Margaret E. Mitchell
Holden, Maine
(207) 843-7383

Top Quality for Show, Obedience, Field, Fireside and Fun

OUR LIFE WITH LABS

NANCY CORKUM, WOODSTOCK, VERMONT

My husband David and I have had many labrador retrievers over the past 50 years. All were black and all were males except for our first, a female. They were all pets, constant companions and treasured family members, but none had any extensive formal training.

In 2004 when David retired I surprised him with a new black puppy, Meadowmere's Lex, from Meadowmere labrador retrievers in Holden, Maine, a prominent breeding kennel known primarily for show, obedience and family companion dogs. Shortly afterward we decided it would be fun to learn to compete with Lex in licensed hunt tests. That began an adventure that continues today.

Over the next four years, with help from friends and other hunt test competitors David was able to achieve AKC Junior and Senior titles for Lex. At that point we recognized that we needed professional help to progress further. In the winter of 2009 we were at our winter home in Florida and were lucky to find Paul Lance of Lance Kennels, Junction City, Wisconsin--an outstanding professional trainer who trains in the winter in Thomasville, Georgia. Lex was put with Paul's training group in March, 2009 and then the real fun began.

Over the next year, between Wisconsin and Georgia, Paul achieved an AKC Master title for Lex, along with a string of Master stake passes and qualified him for the 201 O Master National. Lex did a marvelous job in his first try at that level and made it to the final series before going out. Subsequently, Lex passed four Master Nationals in a row--2011 , 2012, 2013 (putting him in the Master National Hall of Fame )--did not compete in 2014, and finished his career with a pass at the 2015 Master National. At that point he was retired with the distinction of passing 52 AKC Master stakes without a failure, all handled by Paul Lance.

In the meantime we decided to add another puppy in the spring of 201 O and obtained another black male from Meadowmere Kennels, Meadowmere's Mallard Gunner. I wanted to learn to handle so this was a joint project With Gunner--Paul Lance did the force fetch and then worked with me for the swim-by and teaching me to handle. It was quite a rodeo to begin with, but we got Gunner through his AKC Junior and Senior titles and finished his Master title at 2 1 /2 years of age while also qualifying him for the 2013 Master National. However, he was retired for health reasons before competing in that event.

We knew we wanted a puppy sired by Lex and bred him to our good friend Tom Zoellner's Miss T, a yellow female who is also a Master Hunter and accomplished hunt test dog, in the spring of 2014. From that litter of 10 healthy pups we selected another black male, Renlozs Miss T Meadowmere Lex (Boss). Under Paul Lance's guidance Boss marched through his AKC Junior and Senior titles and achieved 14 straight AKC Master stake passes without a failure. He is qualified for the 2017 Master National so the adventure continues.

Despite starting in competitive dog games late in life, and with dogs not specifically bred for field competition, we wouldn't trade our experiences and the special friends we have made in the sport for anything. All these competition dogs are special animals and with patience, persistence and excellent professional help they can achieve great things.

Published in the December 2017 issue of THE LABRADOR QUARTERLY

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