Bird dogs gone but not forgotten in owners' memorials

By Bryan Brasher, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, February 22, 2009

DANCYVILLE, Tenn. -- Not too many years ago, when a dog passed away, it was often buried in a lonely forest with nothing to mark its grave but the patch of freshly churned dirt that was used to refill the hole.

In less than a year, even that would disappear as new vegetation grew to fill in the area.

But over time, the measures taken by dog owners to memorialize their animals have changed dramatically -- especially for those who own field-trialing bird dogs.

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Linda and Bill Hunt have erected a granite memorial to their championship dogs, topped by 14-time field-trialing champion Rebel Wrangler, on their property in Dancyville.

Today, some use giant stone monuments worthy of museums to honor their treasured bird dogs. Others have their animals cremated and keep their ashes forever, while some utilize technology, creating Web sites to commemorate the lives of their favorite dogs.

No matter the choice these days, it's a far cry from the lonely forgotten hole dug in the soft dirt of a secluded forest.

"After having so much success with our dog, Rebel Wrangler, we felt like we owed it to him to honor him the best way we could," said Linda Hunt, a Dancyville resident, who was inducted into the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 2007. "We didn't want to just bury him. We knew that someday, someone else would own this property, and his grave wouldn't mean anything to them.

"We wanted something more special than that."

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Bill Hunt has been raising and training championship dogs professionally since 1960. He has a memorial to his most famous dog, Rebel Wrangler, at his home in Dancyville, Tenn.
Photographs by Matthew Craig/The Commercial Appeal

Instead of just burying Rebel Wrangler, a dog that won 14 major competitive field-trialing events, the Hunts erected a gigantic stone on their property with the dog's name at the top.

As time has passed, they've added the names of many other dogs -- and when the Hunts have passed away, they hope the stone will be moved to the National Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction, Tenn.

"I really think that's where it belongs," said Bill Hunt, Linda's husband and a 2008 inductee into the Field Trial Hall of Fame. "There's a lot of history on that stone. It has the names of some mighty fine bird dogs."

That move may happen some day.

But in the meantime, the folks from the Bird Dog Foundation Inc. have created a way for other field-trialing enthusiasts to honor their dogs on the hallowed grounds of the Bird Dog Museum.

Field-trialers, dog owners and fans of the sport can purchase their own gray granite markers through the Bird Dog Foundation to memorialize any dog they choose.

Though no dogs are buried at the museum, stunning markers made of Georgia granite can be purchased for $1,400 with all proceeds benefiting the BDF Endowment Fund.

"For bird dog enthusiasts, it's just a good situation all the way around," said David Smith of the Bird Dog Foundation. "You get to honor the dog of your choice and help the foundation all at once."

If a stone doesn't suit you, you might choose to do something that utilizes the written word a little more.

The magazine American Field, which is considered by many to be a sort of field-trialer's bible, prints numerous bird dog obituaries every month. The obits are often written by the dog owners themselves, and they almost always tug at your heart strings -- whether you're interested in field trials or not.

Of course, in this new millennium, there's also the Internet.

Blake Kukar, an avid field-trialing enthusiast who works in Memphis and lives in Dancyville, has a full Web site for his operation "Circle B Kennels." One page of that site, labeled "Gone, but not forgotten," is devoted to dogs that once served him well.

If none of those methods suits you as a bird dog owner, there is still the option of cremation.

Dixie Memorial Memphis is one company that works with veterinarians all over the city to provide cremation services for pet owners, and there are several others across the Mid-South.

"That's just one more way to feel like your dog is always with you," said Linda Hunt. "When you do that, you know they're never going anywhere."


For more information on buying a stone to honor a dog at the Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction, Tenn., contact David Smith at (731) 764-2058 or email


For more information on having your bird dog cremated, call (901) 873-4127 or visit

Republished from
Memphis, Online
Used by Permission

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