Nacogdoches top dog retrieves national honors

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Black Horse Toast of the Town is a black Labrador retriever from Nacogdoches County that exhibits all the qualities of his breed. The intelligent looking lab goes by the call name of Cheers.

"Cheers," his owner Bill Teague calmly said. Instantly, Cheers jumps into a pond to retrieve a retrieving dummy placed on the other side. She follows every command given by Teague. Her reward is,"That a girl, good," said over and over again by Teague.

Teague was the 2009 president of the National Retriever Club.  The all volunteer organization show cases the talents of hunting retrievers of a variety of breeds. Membership consists of over 160 member retriever clubs from all over the United States.

Teague has had a lot to cheer about lately. Cheers went up against almost 400 of the nation's best retrievers of varying breeds in the club's annual competition.

The almost seven year old lab passed all four series. The strenuous maneuvers test skills including perseverance and trainability.

Her orders are given through whistle commands and hand motions. At times, Teague looks like an air traffic controller. He motions straight for a forward run. Placing his arm straight out to the side tells Cheers to run in that direction. A slight 45-degree angle places Cheers in just the right area where a dummy had been placed. The commands are necessary because she's going after an orange dummy. Dogs can't see the color orange.

No problem for Cheers. She's not stopping. She appears to sense the bar has been raised. "If they qualify for 3 Master National events, they're entered into the Master National Hall of Fame," Teague explained. "So Cheers has one pass at the Masters National and we're hoping to get her second pass in California next October."

Pewter bowls and ribbons are nice prizes, but all this hard work is also preparation for an enjoyable hunt. "Because if you have a duck or goose that's killed out in the water, well obviously, you can't go get it," Teague said.

But Cheers sure can. In she goes despite 40 degree temperatures. The colder the water the better to her.

Cheers has friendly competition from her buddy, BLT's Just Because, who goes by Cozby. The blond lab is a master at agility. She too qualified for the competition after undergoing stomach surgery. She went out on the third series.

No matter. Teague affectionately looks down at the pair. "You are good girls. I'm proud of both of you," he tells them.

The love of the sport and the love of a master help these Labradors make work look like play.

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