Lets get a dog.
In 1990 we decided that we would like to have a family dog. We had both had pets during previous marriages and decided that this time we wanted a pedigree dog rather than the 'mutts' we had had before. Either an English Cocker Spaniel or and Old English Sheep dog as our preferences. Since we were living in a four bedroom house with 6 children and we wanted the dog to be able to be inside with us is became obvious that an OES would be too big a dog.
We decided we wanted a bitch for no other reason than we felt it would be better as a house dog than a male. Dawn spent hours on the phone talking to breeders finding some to be very helpful and other downright rude when she told them we wanted a bitch. She learnt a lot about the different colours etc. from talking to the breeders. Eventually we arranged to travel 100km to to see a pup at Erracht Kennels, belonging to Kath and John Cameron. We must have driven Kath and John mad with all the phone calls asking questions. After we saw the pup and her parents, talking with John and Kath and enjoying their hospitality we decided to buy the pup. We arranged to go back when she was old enough to come to live with us. The pup was a blue roan which was not our first choice of colour. We had wanted a gold roan but could not find one anywhere.
Several weeks later in May 1990 we returned to Erracht to pick up our pup and during the visit Kath mentioned that they had had another litter born that included a gold roan. We had a look at her, only a couple of days old and fitting snugly in Kath hand and immediately purchased her as a companion for the blue roan. We both worked and all the children were at school during the day so we thought it would be better to have two dogs to keep each other company while no-one was home. Plus she was the colour we really had wanted.
The blue roan, Erracht Hylites In Blue, we named Tess and the gold roan, Erracht Rustic Rose we named Zoe and they quickly became important additions to the family. This was the beginning of our attachment to English Cocker Spaniels.
Lets have some puppies.
Before Zoe came into season for the second time we decided like so may others that we would like to have a litter from our girl. We joined the Royal NSW Canine Council and acquired a breeders prefix and when she came into season we returned to Erracht and mated her to Valjanane Rhinestone Cowboy. Several nights before Zoe's pups were due we moved her into a small storage room that was accessed from outside the house but adjoining our bedroom. Later that cold, rainy winters night we awoke in the middle of the night to a small squeaking sound. At first we thought it must be mice as we weren't expecting Zoe's pups for another couple of days. Since we were was awake I got up to check on her and was amazed to find her happily feeding three pups. After quickly organising a heater and hot water bottles we sat with her throughout the delivery of another three pups. At one stage she picked up a newborn pup and placed it on my lap as if to say 'look what I have done for you'.
The next 8 weeks were a fast learning curve for us as we learnt about raising cocker pups. many hours were spent reading and re-reading C C (Vinnie) Jenkin's book "The Cocker Spaniel". We were apprehensive about the tail docking but after witnessing it and seeing only one small drop of blood and one very small squeak as six tails were done we realised it was nowhere near the trauma we had expected.
As the pups left us there was a mixed emotion of pleasure at the enjoyment we had felt with the 6 small cockers running around and sadness that they were leaving us. Dawn shed a tear with each departure.
You should be showing her.
A couple of months after Zoe's pups had left us we went to have a look at our first dog show. It was a local show, being held only about 1km from where we now lived. We roamed around the show until we saw some English Cockers and while admiring them the exhibitors struck up a conversation with us. It turned out that two of them, Ron and Val Davies (Runcorn Kennels) had bred Zoe's ????? and so we said we would go and get her for them to see what she was like. We returned to the show with her and upon going over her Ron said 'you should be showing her'. It turned out the Ron and Val and the other couple with them, Jan and Keith Gambrill (Keijana Kennels), were all members/committee of the Cocker Spaniel Society of NSW. They offered to sponsor our membership of the Society and generously offered us accommodation at their homes if we decided to travel the 200km to Sydney for meetings of to go to shows. this was a pleasant introduction to 'show people'.
We were of course delighted to be told our precious Zoe should be in the show ring and with some nervousness entered her in our first show to see what it was all about.
The First Show
Not knowing the proper procedure we entered Zoe in every class she was eligible for; Intermediate Bitch, Australian Bred and Open Bitch. The steward carefully explained that we should have entered in only one class as, if she was beaten in any of the three classes she would not be able to compete for the Bitch Challenge. Our first lesson in showing!
I had groomed Zoe myself full of confidence that I knew what I was doing. Boy was I in for a comedown when after we were finished in the ring Ron Davies approached me and joked 'they tell me you took your girl in the ring half clipped'. I was deflated. Another cocker exhibitor Ron Bowden was nearby and heard the comment. He owned a dog clipping business and invited us to go to his shop a couple of days later when he spent several hours clipping Zoe and carefully explaining why each step was done. The difference to what I had produced was amazing.
At her next two shows Zoe won her class and went on to win the Bitch Challenge and we were hooked on showing.
....to be continued......
Copyright © 2002 by Bathgate Cocker Spaniels. All rights reserved.
Revised: 14 Apr 2006 17:53:14 +1100.