My extended family has been into hunting dogs of one kind or another for what seems like forever. My Grandpas and Great Uncles (depending on the side of the family) kept coonhounds, bird dogs and squirrel dogs. My Grandpa Gray once owned what was reported to be the best dog anyone in my family had seen, Ol' Ring. "Ring" was 1/2 English Pointer and 1/2 Black and Tan Coonhound. People rarely believe the stories handed down about Ol' Ring. He would hunt squirrel, rabbits and quail during the day and coon at night. Could retrieve tools and bring cows around among his numerous feats. Just in good story book fashion, Ol' Ring sired a litter with a neighbors female and one of the pups was marked up just like Ring. The dam taught the pups to kill chickens so the entire litter was put down.
Growing up hearing stories about Ol' Ring and others made me want to get the family back into hunting squirrels with dogs. I did a lot of research and contacted mulitple breeders and hunters of various lines of squirrel dogs to find the breed that suits me, Mountain Feist. I began my quest to find out as much as I can about squirrel dogs in 2004.
During Spring Break from college in 2005, when my classmates were headed to the beach, I was headed to the mountains! I was living in Maine at the time so drove 15 hours to my parents' house in Virginia and then drove another 6.5 hours the next day to find myself along the bank of the Clinch River in Cleveland, Virginia. Traveling in the region always has special meaning because it is Russell and surrounding counties where so much of my family history is rooted....but that's another story...
I met Robert Varney (Clinch River Kennels - now lives in Tennessee) in a patch of gravel by the road, adjacent to the railroad tracks, next to the bridge over the river...In the shadow of the famous Clinch Mountain. I followed Robert back to his place at the time which was at the base of the ridge. It was on this trip that I was JUST coming to look at dogs and talk about Mountain Feist. Few people make this sort of trek solely to gather information. Again, I wanted to make sure this breed of dog is what I truly wanted. Robert showed me his dogs and we had a nice visit for a couple hours about various topics, including bloodlines. I even held a 3 day old puppy out of a dog he called Snap-E and a female he called Barbie. Barbie had chosen the underside of the porch, complete with lattice work to have her small litter, two male pups.
At the conclusion of Spring Break 2005, I headed back to college in Maine with no squirrel dogs or pups. After much thought and consideration, I decided that the hunting style, pedigrees and looks of the Mountain Feist I had seen in Southwest Virginia were what I wanted. I let Robert know that I was interested in a male and a female pup with the intention of breeding down the road if they made decent squirrel dogs.
My summer job in 2005 brought me home to Virginia. So, in May 2005 I went back to Cleveland, VA to pick up my male pup (Snap-E x Barbie) and my female pup (Yellow Mountain Copper x Gyspy-K-Lady). The male pup was the one I had held during Spring Break and I named him Gray's Trigger. The female was named Kentucky Jody at the suggestion of Robert to pay homage to the enthusiasts in that state that contributed so much to the background of the pup. A few of these "Feist Men" are Jack Buckley, Glen Riffe, Jess Pennington, King Carroll, Hurley Combs, IB Ritchie, Ernie Blevins, Wade Baldwin and others. I hunted Kentucky Jody in competition events during 2008 and she would quickly earn her Squirrel and Bench Champion titles.
The rest, as they say, is history.....