Showsight Presents The Boykin Spaniel

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

the fifth???

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-

202 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • F EBRUARY 2011

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