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May 18th, 2017|

We have a petite, comical chocolate female that you’ve undoubtedly seen in a variety of Soggy Acres and SportingDog Adventures pictures and videos, and if you’re local, you’ve probably met her at any number of area sportshows.  She’s the family “ham,” a born entertainer that likes to sing, dance, and wear crazy outfits (she has her own tutu collection).  Never camera shy or afraid to ask new acquaintances for a “butt scratch”, this little girl’s personality is larger than any Lab’s and disproportionate to her 50-pound size.  This goofy little girl is Lucy Belle, born October 13, 2008, to the gorgeous huntress, Sadie Belle.  We typically refrain from waxing lyrical on this blog and try to focus on educational posts, but this week we’re going to make an exception and tell you about the life of Lucy.  You see, Lucy was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer on April 3 – exactly two months to the day of the passing of her illustrious grandmother, Dixie Belle – and before Lucy goes, we want to share her untold story.

Our story starts in the whelping box at Soggy Acres in fall of 2008.  If having puppies was a sport, Sadie Belle would have been a champion, and the litter born that October was no exception.  Squirming – barely– in that litter of 15 (!) was the future Lucy Belle.  Lucy was more than the stereotypical “runt,” she was downright pathetic, weighing a mere 2 pounds at seven weeks, when her brothers and sisters were all full-sized and healthy, raring to go home.  Her ears stuck out like Yoda (a fact she’d rather we forgot) and she just wasn’t putting on weight.  Her frequent visits to the vet earned her the nickname “Dead Dog” by the staff, who clearly didn’t see much of a future for her.  It was decided that if “Dead Dog” survived, the Fuller family would keep her for themselves and name her after a Charles Schulz “Peanuts” character.  (After all, Happiness is a Warm Puppy was the book that really catapulted Schulz’s career.)  Survive she did, and Lucy Belle became a central figure in the Fuller household from then on.

Lucy worked her first Milwaukee sportshow that following spring, hanging out in a basket for her comfort and protection.  She’s worked every MJS Sportshow and Madison Deer and Turkey Expo since.  Annual visitors to the event invariably inquire when they see her whether this is the “same doggy from the basket.”  Lucy loves doing sportshows and actually gets completely impatient with her family when it’s about time to go.  She has a “tip jar” and we’ve taught her to “sing” for tips, head thrown back or prancing on her back haunches.  She knows those tips go to her friend Jill who operates the doggy treat booth in the same aisle.  Her childish good looks spurn the same dialogue hundreds of times at each show:

“How old is she?”

Answer: 9.

“9 months?”

Answer: No, 9 years!

And she loves the attention – and the occasional opportunity to try and steal a crock pickle or jerky stick from an unsuspecting fan!

Lucy works hard for our TV show as well.  She’s had the opportunity to run with professional sled dogs and track deer, to name a few of her favorite moments from SportingDog Adventures.  No one would know, but she’s the only dog we have that doesn’t “weird out” when being asked to eat on camera: she has no objection to eating with a camera in her face!  Never professionally trained, her hunting skills are all natural, thanks to her great bloodlines, and she’s not afraid to show them off in the company of much larger, titled dogs.  Nothing intimidates Lucy.

In her downtime, Lucy is a “rider.”  If it moves, she wants on it.  When we brought home our American Landmaster UTV, she popped her front paws up on the car trailer to check it out before we had even taken the bungee cords off of it!  As part of her bucket list, we make sure she gets a daily ride on something, whether it’s a lap around the pond at home on the UTV, or a jaunt out into the marshes on our Argo at our Lodge.  In a pinch, the Big Dog lawnmower deck will suffice (she thinks she’s a better spokesdog for the brand than Rommel anyway).  She’s spent many a dusky evening making her boys paddle her about the Soggy Acres ponds on “her” paddleboat.

Lucy isn’t going to be with us much longer –a few days to two weeks by our estimates – but we’re enjoying every last minute of her company.  Lucy has lived an incredibly full life, more so than many people!  With over 25,000 people attending each sportshow each year that she works (and she usually works three), think how many people have been enchanted by the puppy-faced chocolate Lab singing in a tutu.  How many smiles has she brought to peoples’ faces, young and old, whether at a sportshow, during a puppy go-home at our house, or by hunting ‘em up on our TV show.  We’ll never know how many lives this pint-sized dynamo has touched, but we know for certain that the lives in the Fuller household are forever changed for the better.

Click here to download this article in PDF format.


May 10th, 2017|

The weather in Wisconsin is finally starting to warm up (at least a little), and our thoughts turn to BBQ’s and picnics, traveling, and getting out to enjoy the fresh air with our four-legged friends.  Wisconsin lags behind the greater part of the country in warming up, so this blogpost probably should have been written earlier in the year – but it was just last weekend that something I saw inspired me to post this, and reminded me of an email we received last fall while my husband was very ill.

Last fall, we received an email from a SportingDog Adventures viewer telling us about how much he had loved his dog – yes, past tense.  He had a habit of popping her in the back of his pick-up truck on the way to and from his favorite hunting spots, but this past fall would prove to be her last trip.  Just a ten minute drive proved fatal for his beloved dog, who jumped (or was unintentionally toppled) from the back, never to be found.  This past weekend, in our own small town, I was driving behind a small pick-up truck with a panting dog in the back, pacing back and forth freely, a scene that reminded me of that devastated young man’s email from last fall.

Dogs are not cargo and do not belong tossed as such in the back of a pick-up truck!  The dangers are just too great.  Dogs of all sizes, ages, and training backgrounds belong safely secured in a kennel or crate if travelling in the back of a truck, or inside the vehicle with the human passengers.
Soggy Acres Lucy Belle | Soggy Acres Retrievers

Even Well Trained Dogs Can Jump Out.  Our dogs have master hunt titles, and I would never put it past them to leap from the back of our F150.  Between being afraid or excited, coupled with all of the interesting sights and smells, there’s nothing stopping your dog from deciding to have a look about, ultimately jumping to his death from the impact or from being hit by another car.

Accidents Happen, Especially Close to Home.  We’ve all heard the statistics about the higher incidence of accidents happening close to home.  That means that your dog isn’t safe even on a five or ten minute ride in the tailgate.  You’re not doing you buddy any favors taking him on that trip to the local hardware store Saturday morning if he’s riding in the back and some idiot hungover from the night before slams into the back of your vehicle.

Don’t Forget About the Elements.  Even if no other drivers existed, your dog has other potential threats when riding in back.  Temperatures that don’t seem that high to you are going to be a lot more intense in back, beating down on your dog’s furry head and baking the metal floor of the tailgate touching his paws.  Debris flying through the air, even at slow speeds, can lodge in his eyes.  Think about riding a motorcycle with no sunglasses or goggles and no helmet, barefoot, and in a fur coat, and then you’d be close to what he’s up against.

Plan Ahead.  If you have a small cab on your truck and plan to take along or pick up additional passengers leaving no room for your dog inside, leave him home!  He’d rather be alive and well at home than bleeding to death on the side of the road.  If you plan to hunt him, he’s likely to be dirty and wound up at the end.  If you don’t want a dirty, wound-up dog inside the cab with you, all the more reason to plan ahead and bring his crate.  If you have to take the crate out to make room for hauling something else, take the time right then to put it back in after you offload.

Have the Right Gear.  Not all kennels are created equal.  Before investing in a kennel or crate for your pick-up, do your research.  (Very few have any kind of crash test ratings.)  Do a Google search for “crash tested dog kennel.”  Safer kennels are going to cost more, but isn’t it worth it?  Your dog is both a financial and emotional investment worth preserving.  Consider not only the crate itself, but how you will secure it.  Make sure the kennel is secured with bungee cords or ratchet straps, or has a way of being mounted or secured to your BedSlide or other tailgate organizer.  An unsecured kennel is no better than none at all.  A flimsy wire crate unsecured in the bed of your truck is just a death trap.

Make it a Habit.  Just like you should be fastening your seatbelt on every trip, no matter how short, your dog should always be secured.  Don’t make exceptions because “it’s a short trip” or because you “don’t have time.”  Would you toss your baby in the backseat because you “don’t have time” to strap him into his carseat?

We’ve come a long way in the U.S. in terms of our awareness of animal health.  We have Lyme Disease vaccines, grain-free pet foods, and sulfate-free pet shampoos, but in many ways, we’re still lacking in our understanding of pet safety.  You may or may not feel as though your dog is your “child,” but regardless, his life is in your hands.  Hopefully, you value that life more than you do job site material or hunting gear, because those are the only things that belong unsecured in the back of your truck.

Click here to download this article in PDF format.


May 4th, 2017|

We have quite a bit of information on Puppy Go-Home Day, as we conduct them at Soggy Acres Retrievers, on our website in the FAQ’s section.  Short of sorting through this, we thought we’d dedicate this week’s blogpost to this topic, in light of the large number of litters that will be going home within the next two months.  Especially if you are one of those lucky families, please take a moment to give this a read.  If we’ve missed anything, you will then know what you need to ask!

How is Go-Home Day Organized?

We typically assign families a puppy Go-Home time beginning in the morning on a weekend, and proceed with one family per gender per hour.  The family that deposited first on the litter has the first time slot and so on.  The most we would have onsite is two families at one time (one for the male pick, one for the female), unless someone arrives early, but that family would not be allowed to pick their pup until the family in front of them is done.  Go-home time slots are posted on our FB site and/or emailed to the families.  Families have up to one hour to make their choice, but are welcome to stay onsite and play with the pup thereafter, weather permitting.

How Do I Pick a Pup?Labrador Retriever Breeder | Soggy Acres Retrievers

You can use whatever methodology works for you, whether that’s picking the first one that snuggles up to you or looking for certain personalities cues.  As we have written about on the blog before, you can’t really go wrong, as what you have actually purchased are “genetics”.  All of the pups in the litter share the same great traits as their parents – and each pup’s unique personality will expose itself in time.  We can help you make your pick, based upon our observations, or we can stand back and let you do it yourself.  Please let us know what you would prefer.  We don’t want to “hover,” and make anyone feel uncomfortable, but we don’t want to make you feel ignored either!

What Happens After I Make My Pick?

There is quite a bit of paperwork to go through.  Weather permitting, it works best to have one person handle the paperwork inside our home and one person exercise the puppy outside.  We will go through some basic information such as their shot records in a document we call our “Welcome Letter” as well as the health guaranty and other information in the state-required Puppy Contract.  We’ll also discuss with you their current food and feeding schedule, bathing, and a brief overview on potty training/ crate training, as well as any other questions you may have.  We try to take our cues from the owners as to how much or little information they need, so as not to either bore you with things you already know or alternately, leave you in the dark if this is your first dog.  Please ask any questions you may have, and don’t hesitate to continue corresponding with us after the sale is complete.  We want to be a resource for you!

Where is the Go-Home Conducted?

Puppy go-homes are onsite at Soggy Acres, with selecting the puppy done outside, weather permitting.  If it is cold or rainy, we have to do the go-home inside the kennel.  Our kennels consist of concrete floors, kennel decks, and 6’ stainless steel Mason kennels (enclosures).  No, the kennel is not “ambient” but it is designed with the dogs’ health in mind.  All surfaces are exposed to bleach and other strong cleaners multiple times a day to prevent germs and disease.  We can’t have soft surfaces like blankets and pet beds inside the kennel for the health of the pups.  Go-home days are a lot more fun outside, but in Wisconsin, we have to work with whatever weather we’re given, which often can be unpleasant.

What Can I Expect the Pups to Look Like?

Your new puppy will be a tiny, furry little partially wet ball of fur, under a dozen pounds.  You may want to bring an old towel or blanket. The pups all get a bath on go-home morning and will likely still be wet, especially if you are a first or second pick.  (We do towel dry them, but depending on whether or not go-home is inside or out and depending on the weather, they may be more or less wet.  They also typically pile up on top of each other, which hinders the drying process.)  They may be extremely active or they may be more sedate; this again depends on a large number of factors, including whether they are inside their kennel or outside, how many families/ children have played with them already, whether they have just eaten/slept, etc.

Have the Pups Been Vet Checked?

Yes, they have been seen by our vet multiple times before go-home.  They have had an initial exam, their dew claws removed, first shots, and wormer.  We will provide you with a summary of this information in your paperwork as well.  In the event that the pups contract a parasite or something of the like (and this happens as they have no immunity built up at this young age), we treat them and postpone go-home.  We will ask that you also have the puppy vet checked as he/she will be due for another round of shots.

What Should I Bring with Me?

We recommend bringing along a small animal crate for transporting your puppy home, especially if you have a long journey.  You may want to bring an old towel or blanket to wrap your pup in and snuggle him/her, as mentioned, they may still be wet from their bath.  You can bring a collar if you wish, although one size doesn’t always fit all at this young age.  We will send you home with a small bag of the pup’s current food, so there’s no need to bring food/treats.

What Should I Have Bought at Home for my Pup?

We are proponents of crate training (and have a previous blogpost on this, if interested), so you may want to have a full-sized crate on hand, as well as dividers or other large items to section it off.  We recommend lots of solid surface toys, like Kong, White Bones (sterilized femurs), firehose toys, etc.  You will want to get a leash and collar, one with room for growth.  We recommend buying two stainless steel bowls for food and water; stainless steel is more hygienic than plastic. The pups are currently eating a Purina dog food; we will provide you with a sample bag so that you know which kind to purchase.  If you have open stairwells, a baby gate should be placed at the threshold.  We wash our dogs in “human” sulfate-free shampoo, so no special shampoos would be needed if you have something already comparable on-hand.  More important than buying your puppy things, is making sure you “baby-proof” the environment he/she will be in (i.e. putting cords out of chewing reach).

And that’s about it! Of the utmost importance on Go-home Day is the puppy client asking questions and getting answers.  We do our best to foster this environment, not just on Go-Home Day, but throughout the life of your Lab.  We’re been in the Lab business since 1998 and aren’t going anywhere, so if you have a question, please ask.  If we can’t answer your questions, we have a network of vets, breeders, and pro-trainers we can reference.  And do stay in touch!  We love to hear from our fellow Soggy Dog families and see how the pups are progressing.

Click here to download this article in PDF format.


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