"Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even it's end."
On June 22, 2014, the dog world - especially those who have been involved in Cocker Field Trials - lost one of the first ladies of the sport, Dorothy Douglas. Dorothy and husband Denis have long been involved with Field Trials in Scotland and England - their passion and dedication to the "wee dogs" has garnered them well deserved recognition within the sporting dog circuit - I was privileged to call her my friend.
Denis and Dorothy began trialing dogs in the mid-1950's. Denis began with Springer Spaniels, his kennel affix, Denhead, combined his ancestral home with his name. He was most proud of his two Field Trail Champions (F.T.Ch.) Denhead Warrior - Sire F.T.Ch. Markdown Muffin, Dam Denhead Scamper and F.T.Ch. Spioncop Havoc - Sire F.T.Ch. Hobbins Harrier, Dam Gorsty Gussie. Both Springer's received Diplomas at the AV Championships and in addition, Warrior as the winner of the Game Fair.
A Scottish Champion, Gus was one of the last Denhead Springers
Denis fondly recalled attending a trial at Corsewall, Stranraer with a Mrs. Nicholson of Glenbervie and her "keeper" who handled her spaniels in trials and another friend, John McIntyre. While exercising their dogs they discovered that a "rather nice looking black and white cocker bitch had joined them" eventually identified as belonging to the hostess Mrs. Buchanan. Mrs. Nicholson purchased it and in due course, the little cocker became F.T.Ch. Whisper of Corsewall. She was mated with F.T.Ch. Jimmy of Elan, owned by Lady Auckland of Cromlix, Dunblane. Due to the death of John McIntyre, Denis acquired one of the pups who became F.T.Ch. Carswell Zero. By now, F.T.Ch. Jimmy of Elan had won the Cocker Championship and upon the death of its owner, Lady Auckland, Jimmy came to Denis and Dorothy.
Carswell Zero became the foundation for the Anahar line, which was Dorothy's kennel affix named for one of the hills outside of Laurencekirk. Denis and Dorothy had very strong views about how cockers should progress. Denis often noted that there were a few cockers who "obviously had a touch of springer." Sitting in their family room on several occasions, enjoying a glass of sherry, the electric fireplace glowing and surrounded by drawings of the long line of Anahar Field Trial Champions, they shared their view that springer traits in cockers did not benefit the breed - they both agreed cockers should "be kept pure."
Three generations of Anahar cockers have won the trophy for gaining the most points from field trial placing in a single season (as allocated by The Cocker Club): F.T.Ch. Tayburn Valentina of Anahar, F.T.Ch. Anahar Bawbee and F.T.Ch. Anahar Tippet. This is a remarkable achievement and I believe may be a record.
All of the Anahar cockers were born at Denis & Dorothy's home. Together, Denis and Dorothy contributed significantly to the development of the breed.
I fondly recall one visit when I requested a photograph of all the cockers sitting on the lawn. Denis let them out of the run and as often happens, pandemonium erupted.
Not one of the dogs were paying attention to Denis let alone obeying his commands (or the whistle). From the window, I could see Dorothy watching the madness of five Anahar's running around like children who have had far too much sugar. Dorothy could be seen shaking her head and briefly disappeared only to reappear outside next to the Land Rover parked near the front door. She opened up the back which resulted in all of the dogs focusing their attention on Dorothy. Thinking they must be going for a run "on the hill," the dogs made a beeline to the vehicle and in an attempt to get into the back at the same time, became a barking tail wiggling mass of black and white. Dorothy slammed the back hatch, exchanging a look with Denis who turned to me and said with that lovely Scottish burr ... "horrid little dogs."
Denis served during WWII; their memories of life during the 1930's and 1940's renews my faith in the strength of good people faced with adversity. Their home is filled with photographs of family and friends - including several with the Queen Mum and HRH Queen Elizabeth in attendance at field trials (Dorothy: "...she wearing a coat I wouldn't be seen out in my kennels in.") Dorothy once drove one of the cockers to the Queen's estate at Sandringham during a torrential rain storm in order to breed with one of the Queen's cockers, proudly adding Sandringham Mango to the Anahar line.
Hidden among the artwork on the staircase are two small watercolors painted by the Prince of Wales, even their dining room table has a close connection with the Queen. On a trip to Edinburgh when Sean Connery was knighted at the Palace of Holyrood, we visited with Denis & Dorothy later on in the week - Dorothy talked of being in "the city" on Tuesday ... we asked, "wasn't that the day Sean Connery was knighted?" Dorothy inquired, "have you been?" "Ah ... no ... we weren't invited but wait ... you and Denis were there?" "Yes," Dorothy replied, "but we didn't want to stay (overnight) we wanted to get home to the dogs."
Even with their friends in high places, Denis and Dorothy were never pretentious. From the time we stepped off the train at Montrose until the time we had one last toast of sherry - Dorothy raising her glass, "hasten ye back" - and Denis waving at us from the platform until we pulled out of sight, we were treated like royalty.
When I think of Dorothy I think of strawberry rhubarb crumble, her quick smile and light-hearted laugh recalling stories of every cocker who graced their home and whose stones lovingly mark the spot where they now lay along the garden wall. When my mother asked Dorothy to explain the workings of the Aga, lunch was temporarily interrupted while Dorothy happily talked about the wonders of the Aga.
As Dorothy's health declined and her rheumatoid arthritis progressed, visits to Frogfield no longer included lasagna with peas and crumble with clotted cream in the cozy kitchen but rather car rides around the countryside with lunch at a favorite restaurant, always ending with Dorothy's favorite: Baked Alaska.
All though they both have retired from the trialing circuit, it was fitting that Dorothy would live to see one of her Anahar cockers center stage.
Photo Source: channel24.co.za
Dorothy was 90-years old and I know, had a wonderful life. She died in the arms of her son, surrounded by her family. The funeral and interment were at Fettercairn and I was told Dorothy "would have been proud of her day." Denis is "being very brave" and now is getting use to life without his beloved Dorothy.
I imagine Dorothy received a wonderfully noisy welcome in heaven with all of her lovely Anahar's on their best behavior and madly wagging tails. Her equal will never be among us again ...
Cha bhithidh a leithid ami riamh
With the exception of the photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Joanne Harris quote
Text and photographs copyright (c) Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski. 2014