A ball-crazy Cocker Spaniel
Abby was the alpha dog at our house, and the cornerstone of our breeding program. She was truly one of the best Cockers that was ever part of our family. Abby now lives with our friend, Donna Thompson... after we retired Abby from breeding following her fourth litter. Abby is always ready to play, and never happier than when there's a tennis ball involved. If she has to dive in to water, or jump over an obstacle to chase a ball... that's no problem at all for Abby. This girl is fast, too! In her prime, she could beat just about any Cocker in a full-speed race to retrieve a tennis ball.
The thing you have to understand about Abby in order to truly know her is that this is not one of those Cockers that wants to sleep at your feet while you sit around and watch the time pass by. This girl wants some action! If you're sitting around, she'll drop the tennis ball at your feet as a subtle hint. And if that doesn't get your attention, she'll drop it right in your lap. She won't give up until you throw it, and then she'll be back for more right after that.
We've never been interested in competing in agility events like some dogs do... but if we were so inclined, Abby would have been our agility dog of choice. Check her out in action in the picture on the right!
I set up a little fence in our back yard, and we tossed tennis balls back and forth to get her to jump over it. Not bad for a Cocker that had never had a day of agility training!
Abby's idea of a great day is to be taken to the beach so she can retrieve tennis balls in the surf. I took this photo of Abby swimming in the Pacific Ocean at Avila Beach, and let me tell you that this girl would do this every day if she could!
Abby was bred in Minnesota to one of the country's top handlers of Cocker show dogs. While we were never interested in a show career for Abby, we're pretty confident that she could have been quite successful in the ring if we had put her out there. Everything about this girl is perfect... from her markings to her merry Cocker walk to her outstanding personality.
Abby comes from a long line of show dogs. Her father is a champion, and her grandfather is an extremely well known dog in the show world... Champion Empire's Brooklyn Dodger. That's his picture on the right. A brother from Abby's litter has already become a champion with 5 majors, a full sister from a previous litter is also a champion, and a sister from Abby's litter is well on her way.
In researching Abby's background we were also delighted to find out that she is related to that beautiful Cocker on the cover of our favorite Cocker Spaniel book! That's Abby's great-great Grandfather, Champion Ging's Alydar, pictured on the cover of Lloyd Alton and Bill Gorodner's "The World Of The Cocker Spaniel".
You can learn more about her heritage by taking a look at
I mentioned that Abby's breeder is one of the country's top Cocker handlers. His name is Bob Covey, and here's a picture of him from that great book, "The World Of The Cocker Spaniel".
The name of Bob's kennel is "Absolutely", so we gave Abby the registered name of "Absolutely Ready To Run"... a reference to the big hit country song by the Dixie Chicks, and a bit of a joke about her willingness to chase tennis balls at top speed at any time. She is ready to run, indeed!
If Abby is any indication of the quality of dog
that Bob and his wife normally breed, I sure have to hand it to them for doing a
great job. Abby is one merry and playful Cocker... and as healthy as
a horse, too.
There's an interesting story about how Abby came to join our family. We had been thinking about adding another female Cocker to our family, and right as we were considering all the possible sources we got a call from a former Cocker breeder who lives a few miles from us. She said she had a ten month old show quality Cocker that she wasn't able to devote enough attention to, and she was wondering if we might know of anyone who would be interested in giving Abby a home. We went over to take a look at Abby, and were blown away by what we saw!
We expected a great looking dog with a lousy personality... after all, nobody wants to get rid of a great dog, right? But from the minute we walked in the door, Abby showed us her friendly personality and treated us like she had loved us and known us for years. The decision to adopt Abby was easy.
It's kind of ironic that we had a dog that was born in Minnesota and shipped to California by air... after all, we have very strong opinions that it's cruel to ship a puppy by air... and we refuse to do it to the puppies we breed. While we're uncomfortable with that one aspect of Abby's past, we sure can't quibble with the job that Abby's original owner did in raising her. She is one incredibly well behaved and well socialized Cocker!
While Abby seems to have overcome what must have been a very scary trip out west, I guess there was one lasting scar. Abby's original owner tells us that it's almost impossible to get Abby in to a traveling crate any more. Smart dog! We don't use crates or cages around here, so Abby didn't ever need to worry about it.
During her time with us, Abby gave birth to four great litters of puppies before finally retiring from our breeding program in 2006. Here's a look at all four of her litters:
Abby delivered her first litter of puppies on August 27th, 2002. I took about a million pictures of the pups... you can see the best of them in our Puppy Picture Hall Of Fame. They were 19 days old in the picture on the right. Maybe we should have called them all "mini-me", because they sure looked like their mom.
We sometimes joke about how Abby always has her tongue hanging out in all of her pictures... but look... motherhood did wonders for her! She's finally got that tongue tucked in where it belongs.
Prior to breeding, she had hip x-rays taken to make sure that she did not have any genetic hip defects, and an eye examination by a canine ophthalmologist. She passed both with flying colors. That gave us the green light for breeding her... and in late June of 2002 she was mated with a champion show dog belonging to a breeder friend of ours.
Given Abby's outstanding qualities, and the fact that she was bred to a champion show dog, we expected a very high quality litter of puppies... and, wow!, they did not disappoint us! We kept Morgan, the pick of the litter, for ourselves. The "first runner up" went to the owner of Abby's mate for a shot in the show ring. All of the other puppies are living the life of pampered pets.
Here's that same litter of puppies at eight weeks of age... see what I mean about "wow!"?
There's this photo in my favorite Cocker book, The World Of The Cocker Spaniel, that has always caught my eye.
It's the photo over on the right side of the screen... a litter of Cocker puppies sitting in a classic red Radio Flyer wagon.
Ever since I first saw that picture, I've want to re-create that photo with my own litter of puppies. So I went out and bought one of those wagons... and then it was just a matter of waiting patiently until a litter of puppies came along!
Finally, my patience paid off... and I got pretty close to the photo I had been hoping for when I snapped this cute photo of Abby's second litter of puppies.
As you can see, there were five in this litter compared to six in the first... but the big surprise was getting a red & white pup this time! His name is Riley, and he almost died at birth due to some fluid in his wind pipe, but we were able to resuscitate him.
Another interesting pup in the second litter is Holli... the most heavily "ticked" pup we ever produced. Holli was born with "open" markings... in other words, lots of white fur and not much black. As she grew older, the big open white space on her back filled in with a million freckles... or what is called "ticking" in Cocker Spaniels. Take a look at it here. Many of Abby's puppies have had ticking, but it took Holli with her open markings to really show the ticking off more than any of our puppies ever had before.
For her third litter, we bred Abby with a beautiful red & white show dog... Champion Silver Star's Red Hot Lover. Statistically speaking, by breeding Abby to a red & white male, we would expect that about half of the litter would have red & white coats and the other half would have black & white coats. But just as flipping a coin 100 times will not always yield heads half the time and tails half the time... Abby's litter didn't quite give us as many red & white pups as we were hoping for. Out of seven puppies in the litter, only two were red & white.
This litter featured Abby's greatest gift to our family... her red & white son, Dodger, who will be our stud dog beginning in 2007 and probably for a decade to follow. Talk about leaving a legacy! Other great pups in this litter included Alicia Good's dog, Molly... Janet Oliver's dog, Sara... and Andie Marino's dog, Kumi. But it will certainly be Dodger, the pick of the litter, that will have the biggest impact over the years.
We were so pleased with Abby's third litter that we decided to do a repeat breeding a year later with Champion Silver Star's Red Hot Lover. Unfortunately, Abby had some trouble delivering this litter and three of the six puppies were stillborn. It did leave us with three nice pups who have gone on to be great pets for three of our forum members: Sharon Stevens, Pat Clark, and Janet Oliver.
Probably the most famous of the three is Sharon Stevens' red & white dog,
Peri, who looks like she just might do great things in the world of agility. See the pedigree of Abby's
third and fourth litter of puppies here.
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