B'ville: Masters of the sport

Labrador Retrievers Belle and Thunder are the tops in their class.

These two dogs, owned by Dr. Greg Joy of Joy Vision Eye Care in the Raddison Health Center, have been in hunting competitions for around 10 years. Being an avid hunter, Joy wanted to get a hunting dog to accompany his hunts. First he adopted Thunder, now 10. Belle came four years later. Both dogs were raised and trained from puppies.

Both dogs participated in the outdoor hunting competitions where the dogs have to listen to their master, and track down certain ducks that have been shot in the air. The competitions include a series of land and water areas.

There are different levels to these competitions. The junior level consists of a duck shot in which the owner is in control commanding the dog to sit, stay, heal and more.

The senior level demonstrates the skills of a good hunting dog. Multiple ducks are shot and the dog has to remember where it is, which duck to retrieve and when to get it, while still listening to the owner's commands.

Thunder has received the highest prize, the Master National Hall of Fame. Belle never received this top prize, but is a master hunter, and has gone to the master nationals three times, winning once.

Only about 300 dogs get to nationals. To qualify at nationals, the dog has to be one of the top 30 dogs.

Both dogs are currently in retirement from this sport.

"It gets expensive to travel," said Joy. "It's around $70 to 75 to enter, and around $300 to 400 spent in one weekend."

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