There is always a special dog in one’s life, the one which stands out amongst all the others and who has a favoured place in your heart. I would like to tell you about mine.
Barley came into my life 14 years ago as an eight month old exuberant bundle of brown mischief all the way from a prestigious kennel of Working Cocker Spaniels in Wales. She had been given some training at the time but she also had a few hang-ups as well! Our first foray into the local woods was a very timid walk to heel much to my dismay avoiding any prickles and thorns with a woeful look on her young face! It also transpired that she was sensitive to gun shot and would not hunt! Oh dear, what had I bought Barley had been bred ‘in the purple’ so I knew that genetically she had all the ingredients to become a sound working spaniel and her timidity was due to environmental factors. ‘Call yourself a dog trainer’, I said to myself, sort this one out! Over the next few months through gentle encouragement and plenty of patience I overcame her gun sensitivity. The hunting took a little longer but eventually with the aid of the rabbit pen she arrived at her ‘raison d’etre’.
Originally bought purely as a spaniel for the beating line it became apparent once Barley had matured that she was a very special little cocker. She did a season in the beating line becoming a firm favourite with the keeper. At the time I had plenty of rabbit shooting and we did many miles together in pursuit of our prey and perfecting her training to the gun. I was so impressed with her natural ability once unleashed I asked the late Keith Erlandson’s opinion on her and he pronounced her suitably ready for Field Trialling. It took until her third field trial to gain a place mainly due to my inexperienced handling and as you can imagine I felt I had won the championship. Put to FTCH Maesydderwen Jackdaw when she was 3yrs old Barley produced for me my first Open Stake Cocker ‘Contrail Crackerjack’. Her grandson ‘Contrail Coachman’ (Tangle) is currently fronting a pilot scheme aimed at using dogs for sniffing out cancers in humans and can regularly be seen on the television demonstrating his expertise.
Having founded for me my dynasty of Working Cocker Spaniels - from the beating line through to Field Trialling and in her later years picking up on shoot days, I could hardly ask more from such a valiant little dog who weighed in at no more than 11Kg. At her full height she would be hard pushed to measure more than 13inches high. That last visit to the vet a few months ago was difficult - it was time to say goodbye as she was seriously ailing in her old age.
However - her progeny lives on in her Great Great Great Granddaughter ‘Contrail Lively Lady’ who at 5 months old made her public debut in the gundog demonstrations I gave this year at Scone Palace Game Fair.
Field Trial Award Winner Rowston Sting (Barley) I salute you!!