Before I had an English Cocker Spaniel, I didn’t fully realise the level of haircare involved. It’s not really that high, but it is regular and it does have its price. It can also depend on the colour of your dog – the lighter-coloured multis (apparently) have much less hair growth, and a friend who has a sable says she never ever takes her to the groomer. What I also did not know is that all these spaniel and setter breeds do not take well to being neutered/spayed, and that the fur that then grows has more similarity with that of a puppy – and if you’ve ever seen a Cocker Spaniel aged 5-10 mths, before its first grooming, then you’ll know that it’s an explosion (I can’t find a picture because few people are probably willing to photograph their teenage spaniel explosion!). Especially reds and blacks. So instead of the long silky hair that just needs thinning twice a year, every 8 weeks we have to deliver our dog for the complete works. By the time the appointment comes around, she is generally sporting an Elvis-like quiff, bushy bedraggled ears, impressive sideburns and paws that have more in common with a teddy bear than any dog. Plus she will have accumulated all kinds of bits of “nature” in both ears and stomach fur that will have felted if I didn’t get her to a brush in time… (not too messy this time, but you can see how it might explode overnight…!)
Alina goes to a hairdressing salon that costs as much as my own and is returned to me after 2 hours, bathed, clipped, powdered, primped and brushed to within an inch of her life, sleek and seal-like and showing off her usually trim figure (unless she’s been stealing chocolate, burnt almonds, dry bread or other delights – again). Our neighbours thought we had a new dog and wondered where the old one was (they have a Beauceron and a pug, both male, and neither of which needs trimming!), as Alina skips round the garden with her incredibly long eyelashes and eyebrows almost skimming the ground…
None of this has put me off. I would have an English Cocker again in a heartbeat, as there is nothing like the merry nature, the spaniel eyes, the silky ears and the general playfulness – though you do have to overcome the soulfulness at times and they aren’t famed for their obedience (Alina does well – for a spaniel!), but they are pretty intelligent dogs. And their sense of smell is phenomenal, which is why they are sometimes trained to sniff out drugs or money: being a handier size than, say an Alsation, they can go into smaller corners. In fact, I am often amazed at how tiny Alina can be when curled up tightly! Most of all, this little bundle of dog makes me laugh every single day with her antics and her eye-flicking communication skills, her excited pirouettes, and yes, even her extremely squeaky vocal caperings, her gambols through ploughed fields and her diving skills (her ears float on the surface while she’s under).
I have not been able to photograph this stunning makeover adequately – and any black animal is hard to snap, anyway, but just the shine is blinding us for the moment; until she finds something yummy to roll in, no doubt.