Field Dog Hall of Kings Spotlight | “Chief”
“Chief” a Black Labrador Hunting Dog
The root of this story starts with my love for black labs which began when I was a young boy. I had always wanted one, but never got the chance to own one as a child—a desire that stayed with me as I grew up.
To this day, I can still recall looking at ads for lab puppies at my parent’s kitchen table. Though I loved the Border Collie that roamed my family’s farm, I had a soft spot for Black Labs. My mother would simply look at me and smile as I poured over pages upon pages of ads showing off new litters of lab puppies available for sale.
I distinctly remember when the opportunity presented itself to me in my early twenties. I found myself again looking at ads for Lab puppies and stumbled upon one that really stood out to me—this was the one. I knew that I would find a life-long companion in this simple ad in the paper. After dialing the number and getting the okay to make the trip, I called one of my good friends for the ride up to pick out the pup soon-to-be the newest addition to my family.
The next morning, we jumped in my truck and headed off—glad that I had asked someone to ride along with me to help quell my nerves of excitement. I’ll never forget the feeling of pulling into the driveway, the walk back to the kennels, or the first time I laid eyes on him. Four lab puppies came bounding out of the kennel, one after another. Three yellow, one black. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A lot of people don’t believe in love at first sight, but I sure do. From the moment I saw him running toward me, I knew that this black lab pup was bound to be my best friend for life.
I had made room in truck to take him home—laying down the back seats to give him space to lie down. Five minutes into the ride home, he had found his way to my lap. I was overwhelmed with love and hope for what this little guy would bring into my life.
Before even heading to pick him out, I already had a few names in mind—Drake, Chief, Titan, and a few others. You see, my favorite singer is Eric Church and he had just released his newest album entitled “Chief” and hence “Chief of the Church” was born.
I spent every waking moment from that day forward training Chief. I even went so far as to spend my hour-long lunch breaks at home to get in those few extra hours in the field. Chief quickly caught on to basic commands and was seemingly drawn to guns from a young age. He never showed any fear when the gun went off and quickly learned exactly what to expect and how to act afield. Like most gun dogs, not long after his first encounter with a shotgun, his ears perk up at the click of the safety and he patiently waits for feathers to start flying.
I have to say though, my knowledge of training, in the beginning, was quite limited. I began reaching out to local trainers in my area who were kind enough to provide me with techniques to use in training and to give me feedback on what to do better. We were both learning together which made the whole experience even more rewarding.
One of my fondest memories among the million that we have made together over the years is from a duck hunt during Chief’s first year on the water. We had a pair of Pintails dive-bomb us. The guns went off and Chief stood at the ready for the birds to start falling. Chief took and off retrieved the drake first. We thought the hen was a lost cause as it dove under some logs. The thing about Chief though is he has a fighting spirit and a determination to not to quit until the job is done. He dove right under those logs and retrieved the hen that we assumed we’d never see again.
Over the years, Chief never ran out of ways to surprise and impress me. I can recall hunting on a little warm spring with my brother-in-law when we had a group of buffleheads come right to us. We had thought we had only knocked three of them out of the sky as Chief set off to recover them. Just after he has brought the third duck in and dropped him, he turned and headed back out. We were both baffled as we watched him splash back out there, as we assumed that he had gotten all of them. Lo and behold, Chief comes back with a fourth duck, one that we hadn’t even seen! Day in and day out, Chief continues to impress me and is always honing in on his skills.
Looking back, you could say that Mudlake Retrievers all started with Chief. Just as owning my own black lab had always been a dream of mine, helping others get their start with retrievers also held a special place in my heart. From that passion, Mudlake Retrievers was born.
With the addition of Charli, our female chocolate lab whom we added to the family in celebration of my wife graduating from nursing school, we are now breeding our own labs and putting pups in loving homes who will grow to be great retrievers just like Chief.