No dog appears to us to become so personally attached to his master or mistress as a Spaniel: it cannot endure to be absent; it will come to the room door and scratch and whine to be admitted, and even patiently wait for hours, until entrance be granted. We had a small high-bred female . . . which displayed towards her mistress the strongest affection. This dog was remarkable for beauty, having long glossy hair like silk, and for admirable symmetry; she was besides, as spirited as elegant . . .
These appreciative words of a nineteenth century spaniel aficionado are quoted in the introduction to Jennifer Lloyd Carey’s splendid work, Cocker Spaniels, first published twenty years ago, a fine work on the history and care of my kind and newly acquired second-hand by Kemo Sabe to add to our growing collections of historic works on my honest little breed. I can tell from all the time she takes looking at such works, pondering on the pictures of my ancient forbears, that she is more and more taken by my sort. When she comes across a thought like the one above she is often moved to draw me closer to hearth and home, knowing that my kind have long proven devoted and constant companions. I understand and I am quietly proud. Such comments are typical, and pepper the prefaces of instructional works about keeping little spaniels like me. Only yesterday Kemo Sabe read to us about Rogue, Charles I’s spaniel, who was with him until the end: despite the fellow’s shortcomings of character, I am glad that Rogue remained devoted and gave him friendship when the world was turning upside down.
Mrs Lloyd Carey, mentioned above, comes from a family which knows more about Cocker Spaniels than most as three generations have bred and loved spaniels. True to form she was with her dog Robin at Crufts last week, though she has been attending since childhood and showed her first Cocker Spaniel in her own right in 1948. When her dear Robin failed to trouble the judges this year, Mrs Carey wasn’t perturbed: the vicissitudes of dog shows are all one to her! Mrs Carey’s grandfather was a pioneer Cocker Spaniel-man, founding a famous line; her father, Herbert Summers Lloyd, won Best in Show at Crufts no less than six times, twice indeed with Luckystar of Ware, the sweetie in the middle of this picture, who looks a lot like me. Peas out of pods, as the boys will no doubt say!
If you would like to see more about this remarkable family of dogs and their loving humans, you will find an interesting little video here:
Cocker Spaniels have won Best In Show at Crufts more than any other breed, the last one being Albert, professionally known as Champion Canigou Cambrai, in 1996. I wonder if a Cocker will ever win Crufts again, or is that a fond hope? In an age when dog show glamour is increasingly located in the weird and wacky, breeds are no longer fit for their original purpose, and untraditional breeds and those contorted into unhealthy shapes seem to capture the popular imagination, it is good to celebrate the well-roundedness and vigour of the Cocker Spaniel whose only drawback when being shown is the length of his furry skirt! We are a really lovely companion dog: merry, active, modestly-sized, kindly, loyal and deeply, deeply affectionate. We give ourselves wholeheartedly to everything we do and, for most of us, that means being there for you, for as long as you need. By the way, the orange roan in this post is one of my relatives of the Lynwater line: a gorgeous girl and very like my mother.