Welcome to a series of blog posts about some very special Labradors that we’ve shared our lives with! The first few of these articles were originally posted on facebook and received such great feedback that I decided to share them again here.
Renegade was my dad’s hunting dog who was purchased as puppy from a nice field trial breeding raised by Don Pollock. He arrived on an airplane and the attendants thought he was so cute that they opened the door for a quick hello and he took off running, escaping out of the airport door and down the runway chasing planes. It took an hour to catch him as he zipped around in all his glory. That should have been a sign!
Every day was an adventure with Renegade, highest of high drive and no off-switch to speak of, there was nothing he could not physically accomplish, no fear or worry or consideration for safety at any time. He was a little guy, around 55 lbs or so, and could climb trees and ladders, haul in giant geese and beavers that outweighed him, and once (accidentally) retrieved a live skunk! He was simultaneously the most gifted and most frustrating dog ever- he was so quick and erratic that he’d do one thing right and by the time you could reward him he’d have done nine other naughty things to cancel it out. Clicker training would have been good for that guy!
When he first was learning to pull the dog sled, he would run backwards in harness and bark at the musher. Soon enough he figured out it was faster to run forward and then there was no stopping him. Renegade and his daughter Flash, who was a quicker but slightly more reasonable version of her sire, led our limited class teams to many victories. Brilliant and all heart, they were not bred for racing like their competition but made up for it by having great acceleration off the start line, taking turns at full speed, passing without fear or hesitation, and never met poor enough trail conditions to dampen their spirits. We used to hear a lot of jokes at the races: “Are you here to race or are you going duck hunting!” But more than once, after the lab team had come up victorious, the other musher would come over to apologize and admire those damn fast labs! After Rene retired from racing, Flash continued on for a few more years, and led the team who set a track record on the most beautifully groomed trail in Denare Beach. She also helped to develop several other fabulous husky lead dogs. Renegade’s legacy lives on via his great grand-daughters Verona and Jet, who avoided the hyperactivity gene but definitely got Rene’s balls-to-the-wall enthusiasm for sledding and everything else.