Monday, March 23, 2009

The English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a spotty dog with long pendulous ears. The spots should be brown and white and be neither too small nor too large. The pendulous ears, likewise, should not be so long as for one to be able to tie them in a knot or a bow but long enough to allow them to freely wobble to-and-fro'. A Springer should not be too fat. If your Springer is too fat, don't feed it. Because many Springers suffer from a condition that causes them to chase their tails until dead from exertion, the tail is generally docked at birth. I have docked quite a few Springer tails and many dogs write me back to thank me. I like to give them to friends and relatives as Christmas ornaments.
The dog should have a proud bearing with a gleam of vapid defiance in his eye recalling a Khmer Rouge guerrilla. The eyes are either hazel or brown and, when excited, rotate rapidly in opposite directions to create a pinwheel effect known to hypnotize small children and bats.
Being a sporting dog, a Springer requires a full-time, around-the-clock trained disciplinarian. This dog does not know the meaning of 'no' and no amount of exercise will tire him.
The Springer's coat is notoriously difficult to manage and regular brushing is always defeated by the dog's urgent need to wallow in mud or search for critters in burdock patches. The ears are prone to infection giving rise to the aptly named 'Springer Stink.' Therefore, it is best for everyone involved to shave your Springer. A hairless Springer cuts down on shedding and eases grooming.

It is a well-known fact that Springer Spaniels date back to the earliest of times. Records of Springers or Springer-like dogs can be found in Cuneiform tablets from ancient Babylon and in the Hieroglyphs of Egypt. One of the wise men presented the Baby Jesus with a Springer but his Mum wouldn't let him keep it.
The record keeping of modern times can tell us who is related to whom, but cannot tell us much about the history of the dogs in our modern kennels. Dr. John Caius, a respected physician, gives a description of the spaniel in his Treatise of Englishe Dogs published in 1276.

For ther he was nat lyk a kitteyekatte
With a woolleye coate, as is a povre matte,
But arounde his nekke a maister's roppe.
Of double knottes had through been choppe,
That hounde me defie and tooke of foode.

The first Springer to arrive in the Americas came ashore near Halifax, Nova Scotia on November 13, 1913. Accounts vary on the exact circumstances surrounding the dog's arrival but it is clear that the dog swam most of the distance from England. Some said that the owner was trying to drown the dog and kicked it overboard some years earlier but the owner insisted that the dog simply never came back after fetching a tennis ball.

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