lawn chairs provided.  Despite the limited arrangements, the workshop was a success and Vic and I continued the offerings as attendance grew.  From our initial class of 12 to the 2022 spring basic class of 63 participants, Wildrose destinations and events continue to spread across the country.

The Associates

The growth of Wildrose quickly demonstrated a need for training support.  If you can build it, they will come.  Our first assistant was Mitchell Crawford, a student at Ole Miss who exchanged training for his dog, Tucker, for working a few afternoons a week supporting training. By 2001, he actually became our first partner at the Ducks Unlimited Great Outdoors Festivals assisting with our dog demonstrations including Drake, FTCh Angus, FTW Drummer and Penny along with Cathy, who kept us all focused.  Unfortunately, Mitch chose the corporate path upon graduation from Ole Miss, but what a great guy.  Our first  associate trainer was Craig Korff of Sheboygan, Wisconsin and his little Wildrose black female, Molly.  Craig was an experienced trainer and held a passion for developing gundogs, The Wildrose Way.  He trained and raised many Wildrose dogs for delighted clients and performed with our demonstration pack.  Today Craig and his son, Chris, are affiliated with Wildrose Midwest and I am delighted that he is passing his talents onto the next generation.

Our next client turned trainer in about 2005 was Josh Dewitt of Missouri.  He had two Wildrose females, Maggie and Claret, that raised some wonderful pups for us and they, too, made appearances with Josh at our events.  Josh also contributed by providing training services for clients in his area.

In 2006, Jay Lowry with his Wildrose Labrador, Duke, became a popular trainer in Illinois for Wildrose  and was always ready for travels to events.  In 2012 Jay embarked on his own gundog business journey by developed a kennel dedicated to British Field Cockers.  With hard work and clarity of vision the highly successful Ryglen Kennel was founded.

In 2008, Tom Smith purchased his first Wildrose puppy and named her Dixie.  He attended workshops at Wildrose regularly, and soon began assisting with our Wildrose demonstrations at events and workshops.  Tom expressed his interest in becoming more involved with Wildrose and asked questions about our company’s longevity plans which led to his becoming our general manager in 2014 and followed by becoming the regional owner of Wildrose Mississippi in 2019.

Sarah Barnes, now Sarah Reffett, bought a yellow male puppy from Wildrose in 2009 and named him Gunner.  She attended workshops, watched videos and trained Gunner successfully following the Wildrose Way.  In 2010 she became the first female associate trainer for Wildrose and has successfully trained many Wildrose dogs since along with her partner and now husband, Rob Reffett.  She was often the “only girl” but that didn’t slow her down or deter her from fulfilling the role as associate trainer.  Sarah and Rob continue to train for Wildrose, assist with demonstrations at events and instruct at Wildrose workshops.

With these loyalists on board, our troop was able to share the virtues of the British Labrador and our unique, balanced methodology in various locations in the central U. S. As all Wildrose followers know, we have been blessed with many fantastic associates who joined our journy.  I appreciate each member’s contribution.

The Enablers

Enablers caused our business to bloom by taking our services to the next level.  In 2001, Cathy took over the responsibilities of office manager: bookkeeping, correspondence, and sales.  Previously, Cathy was Director of the World Class Teaching Program at Ole Miss.  Ready for a new challenge, Cathy quickly became the voice of Wildrose.  When handling email and phone inquiries she used her expertise in Early Childhood education and Adult Education to address questions about puppy development and to effectively match people’s desirables with the best options for matings or training.  When clients would finally capture a glimpse of Cathy in person after much conversation via phone and email, their reaction was like that of an Elvis sighting!  Cathy’s contribution to Wildrose was immeasurable and her expertise is still utilized today as counsel for business practices with Wildrose International.

A second huge advancement for the company was when Tom Smith assumed the role of facility manager for Wildrose in 2014.  His presence was a game changer for operations enabling the company to position itself to pursue a broader range of opportunities.

The Celebration

The July/August issue of The Journal will feature the concluding article on the Wildrose story in preparation of the 50thAnniversary Gala on September 17th

Join the Wildrose pack on the grounds of the Oxford, Mississippi facility to celebrate this milestone in true Southern style.  Tickets are available at and proceeds support the Wildrose Service Companion Fund managed by Create Foundation of Tupelo, Mississippi, create foundation.

Enjoy these photos of Wildrose through the years…

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Puppy Model

By Tom Smith, Wildrose Mississippi

Have you ever tried to get a picture of a squirming 10-week old puppy? It can be difficult at best, like herding cats at worst. Our great friends at Purina ProPlan invited us for a photo shoot with Mattis, Gamble and Quinn (the 10 week old puppy) for their new food bags. And this is when the fun started.

As you know, we teach our dogs to sit and be quiet when we are standing or shooting. Well….. the photographers wanted our dogs to stand for the pictures. The dogs just didn’t know what to do. On top of that they had little circles on the floor where they wanted their feet for the perfect pose. Mattis and Gamble figured out that part once we were able to make them understand what we were asking. It wasn’t easy teaching them a new command, such as “whoa” we use for pointers to get them to stand steady in such a short period of time, but we persevered. Oh, and they wanted their mouths closed. Another challenge unfolds. Of course, they were somewhat nervous with all the new people and equipment but when you combine that with the heat from the lights the panting started. We used every trick in the book to get their ears up and mouth closed- squeaky balls, toys, bumpers you name it. Luckily, it was cold outside, so we were able to take them out and cool them down between sets. In the end, Gamble became the star on the ProPlan Sport 30/20 conservation bag in partnership with Ducks Unlimited.

The big dogs were the easy part. Imagine all the above with 10 week old Quinn! Quinn was a big powerful puppy that loves people. I would have him standing just right and the photographer would lay down in front of him and the game was afoot. The shoot was frustrating, funny and rewarding all rolled into one morning. A 10 week old has a very short attention span, as we all know, so it took a few rounds to get the right shots. We stayed on task, got the perfect shot, and now Quinn is on the large breed puppy bag. Another star is born.

We cannot thank our partners and friends at Purina ProPlan for inviting our dogs to model for them. We are truly excited to have 2 Wildrose dogs on their bags of food. ProPlan is the food of choice for Wildrose! 

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Special thank you’s to: Mindy Ladner, owner of Pirogue and Katie Behnke Photography for capturing Pirogue in action!

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Wild Recipes – Blackened Tacos

By Tom Smith, Wildrose Mississippi

1 quart fresh crappie
Blackened seasoning 
Canola oil


Bam bam sauce
Keto Mayo- 1/3 cup
Ketchup- 2 tablespoons
Coconut aminos- 1 tablespoon
Garlic powder- 1 teaspoon
Hot sauce- 1 teaspoon 

Blacken the crappie in an iron skillet on medium high. I like to season both sides when I cook the fish. 

I put the fish on the bottom of the taco followed by slaw, bam bam sauce, jalapeños (if preferred), avocado and sour cream. 

Texas Ranch Water 
Fill glass with ice
2oz tequila blanco
Squeeze of lime
Splash of simple syrup
Topo Chico twist of lime soda
Stir and enjoy. 
Salted rim if desired


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Wildrose Wyatt

When selecting dogs for broodstock we first look to check off all the health requirements, then we move to the criteria that are less binary and more difficult to quantify. In our breeding program we want dogs that are going to make training easier, or maybe give pups more talent in field at finding game. Every once in a while we come across a dog that elevates our program in both of those areas. Wyatt is one of 6 littermates that I have had the pleasure to train, each of which have been at the top of my charts for temperament and ease. What is unique about these pups is that they started out calm and studious and then with training came growing confidence, boldness and yes some energy, but that channeled energy has produced not only capable but phenomenal game finders in  the field. Wyatt’s sister, Katy, spends her time at Stuart Ranch Outfitters, working the ranch all spring and summer in preparation for busy fall and winter days bringing ducks and geese back to eager hunters. Throw in impeccable health scores and we have the makings of a great dog.

Now how do we know that the dog will produce the pups we are looking for? The tale of the tape is always in the bottom line of a pedigree. Take for instance INT FTCH Beiley’s Aguzannis of Fendawood, his mom, mom’s mom, and mom’s mom’s mom are all FTCH or FTW’s. This strong bottom line is likely why he is a favorite sire across the spectrum of lab breeders out there. He’s not a splash in the pan of a great trainer and a lucky dog coming together. Many dogs have won the British championship, not all have gone on to consistently throw great pups. I think of dogs like Deke the DU Dog, whose mom was a FTW, his sire Kane out of a FTCH, or  INT FTCH Shimnavale Excaliber, titled mom. 

What about legacy dogs, well, the mom line is still the most important line. No titles or tests over here to prove a dog to the standard available in the UK and Ireland. Here we are basing breeding decisions in eyes of the true judge of all dogs, the “breeder.” A dog we have bred ultimately must pass as an exceptional dog to us and our clients. This is why so many people over the years have come back to Wildrose for pups, because they like the dogs we like. A title is only a judge’s opinion at the end of the day and sometimes they are wrong, maybe the dog had a good day that day. As a trainer we spend every day with a dog, if a dog can pass as a worthy dog to breed after being judged everyday then it must be alright. 

So what about Wyatt?? Wyatt’s sire is the great INT FTCH Shimnavale Excalibur who I already mentioned, but the most exciting thing about Wyatt is his mom’s line. Tia is a cross between Deke and Sprint, both bred by Mike Stewart, both exceptional dogs. Sprint’s mom might be the most special of them all. Her mom, Beretta had the distinction in her life of being Mrs. Cathy’s personal dog, and Beretta’s mom, a FTCH. It just doesn’t get any better.

We have been extremely pleased with Wyatt and his pups so far and are very excited for the what the future holds with him.


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Wildrose Gala Announcement

This year, 2022, Wildrose celebrates 50 years of continuous service to the Sporting Labrador Enthusiasts. Join the Wildrose Pack for a celebratory evening marking this milestone on the training grounds of Wildrose Mississippi. Enjoy an evening of music, socialization, celebration, and Wildrose Labs along with an assortment of Southern dishes to please any pallet. Many of our partners will be on hand with special displays to enjoy along with an auction specially donated items with proceeds supporting our nonprofit Wildrose Service Companions. Of course, Wildrose dogs are welcome and expected.

Click to purchase event ticket

Contact Wildrose at 662-234-5788,

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Mira, The Pinnacle’s Facility Dog

A Partnership between Wildrose Kennels and The Pinnacle

By Dr. Ben McClelland

“Typically, a therapy dog has one handler and caregiver. What happens when a dog has multiple handlers and caregivers? And it serves as a therapeutic assistant for many people? That’s the life and career of a facility canine. Such a situation requires a great dog and an equally great facility staff. Mira and The Pinnacle are the definitive example of this cooperative arrangement.” –Scott Wilson  

Wildrose Neon Mira, “Mira”

For well over a decade Wildrose Kennels has been involved in raising and training service dogs, in addition to gundog and adventure dog companions. In 2008 “Wildrose established the Masters of Scent program and our progeny gained a significant reputation with the Service Dog Community – diabetic alert companions, accelerant detection, search and rescue canines and therapy dog companions.”  The following year Wildrose held the first National Conference for Diabetic Alert Dogs and also “founded the Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation housed with Create Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit to support the placement of Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs. The foundation continues today as Wildrose Service Companions” (Wildrose Historic Timeline) and we thank all our gracious donors who make placing dogs like Mira possible through this fund. Over the years Wildrose has placed numerous dogs for scent alert service work and as therapy companions. In 2014 I edited Lifesaving Labradors: Stories from Families with Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs, a book published by Koehler Books, featuring a dozen medical alert teams.

Drs. Scott and Roxy Wilson relocated to Oxford from Illinois and became game-changers for Wildrose’s service dog program. In 2015 they adopted Widgeon, who took to his retirement career as a therapy dog and, with Scott’s guidance, earned his American Kennel Club Therapy Dog designation in less than a year. For two years Scott and Widgeon volunteered as a therapy team, visiting area schools, hospitals, and retirement homes. Scott soon became a licensed Pet Partners therapy team evaluator and in 2017 he became a certified educator for canine service teams in North Mississippi and West Tennessee.

Wildrose Widgeon

Scott and Widgeon—along with other Wildrose service dog teams, including Eider and I—made regular weekly visits to various care facilities, including Pinnacle, a full-service assisted living community with a memory care center. As Scott notes, residents in community care facilities respond well when a therapy dog visits because it’s a change of pace, a break from the daily routine. Moreover, most everyone is generally aware that there are positive health benefits from a friendly dog visit, but Scott reports the specific health benefits, as documented in scientific studies: a 63% reduction in blood pressure; 3% slower breathing rate; 22% drop in pain severity; 19% boost in energy; 48% decrease in depression; 64% drop in feelings of anger; and 39% decrease in pain (Nagengast, Coakley, and Mahonel).

Besides the fact that Mira is an exceptional canine, her success as a resident facility therapy dog can be attributed to the staff’s whole-hearted commitment to her membership in their community life. Quite literally, Mira lives in the Pinnacle offices. Her kennel and primary bed, plus food and assorted care items, are located in the office of Mary Margaret Wamble, the Activities Director. Mira’s schedule for airing, feeding, exercise, training, and visiting is posted there.  But she also has a bed in the office of Nicole Smith, the Executive Director, one in the office of Ryan Fulcher, Director of Nursing, and one in the physical therapy area. Displayed in the hallway, a colorful poster with Mira’s picture welcomes her as a new resident.   

Not only did each staff member take ownership of the idea, but also all of them (who also have personal pets at home) bonded with Mira and integrated her into their daily routines. So, as soon as Ryan arrives each morning, he takes Mira out for her morning exercise. When LPN Maddie McFarland, begins her morning rounds to wake residents and give them their medications, Mira accompanies her in each room. The residents respond enthusiastically to Mira. In fact, she motivates many of them to wake up and begin their days, especially some who were slow to arise in the past.

Likewise, when Mary Margaret Wamble, the Activities Director, begins her daily routine, Mira not only accompanies her, but also actively participates in all of the events, including the arts-and-crafts session, and the once-monthly resident counsel meeting for all residents. Moreover, every weekday at 9:30 a.m. Mary Margaret takes Mira outside in an enclosed yard to interact with the memory care residents.

Mira, essentially, is an adjunct staff member. She’s not just a visitor or an accessory. She’s a principal participant in daily life at Pinnacle. 

Some residents also include Mira in their daily—and nightly—routines. Bill and Dot Denton, for example, make daily visits with Mira a special time. Bill, who had owned a wonderful Labrador, has bonded with Mira, inviting her to join him in his suite for extended stays, usually including napping with him. Another resident, Rosemary Adams, who stays active in the evenings when others are abed, walks with Mira throughout the facility. They both enjoy the quiet companion time together. 

For her part, Mira is an active partner. She is not a passive presence; rather, she seeks close physical engagement with everyone—including an occasional, gentle lick on the hand or cheek for those residents who offer themselves to it. Many residents want to pet Mira. Others want more physical contact, including letting her touch them.  

Mira’s Background

Wildrose Neon Mira, “Mira” was born on December 7, 2012, at Wildrose Mississippi of parents with distinctive heritage. Her sire was Field Trial Champion Delfleet Neon of Fendawood, “Del.” Her dam was Astraglen Farah “Molly,” a Heritage dam.  From her early days Mira received background training in the home of a Wildrose trainer. A puppy with high energy, she showed promise of becoming a great retriever. Entering into formal gundog training at seven months of age, she successfully progressed all the way through the program. After she passed her training course and all of her health exams, she qualified to become a mama dog for Wildrose. Following a wonderful career delivering many fine litters, Mira was retired from the breeding program—at seven years old—and placed with a family that always found her so sweet and loving. However, two years after her placement, circumstances changed with the family and she rejoined the staff back at Wildrose, staying with a trainer and awaiting the best placement for the next chapter of her life. When the staffs of Pinnacle and Wildrose began pursuing the idea of a facility dog for The Pinnacle, they found that nine-year-old Mira was the perfect fit.

Challenges Ahead

 Because of the Pinnacle residents’ positive experiences with therapy team visits by Wildrose dogs, such as Widgeon, Roxy, and Eider, the staff discussed the idea of getting a dog full-time, one that would be theirs, one that would be available as the residents’ companion every day. So, the staff made a unanimous decision, discussed the idea with Scott, and the planning began, eventually leading to trial visits with Mira in January, 2022, and to her placement at Pinnacle as her home. From the first day this venture looked very promising and in just a few months it has become a resounding success.

Even with Mira’s impressive debut as a facility dog, challenges await her and the staff as their venture moves forward. One has already become evident: the residents, being kindhearted, naturally want to offer Mira treats. And she loves receiving them. Scott acknowledges this issue, telling an anecdote about another facility dog: “My first encounter with a facility dog in an assisted living environment was at the Mississippi State Veterans Home. One of the staff had a marvelous golden retriever, Clifford, who was as friendly as he could be and more than willing to approach and comfort any of the residents and staff. I met Clifford the first time I visited the MS VA home with my first therapy dog teammate, Wildrose Widgeon. Clifford had one serious health issue—his weight. Unfortunately, everyone including the staff was willing and anxious to feed treats to Clifford. Consequently, he weighed twice his optimal weight, but I’m quite certain he never complained.  Therein lies one of the major challenges for a facility dog. Not only does the canine have to manage his own bathroom habits, the dog must remain calm, friendly, fearless, stable, and responsive—and occasionally politely refuse food when offered. Moreover, the staff and residents must assist in this task.” 

The Pinnacle staff has begun to do its part by posting a notice about Mira’s nutrition and urging that nobody give her treats. Following through on this policy on a regular basis is the challenge that everyone faces.

I know that all Wildrose pack members join me in wishing Mira a fulfilling life as she helpfully touches the lives of all of those in her home—Pinnacle of Oxford.  


Nagengast SL: The Effects of the presence of a companion animal on psychological arousal and behavioral distress in children during aphysical examination. Journal of Pediatric Nursing 19976. Coakley A, Mahonel E; Creating a therapeutic and healing environment with a pet therapy program. Therapeutic Clinical Practice. 2009,15930,141-145.

Wildrose Website, Historic Timeline.

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Wildrose Midwest March Training Blog

Wildrose Midwest has officially launched our new website, On our site you will find lots of information on our dogs, training programs, breeding calendars, upcoming events, both locally and nationally, and lots of great advice from our rich history of training blogs. We hope you will enjoy the site for years to come.

Wildrose Handler’s Sessions

Over 125 handlers and their dogs from across 26 states traveled to Wildrose Kennels in Oxford Mississippi for our four-day handler’s workshop. The workshop was divided into two days for Basic Handlers and two days for Advanced Handlers. Participants in the Basic Handlers focused on core steadiness and retrieving skills using a safari style learning program that moved across 24 different skill stations over the course of their two days. As we moved into advanced handler’s the drills were significantly more challenging providing handlers and their dogs the opportunity to work on complex land and waster retrieving scenarios. Handlers were taught and supported by 20 Wildrose trainers who came in from across the country.

Check out all the fun and learning our handlers had on our Facebook page.Wildrose Midwest will be running local (S.E. Wisconsin) handler’s workshops beginning this spring, but in a slightly different format featuring an 8-series workshop with very small classes dedicated to individualized instruction. Classes will be limited to a 3:1 handler to trainer ratio. If you are wanting to train your own dog, but would like to use the proven-Wildrose Way, this would be a perfect opportunity for you. Class participants are provided special access on our web site for 1:1 communication with our trainers and the ability to post videos and receive individualized feedback. Visit our website to learn more about Wildrose Midwest Handlers Workshop.


Our second round of “spring puppies” has arrived. River and Whiskey (pictured L-R with Trainer Chris Korff) are setting into their new training surroundings.

Our final grouping of puppies has just been born and will be coming in for training the week after Easter.If you are interested in learning more about our puppies and started dogs, please contact us.

Chronicling Our First Year of Training

We are now are seeing our puppies doing a very nice job with the following basics:

  • Housebreaking – The time that we spent waking up in the middle of the night and taking the puppies out frequently during the day has paid dividends. The puppies’ bladders are now strong enough that they can go 3-4 hours between bathroom breaks during the day and 7 hours overnight.
  • Name recognition – Having a dog understand their name and their name be a precursor to commands is a key part of their development.
  • Steadiness while waiting for food and threshold training – These behaviors are well entrenched and have become a habit rather than something we need to continually remind them of. Note: Depending on the size of the puppies, we will switch over to feeding 2x a day ~ 2 cups per feeding.
  • Sit -Puppies are obediently sitting upon command and also every time that we stop on a walk. See how we teach and reinforce the sit command. 
  • Recall (come) is coming along nicely leveraging their desire to be with us. We continue to have a 1/4″ nylon rope lead around the dogs in the yards, so if they don’t immediately recall upon being called, we can reel them in.
  • Beginning place training – Place training on Kuranda beds in the house should be progressing to the point where a puppy will stay on place with you in the room for at least 10 minutes. We have begun introducing distractions, such as leaving the room, for short periods of time.
  • Outdoor Cato board work – Every outdoor training session we have involves some time on the Cato boards. Even if it is just walking up to them and having the puppy sit down. Our puppies are excited to run over to the Cato boards and wait for some type of training to occur. This behavior will pay dividends later in our training. These short Cato board videos will show the progression of how our dogs learn to incorporate a wide variety of skills on/from their Cato boards. Cato to Cato. Initial Retrieving back to a Cato board.
  • Refining the heeling skills – Our expectations are beginning to increase in terms of the puppies heeling. Even for those who are doing a good job, we continually use a leash/rope to make sure that the proper position is well entrenched and there is no cheating.
  • Beginning Retrieves – We have given the puppies 2-3 retrieves per week in a very controlled environment to make sure we are reinforcing the behaviors we want.

This month’s work is focused on:

More advanced lead work – We are now working with our puppies to make sure their new-found confidence doesn’t turn into over confidence where they begin getting out ahead of us on lead because they “think they know where we are 

  • going”. We look for the puppies front shoulder to be by our foot and their head to be turned slightly inward toward us looking for where we are going. To make sure the dog is following our lead, we will introduce walking in squares and reverse heeling. The following video shows an example of both.
  • Denials – In order to build a patient and steady dog, they need to learn a lot of self control. The best way to do this is with denials. Denials can be any ball, bumper, Dokken that is thrown in front of of the dog while they learn to sit patiently and not break for the object. In the beginning, you will likely need to stand right next to your puppy with his lead in your hand as they will likely try to break for the object out of excitement. You will quickly see their learning kick in and after a short while they should start to settle in and break less frequently. We use a ratio of 10:1 Denials: Retrieves. What this means is that you will throw 10 denials (and you pick them up). If the puppy sits still and is patiently waiting, then they get the 10th retrieve. Over months, this builds incredible steadiness in the puppies.
  • Place Training – Rather than try to build up the duration that puppies stay on their Kuranda bed, we begin working more with distractions such as you walking out of the room for a minute or two, someone coming to the door and ringing the doorbell, etc.. If your dog gets off the Kuranda bed, which they inadvertently will, pick them back and up and put them back on the bed with a “place” command. The puppy is still in the learning phase, so our verbal and physical corrections are not very harsh.
  • Retrieving (beginning trailing memories) – With your puppy on lead, walk out on the short grass and place a tennis ball on the ground. Your puppy should be pretty excited by this, but don’t let him get at the ball. With your puppy at heel, walk away from the ball about 5 yards. Have your puppy sit facing the ball and then release him by name for the retrieve. he should have the desire to run out and get it. If not, you can walk closer to the ball and pick it up or kick it a few feet to rebuild some excitement. Once he picks up the ball, in an excited tone, recall him back to you. If he does not come right back, grab the nylon rope/lead and reel him back in. When he gets back to you, don’t immediately take the ball from him, but let him keep it in his mouth for a bit. When you do take it away, use the command “give” – although he will not know what this means at this point. See beginning demo video.

Loss Training – Using a tennis ball that has some scent (either natural feathers, or a scent stick) place the ball in a wooded or high grass area allowing the puppy to see you place the ball. Then release them by the object and when they get close use the command “loss”. In the beginning, you will make this very easy for the dog to see and find the ball. Gradually, you will move the ball to higher grass areas and begin to conceal it under leaves. This will be great fun for the puppy to learn how to use his nose to find things. Make sure that you still have the leash/rope around his neck so if he does not come right back upon your recall command, you can reel him in. Demonstration video of loss drill.

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