Photo: Tristan lounging in the yard




Until the day people are moved to tears
by the sight of a dog lounging comfortably,
it’s not likely that any of our furkids
will be immortalized in stone.


Patsy Ann, an endearing Bull Terrier, was a prominent citizen of Juno, Alaska in the 1930’s. Though deaf, she could sense ships arriving in the harbor and greeted every one. She even participated in community baseball games. She was beloved. 50 years after she he died, they erected a statue of her on the spot where she had once welcomed ships. A foundation in her name still supports local humane associations.

Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier in Scotland who kept a vigil at his master’s grave for 14 years. His loyalty is legendary in the dog world. A statue of Bobby still waits today. He is known throughout the world as a symbol of the sacred bond that binds dog and man.

You’ll notice neither of these dogs is a Cocker Spaniel…
In fact, when it comes to tales of great heroism, sacrifice, or undying loyalty - it’s never a Cocker Spaniel.
The sad truth is, Cockers are a bit lazy in these areas.

We recently left the kids alone for a long day to attend an event where dogs were not welcome.
I asked the neighbor to come over and let them out a few times for their comfort and mine.

The first time she opened the door, she was greeted cordially, but reservedly.
She let them out, said a few kind words, passed out dog biscuits.
Now, they were hers to command.
The next time she appeared, she was greeted like a long lost friend.
"Where have you been?" - "Gosh we missed you!" - "Welcome back!"
Much excitement. In 12 hours they had forgotten us entirely. This is loyalty as we know it.

Only once have we left the kids for more than a day. A friend who was gaga for our furkids stayed at our house for the three days we were away. I left copious instructions on their routine and play habits. We called every day, only to be assured that everyone was fine. Meanwhile, I was reduced to petting stranger’s dogs and feeling guilty for three agonizing days. I imagined the massive greeting that awaited our return. What we got was a few licks before the dogs wheeled around to return to their "new" leader - the pet sitter! They had completely adapted - we had been replaced.

Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to the peculiar version of loyalty practiced by Cocker Spaniels. They seem to hum a constant refrain of a '60s free love tune " the one you’re WITH".

Tristan was the worst. He always tried to join our guests as they departed. He once broke free at a park and attempted to join another family getting into their car. They hadn’t arrived with a dog - but they almost left with one. On our travels, he would enter any open motel room door. The leash would just disappear around the door frame and Tristan would be charming the occupants, asking where they were headed and whether he could come along. A walk with Tristan was a constant stream of "no, you can’t go with him", "no, you’re with me", "no, they don’t want you", "you’re with ME, you faithless spud!".

Cockers love everybody. That's the sad and simple truth. Oh, sure, it would be nice to think they'd pine away without us. It would soothe our egos to believe they consider us irreplaceable. Romantic notions of doggie devotion are a luxury we are not allowed.

As for sacrifice and and heroism, opportunities for unselfish acts and and heroic deeds are rare when you live in a house in the suburbs. They're on the job - dutiful dogs that they are - but nothing much happens. So they get bored and doze again.

Well, maybe our standards are too high. After all, Patsy Ann and Greyfriars Bobby are lofty examples of dogdom.
Not all dogs have the opportunity to become international symbols of the faithful canine ideal.
Maybe we have to dig a bit deeper to truly appreciate the sacrifices of our spaniel friends.

Consider this:

On occasion our furkids have waited 12 hours for a potty break.
("What do you mean you're still at work? I'm still at work! Oh my God - the dogs...")
They have put the sanctity of our carpeting above their personal comfort.
That’s heroism ...of a sort.
(Perhaps a statue of a squatting spaniel - eyes toward heaven…)

Whenever we sit down, at least one Cocker promptly sits on us.
We are so firmly weighed down that we cannot make a move without alerting our "protector".
That’s undying devotion…isn’t it?
(Maybe a statue of a woman completely enveloped by Cocker Spaniels,
with just one hand visible, trying valiantly to reach the remote control…)

Wherever we are, there’s a dog either at our feet or just outside the door (falling asleep so we can trip over them).
No one who lives with a Cocker Spaniel is ever alone. They’ve been stepped on, knocked down and had their ears run over by the wheels of the office chair, but they never budge.
That’s steadfast loyalty… or close enough.
(Imagine a massive statue of a Cocker Spaniel snoozing at the bathroom door. My heart swells with pride…)

Is it possible that these little acts of heroism, devotion and loyalty are so much a part of our life that we do appreciate them? Maybe Cocker Spaniels are too modest for the flashy exploits of more famous canines.
Spaniels of all sorts have been worthy companions to humans for hundreds of years.
Maybe that quiet partnership deserves a statue all its own.


OK, OK, you're not buying this? ~ You want traditional heroism? ~ Fine, be that way!

Like 'em brave, smart and well trained?
Search Dog Foundation
All that, plus snow too?
Avalanche Dogs!
Fighting crime?
United States Police Canine Association
They were there in our darkest hour...
911 Canine Search and Rescue Tribute

and more...

How about quietly changing lives of those in need?
Animal Assisted Therapy
Leader Dogs for the Blind
PAWs with a Cause
Sterling Service Dogs



Copyright 1997 -2007 Elizabeth Cusulas
Tale Waggers - Stories for Dog People
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction without written permission is expressly forbidden