Abbe, a Prized American Cocker Spaniel

By Dorothy Johnson

Abbe, an almost-ten-year-old, recently retired American Cocker Spaniel, lives on Washington Street in Calais with her owner, Nellie Walton. Previous to her recent retirement, Abbe worked at St. Croix Valley Antiques behind the counter.  She was not welcome on the floor of the antique shop because although she is usually very friendly, she sometimes takes an instant dislike to men with hats.  Still, she was up early every morning the shop was open, went to the shop, jumped into her chair and got ready for the day.  Since she has retired, she is more bored and has, unfortunately, put on a little weight.

The work at the antique shop must have had a positive influence on Abbe because she has become a collector of stuffed animals and she loves to do show and tell.  During our brief interview, Abbe brought me her alligator, dog, Tigger, pig, donkey, snake and Teddy bear .and left them around my chair.  She has a strange habit of chewing the stuffing out of her toys when she is happy and by the looks of the toys, she is frequently happy.

According to Nellie, Abbe is a good watch dog.  Not only does she let Nellie know when a car arrives in her yard, she also lets her know when a car drives in a neighbor’s yard.  Abbe can almost tell time.  She knows that around 5:00 pm every night, she gets a raw carrot.  If for some reason that carrot is not forthcoming, she kicks up a fuss.  

Although Abbe is a bit slower now than she once was, she clings to her favorite activities:  looking for presents when Nellie comes home, waiting for the car to go to work, watching the neighborhood and eating a carrot every day along with her dog cookies. 

The first cocker spaniels came to the United States in 1620 on the Mayflower and were first registered with the American Kennel Association in 1878.  They are a small breed of hunting dog and the name is believed to come from the word woodcock, which it was taught to hunt in England.  Spaniel comes from the same types of dogs in Spain.  The breed is distinguished by the shape of its head and its upturned nose.

Generally speaking the American Cocker Spaniel is a happy dog with average working intelligence although I am sure Abbe would claim more intelligence.  Members of the breed prefer to be around people and are not really suited for a back yard all alone.  They are easily stressed by loud noises and by rough handling.

This breed suffers from health problems with ear infections, eye infections and heart diseases. One of the most prevalent heart diseases is dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a weakened and enlarged heart.  They are also prone to canine epilepsy and rage syndrome, which can cause a normally peaceful dog to engage in sudden and unprovoked violent attacks.  Generally speaking, however, these dogs are good house pets, easily trained to use a doggy door. I might think twice before I bought one for a family dog, but I would not hesitate to buy one for an all-adult household.  Abbe convinced me of the breeds overall good nature.