Did you know that the American Kennel Club (AKC) offers various titles for champion hunting dogs? Furthermore, did you know that one of the recent recipients for the coveted title of “Master Hunter” was a six-year-old, three-legged Labrador named Feather? According to the judges, she may run a little different from other dogs, but she has a whole lot of heart.
“All of her titles have come after she lost her leg. She’s all heart, no quit,” her owner, June Ashford of De Pere, Wisconsin, told WBAY.
Even for a perfectly fit hunting dog, the AKC licensed retriever tests were no picnic. The organization currently offers three ranks for retrievers: Junior Hunters, Senior Hunters, and Master Hunters. The tests were first conceived in as a joint venture between the AKC and the North American Hunting Retriever Association, and by 1985, the AKC held its first set of trials. Junior hunting tests consisted of single marked retrieves on land and water. Senior hunting tests are a bit more complicated, and require dogs to make double marked retrieves as well as blind retrieves. The Master tier is the most sophisticated and was designed to challenge even “the truly finished and experienced hunting companion.” Master tests consist of multiple mark retrieves on land and water with at least one double blind.
Ashford says that feather completed her Junior Hunter title before she was even one year old. To further hone her skills, the dog was sent to a trainer in 2011, but disaster shortly followed. During a routine water retrieval, Feather encountered a cottonmouth and was bitten several times in the groin. The vets administrated anti-venom and gave Ashford a choice: amputate one of Feather’s legs or lose her entirely.
The loss of the leg did not seem to slow her down any. Although it took some adjusting to for both Feather and her owner, the hunting dog went on to earn her Senior and Master hunter titles. These days, she’s most at home in the field and picking up birds.
You can watch Feather at work—and play—below: