Hunter’s Point Kennel and Labs for Liberty – Healing America’s Warriors

The HPK-Labs for Liberty connection:

In August 2011, while traveling home from their son’s graduation from basic training, Roger and Joan Nold stopped at HPK and chose their new lab pup. While Rielly (CPR McGill’s Timber x CPR Kirby) was not their first lab, he opened the door to a relationship between HPK and what would become Labs for Liberty (501(c)3 pending). Rielly was chosen not only for his obvious excellent hunting pedigree, but for his incredible temperament, devotion, and desire to please. First and foremost, Rielly was to be a cherished family companion; one that could hunt pheasants with the best of them.

Two years later, with a son in the Army Reserves Psychological Operations and multiple other military family members, Joan sought to become involved in Veterans activities. Having read “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell and researching his efforts for veterans health through his Lone Survivor Foundation, Joan decided to combine her love for Labs and commitment to our military by raising and training service dogs for veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and physical disabilities. However, Joan and Roger wanted to add a new twist to the training of service dogs. Recognizing many of the veterans they knew were also hunters, they decided to train hunting labs as service dogs to allow those veterans to benefit both from the expertise of a trained service dog and the natural hunting ability of a well bred lab. Joan would work with the dogs in regards to obedience and service dog tasks, Roger would work with their inherent hunting skills.

The Problem? The Nold’s needed a dog to train…so…they turned to HPK again for guidance.

First, Joan acquired a female to raise and ultimately breed to Rielly and raise specific select litters of pups for service dogs. Since it takes two years to get a female lab to breeding age and through all of her health checks, HPK helped select the first pup to be trained – Penny. Penny is the daughter of GMPR HPK’s Mr. Bo Jangles SH “Bo” –X- CPR HPK’s Spring in your Step “Spring”.

It is important to note, at this point in our story, that a major characteristic differentiating professional dog breeders from average ones is their thorough knowledge of their genetic packages. Breeding professionals should be able to match a client with a package of genetics that fits their needs. With this thought in mind — HPK could have sold Joan any pup – all our dogs are bred to be excellent field dogs. However, the Nolds had a special need. They needed a dog that would do double duty – a dog that was excellent in the field, and calm enough to be a service dog and constant companion. A service dog must be calm, intelligent, patient, obedient, and devoted. Their primary focus must be their veteran and the tasks they perform for that veteran. They must be able to focus their incredible energy and let the “hunt” come second. After much discussion, we knew we had just the litter and ultimately Penny went home with Joan.

Penny, at 5 months of age, will be placed with her forever warrior on July 5, 2014.

Sgt. Norris retired from 7 years service in the Army Reserves Psychological Operations. Sgt. Norris deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, spending his time working directly with the Marines. During the early part of his deployment to Afghanistan, he was 5 feet from an IED when it detonated. Apparently it was designed to take off his legs, but was planted a little deep so instead just “riddled” his right side with shrapnel and caused a TBI. He did not leave Afghanistan, rather working through the injury as bits of shrapnel that were not removed by medical staff worked their way out of his body over time.

He said it was not until he returned to the U.S. 9 months later that he realized he had PTSD. Sgt. Norris now works for the VA counseling and mentoring other veterans with PTSD and TBI. He spends a good deal of his free time guiding wounded veterans on hunting trips. After Penny and Sgt. Norris are united July 5, they will go home, grow together, and work on obedience and some of the service tasks Penny has started to learn. Then at around 10-12 months Penny and Sgt. Norris will begin intense work on specific tasks to fully serve his needs. As Sgt. Norris works with veterans each and every day, Penny will also be able to impact their lives as well. Secondarily, Penny will be Sgt. Norris’ hunting companion, providing for a truly inseparable bond.

Labs for Liberty pups raised by the Nold’s are still a year away. Justin has again stepped in and chosen an ideal litter to provide yet another pup to serve one of our veterans. This litter, Bo x Copper, should again have the temperament to admirably serve one of our wounded warriors.

While Labs for Liberty will eventually be breeding pups — with HPK bloodlines — to be trained as service dogs for veterans, we are embracing the ongoing opportunity to acquire pups from Justin and HPK for that purpose as well. Justin’s guidance in regard to bloodlines and temperament has been invaluable. His honesty and integrity in assuring we get the right pup, not just any pup, have been refreshing.

We are honored to collaborate with HPK to provide the highest quality Labrador retrievers as both service dogs and hunting companions to our nation’s wounded warriors.