By Tom Davis
On September 28 The American Field published a letter co-signed by Gatra Wehle of Eclectic, Alabama, and Martha Hays of Northborough, Massachusetts. The letter, addressed “To all of our friends in the sporting dog community,” began as follows: “It is with great sadness—but with the unshakeable conviction that we are doing the right and necessary thing—that we announce our decision to close Elhew Kennels and retire the Elhew prefix . . . .”
When Robert G. Wehle, the founder of Elhew Kennels and the architect of the masterpiece that is the Elhew pointer, died, in 2002, he bequeathed his dogs and the rights to the Elhew name to Brian and Martha Hays. For more than a decade the couple continued Bob’s life’s work, breeding the best to the best, preserving the iconic line and the qualities of temperament, intelligence, conformation and style that distinguish it.
Then, tragically, Brian was diagnosed with cancer. Despite fighting the disease with every fiber of his being, he succumbed in 2015. The last time I spoke to him he was upbeat about his medical prospects, as always—but what he really wanted to talk about was how excited he was about the litter of frozen-semen Snakefoot puppies he had on the ground. (Elhew Snakefoot [pictured here with Bob Wehle] won the 1994 National Open Shooting Dog Championship and the 1995 Masters Open Shooting Dog Championship.)
Martha Hays attempted to keep the kennels going, only to come to the conclusion that she simply couldn’t do justice to the standard set by Bob and Brian. So, after consulting with Gatra (Bob’s widow), she made the difficult decision to retire the “brand.” While pointers undoubtedly will be described as “Elhew-bred” far into the future, there will be no more Elhew pointers.
In Martha’s words, “It was a great honor to be part of carrying on the Elhew tradition. After Brian’s passing, I felt it was my responsibility to end Elhew Kennels properly and retire the Elhew prefix. I know in my heart that this is what Bob and Brian would want.”