Quail Chase officially began in 2003, but our journey into Labradors began much earlier!
Growing up in New York my family had small dogs, Sheba’s and Lhasa Apso’s. It was my husband that introduced me to Labradors which ultimately led us to where we are now. He grew up in a dog crazy family with a variety of breeds: Border Collies, Borzois and German Short Hairs. As a Sophomore in college (1987), a friend invited my husband to spend the weekend at their farm in North Florida. He was unaware the family he was visiting recently had a litter of Labradors puppies that were now 8-9 weeks old, possibly the most irresistible things on the planet. Duke - "I remember my friends father letting them loose from the barn and seeing the entire litter come running around the house. Between several pine trees and down past the picnic area where we were sitting, these chunky, dirty and very loud little things were too cute for words". There was one particular puppy, a beautiful, thick, serious looking black male that kept coming to Duke for attention. All day long, it became so obvious, that night during dinner his friends father asked, " so what do you think of that little black puppy? "He's great" Duke replied. "Normally, I sell them for pretty good money, but if you want him, he's yours, no charge." Duke was shocked at his offer! Of course the puppy was great, but the life of a college student is no place for a pet. Politely he said, "thank you but no". Then the father said something we've never forgotten: "relationships between people come and go but the closest thing to unconditional love is the bond between a man and his dog. Dogs can heal parts of you don't know are ailing and the lessons you'll learn from each other can change your life". He went on to say, "a dog's instincts are a lot smarter than most men. That puppy sees something in you he either likes or needs. If he chooses you, no matter where you are or what you're doing, being with you is the best life he could have". After dinner that evening, the family let the dogs out one last time before bed. The barn door swung open and out they shot; around the trees and up the porch like a heard of clumsy kids with the wrong sized shoes. All evening Duke considered what his friends father said and decided, "if this puppy comes to me again, maybe I should consider this. Maybe this dog is supposed to be mine or deeper still, maybe I belong to this dog. Why me? Was I supposed to come to here and have this little life enter mine"? No sooner had these thoughts run through his mind when, bamm! That chunky black puppy slammed into his legs, hopped into his lap, sat back on his haunches and looked him right in the eyes as if to say, "so...where we goin"? That night, BRAFFY entered Duke's life...his first Labrador.
We married in 1996 and soon after moved from the mid-west to South Florida for work. A busy family of three, Duke was traveling on professional golf tours around the world, I worked in medical sales and our son was in elementary school. The decision to buy another Labrador was never in our thoughts, we were just too busy. But not long after we settled it was clear the house felt empty. One Saturday morning we stopped at a nearby puppy store we'd been to a hundred times before. That day the store was filled with children and families playing with and loving on all the puppies. As my family walked through the aisles, we noticed a Chocolate Labrador puppy in one of the pens. I was busy playing with another puppy so Duke ventured over to the Labrador's pen. He watched family after family visit the puppy but it seemed very uninterested. Physically he looked great, but he acted lethargic and tired like something was wrong with this little guy. Then our son came to his pen and all of the sudden the puppy began panting and frantically wagging his tail. "This is more like it" we thought. So we gave him a few minutes of attention and said good bye to let other families have time with him. As we walked away, the puppy began barking. I watched from across the room and noticed several children visit his pen but he hardly reacted to their voices or their touch and just kept on barking. This went on long enough I said to my son " go up to that lab puppy again and just stand with him. Don't pet him right away, just stand there." Sure enough, when our son approached his pen, the barking stopped and the tail started to wag. Other children and parents were drawn to his excitement, but the dog singled out my son and followed him back and forth around the pen. The excitement in both their faces was unmistakable. Duke had experienced this 13 years earlier with Braffy. Our son belonged to that dog and seeing them together we fell in love with the Labrador breed all over again. That day we welcomed HERSHEY into our family.
Hershey’s puppyhood was happy, active and very typical until one day we noticed the stairs where giving him trouble and he stopped wanting to retrieve. After visits to several specialists, at 10 months old Hershey was diagnosed with bi-lateral hip dysplasia so advanced his options were joint replacement surgeries or euthanasia. Hershey was more like our child than a dog. Euthanasia was out of the question, his surgery was performed immediately. He would limp and require pain medication every day for the remaining 13.5 years of his life. Looking back, the health issues and care Hershey required his entire life taught us the importance of thorough health clearances and proper breeding practices. We learned first hand; when breeders cut corners dogs and families are affected for a life time.
When my job relocated us to Arizona in 2002, we bought a small ranch in the mountains of North Phoenix and committed to breeding and showing "English" style Labradors. The anxiety of Hershey’s struggles became our motivation to do things the right way. Our first champions were still many years away but not long after we moved in we discovered our kennel name. Very literally from watching the dogs chase quail throughout the property, "Quail Chase Labradors" had it's name. Now,almost 2 decades later, we have 4 generations of our own lines on the property and an accomplished history in the ring and field as well as service and companion animals. Our focus is the chocolate Labrador but we do have the occasional litter of blacks related to our lines....