G O D ‘ S M A N W I T H A D O G
Tell me how your passion for dogs began.
-Richard, my passion for dogs began in my youth. I was raised in a hunting community, and in a hunting family. All my relatives hunted, and what comes with a good hunting family? Naturally, a good hunting dog. To put it into perspective, we said hello to the Lord every Christmas morning from a duck blind, and then went home to have our Christmas. In almost every family picture, that’s right, there was a dog in it.
Does your family participate and support you raising and training retrievers?
-My family is great, however my sons are not drawn to dogs as I am. Once I left home for college I lost contact with hunting dogs and my children were not raised with them around the house. We lived in the city and sports became our bonding ground. It wasn’t until my boys were in college that dogs were brought back into my life. So the family support all comes from my wife, Jayne. I am sure she is up for Saint hood in heaven for all she does for the ministry.
Tell me about your family and professional life.
-We, as a family, have been greatly blessed with health, talent, and success. We have had some major battles and trials, but God’s hand has always remained on us. I ran a business successful enough to provide for the family and to allow Jayne to stay at home. She is an exceptional cook, a gardener, and a gifted musician. She uses her musical gift playing for our church. The boys were great athletes growing up and have all survived those youthful trials to reach high levels of success professionally. Two of them are medical doctors, one a pastor, and the youngest just graduated from a major music school here in Texas.
Why do you use Labrador retrievers and not other breeds?
-Well, if you don’t mind, let’s answer why use dogs at all. The bible says in Job 12:7, that if you want to know who God is “ask the BEAST of the the field and they will TEACH you.” I found that verse challenging, but today I believe it so, why Labs? I guess you could use almost any breed of dog, but Labradors have some unique characteristics that I love. First of all, they have a great passion about what they do. They wake up every morning ready to be of service to someone other than themselves. Secondly, I find it interesting that they have the same job description in life that God gave us. I tell them to “go” (leave my duck blind). “Go”, even unto the ends of the swamp, find those that are lost and bring them back to me. God tells us to “go”, even unto the ends of the earth, to find those that are lost and to bring them back to him. Thirdly, they have a servant’s heart. They are one of God’s warriors for the weak, the hurting, and the lost. There are only a few things that are always willing to run towards trouble in life. A fireman will, a policeman, a pastor, a soldier, and so will a Labrador retriever. As an interesting note, it is difficult to use a dog or a man that wants to stay safe, soft, and comfortable on the back porch of life, and only wants to please itself.
How and when did Kingdom Dog Ministries get started?
-It was more life it evolved than started. I don’t have a moment in my mind of when I first saw the vision of what KDM is today. I do have memories of watching it unfold in front of me. I believe it started in a duck blind in south Texas when I was hunting alone with my dog. I was talking, perhaps even crying, out to God to use me in some way for his glory. I could not sing, or dance, or speak in public. I was a hunter with an empty heart that wanted to serve something bigger than myself. You might say that I was successful but not satisfied. We officially became a 501c3 non-profit organization in 2003; however, it had started years before in the back yard without a name, vision, or awareness of it’s birth. As I trained m beast of the field (my dog) I watched the bible unfold and come alive before my eyes. I began to show and share with others what the dog was teaching me. We went from hunting in rice fields on Saturday to hunting in churches on Sunday, mud flats to church carpets, duck blinds to cathedrals, rugged camouflage shirts to church robes. Instead of searching for fallen birds from the air, my dog began to hunt for those that were lost and hungry for the Word of God. That beginning was ten years ago and since that date the good Lord has used the dogs to bring over 20,000 individuals into his kingdom. Wow! That was not even in my wildest dreams. Thank you Lord for using us.
What is the basic message behind KDM and why is it so appealing to audiences?
-I believe it is so appealing because, even though it is the same message that the bible has been teaching us forever, it catches us off guard. It is presented in a most unusual way and by some of the most unique presenters. But, it is also coming from one of the last things you would expect to see in your church… a dog. Dogs are not expected to be in a church let alone preaching the sermon. A dog inside a church so goes against our principles that only God could be making this happen; and if God wants it to happen we need to get our logic out of the way. I don’t even question why it happens any more, I just show up with the dog and watch it happen before my eyes. I have witnessed thousands give their lives to the Lord at the end of the presentation. My prayer is that the glory stay where it belongs; in the powerful hands of our Lord. Sit, and keep your eyes fixed on me and I will keep you in perfect peace. That is what I am going to do Richard, I am going to sit and keep my eyes fixed on God.
Why does KDM most resonate with sportsmen? Is it because of their close association with the outdoors?
-Well, first of all, I believe it is because GOD WANTS HIS MEN BACK. Secondly, it is because God tells us that nature is one of his greatest tools for showing men (the world) who he is. We were given the great outdoors (his creation) long before we were given the bible. God says that he will reveal himself to us through his creation. So it does not surprise me that God is using dogs (one of his creations) to speak to us. He just needed a few generations to get a dog into almost every home in America before he presented to us his truth through them. We actually call him man’s best friend. Every time you look down at him and thing about his name, D-O-G, it should remind you to (D)epend (O)n (G)od.
What type of venues do you speak to and what has been the largest and smallest group that you have addressed?
-I have taught my dogs not to challenge the direction nor the distance that I am sending them, and I try to honor that wish with my Master. We try not to look at who or how many. We focus on being thankful for the opportunity to go and serve. We give hundreds of talks every year. They range from, “where two or more have gathered…”, to millions through television. We love to talk to everyone but my three top favorite arenas are wild game dinners, churches, and men’s groups. However, the dogs are in great demand in public schools, correction institutions, conventions, seminaries, business organizations, youth groups, senior groups, home and Christian schools, and juvenile detention centers. It is endless and so exciting. These dogs will lick the face of a small child and the face of a hardened criminal with the same compassion and love. I am trying to incorporate that lesson in my own life.
All of the events are truly exciting to us. We have spoken at Crystal Cathedral with over 1.5 millions people. We have also appeared on the 700 Club , spoken with James Robinson, Focus on the Family, as well as numerous churches with congregations numbering in the thousands. We have also driven for hours to speak with groups and congregations with less than a hundred people. It is about the honor that comes with God trusting us with his word and not our fame or fortune.
Why are Americans so enamored with dogs as pets?
-Well there are a thousand reasons to love a dog. Let’s start with the most obvious. A dog’s love is unconditional. He does not have to be fed to show up with his tail wagging when you come home every day. He simply loves you for who you are. people are drawn to that kind of passion. I am the first and last thing my dogs want to see each day. How can you not like something that loves you that way? We don’t have to pretend to be something we are not. He loves us just as we are. Old clothes, no make up, bad hair days, and bad moods.
One of my young dogs won an event with straights 10’s from the judges last month. A competitor came up to me later and asked how my dog come win at such a young age. I told him he was asking the wrong question and that it was not How he won but Why he won. He won today because he DID NOT COME HERE TO WIN, HE CAME TO SERVE ME. Wow! What a lesson for us all! It is not about us winning in life, it is about us telling the world who our master is.
I know you primarily use black Labrador retrievers. Why, and are there any other dog species you enjoy training?
-I love a well trained obedient. friendly, loyal anything; including human individuals with those qualities. There aren’t enough of them around anymore. In today’s world it is, “take what you can, the big dog wins, and don’t tell me what to do… I am free.” Well to me freedom is not the opportunity to just do what you want. It is the opportunity to do what is right.
As far as training other breeds goes, almost any dog can be trained. I just love to train Labs because they have such a servant’s heart. They love to please others and their basic nature is one of a pastor, evangelist, or marine. If something has fallen, lost, or needs help they don’t care what the other dogs think about them; they are going to help. They will search for it until they find it, and then they will bring it back and place it into their master’s hands.
Why black labs? Color and gender are not factors at all. The only thing that matters is attitude, desire, and a willingness to learn. I actually have all three colors of labs (black, yellow, chocolate) and I love them all. As for training other dogs, my son had a chihuahua and I have a pekinese that sits, retrieves, and loves to please. Why, because someone loved them enough to train them and we trained them because we know that obedience sets them free. Obedience allows them to play in the park without a leash or control collar. That is why God says to discipline those you love. Prophet dog says it well when he tells all the new puppies, “Sit, because the more I learn to stay, the more I got to go.”
There are two major cross roads to learning obedience in a Lab’s life. One is in the beginning of our relationship with them. They believe that life is all about them. Therefore, it is our loving job to inform them that it is not about them. It is about them serving others. That is what separates champions from all other dogs. The other challenge comes at about nine months when suddenly they start looking past you to other dogs. Instead of looking to you for who they are, they start to compare themselves to the other dogs. I think I can out run that dog. I think I’m smarter, faster, and can smell better than all those other dogs. This is the first time pride enters their world, and pride always comes before a fall. They must keep their focus on you if they are to ever be free. I believe the same thing happens to us. It is when we take our eyes off God and start to compare ourselves to other men that pride comes into our lives. The bible says that, “he who keeps his eyes fixed on me, I will keep in perfect peace.” Are you in perfect peace? Who are your eyes on? God, your neighbor, or the mirror?
What topics do you address during a typical KDM presentation?
-We always try to align our talks with the audience we are speaking to; regardless of the topic. What separates us from other speakers is that we just don’t tell them, we show them what it looks like. Two themes that are always present in our talks are the power of truth and the freedom that comes with obedience. We are not about high tech, extravagance, elaborate displays, nor elegant speech. We are about the simplicity of God’s timeless truths. Not just spoken but revealed through live moving illustrations.
Topics we address include; raising children, temptations, diversions, and the power of obedience. Others are not taking the easy path of life, not dropping what God has placed in our mouths, patience wins, and keeping our eyes on the Master. I personally love the talks on, “who is going to carry the torch when you are gone”, and, “when it is your turn to die, make sure that is all you have to do.” We have over four hours of topics and talks. When I first started I only had fifteen minutes of topics and that was if spoken really slow.
What is the future for KDM and what legacy do you want to leave behind?
-Richard, what I would have told you five years ago is still true today. We are just grateful that God is trusting us with his word. We want to serve. We are trying to be good Labradors, throw it short or throw it long, we will try to get it for you. Just send us. However, after seeing what God has done through these dogs in bringing people to Christ (20,000 plus commitments in writing) in the last five years, God may have another plan. What would ten men and/or women be able to accomplish, or a hundred? Our vision is to purchase some property, to build a facility in order to train Kingdom Dogs and then place those trained dogs (21st century weapons for the Lord) into the hands of trained speakers across the country. We have plenty of men and women who have a love for God, a love for animals, and a desire to go but what we don’t have is a ready supply of trained dogs. We are waiting for God to place this vision on the heart of others to help us make this a reality. If we can build a training facility we can duplicate what we are doing. Then, long after we are gone from this earth, this ministry will continue to send dogs and speakers into every school, church, and correctional institution in America; leaving a sea of changed lives behind, all living for our Lord. I believe that the concept of Kingdom Dog Ministries can change the course of this nation as well as have a major impact on the next generation of Americans being faithful to their master.
Hank Hough, I again want to thank you on behalf of the Christian Sportsman magazine staff and readership for your generosity in extending to us your time and probing insights into the fascination that dogs can bring into out lives and the culture of this nation. The preparation and thoughtful responses to our questions have allowed us to see God’s vision for communicating eternal truths through the eyes of a black Labrador retriever. What an exciting and vibrant ministry you are bringing into the lives of sportsmen across the nation.