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  • Writer's pictureMike Mahoney

Barton Lab Ranch

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

In May, I spent a few weeks at my daughter and son-in-law's place in Trout Creek, MT. They live in a very remote area of northwestern Montana nestled in the middle of the Kootenai National Forest and the Bitterroot Mountain Range. About 100 miles southwest of Kalispell and Flathead Lake, 100 miles north of Missoula, and 100 miles east of Coeur d'Alene, ID.

Mr & Mrs. Barton Labs and my four beautiful grandchildren relocated to their 26-acre ranch in western Montana from Utah over a year ago. As most of you know, they breed English Labradors predominantly the red fox color, but as my daughter says, "it's more about disposition than color." These days breeders are spurned for deliberately bringing more dogs into this world. While I understand the sentiment, I have a rescue myself, not everyone wants to take on that challenge. It's a sad realization that there is no shortage of irresponsible and unkind people in this world so there will probably always be an abundance of abandoned dogs to rescue. Regardless, their dogs are in high demand and warrant a high price. If you'd like to see more pictures of their dogs and learn a little more about English Labs and Barton Labs, you can go to their website and their two Instagram sites from there-

The kids are also heavily involved in this business. Everything from whelping to night shift duty and poop management. And boy, there is plenty of that! Just ask my grandson Kanan. Potentate of Poop, Poop Master, King of Poop... the list goes on. In addition to the nine adult labs, there are two Akitas - Danner and Brynne and they have just produced four more little poof ball Akitas.

I camped on their property next to their compound where we would gather in the morning and evening to talk, laugh, and watch the dogs and wildlife. The list of things to do is endless. They are taking their time designing the layout of the ranch with a home, shop, and dog breeding facility, and is under construction. There is a fenced section with plenty of space for the kids and dogs to exercise and provide protection from the extensive wildlife population that includes, bears, mountain lions, deer, elk, eagles, hawks, owls, etc...Danner and Brynne, the 2 Akitas are part of that protection plan as they are instinctually guardian dogs.

Introducing Portia to this massive pack was done in stages. The less aggressive and friendly labs were first then introductions were slow until she had met everyone. I can't say they all accepted her but most did and she had a lot of fun trying to herd them all.

I set up the Airstream right next to their trailer on a nice pad of foundation material surrounded by beautiful pines. I was able to witness the daily routine of my family with whom I haven't spent much time. I was so happy to be with them.

We had camp chairs set up outside where we would gather in the evening and just talk about anything that came up. Kaydance was a regular occupant of the hammock a short distance away where she would just swing away while listening and singing to her music.

As for Mr. and Mrs. Barton Labs, they have their hands full, as do the kids. In addition to running a business, raising children, and building and developing their ranch they have a full plate that includes homeschooling, church, and various social activities. While Kelliann manages most of the puppy duties, Kevin aka Mr. Barton Labs aka Mckyver is busy overseeing the construction of everything on the ranch, the disciplinarian, dog whisperer, and conductor of fun for this family. And they do have lots of fun!

A new litter of lab pups had been born a few weeks earlier and they required constant attention. They have a separate designated and segregated area for the puppies and each of the kids takes turns working the night shift. Kanan is the prince of poop and while he is excellent at his job, he is not pleased with having the responsibility.

The kids and I were able to spend some valuable one on one time. I took each one out to lunch, shopping, rock skipping, hiking, was so enlightening to listen to each of them share their interests and thoughts about their life in the country and what they thought about what they would like to do as they get older.

My grandkids range in age from 17-13. Identical twin girls Emma and Lilly just turned 17 at the end of June. Lilly has become quite the accomplished archer which has inspired Emma and the other two Kaydance and Kanan, to take a crack at the sport as well. Emma is an aspiring writer with the imagination to match. They have truly embraced the Montana life and are now contemplating their next steps in life, which include college, EMT, and Paramedic training and I'm sure endeavors yet to unveil themselves.

Kaydance is next up and is a newly minted 14-year-old who has an amazing voice and is a voracious reader and writer. There is a depth to Kaydance that you can just sense after you sit and spend any time with her. She is a very special young woman. I love watching her grow and evolve into herself.

And then there is Kanan. It took me a while to reconcile that this young man was Kanan, my grandson. I didn't recognize him! He had grown and matured profoundly. Soon to be 13, inconceivable that Kelliann and Kevin will have 4 teenagers! Yikes! Well, good thing they're young.

It was so wonderful spending time with this family, my family. I'll be back.

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Sounds like you had a wonderful visit with your daughter and her family. What an interesting business and location. As soon as I read "Bitterroot Mountain Range" in your post, I immediately thought of James Lee Burke and his Billy Bob Holland character!

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