Famous Labradors: NFC-AFC Storm’s Riptide Star “Rascal”

NFC-AFC Storm’s Riptide Star “Rascal” was the first chocolate lab to win the National Retriever Championship, and perhaps the most famous field trial chocolate lab of all time. He reached the pinnacle of retriever field trial success, accumulated an impressive amount of field trial points as the first field trial dog of an amateur handler, and sired numerous field trial, hunt test, and hunting retrievers. He was known for his love of water, the enthusiasm with which he anticipated upcoming marks in the field, and his steadfast devotion to his owner, Marilyn Fender. His pedigree contains a bewildering number of famous retrievers, includes the first ever dual champion Banchory Bolo, and traces all the way back to Avon, the original foundation Labrador Retriever.

To say he was a special dog is a bit of an understatement, and it’s hard to overstate his impact on the retriever world. Interestingly, Rascal was last pick in his litter. He was initially overlooked because of his chocolate color, and because he was perceived to have less of a retrieving desire than his litter mates at 8 weeks of age. However, it wasn’t long before his retrieving success outshined that of his siblings, and that of almost all other retrievers in the history of the sport. In 1996, he won the National Retriever Championship against a loaded field including the famed NAFC-FC “Lean Mac,” NFC-AFC Candlewoods Tanks A Lot “Lottie,” FC-AFC Chena River Chavez, FC-AFC Dare to Dream “Cosmo,” and 84 other elite retrievers. He once again made it to the final series in the 1998 Nationals and the 8th series in the 1999 Canadian Nationals handled by his owner, Marilyn Fender.

Rascal came later in my life as he was born in 1991. He was bought with field trial goals in mind. He was the left over chocolate in a litter from a breeding of a high point FC AFC and an FC AFC that had qualified for a national. 

Marilyn Fender, Retriever Training Forum

In the early 90’s, chocolates were not well accepted in the field trial world. The chocolate color is inherited recessively, meaning that chocolate labs were a rarity. Furthermore, selective breeding for color in chocolate-only kennels had produced chocolate dogs without the requisite qualities needed for success in field trials. The fact that Rascal’s genetics were from a high quality breeding between two elite field trial champion retrievers did not initially absolve Rascal from that criticism. It was not until he won the National Retriever Championship that he gained universal respect.

I was blown away when I saw Mike Lardy and Rascal in Ardmore Oklahoma, win the 96 National Open. I realized this dog and training program was the REAL DEAL.

Tim West, Arcadia Retrievers

Marilyn Fender described her acquisition of Rascal in a Retriever Field Trial News article shortly after Rascal won the Nationals:

I went to Handjem Retrievers…with my hunt test/obedience  females, Stormy and Velvet. They helped me learn with my dogs.  I had no idea how it would change my future. Rascal came into my life when  Stormy  failed to get pregnant.  Mike and I agreed I should look for a puppy that could be a possibility for a field trial dog.  Two days later, Curt Humphries, his breeder, shipped eight week old  Rascal  from Dallas.  Bev Montgomery had raised the litter. The rest of the litter of another chocolate and 6 blacks had been sold earlier. Rascal landed in Milwaukee after circling for several hours in a huge thunder storm.  He cheerfully bounced out of the crate, tail wagging,  without a sign of fear or caution from the rough trip.  He has been like that, fearless and happy, in every situation since.

Marilyn Fender, 1997 Retriever Field Trial News
NFC-AFC Storm’s Riptide Star “Rascal”

Rascal was known for his extraordinary love for water. He was used in Mike Lardy’s “Total Retriever Marking” to demonstrate complex water quad retrieves, and famously nailed a long water mark in one of the final series of the Nationals that he won.

Rascal’s love for water emerged immediately as he learned to climb into the bathtub and later by chasing hundreds of bumpers in the surf on Sanibel Island, Florida at Christmas. All his basic obedience was done on my lunch hours at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh where I teach. 

Marilyn Fender, 1997 Retriever Field Trial News

Rascal’s love for water has translated consistently to his offspring. Many of Rascal’s children and grandchildren have an uncanny love for water. Marilyn explains below:

All of Rascal’s children have loved water as he did. His first adventure into water was climbing in to my bathtub not long after he arrived at my house from TX. It was not my idea but he thought it was a good one. Soon when he heard the tub being filled he would run down the hall and jump in. In walking my property when he was only four months old he broke through the forming ice to swim and loved the water. That was not my idea either that he jump in cold water– but he was running free and thought it was a good idea.. While I tell people not to put pups in cold water – it never slowed down his loving water. Water vs land was always his choice – the bigger the water the better. We spent much time on Sanibel Island, FL that first winter on Christmas vacation where he learned to swim and retrieve in the big waves coming in.

Marilyn Fender, Owner of Rascal

Rascal did most of his training with Mike Lardy. He qualified for all age trials at the age of 3 years old by placing 1st in the Qualifying stakes at the River King Retriever Club, and subsequently won 1st again at the Montgomery Retriever Club qualifying stakes. He placed 4th in his first open stake in Wisconsin at the age of 3.5 years, and placed 2nd a week later at the Madison Retriever Club field trial in the open all age stakes. He received his first open win at the Middle Tennessee Retriever Club field trial at the age of 4 amongst a field of 52 dogs and received his field champion (FC) title while 4 years old. At the age of 5, he won the National Retriever Championship amongst a field of 89 dogs, and became the first chocolate lab to ever reach this accomplishment. He went on to achieve 6 more wins, two handled by Lardy, two handled by Dave Smith, and two amateur wins handled by Marilyn Fender.

While ten months he went to Mike Lardy who started his foundation yardwork. Dave Smith’s children, Dana and Jessie, often brought Rascal in to sleep with them when he was in basics. Andy Attar, who worked for Mike at the time, did a portion of his basic and transitional skill
development. (Andy now has Autumn Run Retriever Kennels).

Mike and Dave have done all his advanced training. Rascal represents many firsts. He is my first field trial dog, my first amateur win, and the first chocolate in history to be an NFC. It was Mike’s fifth National win which is the first time a Pro has won five.

Marilyn Fender, 1997 Retriever Field Trial News
Rascal, Mike, and Marilyn celebrate after Rascal was named the National Champion.

Mike Lardy described the historical moment in an article written by Retriever News:

In the 56-year history of the National Retriever, no handler has ever won the event five times, and no handler has ever won with a chocolate Labrador retriever…Mike and NFC Storm’s Riptide Star–Rascal–won in impressive fashion over a field loaded with talent. Here, in Mike’s own words is the story of that event and that historic win.

“As National Retriever Club President Ed Aycock announced Rascal’s victory, feelings of euphoria and relief swept over me. The little brown puppy that owner Marilyn Fender had brought-in spite of my best efforts to convince her to buy a black Lab-had grown into a competitive wonder and had now capture the sport’s ultimate crown: National Field Champion.”

Mike Lardy

Rascal’s 1996 National win is even more impressive considering the distraction that occurred during the second to last series. Many bystanders recall hearing shouting and loud noises, and seeing Rascal appear to “pop,” only to quickly recover without handling. Apparently someone in the gallery was yelling at their dog and Rascal turned around in the water to see what was going on. Ultimately, he did not let it distract him and he quickly resumed the long swim and accurately retrieved the mark.

The judges told Mike to wait before handling because they realized that there was noise and screaming and banging from the gallery that caused the dog to turn. I was in the gallery and have a…video…yelling at one of their dogs and banging at their dog truck as I was standing near where it happened…

At any rate – Rascal turned back to continue the long swim and nailed the mark. It was clear he had not stopped because he did not know where he was going or was confused. He thought that someone wanted him to stop as there was the banging and screaming at a dog. 

In the last series it was between him and another of Mike’s dogs and the other dog got lost in the woods and Rascal was clean. Dennis Bath was one of the judges and he does not give wins away at Nationals. 

Rascal also was a Finalist in 1998 at St. Louis. 

Marilyn Fender, Retriever Training Forum
NFC-AFC Storm’s Riptide Star “Rascal”

What has always been touching about Rascal’s story was his connection with his owner, Marilyn. He seemed to be as comfortable at home as a pet as he was winning retriever trials on the national stage.

Rascal, who sleeps on the living room sofa at home, doesn’t know what he has achieved. He just knows he always has a wonderful time with Mike and Dave  who have all those birds for him.  After Ardmore  when Mike and Dave took him  pheasant hunting in Iowa with 3xNFC Lottie and NAFC Lean Mac, it was also fun.

Marilyn Fender, 1997 Retriever Field Trial News
NFC-AFC Storm’s Riptide Star “Rascal”

Facts About Rascal:

  • First NFC Chocolate in History
  • Finalist 1998 National Open
  • 76 All Age points
  • Qualified for: 
    • Four US Open Nationals
    • Two US National Amateurs
    • Multiple Canadian Nationals
  • Went to 8th Series in Canada Open 1999 National handled by Marilyn
  • Open Second and JAMs in Canada handled by Marilyn
  • Qualified all age at 26 months
  • Open Placement at 32 Months in first Open attempted
  • Field Champion at 4 years 2 months
  • Amateur Win at Three years
  • Amateur Title achieved with Two Wins and Two Seconds
  • National Field Champion at Five Years
  • Sire of a Canadian National Amateur Champion
    • 2000 NAFTCH AFTCH FTCH Quik Windstorm
  • Finalist 1997 Canadian National Open 
  • Incredible Hunting Companion
  • Sire of Canadian Breed Champion