Since 1971 I have had 6 Springer Spaniels and 1 Brittany as pets and hunting companions. They have enriched my life and brought me joy. My first Springer was Archie. I got him as an 8 week old pup in Platte Center NE. He was the pick of the litter and the best hunting dog I ever owned.
I lived in Leigh the first 3 years of Archies life. I remember him chasing up his first bird on the edge of town at about 6 months of age. He was an aggressive hunter and caught some bird when he was young. I had my best years hunting in Nebraska with Archie.
Archie – 9 years
Archie hunted until he was 14 in spite of a hip injury which required the removal of the hip joint because of severe arthritis in it. Dogs form a muscular hip and can continue to function after such surgery. The early years of hunting in Leigh were the best I ever had in Nebraska and I could normally hunt 2 or 3 farms during the entire season and take 30 birds or more. I really miss those days of hunting with Archie. As I said Archie was an aggressive hunter and you had to keep up with him when he was on a hot trail. I could do that in those days, not so any more.
My second dog was a gift to my wife at the time. She loved dogs as much as me. It was a smaller female tricolor and I bought her from a broker whom I later figured out was selling for a puppy mill. The pup was not healthy and coughed a lot. We took her to a vet several times before she improved.
Ginger as a pup
Ginger turned out to be a disappointment in the field since she didn’t like hunting. She was a nice pet though. Neither Springer was neutered and we had a litter of pups on our hand within a year. We did find homes for all of them. Several years later she had another litter. We kept two of the pups. I wanted a black and white and my wife wanted to keep the pup we named “Harry” who was born with a harelip. His birth defect required that he be fed by hand when he was of suckling age.
Augie and Harry
Augie was really attached to me. I remember holding him as a pup and his little claws would dig into my chest. Both dogs grew into adults and both were hunted.
Augie had real skills as a hunting dog. I think he had the best nose of all my Springer’s but he was a little lazy. When I hunted he was reluctant to go into heavy cover and would stay with me on the outside of cover patches. However, he was a great retriever and was right on top of any birds I shot. He let the other 2 dogs do all the hard work and he would take the credit. I hunted the 3 dogs together until 1986. Harry and Archie both died in 1986. Augie hunted pretty well on his own but he was nowhere near the dog Archie was.
The picture above was taken sometime in the mid 80’s. I had a picture of both Augie and Harry together with this setting but put it in a veternarian’s office and never retrieved it.
Harry had several surgeries on his harelip as a pup and although it looked better it was still obvious if you viewed him up close. He was a beautiful dog but didn’t like his picture taken and he didn’t photograph well. I really think he was self-conscious about his harelip. He had more personality than any of my springers, always excited and full of spunk. He had gold colored eyes that would really stand out as you looked at him. When he hunted he ran out of steam after a half hour or so. This was on a consistant basis and I never could figure out why. When he was approximately 7 years old he started losing weight and eventually he lost his sight. I had taken him to a vet and mentioned that he seemed to have trouble seeing. Although there never was an official diagnosis, it is quite obvious he had diabetes. He had a good seven years.
In 1992 Augie was 10 and beginning to slow down with his hunting skills. I mentioned that to a customer and that I was looking for a springer pup. He said he knew someone in Columbus who had pups he wanted to give away and that they would be 8 weeks old in another week. I drove to Columbus and picked Guido out of the litter.
Guido lived up to his name. He was a bit tempermental at times and got downright grumpy in his old age. He wasn’t overly cooperative when taking pictures and I never did get a close head shot of him in all the years that I tried.
Guido during a hunt
Gudio enjoyed hunting and was quite good at it although he didn’t retrieve birds well. Hunting in the 90’s was pretty good in Nebraska and it was during Guido’s tenure that I started hunting South Dakota.
South Dakota 2003
Gudio was 11 years old on this photo and still enjoyed the hunt although he did let my younger dog Cosmo do a lot of the hard work. Guido died in 2006 at the age of 14. He was a little hard to live with his last year but I enjoyed his company and hunting skills in his earlier years.
Gudio,Cosmo, and myself
Unfortunately the average age of Springers in my life have been around 14 years. After year 11 most dogs slow down considerably and hunting with them is not as effective. I’ve always tried to get a new dog while the older one still hunts because they do learn from the older dog and I can transition into the younger dog rather smoothly. I added Cosmo in 2002 when Guido was ten.
I will have another post covering the two dogs I have with me today. Their names are Cosmo and Tbone.