"THE CIRCLE OF LIFE"

On the first day of spring in 2006, a day when nature starts is yearly renewal, the Lord was shedding much needed rain or tears of joy on our land as He called one of His great creations home. At the same time, our family was pouring tears of sorrow for the journey our beloved Scoop was taking. We were so selfish to want to keep him with us after the cascade of strokes he battled for the previous two weeks left him debilitated. Dr. Bob Strong came to our home and sent our boy to that special place the Lord has for great dogs where the hearth by the fireplace is warm, the sky stays filled with birds, fun bumpers are never ending and the food bowls are always full of Eukanuba. At least that is the way heaven would be for Scoop and if any dog ever deserved to be in heaven for good deeds done, it would be him.

I started looking for a new puppy in the mid 1990’s and could not find the type of dog I needed for seminars, hunt tests, demonstrations, hunting and taking care of our two girls. That was a pretty tall order. The market did not offer what I wanted so I decided to breed my own. I purchased a very nice female, GMHR WR Lisa’s Alligator Alley, and planned on breeding her to my male, GMHR WR CJ’s Bocephus MH (Hank). Before Alley came into heat, Hank died from complications following surgery for gastric torsion. So, I bred Alley to Hank’s brother, GMHR WR Bay Creek Dan MH, who belonged to a good friend of mine. Nine weeks later, we had little yellow fur balls wiggling around in our whelping room. One little male was darker than the rest and I knew from the first day that he was my dog. He also knew it because each time I went to handle the pups, that little dog would wiggle over to me. That was that and my picking was done. I played a lot of softball at that time and each time I made a play in the hole at shortstop, the guys on the team would holler “Scoop!” as I threw the runner out at first base. So, CJ’s Shortstop was to be his formal name but friends would call him Scoop. Every day I would spend more time with Scoop than the rest of the litter combined. He had chosen me to be his person and I was grateful for his selection.

Scoop grew up at our lake home and was always in the water. He would jump off our dock from the get go and started to develop a big water entry very early. My swim by pond is 120 wide and 40 feet across. On many occasions I saw Scoop come within a few feet of flying the 40 foot span chasing fun bumpers. The Big Air competitions would have been a chip shot for Scoop in his youth. At the same time, he was getting terrorized each day by a female Boykin Spaniel, Annie, who belonged to Jessica, our youngest daughter and Scoop’s “sister”. Annie would roll Scoop over and dominate him even after he grew to full size. She taught him a great deal about respecting your elders.

Lake life was great for Scoop. We fished or hunted almost daily and spent so much time together as he was being socialized. The formal training was going great and life at the house was a pleasure. Scoop developed an early affinity for cats. He was not choosy; any cat would do as long as it would run. If there was an Olympics for cat chasing, our kennel would have a room full of gold medals. He never really wanted to catch them; he just liked to watch them run. I believe the cats enjoyed it as much as him as they would let him get just close enough to keep the game going.

During his early days, I was approached to do the Richard Wolters videos. We needed a star for the Water Dog video and Scoop was glad to fill the role. He was great on camera as a young puppy and did most of the shots on the first take. If you have ever worked on projects like this, you know how hard it is to get the money shot without doing multiple takes. To this day, the Water Dog video is one of the most used training methods, touching hundreds of thousands of people. He and I are both proud to show how we did it together. I cannot tell you how many folks have come up to me and asked about Scoop. They saw him on the video and wanted their dog to be like Scoop. Who wouldn’t? He inspired a lot of people to get out and train through that video.

I started Scoop’s event career in NAHRA where he did well. WR, MHR, GMHR and the elite GMHRCH (1000 pt club) all came early along with multiple passes at the RAW NAHRA Invitationals. So, we retired him early, still training every day with the kennel dogs but not running events for a few years.

Hunting was Scoop’s most favorite thing. It would begin each fall with dove season in North Carolina where opening day is akin to a religious holiday. He would run monster blinds and pick up uncountable doves during that month long season. Next came our early duck season, usually the first weekend in October. We could shoot many species but the bird that was most prevalent at that time was the Wood Duck. Scoop was a pretty well trained dog until mister wood duck was around. For whatever reason, he liked wood ducks about as much as cats and would break regularly when we hunted them. A mallard or teal would land in the decoys and Scoop wouldn’t budge but God forbid he see a woodie or the chase was on. I was in Kansas duck hunting with my close friend, Les Miller, and we were talking about all the different species Les had shot. He said he wished he could shoot a wood duck but none had been seen for two years. Within minutes one landed a few feet in front of Scoop who was sitting outside the blind. True to his past, the chase was on and Les still has not shot a wood duck in Kansas. Quite fitting by my view.

Archery deer season is quite long in North Carolina and fills the gaps between our duck seasons. Scoop’s good nose came in handy many times as he would trail the specific deer that had been shot crossing many trails of other whitetails that were jumped as we tracked down the kill. Blood trails are easily lost in the heavy thickets around our kennel but Scoop would show you each drop of blood and come get me when he got ahead and found the deer before I did.

I am not exactly sure what a Canada goose had done to Scoop but it was obvious he did not like them. He would crush those birds when we shot them in our early September season by running through them and flailing them around on his return. The meat was not harmed but his displeasure with that species was evident. He hated rude behavior in a goose and would not tolerate it.

If you asked Scoop what his favorite type of hunting was, there would be no hesitation. He loved pheasants as much as he hated geese. Each November, we would go to either Nebraska or Kansas to hunt ducks and pheasants. I never saw him happier than in a CRP patch where the birds had holed up hoping we would slip by them. That was a bad decision on their part as his nose had a special affinity for roosters. If the bird did not flush, Scoop would go into as staunch a point as any English Pointer you have ever seen. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I watched him lock up on birds that were hiding in the thick cover. On his last hunt in Kansas, he pinned down an old rooster. When the flush occurred, I was stunned at the size of the bird but scratched him down in some very thick chest high grass. The cover was so tall that none of us were sure where it fell. Scoop rooted around and came out with the biggest rooster I have ever seen. Out of thousands of pheasants I have shot this is the only one I have ever mounted. I will cherish that bird forever.

Our lake home was perfect for duck hunting. Scoop and I had a blind on an island one mile in front of the house. Cathy could watch us hunt from our living room and would have breakfast or supper ready for her hunters when we came in. Over the years, we did not shoot a large number of birds like we did on our trips to Arkansas but we did kill every species native to the Atlantic flyway. Many of his retrieves are memorable but none will be with me more than the last day of the season 2000. I was alone and had a nice flock of mallards pitch. In the fluke of all flukes, I knocked three birds down. The last one was only “mostly dead” and started swimming away. I released Scoop for it and the race was on. The bird started to dive and after about the third pass, so did Scoop. He had done this before so his diving was no surprise. But, when he stayed down for over a minute, I was in a panic. Thankfully, when he came up from his freedive, the drake mallard had been subdued. The second most impressive thing about this was that when he came back with his prize, he sat, delivered and locked on each of the other birds that had fallen on the far bank. When duck season ended in January, training continued until Christmas came for us again in September on opening day of dove season.

Now I may be painting a bigger than life picture of Scoop, but I swear the above is true. He also had his times when he was quite the comedian. Cathy and I were promoting videos at the Anoka Game Fair inMinnesota and of course had Scoop along to be the star. We had a dinner engagement with legendary pointing dog trainer, Delmar Smith. We left Scoop in the motel room and went for our meal. On our return, as I opened the door to the motel room, Scoop had that look on his face that he had been busted. Cathy and I went into the room and burst out laughing. Our well trained model student had destroyed the room. After further review, no damage was done but the room was a mess. Scoop had grabbed the toilet paper in the bathroom and run around the room rolling it out all over the furniture. Next we found the bed sheets pulled back with a pillow in the middle of the bed and quite a few yellow hairs in the bed. The telephone was off the hook, the TV remote on the bed and the TV was on. At least he changed the channel off the X-rated movie I am sure he was watching before we got in. Cathy and I figured he had called up all his girl friends and invited them over since Mom and Dad had left him alone at the house. No, we did not find any beer,he hid it somewhere I am sure.

Scoop also liked the taste of the bunny. On the slow days out West, we’d shoot a jack rabbit or two for him and he would make the prettiest delivery on those bunnies, head on one side and cotton tail on the other with the softest grip smack dab in the middle. Well, most of the time he was soft. Our daughters had a pet rabbit and one day it got out of its cage into the field adjacent to our home. The broom straw was thick and neither Cathy nor I could find Bugs. I told Cathy not to worry because Scoop would find him for us. Out he came and sure enough, he went on point. Cathy saw what was going on and spoke before thinking saying, “Scoop, No”. Of course, his name means go and he did snatching up the rabbit. Unfortunately, his mouth was not that soft this day. I am sure Mister Rabbit was waiting on Scoop in heaven yesterday to get even. Scoop is probably chasing him as I write this. I hope you catch him again old man.

There is an event in South Carolina each February called the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. Scoop and I did retriever training demonstrations many years in front of large crowds. He was quite the showman and thought everyone had come to Charleston just to see him. As we found out, he was right about a lot of folks. Scoop developed a large following at Expo and worked the crowd like any good showman. He would take his bumpers in the crowd and beg people to throw fun bumpers for him. Of course they would and the hook was set on those unsuspecting marks. Before it was over, they would be back at our booth buying books, videos, training collars, whistles or anything else we had for sale. In the booth he would let anybody scratch his ears and tell old war stories about their hunting season. Scoop also welcomed puppies to his booth. He would lie quietly while the young whippersnappers would climb over him biting his ears or tail without any protest. It was very cool to watch him work and I just followed his lead as he took me through the demos.Charleston was his favorite venue but he also pulled these same stunts across North America at countless sights.

Scoop came out of event retirement as I became involved in the UKC Hunting Retriever Club. After a little change in our training methods, he titled quickly as an HRCH. After several attempts, he also earned the coveted Grand Hunting Retriever Champion title at the fall 2003 Grand Hunt in Anderson, SC. A great American and friend of mine, Ed Thibodeaux, has made the statement that here are some dogs that are just too good to be Grand Hunting Retriever Champions. They have so much enthusiasm that we have to remove in order to pass the tight control portions of line manners at the Grand Hunts. I agree with Ed and that was the case with Scoop. So as usual, he took care of this himself. One rainy day in training he did his signature superman leap across a ditch and broke one of his toes. He had to be in a cast for a while and it was painful, mostly for me. Scoop loved the water so much that he would just jump in cast and all, and we would be on our way back to the vet to get another cast put on. On the bright side, it did slow him down enough to get that final Grand pass. We all joked that I would have broken his toe a long time ago if I had known that was all it took. As of this writing, Scoop is the only retriever to hold both the HRC GRHRCH and NAHRA GMHRCH titles, something of which we both were, and are, extremely proud. As much as I enjoyed watching him run at events, this was probably his biggest weakness. Don’t get me wrong, he did well at events but his strengths were hunting, teaching, demonstrations and loving his family. He was much better at those things than he was at hunt tests. A more affectionate dog and friend I have never seen.

I used Scoop as a teacher at the kennel for many years. If your dog was starting to do upper level work, Scoop would be your lesson dog and teach you how to handle. He was very communicative and taught me the language Canuus. As a translator and teacher, he would step on your foot or pee while at heel to teach you about alpha-beta and its importance. He especially enjoyed taking the lady handlers to the line and holding their hands through the training process. Many have learned valuable lessons from the old man but none enjoyed the session more than him. He took four different handlers to their first HRC Grand Hunts and helped them learn the ropes.

In his last year, Samantha Williams and her Dad, Scott, ran him while he lived in their home. He slept in the bed with Samantha and spent the non training portion of his day with Crissy, helping her with her paperwork and Sloan, keeping a handle on his harem (their dogs Sharkey and Kansas). It was a great retirement home for Scoop and he loved the Williams family with all his heart. Speaking of his heart, we all got a great revelation in the fall of 2005. Scott was running him at an HRC test when he went down during the test. We all suspected he had overheated as it was a warm day. He was taken to the vet the next day for a check up and on examination, an extraordinary thing was found. Scoop’s heart was perfectly normal but twice the size of a normal dog. None of us were surprised as he had shown how big his heart was over the years. I had always said he was the Secretariat of the dog world and this was the proof.

Last summer our oldest daughter, Alicia, married James Whitlock III. She requested that her brother, as she saw it, Scoop be the ring bearer. So, back in the spotlight, he put on his bow tie and carried a bumper with rings attached to the altar to everyone’s delight. He proudly sat by Cathy and I in approval as his sissy got married.

While Scoop never took a bride, he did have quite a few girl friends. He told me his best girl was Dr. Bob Strong’s dog, GRHRCH UH BS’s Sassy Southern Spirit. So, I kept Rebel, one of their children to follow in Mom and Dad’s footsteps. Scoop’s children have been very impressive in the performance field with HRCH, GRHRCH, MHR, GMHR and countless other titles out of many different litters. I believe if we bred him to aa Jersey cow, it would retrieve. So, as he has left us, his legacy will live on forever in his great young stars. As well as they have done in the events, all of them are outstanding citizens and a credit to the Labrador Retriever breed.

I know I have painted a grand picture of Scoop. So be it, this is what he was. I do not know of another retriever that influenced so many people in so many different ways. From the videos, to the demonstrations, to the retriever events, to daily training, the list goes on and on. He is why I have a training business, having been my business card for the past eleven years. He is how I met the majority of my friends, introducing us at demos or hunt tests by walking up and asking them to throw him a fun bumper or scratch his ears. He was sly like that. Scoop is one the greatest blessings God placed in my life. He owned me and led me down a life’s path that in the words of Capt Augustus McCrae “has been one helluva a ride”. It has been the greatest honor and a privilege to stand at Scoop’s side while he did his work. I thank the Lord for this privilege and letting so many others share that spot over the years. A great one has left us.