"Conceived by Hunters for Hunters". This is both the founding philosophy and the reality of the Hunting Retriever Club. Probably only a few people know the history behind the motto, but all people affiliated with the United Kennel Club and the Hunting Retriever Club should be aware of it because of HRC's and UKC's contributions to the world of the hunting retriever.
It all started in 1983 with the April issue of Field and Stream and an article called "The Mechanical Dog" by Bill Tarrant. The article basically stated that the existing Field Trials for retrievers were unrealistic and pushed the dogs beyond what was required of them during an average day in the field. Around the time of "The Mechanical Dog", Dick Wolters, a Gun Dog magazine columnist, wrote a column which continually brought attention to the fact that what people needed was a program which did not judge dogs against each other, but which gave hunters the chance to test their dogs in realistic hunting conditions.
Andy Johnson of UKC contacted Mr. Wolters and arranged a meeting in New York to discuss the possibility of beginning such a program affiliated with the United Kennel Club. Several people, including Fred Miller, President of UKC, Omar Driskill, Jack Jogoda and Ned Spears attended the meeting. At this meeting, the attendants voiced concerns about registering dogs with UKC that were already registered with the Canadian Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club. UKC assured these people that there would be no problems and Fred Miller, excited about the prospect of including clubs in Canada, suggested the name North America Hunting Retriever Association. The name was adopted.
A second meeting was scheduled to draw up running rules, and officers were elected as well. Ned Spears was named President, Dick Wolters, Vice-President, and Omar Driskill, Treasurer. The new club was on its feet and the first event scheduled for September 24-25, 1983, in Ruston, Louisiana. Over 140 dogs from all over the country participated, indicating that NAHRA had a promising career ahead of it.
However, a big change was taking place. AKC, who had, up to this point, ignored the club's formation, became more interested as rave reviews from various magazines poured in. AKC made an offer to Dick Wolters to affiliate NAHRA with AKC, and he accepted. A meeting was called and no one from UKC was informed or invited. Omar Driskill was there and was informed of the change from UKC to AKC. He was the only person to vote against the merger and was, of course, outraged.
After NAHRA joined with AKC, Bill Tarrant wrote another article in Field and Stream called "Retriever Trials for Hunters" which discussed the ideas behind the original UKC/NAHRA program. Omar Driskill was named as the contact and got many letters from people interested in a program like this.
Another meeting was held at UKC with Bill Tarrant, Omar Driskill, Bob Rathe, and UKC staff attending. The Hunting Retriever Club was officially formed and named at this meeting. Bill Tarrant thought of the name for the club and gave it the right to use the artwork from his book called Hey Pup, Fetch it Up as well as the logo, which also came from the book. Bill was given Membership Number One and Omar was given Membership Number Two. NAHRA and AKC later split up. NAHRA is not affiliated with any national dog registry today.
Since 1984, HRC has grown to 116 Clubs with over 8,000 members because of a number of great distinctions of the HRC from any other hunting dog organization. Specifically, the tests are true hunting scenarios. The handler actually uses the gun and the Judges are qualified HRC members who own, have trained, and passed their dog in the level that they are judging. In addition, there were some other distinctions about HRC: HRC folks have fun!
One of the most significant strengths of the Hunting Retriever Club organization is the friendly, wholesome, family atmosphere. The support and friendship that is found by everyone who becomes involved in HRC activities is truly inspiring. Although participation in the Hunt Tests is taken very seriously, both Handlers and Judges alike make conscious efforts to remember and ensure that it is fun. There is no discrimination as to sex, color, age or handicap. Everyone is welcome at HRC.
Also, any sporting breed dog that can do the work can participate in HRC events. There is no other retriever organization that has so much faith in their program that they allow non-registered dogs to participate in the program to see if they like it, before they go to the expense of registering with HRC's affiliated registry organization, United Kennel Club, Inc.
Another significant thing is that HRC is governed by HRC. Although the official registry affiliation is with UKC, and HRC abides by their Rules of Conduct and Guidelines, HRC determines, through the Board of Directors, who are the club Presidents, its own running rules and it governs itself. HRC has grown into the best hunting retriever club in North America with the help of its dedicated members and UKC, proving that the HRC was undoubtedly "Conceived by Hunters for Hunters".
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