CHARLES AND YVONNE HAYS
We started training Labradors for field trials in the early 1960s, and won our first open all-age stake in 1969. Since then we've owned, trained and run about 30 competition dogs, titling 15 as either Field Champions or Amateur Field Champions.
The one we'll never forget is Marty -- or as he was more formally known, CNFC, CNAFC, FC, AFC The Marathon Man. He was a yellow Lab, and he died in 1993, when he was 10.
By then, Marty had been retired from competition. He still slept in the kennel some. But he also slept in our house, curled up on the floor along Charlie's side of the bed.
The night he died, Marty had gone into the bedroom early, and when we went in, we thought he was sleeping. But he had died. We buried him in the yard. He loved his retrieving dummies, and we buried a couple of them with him. That was the end of it.
Marty was very, very intelligent, and as a competition dog, he was a machine. He loved to work hard. Competitive dogs get injured from time to time, like any athlete. But Marty never missed a trial due to injury.
He's still the high point yellow Labrador of all time, with 330 all-age points. He ran seven National Amateur trials and was a finalist in four. He ran six National Opens. He also won both the Canadian National Open and the Canadian National Amateur championships.
Nowadays in field trials, you take a chance raising a dog from a puppy. You never know what you'll get. A lot of competition dogs are instead bought as 2-year-olds. But we raised Marty from a puppy. His sire was our dog, too, AFC Westwinds Pedro, and we also owned Pedro's sire, FC, AFC Candlewood's Mad Mouse.
Generally, we don't hunt our competition dogs, because too many bad things can happen to dogs while hunting. But I did take Marty to Canada one year to hunt ducks, and he liked that. He was always ready to go. If he heard the truck start, we couldn't leave him at home.
Today there's parity in field trials. No one's running around stomping the competition. Marty was different. He knew the game, and knew how to win.
He was a sweet, sweet dog. But in trials, he was a machine.
Charlie and Yvonne Hays are retriever field-trialers living near Princeton, Minn.