There were two types of dog I wanted desperately as a kid. One was a rough collie (just try telling me that Timmy Olson wasn’t the luckiest boy in the world) and one was a cocker spaniel. My apartment complex in New York City didn’t allow dogs, but my Aunt Susan and Uncle Morey lived in an elegant, canopied building with a doorman on Manhattan’s upper east side. There, apparently anyone could have any pet they wanted, and those two had a gentle cocker spaniel named Taffy who never minded my pouring my dog love all over him. So of course I wanted a dog just like that one.
It turns out my youthful dog predilections date me. Collies were among the most popular dogs not long before I came to be, as were cocker spaniels. That itch to have a cocker spaniel of my own never dissipated, and when I finally went to choose my first dog decades later at the age of 37, it was a cocker spaniel I was going to have. But the four cockers waiting to meet me at the doggie foster home ranged from sad-sacky to downright nippy, which is how I ended up with a border collie/Lab mix.
Tufts veterinary geneticist Jerold Bell, DVM, isn’t surprised. Sometimes when a breed becomes very popular, he points out, it is bred without regard to temperament, so unfortunate traits can creep in, which is what happened with cockers. Only now are they being bred more carefully to weed out the nippiness.
Dick Moreau is one of the lucky owners of a non-nippy cocker spaniel. His dog, Fred, is a pure sweetheart through and through — but suffered something fierce with chronic ear infections, a problem of the breed, unfortunately. Those adorable long ears don’t come without a price.
Mr. Moreau tried all kinds of medications, but none really solved the problem. Fred, miserably uncomfortable, finally had to undergo surgery. The infections had literally changed the shape of his ears underneath the long flaps and required a rather dramatic solution. But today, he’s back to his old self. And Mr. Moreau has been able to stop worrying about him. For their story, see page 4.
And for more on breed trends that come and go, read the article that begins on page 1. You might be surprised at just how much the media can influence the popularity of various breeds. (The media, after all, drew me to collies.) You might also be surprised to learn which breed has made the top 10 every single decade since the American Kennel Club was founded in 1884. Then again, depending on the dog in your house, maybe you won’t.
Happy tails to you,