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Boykin Spaniels By Leslie Kern Boykin Spaniel
My love affair with the Boykin Spaniel was by no means planned. In fact, prior to moving to South Carolina in 1989, I knew nothing of the brown dog that is affectionately known as “the little dog that doesn’t rock the boat”. I grew up in Oyster Bay, a small village on the north shore of Long Island, New York. As a child, our home was filled with animals of all shapes and sizes…dogs, cats, gerbils, birds, and chickens. My parents bred Labs. A line they referred to as “Swedish Labs”. My brother, John and I would accompany them as they hunted pheasant on many of the estates that were located in Nassau County’s “Gold Coast”. In October of 1989, as my husband Beau and I awaited the arrival of our sec- ond son, Charleston was undergoing one of the most devastating storms of the cen- tury, Hurricane Hugo. With a tremen- dous need of help to rebuild Charleston and a strong desire to assist, we were Carolina bound. For the first several years in the South, we were busy raising our two sons, Kyle and Ben and had very little exposure to Boykins. We had a Yellow Lab, Chelsea, and a Cocker/Springer mix, Libby. Two young children and two young dogs were more than enough! It wasn’t until a few years later we attended our first Southeastern Wildlife Exposition that we discovered the state’s best kept secret! Boykin Spaniels were everywhere! They were walking, running, catching Frisbees, playing ball, riding in the back of pick-up trucks, side by side their owners and being held in the arms of children. Remarkably, if an owner was standing still, the dog was always at his side. The Boykin Spaniel Society, formed in 1977, the original registry for the breed had a tent with several ‘little brown dogs’ and their owners available to meet and greet and answer questions. Designated the official dog of the state of South
My first Boykin, CH Tugtown Bellini Belle SHR, aka “Bella” came to me in a most unusual manner. In February 2005, while training my Brittany for AKC Hunt Test competi- tion, my trainer arrived at the field and handed me the most precious lit- tle brown puppy. My heart immedi- ately melted…followed by “Oh no….I can’t possibly bring her home”. While my husband was raised with dogs and loves them, he had for some time made his limitations known. By this time we already had four dogs; an aging Lab, a Cocker/Springer mix with the energy level of a RoadRunner, a Brittany and an English Setter, deaf since birth. One more might just push him over the edge. I brought Bella home and explained to him that I was asked to “socialize” her for a short time as its owner was out of the country. I believe he knew at that moment, much to his sur- prise, sweet little “Bella” was indeed dog number five.
Carolina since 1985, many of the Boykins sported brightly colored “fashion” collars and leads, camouflage vests, blaze orange collars, and some proudly worn scarves displaying the South Carolina flag. There were Boykins, young and old, males and females, as well as a litter of the most pre- cious puppies I had ever seen. Some of these sturdy, compact dogs were curly coated, while others had wavy or flat coats. All were brown …or as stated on dog registrations, “liver, brown or dark chocolate”. The most amazing attribute each of them possessed was the same look in its eyes that you just couldn’t walk away without your heart skipping a beat or two. Throughout the weekend there was dog demonstrations where Boykins dis- played their natural retrieving abilities as trainers sent them on single, double and blind retrieves. Beau and I watched with complete fascination as this little dog per- formed these tasks with a tremendously keen sense of focus, discipline, drive, pre- cision and perfection! Their ultimate goal for each dog of course, was to receive the reward, “good job” and hopefully, another retrieve! Each one of them approached his task as if his life depended on it! “Wow”! Just where had this little brown dog been all our lives? This was one dog I was definitely interested in…it just wasn’t the right time. The right time….hmm…well, when you already have four dogs, when is the “right time” to get
We kept Bella for six weeks introduc- ing her to our four much larger dogs, our friends, their dogs and children, taking her to dog parks, hunt tests and training events. Everyone who met her, fell in instantly in love.…people and dogs alike! When the end of that first six weeks came, Bella went to friends who had Gordon Setters and two Boykins and stayed another six weeks. When she came back, as my husband predicted, she stayed. It was destiny…Bella’s and mine. Realizing, of course, that we knew lit-
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By Leslie Kern
tle about Boykins, I talked with owners, breeders and trainers. I soon discovered that Bella had all of the desired qualities folks look for in a Boykin. She was full of energy, drive and determination, an enthusiastic worker, eager to please and easy to train, very intelligent and extreme- ly friendly, a perfect companion and a beauty. At the time, AKC did not recog- nize the breed for either Conformation or Competition events, but I soon discovered ‘it was in the works’. While I waited, we trained for UKC field events and she achieved her “SHR” Started Hunting Retriever. Shortly after we embarked upon our first Show Ring experience.
progress and a chapter not yet finished. I soon discovered how much appreciation and admiration I have for the professional trainer and recognize that we all have our limitations. The year 2008 arrived and with it the introduction of the breed into Miscellaneous Class. I was planning Bella’s first litter. The year prior was spent searching through records and mak- ing visits to choose what I believed would be the perfect match for Bella. I was determined to produce offspring that would be a positive contribution to the breed, or not proceed at all. During her pregnancy, I entered her in two local AKC shows. She won Best of Opposites. On April 17, 2008, Bella’s eight pups came into this world and jump started my heart. When her labor suddenly stopped, I knew something was terribly wrong. There was not a puppy, but the placenta was presenting and in a split second, I reacted. Driving in my pajamas to the Vet’s office, Dr. Karen Spencer, assisted by several Vets, their assistants, and myself, delivered eight healthy pups by c-section
With Bella’s popularity came a lengthy list of ‘hopeful’ puppy owners. This list was about 35 strong! With much consid- eration the final seven were chosen. It was paramount each would be placed in a home where its well-being and future would be ensured. Today there are seven out of eight pups in original homes. I have pick of the litter, “Jesse” and “Jake” who at a year old came back to live with us. He was a hand full, and it simply was in his best interest. With Bella’s coat back in shape and two gorgeous progeny we headed to the show ring. In no time, Bella, Jesse and Jake were finished Champions. Bella has retired and is enjoy-
That is what really started the ball rolling. “Bella of the Balla” we call her. Where there is Bella, there is a ball. It’s either in her mouth or by her side while she sleeps. She’ll retrieve until we fall…for certainly she will not! Bella took her first show by storm! At just six months of age, she beat several Champions and Grand Champions for Best of Breed, and a Group Four placement. The crowd went wild and in minutes, we were surrounded by Boykins and their owners congratulating us! Now, that’s great sportsmanship, I was hooked! I am forever grateful to those who welcomed us that day to the show ring. If it were not for their guidance and support those early days, we wouldn’t have taken the next step! AKC…here we come! In July of 2006, Boykins were welcomed to participate in Flushing Spaniel Hunt Tests. After train- ing and several hunts, and hundreds of miles down the road, Bella completed three of the four necessary passes towards her Junior Hunter. This is a work in
ing plantation life in Beaufort. “Jake”, aka CH Thornhill’s Carolina Scribe is a “Special” with Dennis and Katey Brown and has enjoyed much success! In his first four months he was and remains the Top Group Placing Boykin! Sister, “Jesse”, aka GCH CH Thornhill’s Ring That Jezebelle has been busy herself, earning Best of Breed at Eukanuba! As anyone who has taken this journey years before me and those who will years after me knows, it is just that…a Journey and it’s been great fun! I am tremen- dously grateful to all the Handlers, Judges and my fellow Boykin owners who have supported us along the way. From the very beginning I have believed that win some, lose some, EVERY BOYKIN WILL HAVE ITS DAY! A special thanks to my husband, Beau and sons, Kyle and Ben and my many friends for their love and support of my dream. And, mostly to Bella, my little brown dog who stole my heart… I’ll love you forever! ■
within an hour. By afternoon, Mama Bella was home in her handmade whelp- ing box..compliments of Beau…with her 8 pups resting comfortably. The days that followed were absolutely amazing. I rarely left her side. Bella had to be monitored closely. I had to be certain she was get- ting the nutrition she needed to produce enough milk for this very active litter. The pups had to be nursed in groups as they outnumbered her teats. In addition, each pup had to be weighed twice a day. In a few short days all was well and on schedule.
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