Our Beginning

The Ambertrail journey began in 1973 with the purchase of our first Golden Retriever, Cory. At the time I was actually  looking to buy a “Golden Lab” . I went to a local dog show in search of a breeder where I met Martha Covington Thorne who introduced me to the Golden Retriever breed which I did not know existed at the time. I had been brought up with black labs and now had decided to  get a ‘Golden Lab’ as a hunting companion.  Martha quickly corrected me for referring to the Yellow Labrador as a Golden Lab, by showing me the difference. She took out a Yellow Labrador from one of her many crates and showed it to me, my response was that was what I was looking for. Martha then showed me a Golden Retriever ........WOW!  what a gorgeous dog  I thought!  My next question was “Do they retrieve ducks like a lab?” Martha  confirmed that the Golden was  every bit the hunting companion that the Lab was.

Martha just happened to have a female Golden Retriever puppy there and of course I immediately wanted it.  The pup was unfortunately promised to someone else; but if the family did not show up by the end of the weekend, she was mine.  Needless to say, I spent two whole days at a show I knew nothing about, keeping one eye on the puppy crate and the other on the activities going on in the rings.

Sadly, the family did show up at the same time as I was walking towards the crate to claim my new pup.  I think, that if there were not children involved, I would have made an offer these people could not have refused.  I wanted her that badly.  But, as fate would have it, she was not meant to be mine.  Instead, Martha gave me the phone number of the puppy’s breeder and that night I called.  Sure enough the breeder had one puppy left and it was a female.  She was already twelve weeks old.  I picked her up a few days later and “Val’s Dolly” (Cory) became the f oundation of Ambertrail Golden Retrievers.

Martha Thorne was definitely an important mentor.  She was there right from the beginning.  She taught me about sportsmanship and most of the “how to’s” of  the conformation game.  I was truly blessed to have known this woman. 

As well, Barbara Tinker, started out around the same time Ambertrail was born.  She had high standards and was an ambitious, gifted person.  Her goals were similar to mine, so it was natural that we would gravitate towards each other.  Torch Flinn was an incredibly knowledgeable person and gave advice freely.  Jackie Mertens and Topbrass Goldens, Ambertrail has had a few of her dogs over the years and admire her tremendously.  Mickey Strandberg, for her Mioak’s lines.  There are many, many more people who have touched Ambertrail and helped along the way,  including  Dave and Jane Thompson, Bob Stark, Hugh Brown, Phyllis Philip, the list is endless.

Cory was  “my dog” right from the start and we became an amazing team!

Cory was a ‘natural’ retriever.  She learned very easily and loved to show off.  I barely had time to take her to obedience classes before she became a UD.  She literally went from earning her CD to earning her UD in less than one year.  Completely amateur trained and handled.  In between obedience titles,  she became a Show Champion!  Oh yes, the day she earned the final leg for her UD, she was five weeks pregnant!

If  running around the show ring and running off with more titles than you could shake a stick at was not impressive enough, Cory was also a ‘fully’ trained hunting dog by the time she was only ‘eleven months’ old.  I trained from a Richard Wolters book called ‘Water dog”.  There was no one around to teach me how to do it.  Cory was doing multiple retrieves and handling like a dream.   She was also a ‘natural’ water dog.  Very courageous and serious about her work.  To this day, she is probably as well known  for her hunting abilities as she was for her other accomplishments.  Actually, I used to entertain my training buddies in the days when everyone smoked by having Cory scent discriminate for them.  She would pick out my cigarette box among the others, then I would send her back for his lighter.  The guys would all hoot over that.  She was the perfect dog for me and  would even get my slippers on command.   Cory lived to make me happy!   She became Ch. & Otch. Val’s Dolly***, Am. WC

Our breeding program began as one where the goal was to meld the show and working lines to get to the dual purpose Golden. Initially, I thought that within a few  years Ambertrail would be there! We would be a kennel producing Goldens capable of competing in both the field trial game and the show game. Boy!! Did I have a lot to learn! Over the years we were fortunate and did achieve success with many of our dogs in all areas of  competition but in order to get to the successes  we did focus certain breedings for working and others for conformation. Some of the  dogs that come to mind that were our early  ‘great dogs’ would be :

“Duke”  the s econd arrival bought  from Cliff Macdonald  of Shadywell Kennels who  went on to  be Ch. Shadywell’s Golden Duke 2nd, CDX

“Bee” out of our first Curry - Cory breeding, an  outstanding dam and all around  golden Ch. Ambertrail’s Honey Bee, Can.***, CDX,  WCX

“Bush” a Honey Bee offspring who  excelled in the show  ring but  had little real field talent as a competitive  field dog. Am. Can. Ch. Ambertrail’s Flatbush Flanagan, Am. Can. CD (OS)

“Murphy” a dog who became our first Best in Show dog. 
Am. Can. Ch. Golden Mark Murphey, BIS

Mioak’s Real McCoy, Can. Am.***

  “Mac”  a very nice working  retriever who never got the last point to get his title, still he was a solid producer and a fun animal.

Then there was “Sprint” who became one of the best known field dogs in the country, his story is worth telling...............

Ftch., & Aftch. Shurmark’s Split Decision, Am.***, MH (OS)

Sprint at age 12
When I saw Sprint as a puppy I recognized something special in him.  At the time, I already had three seven month old pups from our first all field bred litter.  By this time our bloodlines were split, show and field.  We had a lot of dogs and  the last thing I needed was another dog to train! 

I was at a trial when I first saw Sprint, he was then  6 months old and had little or no training as his breeder was deciding whether or not to keep or to sell him.  I had been a big fan of his father “Jake” and could see much of Jake in this puppy. I simply had to have him! After some negotiation I managed to get to the point where his breeder could not refuse the offer. I was a happy camper and put him in my truck  although I had no idea what  had just bought!  In fact that weekend when judging a trial with my old friend and fellow field trailer Tony Grossi and while we were out setting up a water test we decided to air  the pups (Tony had an 8 month  yellow lab  pup.  We turned  Sprint and Tony’s  dog  out to run around  and play.  Tony decided to throw a bumper in the water, his pup immediately tore after it.  The second Tony’s dog began swimming, Sprint leaped from the shore and seemed to fly over this dog.  Sprint landed  in the water ahead of Tony’s dog and easily beat his lab to the mark.  Tony made me an offer right there and then for Sprint ( If you knew Tony  you would understand what it took f or him to want to buy a Golden!).  I said thanks, but no thanks, and took him back to the truck.  In his Junior year, Sprint went on to be the 2nd Top Junior Dog in Canada, Top Junior Dog in Ontario and Top Junior Golden Retriever in Canada.  His first Open year went very well for him.  He earned both his FTCH. and AFTCH titles by the time he was four.  His MH title was also earned easily.

I completed most of Sprint’s early basics.   Sprint’s other friend and very important trainer was Dave Thompson who took him south and  finished Sprint’s Master Hunter title.   Sprint was always very strong i n the water.  To be super critical of him, I would say that it was the “go bird” of the first series of the land marks when I would hold my breath.  Sprint was always so high going to the line on the first series.  If you got him through the first test, he usually finished the trial.  He would get more collected as the trial went on.

I feel Sprint is one of the finest looking Goldens I have ever known.  Height to weight, overall balance, coat, front and rear angulation, tail set, feet, bone, head, full dentition, temperament, all well above average.  If it were not for a ‘very’ slightly undershot jaw, this gifted dog would have been shown in the conformation ring, and perhaps even earned a Dual Championship.

He was an extremely healthy dog all through his life.  His breeding record certainly shows  he can reproduce himself.  I am extremely proud of Sprint’s  “Get” accomplishments’  Field Champions,  Master Hunters, Senior and Junior Hunters, hunting dogs, obedience titles and awards, etc.  The list is endless!  Sprint will be long remembered as a Golden Retriever who contributed well to the breed.

The above  dogs  and time frames bring the history of Ambnertrail to the late 90’s. Since that time Ambertrail  has been fortunate to have produced, trained and owned  some great Goldens.  Probably the most famous is my current Open all age dog and Triple Champion.............Push!