Written by Sydney Broadaway
While riding down the interstate in Memphis, I noticed a truck with a Gunner Kennel in the bed; immediately, I felt a bond with that person. In that moment, I knew one thing for certain about the stranger beside me—he loves his dog and wants to keep him safe.
When I meet someone in a parking lot or duck lodge that has a Gunner Kennel, it’s an immediate conversation starter, and every Gunner Kennels’ customer story is somewhat different and unique in its own right. I always love hearing the relationship between waterfowlers and their retrievers, and I also love telling Tripp’s story—my three-legged retriever in training.
Tripp doesn’t have papers. He doesn’t come from an incredible bloodline, at least I don’t think he does. I adopted him from the Memphis Humane Society in November 2016. I had recently moved to the area, and I was somewhat sad because I was alone. I woke up in the middle of the night frightened from a dream, and I wished that I had something there to comfort me. Immediately, I grabbed my laptop and googled “Memphis Humane Society,” and at 3 a.m., the story of Tripp began.
I like to think it was fate that led me to Tripp—that’s honestly all I know to call it. As I scrolled down the Memphis Humane Society’s website and looked at all the healthy dogs, a three-legged puppy named “Soldier” caught my attention. In his bio, it stated he was a yellow “retriever mix” and had a “sweet personality.”
The next day at work, I gave the Humane Society a call; I was informed that someone had already submitted papers for “Soldier,” but the kind receptionist encouraged me to come out and meet him regardless because “sometimes, but not often, things fall through.”
I will never forget when he came limping in the room, full of spirit. You could tell all the workers adored him. I knelt down and he collided into me in the most ungraceful way imaginable. In those first few moments of meeting him, I knew in my heart that he was supposed to be mine. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I had to leave him there.
The next few days were tough; I’m sure the Humane Society grew tired of seeing my number pop up. After four days of the same phone call, with the same lingering question of “has someone adopted Soldier,” I had finally given up. I just marked it off in my mind as “it wasn’t meant to be” and tried to move on.
On a Saturday afternoon, a familiar number popped up on my phone… (who am I kidding, it was stored in my phone already)… I answered quickly, and I will never forget the next few words. He was mine.
With a packet of instructions and a trip to the pet supplies store, we started our adventure together. Soldier did receive a new name that day; I wanted him to have a strong name but also one that gave him some character. Some people may say that a three-legged dog named Tripp is kind of cruel, but I think it’s cute and funny and reminded me of when he fell meeting me for the first time—it fit him perfectly.
I was amazed at how well-mannered he was in the first few days—he was potty-trained, learned his new name quickly, and would sit for a treat. I began researching Gunner Kennels fairly early after adopting Tripp. He didn’t have the best start in life, so I wanted to be sure that he had an amazing life with me. Being safe while traveling is incredibly important, and I wanted Tripp to have a Gunner Kennel.
Luckily, I was able to meet with Addison Edmonds, the founder of Gunner Kennels, at Mack’s Prairie Wings in Arkansas on one of Tripp’s first road trips with mom. On that Saturday morning, Tripp became a proud owner of a Gunner Kennel and is forever safe when traveling.
As the weeks went on, Tripp traveled with me as my companion on my duck hunting adventures. He was first introduced to retrieving by my friend Charley Perkins. After a duck hunt in Arkansas, Charley and a few of the other guys were outside while I was walking Tripp. Charley grabbed a Teal and began showing it to Tripp and enticing him. Charley gave it a little toss, and Tripp immediately went to go pick up the duck. He brought is back to Charley—well, kind of. He honestly ran past him, but I was still ecstatic that Tripp was being introduced to retrieving. It was in those moments of watching Charley and Tripp that I knew my three-legged lab was about to journey into something bigger than anything I could ever image for him. I’m forever grateful to Charley for tossing that first Teal for Tripp.
Upon returning from the hunt, I gave a call to Drake Waterfowl System’s Gun Dog Team Member Marty Roberts from Sporting Life Kennels and explained to him my idea of training Tripp. He happily agreed to the challenge. It wasn’t long after that Tripp went to school in Oxford, MS, with Marty. He was gone for four months—the hardest four months of my life. But despite sleepless nights and often tear-filled eyes, I watched Tripp grow into a retriever. It was worth every moment missing him because I could see how much he loved it in his eyes.
Now, we wait. We wait for waterfowl season to roll back around. I’ve never been so anxious for a season. I’m so excited for Tripp’s first retrieve—and really, that even feels like an understatement. Marty will be there for Tripp’s first retrieve and hopefully Charley, too. It seems right for those two to be there—I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I know one thing that will be with me for every journey this upcoming season—my Gunner Kennel. It’s truly the only thing that gives me comfort while traveling with Tripp. The kennel also makes Tripp feel safe; he’s very attached to it, so much that I have to bring it inside and let him chill in it. It’s his little safe haven.
I think Gunner Kennels’ founder Addison Edmonds said it best of his dog that inspired the idea for the company: “Gunner made a commitment to me. This is my commitment to him.” Tripp deserves the best I can give him because he gives me his best daily.
Growing up in rural, west Alabama, I was immersed in the outdoor lifestyle at a very young age by my granddaddy. He taught me how to bait a hook, cluck on a box call, and be his “little hunting buddy.” Later in life, I developed my own passion for conservation and picked up bow hunting. I also learned that here in the south, duck hunting is not merely a choice but a southern tradition to take great pride in. For those who are lucky enough to experience a sunrise in flooded timber, well, let’s just say they’re lucky enough. Learn more about my story at www.sydneybroadaway.com.
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