I’ll never forget the first time that I laid eyes on the small, white and liver girl with the "Saighton" horn marking on top of her head.
The people who bred the litter had blocked off a section of their breakfast area with an assortment of chairs and cardboard to contain the puppies. What a bunch! There were twelve of them. The destructive little buggars had decided that it was time to redecorate. They had striped the wallpaper from the walls and gnawed the wood trim on the window and floorboards. This was a rowdy, rough-and-tumble lot.
Before coming, I was reluctant about getting the pup. Once there, I was convinced that these weren’t the pups for us!
"Never preoccupied... too self-absorbed... too busy... too tired... too grumpy... or too old to let the little ones climb all over her, tug at her ears, nap beneath her chin - or shower her with kisses."
Did I mention the deafening noise... the chaos... the odor?
My dear husband seemed oblivious to it all as he chatted the merits of a good hunting dog with the breeder. The parents, papers and pedigree were inspected. This pup was meant to become my husband’s future hunting companion - as well as the housedog - and our very first field bred English springer spaniel.
Our two previous attempts at getting a "hunting springer" failed. Both puppies came from backyard breeders that we found through ads in the local newspapers. The first pup turned out to be from show lines and the second, part field - part show. And in addition to that, he was the product of an "accidental" breeding that turned out to be a father-daughter inbreeding... a fact that the breeder neglected to tell us. We knew little about English springer spaniels and even less about pedigrees. At the time, we weren't even aware of the differences between "field" and "show" type springers.
The first pup proved useless as a hunting dog. The only form of hunting she showed any interest in was to find disgusting things in the woods to roll in. "Eau de Raccoon" was by far, her favorite scent.
The second pup did hunt. However, by the time he matured - at about the age of two, he began exhibiting rage aggression and had to be put down.
So, we learned the hard way just how important it is to do your homework before buying a puppy. We knew the kennel where this litter's sire and dam came from and had gone to see some of the dogs in the pedigree work. These most definitely were field bred English Springer Spaniels.
As the men were occupied discussing rabbit hunting, one little pup caught my attention. She happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, finding herself center ring and involved in a tussle - akin to a big time wrestling match. She put up a valiant effort showing spunk and moxie. However, the poor thing was out numbered three to one. As her brutish siblings latched onto her flesh, she let out a squeal. The unwilling victim of the bully squad was getting the short end of the stick. How could I help but to notice her and come to her rescue? I picked her up, she nuzzled my face... and we brought Trixie home.
Motherhood was tailor-made for Trixie.
Her first litter produced thirteen puppies. Proudly, she nursed and cared for them without any assistance. All survived and thrived. It really was quite remarkable to watch Trixie tend to all of the puppies. She would separate the litter into two groups, allowing each time enough to nurse then meticulously clean each pup. Gently Trixie nudged the first group aside and adjusted her position so that the others would have their turn. Her pups and birthing box were always immaculate.
I took her to Ohio for her final breeding. As soon as we returned home, Trixie ran over to my husband and rolled over on her back to show him her tummy. She already knew that she would be having puppies - and was excited about it.
Trixie always had time to play with her children - and later, her grandpups. No "Cats in the Cradle". Never preoccupied... too self-absorbed... too busy... too tired... too grumpy... or too old to let the little ones climb all over her, tug at her ears, nap beneath her chin - or shower her with kisses. Trixie was in her height of glory.
Once pups were old enough to explore the outdoors, Trixie was there. On walks in the field, Trixie would begin to run a pattern with the pups following along. At the pond, she would get the young ones fearlessly charging into the water after ducks and geese or snipe. Along the hedge row, she had the pups wriggling through the brambles in no time. As our pups grew and became ready to go hunting, Trixie showed them the ropes. She taught by example... just as any good mother does.
With Mother's Day, Father's Day and Graduations at this time of the year, here's some coffee table books to consider:
The Nature of Game - United Kingdom, Europe, North America - with Holland & Holland by Ben Hoskyns - With the foreword written by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, it is a special book, indeed.
Hoskyns captivates the reader in this quintessential sportsmans' - or womans' - guide to both feather and fur species found on two continents. Presented alongside a wealth of knowledge for each bird or mammal, one can savour the beauty and realism revealed in his drawings and watercolors. Details on range, habitat, nesting, conservation, hunting - including legal seasons, make for interesting reading. At nearly 150 pages in length and printed on non-glossy, high-quality paper, this book is a treasure.
"Dogs find all corvids (crows) have an unpleasant taste and it is common to encourage them to retrieve these birds. If a dog willingly picks a crow, it is unlikely to refuse a woodcock. However, it is important to be careful when sending a dog to retrieve any corvid lest they be wounded. They can give a savage peck, often aimed at the eyes, and at best can lead a dog to become hard-mouthed." - Ben Hoskyns, page 66
The dust jacket says it all: "Or it may be said that hunting is ever a love affair. The hunter is in love with the game, real hunters are the true animal lovers." - Karen Blixen.
The Highland Game - Life on Scottish Sporting Estates by Glyn Satterley - with an excellent introduction by Michael Wigan.
Wouldn't it be grand to live on a Highland estate... or, at the very least, have the opportunity to visit and experience the mystique? Romanticize no more. Photographer Glyn Satterley provides a rare glimpse into the traditions, maintainence and operation of these estates through the eyes of the staff, owners and their guests.
Presenting 100+ black and white photographs, this book will whet the appetite for those to whom the Highlands beckon. As a photographer, myself, my only disappointment is in the type of paper used in printing the book; some of the detail of the images could be better. But all in all, it is a book I thoroughly enjoyed.
"Grouse 'Blooding', Sutherland Estate - This ritual is akin to that practised in fox hunting, when a person riding with the hunt for the first time is daubed on the face with blood from the dead fox. On Highland estates it is more commonly carried out during stalking than it is on a grouse moor." - Glyn Satterley, page 86
"After Dinner Entertainment, Invercauld House - The hospitality given to guests at Invercauld by Capt. Farquharson is unique. Most of the 'guests' are paying Americans who get to share breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Laird, if they wish. To enhance the atmosphere as dinner is ending, the clan Farquharson piper enters the candlelit room and plays as he encircles the dinner table." - Glyn Satterley, page 129
To The Point - A Tribute to Pointing Dogs by Dale C. Spartas and Tom Davis.
Although Spartas' lens was focused at pointer breeds, this book is one that any dog lover can appreciate. The technical quality of his color photographs is outstanding. His masterful use of light and candid shooting style serves to reveal the soul of these hunting dogs. In addition to sections showcasing the various breeds: pointer, setters, GSP, Brittany and the "versatile breeds", they've included a chapter on training and trialing.
With hundreds of images of such high caliber, this is truly a celebration of bird dogs.
"Part art and part science, based on established principles but guided by intuition and judgement, training is the human half of the bird dog equasion." - Tom Davis, page 130
"Go slowly, be immensely patient, rely as much as possible on praise and as little as possible on discipline, allow the marvelous natural qualities bred into the English setter to emerge and flower, and this is the reward: a dog that points staunchly, stylishly, and with terrific conviction. If you want to congratulate yourself for a job well done, go right ahead. You deserve it - although if you're smart you'll give the lion's share of the credit to your dog." - Tom Davis, page 46
Order your copies of these fine books at the Spaniel Journal Bookstore.
Loretta Baughan is the Founder, Editor and Publisher of Spaniel Journal. As owner of
the Autumnskye kennel, she raises, trains and hunts her English springer spaniels. She is a member of the Northeast Wisconsin Spaniel Club. Loretta resides
near Merrill, Wisconsin, with her husband, Steve, and their three children.