In 50 years of breeding cocker spaniels we have come across many strange, amusing, sad, uplifting and most importantly true stories about cocker spaniels. Here are a few of them. We hope, as Jean gets the time, to continue to add to the collection with her recollections, remembrances and observations of a life devoted to a special breed.
Raid on the Chicken Farm
Caesarean goes wrong
A glutton for punishment
On Christmas Eve and in the early hours of Christmas Day in 1974, Australia’s northern most city Darwin was virtually destroyed by tropical cyclone Tracy. Winds estimated to be up to 250km/h lashed the city. There was great loss of life with 66 people killed (50 in the city, 16 at sea) and more than a hundred seriously injured. In the days that followed virtually the whole city was evacuated either by air or by car across the centre of Australia to the southern states.
"Cyclone damage, Parer Drive from water tower"
"NT Govt. Photographer collection, Northern Territory Library"
"Cyclone damage along Canara Court"
"Bartle Collection, Northern Territory Library"
While most Australians are familiar with images and stories of Tracy (it even spawned a popular song “Santa never made it into Darwin”) few would have given much thought to the dogs of the city. Two such dogs touched our lives at Yunbeai.
Not long after Tracy we were asked if we would look after an Irish setter bitch from Darwin. Of course we immediately said yes. Her owners had previously had a cocker from us and had nowhere else to turn. As with most people in Darwin at the time, they had lost everything. They had, however managed to keep the dog with them and she had travelled in the evacuation convoy. Many dogs were not so lucky and were either killed by debris or destroyed after the city had been evacuated. Some, however, were taken south by kind souls who found them wandering.
Again not long after Christmas we answered a knock at the door to find a young woman standing outside in tears. She had come from Darwin, had nothing left, only the clothes she had been given, and she too had come south with her dog. The dog’s name was Neely and she was a pregnant boxer. She asked us to find a home for her beloved dog as she had no prospects of taking her back to Darwin. We readily agreed to whelp the puppies although we wanted to keep Neely for her until she could find a place for them both. We suggested that we would keep Neely, whelp, raise and sell the puppies (she was mated to a pedigree boxer) and donate the proceeds to a fund for relief for the animals of Darwin. It was agreed and her tearful owner left her in our care - but not without first relaying her story to us.
As the cyclone approached she was working in a hotel and became extremely worried about her dog. She left the safety of the large building and crawled some 2kms in the high winds to find where her house had been. The only thing recognisable was a wardrobe. When she forced open the door she found Neely inside. Together they made their way back to the hotel, in the pitch dark, amid torrential rain and devastating winds.
When Neely came to us she was struggling to drink. It soon became apparent that she had a severely sunburnt tongue from riding across the country with her head out the window of the vehicle. However Neely was a resourceful individual with a strong survival instinct. We, of course, had only a rough idea when her litter was due. At the appropriate time (and much earlier than we expected) she took herself under the house and whelped her puppies in the safest place that she could find. Unfortunately we could not access that space so we were helpless to do much until Neely decided to bring them out. It was a very hot summer and we were intrigued by the frequency with which Neely would wriggle out from under the house, take a drink, and then wriggle back in again. Eventually we managed to see what she was doing. She was coming out, collecting a mouthful of water and going back under to the puppies where she would dribble the water and saliva over the backs of the puppies to keep them cool. When the time was right Neely brought her beautiful babies out and we found loving homes for them. It was not hard as the tale of the mother boxer had become well known.
Many communities around Australia contributed to the Darwin Relief Fund for Animals. The dog community in Western Australia was no different. The Gun Dog Club of WA immediately set about organising a fund raising All Breeds Show. It was a fantastic event, held at night (a novelty back then), and many sponsors came to the aid of the club. We still talk about the fantastic food provided for us by Qantas catering! The best thing about it was that the Irish setter from Darwin was shown and won the bitch CC!
Gabe with Neely and the cyclone babies
If you are interested in more info on Cyclone Tracy go to :
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Snakes are a fact of life in Australia, and particularly Western Australia. We have had many encounters with snakes as the cockers eagerly chase anything that looks like it might be good for a game. Thankfully we not lost a dog to snakebite but we have had close encounters. Just recently Gabe was walking on the path between the house and the kennel when a 1.5m long dugite (a venomous snake) dropped on to the path at her feet. She turned around and shut the kennel door to keep the dogs in and then hit the snake with the blade of a shovel while calling to Jean to come. When she did come it was to see Gabe in bare feet leaning on a shovel handle with a very angry snake writhing about half a metre away from her toes. Unfortunately she had crushed the snake to the ground but about 30cm behind the head and there was a lot of snake still left to inflict damage. They tried hitting it again with the shovel but to no avail. Rachel was immediately dispatched to get Paul, who finally dispatched it with an axe. Our usual response to snakes is simply to leave them alone but on this occasion we had no option. Of course, Rachel was most impressed and took it to school for news in a jar.
Adult dugite, Photo by Brian Bush
Another cocker breeder, Colleen Philp, dealt with a tiger snake in her laundry much more efficiently. As the dogs milled around quick thinking Colleen sucked it up into the vacuum cleaner! Of course when her husband came home he was confronted with how to get it out of the vacuum cleaner again (easier in than out!!).
For more info on Was snakes go to the WA Snake Identification site http://www.iinet.net.au/~bush/index.html
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Just as snakes are a fact of life in Australia, so are bushfires, especially for those of us who live close to bush land. We have had three major bushfires threaten our house and kennel (twice at our old house and once where we are now). On each occasion it has been a scramble to protect life, limb and property and also to keep the dogs from harm.
The first major fire to come through our property was a flare up if a fire that had raged on the other side of the river the night before. The wind changed and the fire whipped up the length of the property until it was coming up the side of the dog kennel. It moved so quickly that we had little time to move the dogs to safe locations. Most were put into concrete yards but a few were still in the grassed yard when the firefighters arrived. The fire was burning the trees that provided shade for the kennel and lapping at the fibro/asbestos fence so that the fence was exploding. Sharp shards were flying through the air.
In the midst of this confusion were 4 very excited cocker spaniels. Not only had strangers come into their yard (and as every cocker knows, the only reason that a stranger enters the yard is to pat you), but these strangers had brought with them the favourite toy of many Australian cockers – a water hose. Not just an ordinary garden hose. No. These strangers had brought with them a giant hose to play with. It is impossible to forget the sight of the 4 cockers throwing themselves at the full strength blast of a firefighters hose, to be blown off their feet into the air by the water pressure, shake themselves off, have a bit of a bark and go play with the toy again! It made fantastic footage on the evening television news, although it probably didn’t help the firefighting effort much. Thanks to the fantastic dedication of Australia’s volunteer firefighters we lost only trees, fences and one old shed; all houses, people, dogs and other animals were saved.
View after the fire
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These are the stories of some of the dogs who have traveled the world to come to us at Yunbeai in Perth.
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In History and achievements we mention Colinwood Sherry and her unexpected swim in the Indian Ocean. What is not widely known or thought about these days is that back in the 50s and 60s, any dogs which came to Australia had to come by ship, a journey that took 5 weeks to Western Australia and longer to the east coast. Sherry was held in England until she came into season, mated with Colinwood Red Rustler and then dispatched on the first available cargo ship sailing for Australia.
Thankfully for us the captain and the crew were dog lovers and they took a great shine to Sherry. She was allowed to roam the ship and was generally spoilt by all on that voyage. No-one knows exactly why she went overboard (perhaps she was looking for somewhere to have the puppies) but luckily someone saw her go over the side of the massive ship. As you can imagine cargo ships are not easy to turn around and finding a small red cocker swimming back to England in the middle of the Indian Ocean must have been difficult. However they stopped the ship, and while it was turning around, launched a boat. Thankfully they found Sherry swimming away and rescued her.
A few days later they were approaching the Western Australian coast when Sherry went in to labour. Jean answered a call at home and it was the captain on ship to shore radio asking what to do for the dog. It was decided that the best thing to do was for Jean to be ferried to the ship to supervise the whelping. This was not as easy as it sounds as the ship had not yet cleared customs and there was government approval required. When she got to the ship she had to climb up the side of the massive ship on a small rope ladder (the first and only time she’s tackled a rope ladder at sea!). Sherry was on the bunk in the Steward’s cabin and clearly in labour.
The captain called for complete silence. The crew was intensely interested in Sherry and her puppies and kept a constant vigil outside. Each time another puppy was born a notice was placed up for all to see “1 boy, 2 girls 2 boys, 2 girls” and so on. Men were creeping up and down the passage to get a look at the notice and then whispering the results to the rest. She finally had 8 healthy puppies, some of whom went on to be famous in their own right, not just because they were born at sea! When the ship came a little closer to port Sherry and her precious cargo were escorted to shore by the Captain in a pilot’s boat and from there to the quarantine station.
[image: stories-dog overboard]
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Other dogs did not take to the voyage as well as Sherry. Ch. Colinwood Red Beret (Tommy) was in very poor condition when he arrived in Fremantle. It turned out that Tommy had motion sickness and had suffered horrendous sea sickness for 5 weeks He never really recovered from that sea sickness and would start to look “slightly green” as soon as he went near a car. We soon learned to allow enough time to stop several times on the way to a dog show to walk Tommy and give him some fresh air so that he could arrive I good condition. If he made it to a dog show in good shape he invariably won (4 All Breeds BIS at his first 4 shows), but if we didn’t stop quickly enough and he started to feel ill he understandably did not show well.
Before the relaxation of the rabies quarantine, dogs from England had to do 3 months in quarantine. This was enough time for Tommy to get his land legs but was also enough time for other breeders to get to the quarantine station and have a look at him. One such person took photos of the dog in very poor condition (despite photography being banned in the quarantine station) and circulated them around Australia. His arrival was quite big news and in no time people were saying that he was a terrible dog with “linty” ears. We never did quite work out exactly what linty ears were, but he demonstrated very quickly that the “terrible” assessment was way off the mark. Competitive human behaviour never changes and there are always people in the dog world ready to put a good dog down. Sad, but true. Coincidentally the same people who illegally took the photos were later disqualified for falsifying pedigrees.
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Another import who made quite an impact was Ch. Colinwood Arapaho (Whisky). Jean made the very long trip east to Sydney Royal with Arapaho in the 1960s. At that time Australia’s leading cocker was Ch. Mighty Rare of Ware an orange roan dog owned by Viney Jenkins. Jean and Viney were both in a very large open dog class. The judge examined Arapaho and placed him on one side of the ring. He examined a few more dogs and put them on the other side. Then it was Mighty Rare’s turn. Everyone was holding their breaths to see which side of the ring he would be placed on. There was a collective sigh of satisfaction when he was added to the side that Arapaho was on. Clearly it was between these two champion dogs and a few others. Imagine the shock of the crowd, when having finished examining the last dog, the judge turned to the Arapaho/Mighty Rare group and dismissed them! Viney confided to Jean later that she had known she was in the running when she was placed in the same group as Arapaho!! It just goes to show you can never predict judging, and form horses (and dogs) can be beaten. As a postscript on the next weekend Arapaho won BIS All Breeds at the Sydney County of Cumberland show (Sydney’s second biggest show back then).
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More recently there was a drama in the importation of Red Glitters Vixen from the Netherlands. As anyone who has read the Australian quarantine instructions will know, they are not easy. Vixen had her vaccinations and the blood test was duly taken 6 months later. We needed to wait until she came into season and then do the blood tests within a short time of departure. The Australian government insisted that they be tested in Brussels. So Isabelle her owner packed the blood up and drove from Holland to Brussels. What everyone had neglected to mention was that the blood must be kept under special conditions. When she got there the test was no good as it had frozen in the car. So, back to the Netherlands, to do it all again.
Eventually Vixen was ready to go but it was a close thing with the results. In the meantime Foot and Mouth Disease had broken out in England and many countries were taking measures to stop the spread of the disease. While Isabelle was on the way to the airport the Dutch government announced that it had closed the borders to the movement of all animals in to, or out of, the country. Vixen was left in limbo. Pregnant and tested but unable to leave! After some frantic negotiation it was agreed that since Vixen was already sealed in the crate and in the car on the way to the airport, having passed her first inspection, it would be possible to define her as already in transit and she could leave - but it would require a special trip to Schipol by a government official to authorise her release. This was arranged with minutes to spare and Vixen was loaded on the plane for the very long journey to Perth via London.
While she was at the airport Isabelle saw a large Rhino which was in transit from Russia to South America and there was furious debate as to whether it would also be allowed to continue its journey. When Vixen did arrive her test results were missing and we had a frantic time trying to get faxed copies accepted (without the right forms a dog must do 6 months quarantine instead of 30 days). Still alls well that ends well and Vixen whelped a lovely litter of 5 and has happily settled on her new side of the world. Eventually some of her progeny will make the long trip back.
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Some dogs just don’t travel well. Wittersham’s Bambina was a case in point. She came to us with Can Ch. Wittershams Davey Crockett. They did 6 months quarantine in Hawaii and a further 3 months when they arrived in Perth. Although Bambina ate well and appeared on the surface to be settled she was never really comfortable. Her seasons never really re-established themselves regularly, she never conceived any puppies, and she developed signs of thyroid disease. Although she ate well her coat was dry and sparse, and she just did not look too happy. Eventually we decided to try to send her back to see whether she would be happier at home. We sent her from an Australian summer into Canadian snow. In no time she was in season, her coat had recovered and she appeared healthy. Within a year she had a healthy litter of 7 puppies. She was truly not a girl who liked to travel.
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Just recently a man came to us seeking to buy a cocker spaniel puppy. It was the third dog that he had from us. One of those tells a remarkable story of a cocker’s devotion to its owner.
As a boy his parents purchased a cocker spaniel to be his companion. The family lived near Esperance on the south coast and spent much time in or near the water. One day as he was standing in the surf his young cocker swam out to him barking. The dog continued to circle around and around his legs until it forced him to the shore. Not long after he arrived on the beach the boy suffered a major epileptic seizure. If he had remained in the water, he would in all probability have drowned.
From that day on his dog never failed to alert him to impending seizures, and never rested until his master was in a safe location. Sometimes he would give up to half a day warning, but he was always accurate and his master came to rely on the dog’s alert, and on him being there as he recovered from the seizure. These days there are dogs which undergo extensive training to support owners with disabilities, this was one cocker who needed no training, who was so in tune with and devoted to his young owner that he instinctively knew danger and did his best to prevent harm.
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THE RAID ON THE CHICKEN FARM
In the late 1950s we lived in a house in Bertram Street Maddington. In the same street was a poultry farm. One day Jean looked out the window to see one of our dogs, Lambrigg Flinders, walking up the street carrying a completely nude hen, she had not a single feather left. She caught the dog, rescued the hen and then after doing what she could for the poor pathetic bird decided that there was nothing for it but to front up to the neighbour and return the ill gotten gains. Very apologetically she took it back, saying that the dog must have plucked it bare. “No, that’s OK”, he replied “they are moulting”! Flinders, who had seen some success in retrieving, thus had his reputation for a soft mouth and a good carry restored!
Later however the dogs did pluck the hens… One day the dogs got out of the yard and into the poultry farm. They had a lovely time! There were cocker spaniels going right, left, and centre, either chasing hens or carrying them in their mouths. Some were burying their “treasure” while others were happily barking at what remained in the poultry shed. It was complete chaos. While many were featherless at the end of the ordeal the cockers had however demonstrated their soft mouths for retrieving and few if any birds were seriously damaged (although some later died of shock). The owner of the farm, was not however amused and neighbourhood relations were frosty for some time (especially as the birds understandably all went off the lay and ceased to produce any eggs for a while!). Fencing repairs were immediate and extensive!!!
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In 50 years of breeding dogs and having cows, horses, chickens, turkeys, cats and miscellaneous other animals we have had more veterinary adventures than we can possibly remember. Here are a couple that come to mind.
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Caesarean goes wrong
Barooga Vaughan was a dark blue bitch who was unexpectedly willed to us by her owner. While we knew that she had previously had a caesarean, we did not know why, and our vet decided that the safest thing was to have an elective caesarean. The due date arrived and she was taken to the vet for the Caesar. She had 7 healthy blue puppies. We took her home the same night where she settled comfortably, began suckling the puppies, and recovered nicely.
In the morning we rang the vet and said “How many puppies did you deliver?”. He replied “7”. “That’s interesting” said Jean “because she’s got 8 now”. Some how or other one had been left behind and Vaughan had delivered it herself during the night after the surgery!! The vet, of course, was absolutely mortified. We called the late arrival “andante” for coming on slowly and, as you would expect, she was the pick of the bitches in the litter!
Later that day we noticed that one of the dog puppies appeared to have a blemish on his foot. When we examined it closely it was clear that it must have suffered a scalpel cut during the operation. We took it back to the vet’s surgery, which by this stage was being watched over by the new graduate vet who had assisted in the caesar. He took the puppy away and decided there was nothing he could do for it as it was too small, and that it would lose the foot.
We decided to consult a surgeon friend who suggested that we bring it in to Royal Perth Hospital. We duly took in this tiny 1 day old cocker pup and he was transferred up to the operating suite where a team of vascular surgeons (all most intrigued by this tiny creature) examined, consulted and pronounced that some vascular suturing could be done on the tiny foot, but that they didn’t know how it would go as they had never done anything so small. We took the puppy home, and eventually he lost only the one outer toe! As you would expect he became a great favourite with everyone involved and became known to all as “Footy”. And again, as you would expect he was the pick of the males!
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A glutton for punishment
Kane, Ch Yunbeai Edict was a glutton. There is no other way to describe him. He was also extremely prone to bloat. Kane would steal and eat anything. Amongst his hauls, all scoffed down faster than you could blink were, a whole cabbage, 2 kilograms of dripping, several whole loaves of bread, and a 3 kg fish that Gabe was preparing to bake. On one occasion Kane had such severe bloat that we took him to the vet for treatment. The X Ray of his gut was simply amazing. His stomach was packed with the wire springs of clothes pegs, several screws and assorted miscellaneous metal. When his gut contents finally passed, the reason for the bloat was apparent – not only had he stolen and eaten an extraordinary quantity of food, he had also eaten some stockings! Eventually he passed some manure, completely filling the leg of one stocking!! He literally turned out to have iron guts!!
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It was evening and time to check that all the dogs were safely and warmly in bed. On this night however one dark blue bitch, Apla (Yunbeai Awake) was missing. Jean called and called but there was no sign of her. She called and listened for the sounds of whimpering of a dog in distress, but there was nothing. The entire place was silent. The whole family turned out with torches and turned the kennel, the house and the rest of the 11 acre property upside down, but there was no sign of Apla. The next thing to do was to try the distant neighbours, look with great trepidation along the highway and ask at the nearby Caravan Park. Again there was no sign of her. Eventually someone went in to the dogs kitchen and opened the dog’s fridge. There asleep inside the refrigerator was Apla – cold but happily full. While she was trapped in the refrigerator she had managed, in the dark, to twist herself around so that she could eat the entire contents of a 2 gallon bucket full of fresh meat!
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