Shelby duo ‘doggone’ good, take World Championship

Keith Durkee (center), of Shelby, poses with his hunting teammate Mo and officials from the American Kennel Club Coonhound Events after capturing the 2014 World Coonhunting Championship on March 1. (AKC/Caroline Murphy)

Keith Durkee (center), of Shelby, poses with his hunting teammate Mo and officials from the American Kennel Club Coonhound Events after capturing the 2014 World Coonhunting Championship on March 1. (AKC/Caroline Murphy)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Writer

It takes a great deal of teamwork to become a world champion at any sport. Teams spend hours and hours refining their game and building chemistry in order to compete on the highest level.

Shelby’s Keith Durkee and his teammate are no exception. Even if his teammate walks on four legs, barks and enjoys a good bone every once in a while.

Durkee and his teammate, The World’s Champion Durkee’s Proud Mo —you can call him “Mo”— captured the American Kennel Club’s Coonhound World Championship, held in Orangeburg, S.C., Feb. 27-March 1.

“(We) made the cover of American Cooner magazine, won $10,000, a four-foot trophy and a $1,000 belt buckle,” Durkee said.

In the coon hunting championships, trainers develop dogs to track the scent of raccoons, and chase them into trees. At the championship, four dogs are turned loose at a time, and are awarded points based on how quickly they pick up the scent and tree the raccoon, and are distinguished by their voices. In the AKC events, no animals, dogs or raccoons, are harmed.

Recently retired from the Army Special Forces, Durkee was quick to point out that it was the chase he was into, not injuring the raccoons.

“I’m not in it to kill coons,” he said. “It’s not for me. I just enjoy being out in the woods. I’m not in it for (killing).”

Durkee, who has been into coon hunting since 1988, said Mo was a one-of-a-kind dog.

“He’s mine, I raised him,” he said. “I helped train his grandfather, owned his father and own him. I may never get a dog as good as him again.”

While Mo, a Treeing Walker Hound,  is rough and ready, Durkee said Mo has a bit of a sensitive side.

“He’s not a show dog. He gets muddy, been snake bit.” Durkee said. “I don’t want to call him ugly, ‘cause he gets mad when he hears that.”

At press time, the duo was headed out to the AKC Coonhound National Championships in Decatur, Tenn., May 2-4.

Durkee said it might be the last competition that he and Mo, who is 8 years old, compete in together.

That in mind, he said he couldn’t think of a better teammate to have.

“Mo is just one of those dogs (who has) been a consistent winner all his life,” he said. “I’d like to win the world and national title (with him) in the same year. (Mo and his family are) not just hounds to me. They’re my friends.”