Dogs might be the secret for a long marriage
By Cheryl Parker

It was a cold, rainy day when Bob and Pat Merkel tied the knot at Blessed Sacrament Church 70 years ago.

They both grew up and went to school in Jesup where Pat was a cheerleader and Bob competed in football, basketball, and baseball. They made their home in Jesup.

Both worked at Rath Packing Company; Pat for just a few years before staying home full-time to raise their family, while Bob stayed until Rath’s went out of business.

When asked the secret of their long and successful marriage, Bob says, “Pat knew what fit my fancy, and she always went along with it, and always made the best of it.” Bob has always been very competitive in everything he does, so, when Rath’s liquidated in 1985, he turned his interest in hunting dogs into a full-time occupation, creating the best breeding and training kennel possible.

The Merkels moved to their current location in Littleton and have been there for 43 years. They grew German Shorthair Pointers, introducing them to hunting by taking them to the North Dakota prairie and also a training ground in Canada. They would be gone 2-3 weeks at a time. Some of these dogs would compete all over the United States and Canada.

Wrenegrade Moesggaards won the National Amateur Championship in 1972. In 1992, Maggie Mae won the Open Gun Dog National Championship, a Kansas competition with 113 dogs from throughout the United States and Canada, and a few entries from Norway.

During the busiest times in their career, the Merkels would take off on a Friday with 30 dogs, three horses, and “sometimes a grandchild or two,” and travel to train anywhere in the Midwest. They estimate they’ve traveled in about 40 states.

Bob points out there is a difference between a show dog and a hunting dog; they bred and trained both. They developed their own Dixieland Shorthair blood line. Their dogs have been featured in Gun Dog and other magazines. In addition, they have made some training videos. Over the course of their career, they estimate they have trained “thousands” of dogs.

Bob says Pat is an integral part of the success of Wrenegade Kennels. In addition to handling the phone, registrations, and all the bookwork, she is equally knowledgeable about the bloodlines, and is an equal partner in every aspect of the operation. They also credit their sons, Randy and Dan, with their help in training. Their daughter, Kathy, keeps up their website and is instrumental in their Internet presence. They also want to thank their good neighbors, Bart and Gin Vogel and their family. “They have been immensely helpful to us in every way,” they say.

About 20 years ago (when they were merely celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary), they eased out of the competitions and began scaling back their training business. They have no intention of giving it up, though, and are still taking reservations for future litters.

While a lot of retirees put “travel” on their bucket list, the Merkels did so much traveling with their dogs, they are enjoying staying home. But they don’t stay home all the time. They still like to travel to favorite hunting sites out west and in Canada where they have made friends.

Check out their website at for more information and to see some of their dogs.
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