Dogs are their passion and their ministry

CorrespondentFebruary 27, 2013 

Could similarities exist between a man and his relationship with his God and the relationship between a man and his dog?

Don’t think so? Well, travel to Diamond E Farm outside Mullins, S.C., and Angie and Wally Elliott might make you a believer.

Here is where they train Labrador Retrievers, including four pups for duck hunting, retriever hunt tests and their ministry.

It’s a blue sky afternoon on the farm, a slight breeze sifting through the leafless trees, a flight of mallards gliding into the beaver pond. For the most part it is all nature here with squirrels chattering, crows calling, an occasional car swishing down the road on the other side of the hill.

The Elliotts are thankful for this bit of heaven on earth. Wally Elliot likes to say, “We’re blessed with good health, family and our dogs.”

But when the call came from their church, Mullins First Baptist Church, to show gifts and talent at a revival, Wally and Angie were in bit of a quandary.

“We weren’t particular good at singing or preaching so we wondered how we could use our dogs to glorify the Lord,” Wally said.

Thus was born the “Roxie Ministry,” named after one of their yellow labs. Love, faith, obedience and trust bind it all together in simulated duck hunts. Wally Elliot narrates and Angie Elliot handles the dogs.

Take the blind retrieve, when a dog is commanded to pick up a duck it didn’t see, going as far away as 100 yards through water and cover. The handler uses a series of whistle stops and hand signals. A right hand extended above the handler’s right shoulder sends the dog back slightly to the right and the same for a corresponding left. The handler’s arm and hand extended fully to the right sends the dog to a hard right.

That’s a picture of a perfect relationship of love, trust, obedience and faith working between a dog and its master. Wally uses scripture to show the parallel to one’s beliefs.

The Elliotts have presented demonstrations to hundreds of youngsters and adults at wildlife expos connected to the church. Their favorite is to have groups visit the Diamond E for hay rides and demos.

Watch Roxie in action. She’s commanded to sit, stay on a slightly raised platform. The demo begins with Wally beside Roxie. Then he slowly moves away out of her vision. The Elliotts are partners in all facets of life. They began as teenagers carrying strong faith. They have been married 33 years with dogs playing a significant role in their relationship. They have owned a Boykin Spaniel and a Saint Bernard, but labs are their passion.

“We wake up together, we feed the dogs together, we work together, go to the farm together and train dogs together,” Angie Elliot said.

One of the results is a successful business, Wally’s Fire and Safety Equipment, that supplies municipalities in South Carolina and parts of North Carolina.

“The ministry and dogs have been a bonus for us. We’ve made a lot of friends and gone a lot places,” Wally Elliot said.

As for the future, the Elliotts will continue to breed and train labs with their goal to produce dogs that are crowned AKC confirmation champions and master hunters.

“We’ll go with the flow and see where the ministry takes us,” Wally said. “Every generation seems to be slipping. We need to do our part and stand up as men and be accountable.”

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