One dog started career in canines

A stray chocolate Lab, wandering with two pups at the Mission Onward Ranch in the Cariboo, nuzzled its way into Linda Cline's heart.

That was 20 years ago. And while that dog, Brownie, has long since passed, it sparked a love of Labrador retrievers and a thriving business that offers a diversity of canines, services and training.

A friend picked up the dog and brought her to Cline and her husband, Barrie, who were living in Langley at the time.

Cline, owner of Someday Retrievers, knew she had the right breed when she found her son, three-year-old Jesse, sitting on Brownie, chewing on the dog's ear - causing no reaction from the calm canine.

"I thought that's a breed that should be around kids."

And because Jesse was born deaf, Brownie became his ears around home, leading him back to the house when Linda called outside.

Brownie, as may be surmised, was a chocolate Lab.

"Chocolate Labs were so rare at the time," Cline recalled.

Enthralled by her dog and its abilities, she began researching the breed (chocolate Labs have a recessive gene that results in their colour, meaning brown parents don't necessarily result in brown puppies) and found an outstanding mate for breeding for a mere $300. That was the foundation for today's business.

"They said chocolates were good for nothing and I shouldn't waste my money," Cline said. "Blacks were the colour at that time."

But trends inevitably change and the unwanted colour became the it-dog. In the early 1990s, Cline said customers would pay $1,500 for a chocolate Lab (about the same price for any registered Lab today).

Driven by curiosity, Cline eventually followed Barrie -a Kamloops realtor who sells ranch properties - into hunting and began training Labs for field trials. That led to training for dogs that eventually go on to advanced training and work in drug and bomb detection.

Today, in addition to breeding Labs and select other sporting dogs, including a wirehair pointer and a Deutsche wachtelhunde, Someday Retrievers partners with Douglas Lake Ranch for pheasant hunts.

The ranch releases pheasants and rents out accommodations for hunters. Someday Retrievers offers trained dogs as companions.

The Cherry Creek-based business has also added dog grooming and has a resident trainer for time-strapped families bringing new pets into the household. Cline said she also gets tough-cases: dogs considered unruly and unmanageable brought to her by desperate owners.

"Leadership is important. That's what we teach people. Dogs run amok because dogs are in control - not the people."

Cline said training the dogs is straightforward. Training the owners to handle their dogs is more difficult.

Dogs that undergo a three- to four-week training regimen stay at the Cherry Creek acreage, where they can often be seen trotting behind Cline on her ATV.

Cline is always looking for a way to expand and to offer better service to clients. That includes Web cams at kennels so anxious owners can keep tabs on their pets.

Ironically, while chocolate Labs were just coming into vogue 20 years ago and black Labs were waning, that trend has reversed itself. Cline said she is starting to see more demand for the classic black Lab versus the more unique chocolate colour that propelled her business to where it is today.

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