When I drove to Kentucky to get my new puppy, all I could think about was how I could not make the trip two weeks earlier and had told the breeder I would forgo my picking order and take the last remaining male. I had not met the Sire or Dam and had decided to buy this pup from Kim Moses by recommendation of a good friend. I had talked myself into the idea that if, after seeing the parents and watching the sire work, I saw something I didn't like, I would pass on this pup and leave my deposit for a future litter.
When I pulled in, Kim was just coming out of the house with the pup that was left and was to be mine. After some brief small talk, I was just about to tell her how before committing to this pup, I wanted to meet the parents. That's when she told me how nobody wanted this male because he had a funny looking coat and was a bit smaller than the rest. If you know me, you know I have a real soft spot for "the one nobody wanted." It goes back to picking teams on the schoolyard as a child, to coaching youth sports as an adult - I just can't help myself. Once I heard the words, "Nobody wanted him," the decision was made - he was mine.
So, off I went with my ugly little puppy that I named Ely. I had never trained a retriever and wanted to do as good a job as I could so my new duck hunting buddies would not roast me every time the dog and I did something stupid. I dove into all the training material I could get my hands on and we worked twice a day, every day. I was having so much fun and the little guy was doing really good.
When Ely was five months old, I was looking for some help with the whole dog training thing and went to the GLHRC Upland Hunt in Fennville, MI. My goal was to meet some people and see what HRC was all about. What happened was I saw what was going on and said, "My dog can do that." I then proceeded to pester Sue Luter until she found a spot for Ely to run. It took some doing, but once she realized I wasn't going away, she worked us in. Our first ever hunt test, he was five months old and I had no clue. Ely got his first hunt test pass that day and I gained a serious addiction!
One goal was met, however, as I did get an invite to go train with Steve Eidson and Bret Vandenbil. These guys were awesome and taught me so much. From there, Ely flew through the HRC program, earning his HRCH title at 21 months of age. He only failed one test. It was a Finished test that he was really doing a nice job on when he decided to bring the diversion bird back along with the blind. He's very good at carrying two birds at once.
Wanting to see just how good a dog I had, we decided to go run the Grand. Talk about intimidating! I had run just five Finished tests and one Upland and there we were, along side guys like Ronnie Lee, Chris Akin, Charlie Jurney, Scott Greer, Bill Autry, along with other great dog trainers I had studied! Ely was awesome and I was scared to death. At 24 months old, Ely passed the Grand. There was only one dog younger than him to pass that test. Ely put on another great performance at the Fall Grand in Tennessee to earn his GRHRCH.
Ely has passed 22 out of 23 Finished tests and 4 of 4 for his UH title. Ely has also passed 12 straight Master tests and both of the Master Nationals we ran. When we decided to try the white coat game, I entered Ely in the Qualifying stake. It was a first for both of us. We left that weekend with a blue ribbon. No matter how many times I changed the game on him, he just got it done. As good as Ely is at the Hunt Test game, he is really in his element when we go hunting. I have had the privilege of going to Canada to hunt waterfowl for the last few years and that has given my boy over a thousand retrieves in a hunting situation. It's just amazing to me how much better they get when they get the chance to work like that. My buddies can recount a hunt with great detail, painting a word picture that will have you feeling like you are there with them. They look at me and ask, "Remember that?" Most times, I don't, but I can remember certain retrieves like they happened ten seconds ago even though they happened years ago.
Ely is the dog of a lifetime, at least as far as I am concerned. He is always willing to do what I ask of him. He goes about his work with extreme passion. It has been such a privilege to stand by his side for the last five years. I owe him so much, yet he only asks for my love and a chance to go to work each day. When we think of what a dog means to us, we often think of the present. I'm sure I don't totally realize, yet, just how much of an impact Ely has had on my life. I do realize that my life is already much better because of him. I have made so many good friends the last five years. I have learned so much. My family now enjoys the dog training as much as I do. My wife and I spend our free time messing around with dogs. There are people all around the country that have Ely pups that send emails and pictures and tell us how they are experiencing the same life change. All because I came home with an ugly little puppy nobody wanted.
There is no way I can give Ely the thanks he deserves. I do thank you guys for giving me the chance to write this and for honoring my dog in the GLHRC Hall of Fame.
Tim and Patti Doane