Wildrose Lady Heather Bracken of Oxford is the name scribed on her AKC registration papers. Born on April 2, 2006, she is the last female in lineage from one of the most well-known dogs in the UK, Pocklea Remus, and the only female in the last litter of her mother, Astraglen Sprint. She was a prize pup of Wildrose Kennel and its owner Mike Stewart.
Sandra Summers had been explaining how she came to have this small lab in her home. Heather is one of three black labs belonging to Sandra and her husband, Franz, and Sandra’s obvious favorite. “I first saw Heather when she was about 6 weeks old. Franz and I had returned to Wildrose to bring our male lab, Gumbo, for training. Gumbo was about a year old and we were regularly traveling from our home in Santa Fe to Oxford, Mississippi for visits during his training.”
“On one of those visits, I started walking Heather on a puppy lead. Everyone at Wildrose had been calling her Bracken but it just didn’t seem to fit and I started calling her Heather. I knew that heather is one of Scotland's most beautiful plants and that she is of Scottish ancestry. It didn’t take long before everyone was calling her by her new name.”
“When she was about 5 months old, we had really been missing Gumbo. So, with Mike’s permission, I rented a car and took Heather back to New Mexico with us.”
“We kept Heather for a while and I started her training ‘the Wildrose way’. I worked her every day in empty lots, in scrub, on roads, and in ditches. We worked with hand signals and on socialization skills. I took her on a ski-lift up Santa Fe Mountain and we walked all the way down in the first snow of the season.”
“In October, we went back to Wildrose and I noticed that Heather did not seem to be feeling well. She was taken to the vet and unfortunately diagnosed with hip dsyplasia. She was not able to be bred and was spayed at two years old. After that she was really my dog,” Sandra said with a little bit of a sad smile.
“We moved to Oxford in December and decided to adopt Heather. I got her papers on my birthday that February. That was indeed a special day.”
“Heather is very intelligent and intuitive. She is always making unusual faces and funny expressions with her mouth. We now have three labs from Wildrose. The others, the boys, Gumbo and Gator, are very laid back. Mike Stewart selects the dog he thinks will fit you and your family best. Heather would not have been a match for us. She is a bit hyper and intense —different from the other two. Still, she is the best behaved. She is the fearless one and she stands her ground with the boys. She is a seasoned hunter and has won several hunting awards. However, she does sometimes move too fast for her nose and gets ahead of herself.”
We had been sitting in the kitchen as the three labs dozed on their cozy round beds in the next room. Each separate from the other but the lofty beds tied them together into a single unit. I noticed that only one had eyes resting intently on Sandra. The other two slept soundly.
“Its weird. I named her, trained her, and most of her ‘firsts’ were with me and even though she wouldn’t have been a perfect match I think she has always been my dog.”
Some days Heather can be seen walking along side Sandra on the court square or waiting patiently just outside the local ice cream shop. Sometimes a small crowd of children gathers, even the ones that smile and say, “I’m afraid of dogs,” as they proudly pat her head. Heather just sits and watches Sandra waiting for that familiar signal for them to take their next step together.
Vicki Wood, JD 6/10 ©