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Chesapeake Bay Retrievers… “You Had Me From Hello”

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

This article was originally published in Showsight Magazine, November 2012 issue.


Chesapeake Bay Retrievers… “You Had Me From Hello”

I felt love start to grow the moment I looked into your eyes. You won me, it was over from the start. You completely stole my heart, and now you won’t let go. I never even had a chance you know? You had me from ‘Hello.’” – Kenny Chesney, “You Had Me At Hello”

My husband and I are avid fishing enthusiasts and were on the banks of the river Kenai in Alaska when we had an encounter with the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. This handsome, wooly, copper penny-colored boy captured our interest and later, our hearts, toward this breed, and started us on a journey that has been exciting, adventurous and amazing. Our search was for an active, larger dog and since we had had Labs before, had agreed on a retriever of some sort but didn’t want one like everyone else had. As we learned more about this breed, we were convinced that this was the breed for us and purchased our first Chesapeake Bay Retriever. We have since owned several and do agree that our desire is to own no other breed. Why? Because there is no other dog like a Chessie, they are simply amazing.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was originally developed by breeders/sporting enthusiasts in the Chesapeake Bay area in the early 1800s and soon gained popularity with hunters far and wide. They were and are known for their intelligence, physical power and tenacity of spirit. Many a story has been told of the courage and endurance shown by this breed in the field, retrieving, without direction, upwards of a hundred waterfowl each day.

Chessies, as they are commonly known, are independent thinkers, powerful retrievers, intimidating guard dogs and loving family members. Because of their friendly disposition and intelligence, they are sought after by many for a variety of uses– hunting and retrieving being just one.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an extremely versatile animal, proven to be successful in Search and Rescue, K-9, drug and explosive detection programs, as Therapy and Service dogs, Guide dogs for the blind, as well as premier athletes in competitive Sled Dog races, Dock Dog competitions, Lure Coursing, Tracking, competition Obedience and Rally, just to name a few. And, when cleaned up from the morning hunt, make for strong competition in the Conformation rings. Their character and personality, combined with their strength and intelligence, earn the Chesapeake Bay Retriever success in any endeavor that you choose to take them.

At the end of the day, these amazing brown dogs love to retire to the comfort and companionship of their family. They are affectionate, protective, fun companions that love their families and desire to be with them. One evening, soon after the birth of our grandson Darian, the baby was bundled up lying on the couch and screaming at the top of his lungs, as babies do. Our Chessie girl, Katie, went to him to see what the noise was about, finding this crying baby, she quickly went to her stash of toys and brought out her prized stuffed duck. She laid the duck on the couch and gently pushed it over with her nose and nudged it up against the baby then laid her head next to him in an effort to sooth. Over the years, she has taken her job as “second mom” to our grandchildren very seriously, and the bond built between her and the children is an amazing one.

The purpose of purchasing our first Chessie was to be a fishing companion, being the avid fisherpersons that we are, we wanted a companion for the boat. We sought out a quality breeder in our area and purchased a female. This puppy turned out to be a high quality girl that the breeder said should be shown in the conformation ring. We sought out training classes and began a journey into the world of conformation competition.

From that humble beginning, we have gone on to excel with our dogs in the Conformation ring as well as performance events such as Obedience, Rally, Hunt Tests, WD. We have put titles on many of our dogs, including Grand Champions, Champions, CD, RA and JH, in addition to winning a NSS BISS. When not in the show ring, they are used in our personal hunting adventures and just hanging out with the family.

We are a small, family-oriented kennel located in southern Colorado. Not only do we hunt ducks and geese but also have opportunity to go after pheasants, which are as eagerly hunted by our crew as is the waterfowl. We do breed and are passionate about maintaining the characteristics that make the Chesapeake Bay Retriever so unique and desirable as a gun dog while making sure to be responsible with our breeding choices. Health testing is a very important component of any breeding program and we do test and certify all our dogs. Our goal is to produce healthy, quality dogs that have the correct aptitude and attitude.

The breeders of today are just as dedicated and passionate about maintaining the Chesapeake Bay Retriever characteristics as were the breeders of days gone by. Each and every characteristic spelled out in the Official Standard for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a significant reason.

As the standard states, “The breed’s characteristics are specifically suited to enable the Chesapeake to function with ease, efficiency and endurance.” From coat, to raw power to stamina, the Chesapeake was, and is, bred to be a working dog. The two most important qualities that I believe the Chessie needs to be successful are aptitude and attitude. Aptitude includes correct conformation – to assure that their body can do the job required. Attitude (actually the most important attribute when breeding this dog) without an excellent disposition, it won’t matter how they are built.

At the end of the day, after all the ducks, and all the show rings, and all the work, they are our loving companions, there to go for walks or just snuggle on the couch, challenging us, sometimes pushing us, maybe just listening, but always bringing us the comfort and pleasure of loving and being loved. As the song says, “You had me from hello…”