Bird Dog & Retriever News

April / May 2003 issue Page 14

 Recognition as a state dog sparked rejuvenation of a mordant breed organization, currently two groups (the AWSC which sponsored the homecoming event and the American Water Spaniel Field Association, Inc.) promote the breed in their own ways, both under the aegis of the American Kennel Club.
The AWSFA, devoted chiefly to field aspects, recently affiliated with the United Kennel Club, which originally recognized the breed and currently permits American to participate in its hunt tests.
The AWSC, predominantly conformation show oriented, takes the position that the breed is a sporting spaniel for show purposes but "non-classified" when it comes to hunting, hunt tests and field trials; somewhat of a conundrum.
Other breeds designated by the AKC as "sporting breeds" are classified, grouped and described as spaniels or retrievers and so on for both show and field purposes Their testing programs and field trials being approved and administered accordingly by the AKC.
So far the strange anomaly of a "split personality" for American Water Spaniels exclusively has been shrugged off by the governing body. But the very significant minority of field-oriented dissenters who have defected to the United Kennel Club because they seek recognition as hunting spaniels or retrievers may cause a stir.
Tolerance or special status enjoyed by the Americans' parent breed club (AWSC) under the wing, of the AKC may be shaken should the show-oriented AWSC officials work out an alliance with Airedale Terrier people who are proposing a "versatile dog" classification for breeds that have been on the fringe of the sporting dog scene for a dozen dog generations. This proposal (previously rejected by Standard Poodle and Irish Water Spaniel officials and ignored or frowned upon by the AKC) was favorably considered at annual AWSC meeting, in New London, WI in 2000.
Meanwhile, back at the hunt test grounds.......
The brown spaniels, once prominent in the midwest and known coast to coast as finders and fetchers of both feather and fur, were doing their things oblivious to human politicking. They performed well enough to rate favorable comment from "outsiders", familiar and unfamiliar with the breed.
Judge Jack Maloney, a St. Paul, Mn. English Springer Spaniel enthusiast who has been observing Americans being trained at the spaniel club he belongs to said, "In the past seven years the octane count of these dogs has gone up by about five. The grounds here are excellent, the people more experienced and knowledgeable than a few years ago. Sometimes a kick in the butt does some good."
Karson Korth, whose Brandycreek Kennels is just down the road from Wolf River Game Farms', is a trainer and did the bird planting and some gunning for the upland tests, affording him a close up look.
"I suppose I'm going to have to buy one of these", he said. "We saw a couple of dogs out there in the field that hunted and handled good enough to please almost any hunter."
Pleasing hunters is what gained American Water Spaniels their recognition as a breed 80 years ago and what they and their progenitors have done for about 160 years, most recently almost in spite of the humans who hunted with them.
During their homecoming in the valley of the Wolf river, numbers of the American Water Spaniels gave indication that they are now aware of and finally catching up to the potential too often unrecognized, even suppressed, in a breed of dog not unique but special.
Dave Duffey hails from Bowler, WI
In Dave's writers loft is a picture of the original American Water Spaniel developed not to far away from his and Julia's current home.

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