For most folks, television is a brief chance to escape the daily grind. But innocent channel flipping can turn into much more. In 2008, Tom Smith was a former United States Infantry Officer running a successful industrial construction company in the Midwest. One evening he tuned in to watch Mike Stewart, renowned dog trainer and then owner of Wildrose Kennels, give tips on training British Labrador retrievers the “Wildrose Way.”
Watching Mike inspired Tom to join the Wildrose pack with the purchase of his first puppy Dixie. While Dixie was in training, Tom spent as much time as he could spare away from the construction site to shadow Mike and trainer Ben Summerall. Tom attended every course, class, and event Wildrose had to offer. Before one event Tom asked Mike, “Am I taking the class?” Mike replied, “You already understand all of this… You’re working.” Tom has been training dogs with Wildrose ever since.
In January of 2010, Tom and Mike began a nine-year transition plan that lead to Tom taking the reins of Wildrose’s Oxford, Mississippi kennels. Tom became an associate trainer, purchased property adjacent to Wildrose’s facilities, and traveled with Mike to seminars and shows all over the United States.
In those early days, Tom was still running his industrial construction company while also training and producing some of the most prolific and hard hunting gun dogs in the country. In 2012, he sold his construction company and moved to Oxford full time. Then in October of 2014, Tom became general manager in charge of the daily operations of Wildrose Oxford while still training a full string of dogs.
Tom’s dream came to fruition on January 1, 2019 when he purchased the place where Mike Stewart’s dream began. “Realizing my dream of becoming a dog trainer,” Tom says, “has only been eclipsed by continuing the Wildrose tradition as the owner of the flagship Oxford facility.”
Today, Tom and his wife Tina enjoy the long hours and hectic schedules the life of a premier kennel master leads. Dixie is twelve-years old now and still at Tom’s side along with two-year old Mattis, a fox red hunting machine that is the epitome of what a waterfowl and upland companion should be.
From watching quick dog training tips on television to becoming the owner of one of the most successful and world-renowned gun dog facilities, Tom Smith’s story exemplifies true American hard work and determination.
-- Joshua R. Quong