Cockers In The Field





Lady Beverly Boots on the prowl for the prey! "Hey! Where did that bird go?"

Lady Beverly Boots I finally found the bird!
Lady Beverly Boots Oh no you don't, I've got you now! Your not getting away from me this time!

Photo's by and courtesy of Don Ploke


Windridge Chocolate Cyclone, Clancy, with bird at the 1975 Cocker Spaniel Club of Orange County Fun Field Trial Day.




We awoke to the buzzing sound of the alarm clock, as I lay there, blinking the sleep out of my eyes, I'm thinking it is still night! It's so dark and chilly. I don't want to get up! I turn my head towards the clock to check the time, 3:30 AM! I do a double take and shake my head to remove any cob webs from my brain and remember this is the May weekend of the "First" Field Trial Fun Day of the Cocker Spaniel Club of Orange County 1975. I must hurry and get up!

My husband, Fred, is saying, "Well this was your idea! Get up and get at-um!" You need to get the girls fed and ready to go. You have to go get Boots and Missy so we can crate them in the camper and go. We're supposed to be there as close to daylight as possible.

When we arrived at the field site the sun had already started to rise. As we looked out across the field engulfed in the early morning mist, which was beginning to rise, it slowly wafted it's way up into the atmosphere and magically seemed to disappear.

We let the dogs out of their crates and let them run free with the rest of the Cockers that were already there along with those arriving after us. The dogs were in heaven! Their noses were to the ground sniffing all kinds of smells that were so new to them!

It wasn't long until Boots discovered the truck that had the caged pigeons that we were using for the training session. She was so excited. She was jumping up and down trying to see the birds as Ralph Miser, a German Shorthair Pointer breeder, and one of the organizers of the Field Trial, took a bird out of the cage and showed it to Boots & the other dogs. He told us all to leash our dogs. He was holding the bird above his head and let it go to see what Boots and the other dogs would do. She watched the bird fly away and followed it, with her eyes, until it landed in the field. She was shaking and whining and her tail was about to wag off her body! She wanted to go after the bird so bad! "I haven't seen a Cocker Spaniel show so much enthusiasm about the birds in a long, long time, as Boots has," he said. "She is a Natural!"

We started out into the field to watch the two or three trained and experienced dogs go first so the novice dogs could observe. Then it was time for the novice dogs to go out and try and find the birds. The birds were released and the dogs were allowed to watch and take off after them. Boots, shown in the first picture above, was out in the field looking for the birds.

It was a sight to behold. They were bounding and leaping through the green oat field. All you could see were heads with ears a flying one minute appearing above the top of the oats then disappearing into a sea of green foilage.The next minute they were bounding back up looking over the top of the oats again! Once in a while you could catch a glimpse of colors flashing through the field. Red, Black's, Buff's, B/W's, R/W's, Chocolates, Tri colors.

Then one would see a bird fly over head and all movement would cease. You could feel the tension as the shot cracked through the air, the dogs went running to where they had thought the bird landed. Circling and crossing back to where the bird should be. You could hear the rustling of the oats and then you would see one of the Cockers emerge out of the field with his head held high carrying his trophy find in his mouth!

In those moments of being in the field with ones own dog or dogs of the other participants your minds eye could easily float back 50, 70 or even 100 years ago to another time when today's Cockers ancestors were performing and enjoying this same experience.

Now it was time to go down to the pond. Missy, who was just a little over 1 year old, and my younger daughter, Monique, who was just a little over 3 years old, were off doing their own thing! The great infatuation to Monique and Missy, more than the birds, were the little frogs in all the mud holes along the pathway down to the pond! Both my daughter and her best pal, Missy, were jumping up and down after the frogs as the little amphibians hopped this way and that way! We rounded up our little family, human and canine and followed everyone down to the pond.

Missy and Boots, 6 years old, were running way ahead of myself, Fred, Lisa, 8 years old, and Monique. When we got to the ponds edge Fred called Boots back to him as she was forging out into the water. Fred snapped the lead back onto Boots collar to keep her from going in the water after the more experienced dogs bird. The only dogs that ventured into the water to retrieve the downed birds was two of the trained Cockers, "Dart," CH. DON'S DARTANUN, owned by Don Ploke and "Beau," Sterling Silver Beau, owned by Dennis Blake. All the untrained dogs were running along the bank of the pond barking or still up on the hill overlooking the pond.

After the trained and experienced dogs came out of the pond wirh their birds it was Boots and Missy's turn and the other untrained Cockers too. The bird was released, the shot rang out and the bird fell into the water. As soon as the bird was released and the shot sounded Boots was going nuts. She was lunging to the end of her lead and barking. Fred unsnapped her lead and said , "Boots fetch the bird!" Boots took a few running steps towards the water and plunged in the pond swimming like she was being pursued by the Devil! She was going to get that bird no matter what.

Then we ran into a problem, a very big scary problem. Boots misjudged where the bird landed. She started swimming in circles and diving under the water looking for the bird. I was standing a ways off so she couldn't see me, as this field thing was supposed to be hers and Fred's thing today not mine. (I had taken her through an 8 week Obedience course just a few months ago and we were concerned that she would only look to me for directions instead of Fred, but so far she had been doing fine with him.) I was starting to get a little concerned when she wasn't following Fred's verbal and hand commands as to where she should be going to find the bird. She kept insisting that the darn bird had to be under her down under the water, so she kept diving under the water and taking longer to resurface each time. When she finally appeared she was beginning to thrash about in one place.

Finally Fred started yelling at me to whistle or call her because he thought she was going to drown herself. About the same time Ralph and Frank Wood of Frandee Cockers, was hollering at us to do something or she was going to drown herself for sure.

Well, I can whistle through my lips real loud like a guy, so I'm calling her at the top of my lungs, "Boots, Boots and trying my hardest to whistle, but because I was getting frantic I was too dry to whistle! Fred is yelling at me. "Nancy, whistle, what's the matter with you?" "Whistle at her!" She's going to drown!"

I bent down and scooped up some water from the pond and wet my lips with it. Phsst-Ssst, (whistle), finally I was able to whistle. "Boots! Boots! Phsst-Ssst, (whistle), again. Finally she heard me and lifted her head and looked at me. I'm flailing my arms in the air then pointing to my left and Boots' left, "Over there Boots, over there, get the bird." Somehow Boots got the picture, saw that the bird was about 20 feet away over near some scrub brush or old scrawny trees, out past the middle of the pond, and was able to swim to it. She got it in her mouth, in the picture above, and headed back towards the shore. All the while everyone was yelling, Yea! Hurry Boots. Come here, Boots! Boy we all thought she wasn't going to make it. That is a very scary thing to have happen.

In the meantime, Missy, Boots' Black daughter and "Clancy", Windridge Chocolate Cyclone, a Chocolate boy owned by Elane Poole of Merribark Cockers had been running along the edge of the hill behind us with Lisa and Monique. Just as I turned to see where my daughters were I saw Missy run right off the edge of the hill and go air borne! She was already paddling, in midair, all four legs in anticipation of landing in the water! When she hit the water, it went spraying up over her so far that I couldn't even see her. When she came up to the surface she came flying up so fast she was almost completely out of the water. Her eyes were practically popping out of her head, all I could see were the whites of her eyes! She had totally scared the heck out of herself and from that day on we could never get her to go back in the water again!

By the time Missy got to the shore, Boots had managed to get to the shore too. Only one thing was wrong she was trying to bring the bird to me instead of taking it to Fred. He's yelling at her , "Come Boots, come! I'm telling her, "No Boots, not me take it to Dad!"

She's standing there dripping wet with the bird in her mouth trying to decide who she should take the bird to. All of a sudden the bird springs to life, as you can see in the picture above, and she almost loses the bird!

We had to crate her up in our camper after her near drowning as she still wanted to go after more birds everytime the gun went off. We felt that she had done and experienced enough for the day and needed to rest especially after the pond episode.

Boots was the only untrained Cocker to go in the pond and fetch a bird on command that day. She had 6, 5 week old Buff and Red puppies at home then. Sired by CH. MAR-JAC'S MARKING TIME.

In this day and age we do not recommend taking your still Lactating Brood Bitch out in Public and exposing her to other dogs and strange terrain. You are taking a great risk in possibly having her bring home a number of infectious diseases like Parvo or Corona or whatever may be lurking out there.


Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedure for Spaniels
Spaniels In The Field Magazine
American Cocker Spaniels in the Field
Skyrocket Cocker spaniels
Hunting: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pudg'gee Ann's American Cocker Spaniels


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Nancy L. Ray and Lisa L. Ray
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