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Charter Member, Wes Werling

The first president of the Rappahannock River Retriever Club was Wes Werling.

He, along with Neil Selby and Phyllis Giroux, started RRRC one evening while sitting upstairs in the barn at Shady Grove. The three of them donated money that night and made themselves charter members. The funds provided enough money to buy the essentials to start training days: guns, ammo, live birds, etc. Selby declared Werling president and he remained so for five years.

The reason Werling gives for forming RRRC was that, “There was so much politics with local clubs, judges, etc. that it was not fun anymore.” The group wanted to train dogs and enjoy each other’s company without hassles and worries. Not long after beginning the club, they hosted their first NAHRA test. “Our first test was a quad (that’s four each) NAHRA started and a quad intermediate test conducted at Shady Grove, Phelps Wildlife management Area and Deep Run farm. Lots of dogs, and lots of driving, but we did it,” said Werling.

Werling bought the first single shot shotgun for the club at a pawnshop in Fairfax for $50. After buying the shotgun, the pawnshop would call him every time they would get one in and Werling would pick it up for the club. He built the original storage boxes to hold guns, blinds, decoys, and everything needed to hold a test. The investments increased as they ran their first few NAHRA tests. It was not until a few years later that they ran the first AKC test.

Werling’s first dog to compete in NAHRA was Traveler, a pup he purchased from Shady Grove. His dog earned all three NAHRA titles during this time. Selby was his trainer, and has trained his dogs since then.

Fond memories of the training club for Werling were of member enthusiasm. People were interested in joining and running in tests and coming to practice days. Occasionally they had picnics at the ponds at Shady Grove. His philosophy was to have free practices because their tests were profitable. He and Neil also created the club logo. He found a place in Fairfax to have it sewn on shirts and priced a Cabela’s shirt as a club uniform. Neil had the hats made for the club as well.

Now Werling is retired and living on the Northern neck (Heathsville). He is an active hunter and has a 12-year-old black lab –Jeb. According to Werling, “I just wanted a dog to pick up my ducks. I gave him to Neil to force train at 8 months old. He said it was a very good dog and persuaded me to run him in AKC tests. We started at the mid-level, got a title and went on to get a Master title.” Werling said, “This is probably my last dog as I am 75 and don’t know if I will be walking the fields for another 10 years. Plus things are a little too expensive for an old fart.”

He did just return from pheasant hunting in South Dakota with Jeb. The group had another great year with over 70 birds. Jeb showed his age and had to sit out a couple of days. One day soon, he plans to come to a RRRC practice.

Contributor: Beth Coleman