Updated: Aug 10
Where dogs are concerned, I have a historically huge heart. So, here's the first of three posts about some of the dog breeds I've owned.
The Cocker Spaniel.
The Cocker Spaniel breed originates in the United Kingdom and is descended from the Springer Spaniel and the Field Spaniel, although the cocker is the smallest of the three breeds. The breed's name originates from the woodcock, which the dogs excelled at hunting. Currently, the dog is considered a companion animal rather than a sporting dog, although those instincts remain, as do their love of exercise.
Breed standards have developed along two different paths -- the American Cocker, with taller, heavier proportions and a curlier coat, and the English Cocker Spaniel, which is slightly more refined. Despite common ancestry, the standards within the varieties have become pronounced enough that they are now considered two separate breeds. Weight for the dog is 20 - 30 pounds, height is 14-15 inches at the shoulder, and life span is 12 - 15 years.
Cockers became popular pets due to the character of Lady in Disney's animated Lady and the Tramp. Having owned one, I can vouch that these are lovely family animals. They tend to bond to one person, and are intelligent as well as beautiful. With their long coat, they require regular grooming or clipping, which can be both labour intensive and expensive. They are good with children, but they shed year round and can be loud, persistent barkers.
Because Cockers are so attractive with their long ears, gorgeous coats, and big liquid brown eyes, they have been bred irresponsibly, and the breed has suffered as a result. Cockers are naturally sensitive, but can be nervous and neurotic when poorly bred. As well, they can be subject to hip dysplasia, and ear and eye conditions. Coat colour of cockers can be black, brown, blonde, roan, or multi-coloured.
Daisy, our cocker, originally belonged to my mother. When mom went to pick her out from her litter, I went, too. In the car, I was the person who held the puppy, and she snuggled into my coat. I became the person she bonded with. Despite my mother owning her and training her, I became Daisy's person.
When my parents left to work overseas for a two year term, Daisy came to live with us. From that time on, she and I were constantly together. She followed after me relentlessly, and I soon lost track of the number of times I tripped over, or nearly stepped on, the little dog.
She was small but joyful, and would sprint around the yard with the feathers on her legs flying and her long ears flapping as she ran. In the heat of summer, she would dig herself a trench in the yard, then lie with her belly in the dirt. Fortunately, prior to Daisy becoming my responsibility, I had completed a dog grooming course. I had the knowledge and the tools to maintain her coat. She would also sing along to any soprano. Unable to help herself, she would howl, then look pained, as if she found her own need an utter embarrassment.
Daisy lived into her twelfth year, and was healthy until the end. A few months before her death, she began to have difficulties climbing the steps on our patio. She would take a running leap and bottom out with her belly, then look at me in surprise and embarrassment. She died of cancer, which is the number one killer of Cocker Spaniels. When the tumours began to cause her actual discomfort, I took her to the vet, he gave her a shot, and she died looking into my eyes with trust and adoration.
She was a great friend, and we love her memory still.