Little Brown Dogs. Chocolate Cocker Spaniels. Birdie Dogs.
The Boykin Spaniel, the South Carolina state dog, may be referenced loosely this way, but officially they are "the little dog who doesn't rock the boat."
On the second night of The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, one of Beaufort's own Boykins, GCH CH Thornhills Carolina Scribe Jake, owned by Leslie Kern of Heronwyck Plantation, will make his second showing. Last year was the first that Boykins were accepted to compete in the show, and Kern and Jake helped ring the NASDAQ bell to commemorate this.
The show airs live Monday and Tuesday on USA Network.
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The wavy coated Jake, who is almost 4 years old, is ready to show in the Sporting Group on Tuesday, Kern said. While Jake shares the Boykin trademark of having legs that appear to contain springs when they jump, flip and twirl under Kern's training, he calms immediately to follow commands of hup, give and heel.
"He's all muscle," Kern said of the 40-pound pup who endlessly begs to retrieve, like many Boykins. "It is important to keep him in good shape. He is pure energy. He is like a lightning bolt out of a starting gate."
A dog breeder and trainer for eight years, Kern began field competitions with Brittany Spaniels. After taking in Jake's mother, Belle, when she was eight weeks old to socialize her, Kern fell in love with the breed.
"They become part of your soul," she said of Boykins.
In his first year at Westminster, Jake earned his first Award of Merit after only five months of showing and has participated in one to two shows a month in the past year. In between shows he enjoys playing on the plantation.
Workouts for Jake include daily three- to four-mile runs chasing a four-wheeler, fetching from Kern's kayak in the Broad River and hunting for birds on their property in Beaufort.
While in New York, Jake will get his exercise on a treadmill and Kern will take him on walks around the city.
Kern and Jake are looking forward to the support from friends and former classmates on her native Long Island.
TO THE RESCUE
While Boykin Spaniels are known to be loving companions, as well as protective of their owners, some people give them up and on occasion the breed has to be rescued. The Boykin Spaniel Rescue rescued more than 100 dogs in 2010 and 71 in 2011.
Rescue group volunteer Ellen Horn of Lady's Island mails out merchandise to people across the country. Horn also conducts home visits for possible adoptive parents and is part of a team that helps to transport rescue dogs.
She and her husband, Gary, also rescued two wavy-coated Boykins: Elijah, 12, who had been kept in a crate, and Sophie, 4, who was found wandering the streets of Greenwood.
The couple got their first Boykin 15 years ago as a puppy.
"I think they are adorable," Ellen said. "They are normally very sweet and good with people and children. I just like their playful personality. They have a lot of energy and they are a good-sized dog to have," she said referring to their weight of 30 to 40 pounds.
Boykin Spaniel Rescue executive director Eric Grubbs hunts with his Boykins, Lucy, 4 1/2, and Jasper, 7, but they also sleep in his bed to "protect us from the great squirrel invasion," he joked.
"They have to be worked, exercised and given attention, and if they aren't they can develop behavior issues," Grubbs said, adding that they are most loyal companions.
The rescue group is partnered with the Boykin Spaniel Society, the official registry of the state dogs.
"They register the dogs, and we rescue the dogs," Grubbs said. "We make sure at the end of the day our state dog is treasured."
THE LITTLE BROWN DOG
The Boykin Spaniel was bred in the 1900s for hunting ducks and wild turkeys. Popular for their love of the water and enthusiasm for hunting, they have a natural instinct for retrieving, and their size is perfect for retrieving from a boat or turkey blind.
Former Gov. Richard Riley signed an act making the Boykin Spaniel South Carolina's official state dog in 1985, but it wasn't until 2011 that the breed was added to Westminster. It was the 1breed accepted into the American Kennel Club and among six new breeds accepted last year by Westminster along with Bluetick Hound, Redbone Hound, Leonberger and the Icelandic Sheepdog.
Having pegged the Boykin Spaniels to their Sporting Group, Westminster describes them as "a versatile and compact gundog. The breed was developed in ... the Midlands of South Carolina to fill the need of local hunters for a smaller retriever for hunting waterfowl. Their nickname is apropos: 'the little dog that doesn't rock the boat.' In the field, they steal the show as tenacious, assertive and enthusiastic flushing and retrieving Spaniels. In the home, they steal hearts as gentle, affectionate and fiercely loyal members of the family. They are truly companions for all seasons."