Marshall the Cocker

I come from a long line of dog lovers. The last three dogs have been black cockers. And of course they'd be black cockers; I started doing dog rescue many years ago with Chows. Chows are lovely dogs, resembling a cross between a bear and a lion.

Perhaps put off by the relative stability of Chows, I found myself growing fond of cockers. Ok, not entirely... I grew up with an english eocker, which looks like a slightly larger american cocker. Or like a springer spaniel. I looked far and wide for a rescue english cocker but they were not found often and definitely not locally.

So I adopted a completely crazy but incredibly lovable cocker. When he departed this planet, we adopted another rescue black cocker (see, I told you I don't learn well or fast). When she left us, we adopted (wait for it)..... another rescue black cocker. It took a while to think of a name but my wife, ever the enabler, came up with the winner - Marshall.

Whenever you see a band, you're likely to see very large, black amplifiers and speakers in back of them. Quite a few of these boxes are adorned with a white script logo that says `Marshall' , after Jim Marshall, their british maker. So my dog is a cocker spaniel and a tube amplifier. He tends to sound much better as a tube amplifier though.

We went to New Jersey to look at Marshall. The rescue lady got him out of the car, we took one look at him, he came running to us, and that was it. The ride home saw him a bit apprehensive but the moment we opened the front door, he took right off and jumped on the couch, as if it had been his couch all his life. He laid right down and wagged his little stub.

Adopting Marshall was a calculated risk due to the presence of Ren, the cat (see elsewhere). Ren (aka Satan) tolerated the last dog very well. She, however, had very little use for him. She loved people but wasn't as fond of other animsls. Kinda the opposite of me. Ren hid at first but couldn't possibly stay hidden for long. Marshall didn't react one way or the other to Ren but after a while, things started to change.

Ren wouldn't tolerate the silence long. Satisfied that Marshall was no threat, he immediately started to gently inform Marshall he was there. This took the form of swatting at him whenever he walked by, leaping out and swatting Marshall's face for no apparent reason, and hanging upside-down from Marshall. Marshalls reactions ran the gamut from none to a small groan.

At some point Marshall became confident enough (brave enough?) to play with his sibling. He'd walk along, usually trailing his mommy, and Ren would leap out from behind a convenient piece of furniture, take a long-clawed swipe at Marshall's face, and folks, it was on.

You could always tell when you were in for some prime entertainment when Ren would assume Stalking Mode. This would consist of hiding, crouching, and adjusting his position. The final indicator was the tail; it would swat back and forth before he launched himself at Marshall.

There is no accurate way to describe what this looked like. I call it a twenty-two pound tabby lynx rolled into a ball with a black fuzzy cocker., alternating colors and strange noises. It's funny and somewhat frightening all at the same time. It goes on daily.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CAT FOOD, DAD

Marshall loves food. All kinds of food. Occasionally he loves his own food. But the thing that Marshall loves best, above all else (including breathing), is cat food. Strangely enough, Ren likes dog food, creating what we call the Morning Food Ballet.

My wife goes into the kitchen, warns the dog to leave, spoons out some cat food, warns the dog to leave, and feeds the cat, warning the dog to leave. When the cat starts eating, my wife closes the two louvered doors and goes to feed the dog.

Marshall, wanting none of this, just sits and stares at the louvered doors, as if concentrating long enough will cause the doors to magically open. He has to think he's right about this, because within minutes, the cat comes barging through the doors. Marshall takes complete advantage of this, launching himself right into the kitchen and the magic cat food. Ren, meanwhile, goes over and eats some dog food.

As if this wasn't enough fun for one morning, every time we feed the cat, he takes a bite and walks away from the food, allowing the omnipresent cocker to finish it. Just to make things more interesting, cat food gives Marshall diarrhea. We tend to try really hard to keep him out of it.

We are told by outside sources that Marshall is a very smart cocker. Trying hard to keep him out of cat food taught him to eat it faster. If he gets to the food before we catch him, we will yell as we run to the kitchen. Pretending to be minding his own business (with a hearing deficiency), he calmly stands there and eats even faster. He will not abandon the bowl until one of us is almost on top of him. Then he walks away, as if he were never there, and goes over to his own bowl to have a few crunchies. Any time someone gets mad at him, he runs over to his bowl, as if to say, "Hey, I didn't do it. I was over here eating while whatever it is you're yelling at me for happened." That's my dog.

WHAT IS THAT SQUEAKING NOISE?

I'll be the first to admit it: my dog has a strange bark. It's halfway between a bark and a squeak. When he has to go outside, he stands by the back door and barks/squeaks. When he has to come back in, he stands on the other side of the door and barks/squeaks. If he is not let in immediately he continues. This will rise to fever pitch, leading my neighbors to think that he is probably being ritually tortured in the back yard. If nothing else, it gets quick results. I told you he was smart.

Marshall is not tremendously tolerant of people walking by his house. If he hears someone, he will leap up, putting his front paws in the bay window, and start to bark/squeak at whoever or whatever is passing by. When told to SHUT UP ALREADY, he continues to squeak, once again imitating the dog with the hearing deficiency. When you stand right in back of him and tell him to SHUT UP ALREADY, he shuts up already, generally for the count of One, then returns immediately to squeaking. When you inform him this is Still Not OK, he gets down, groans pitifully, waits til you walk away, then jumps right back up and continues squeaking.

A neighbor with her own dog would gladly leave her dog home so she could listen to Marshall squeak and visit with him a bit. Marshall loves people too.

My wife attempted to use her own smarts to combat this problem by telling Marshall to go up the steps and be quiet. Marshall obeyed faithfully. He would run right up the steps when told. Then start squeaking from there. Smart dog, eh?

When not busy squeaking at dogs, squirrels, people, and leaves, Marshall is what we call a Comfy Cocker. It's not like he refuses to sleep on the floor... he just prefers a nice, comfy surface, like the couch, the bed, or my leather chair. We always thought it was cute that he liked the chair until it became a routine to have to remove him from said chair before I could use it. One day the mailman came by and Marshall did the FullSqueak. My wife was talking to the mailman and yelled at Marshall to SHUT UP ALREADY and GO SIT IN YOUR CHAIR. Mailman asked if the dog actually has a chair. "Why yes, it's my husband's leather chair." At this point, Mailman states that he wants to be a pet in this house.

WHERE AM I GOING TO SLEEP?

My wife gave up sleeping years ago. As a result she's in and out of bed at all hours of the night. One night she came in at three in the morning, followed by Marshall. He leaped right up on the bed and made himself comfortable. On my back. My wife found this rather fascinating, especially as all I did was let out some air.

I know this is not the only time I was a convenient pillow.... I have awakened to find a rather furry thing of some sort, laying next to me on my pillow. Or I awake to find that there's a fuzzy black head on my head. Not that the dog is neurotic or anything. Most of the time he sleeps at our feet. Only occasionally will he sleep over him mommy's head like some sort of fuzzy umbrella.

Because he's fuzzy, he tends to be quite the twig collector. When he goes outside, leaves, twigs, and other assorted flora attach themselves to him and we have to manually remove them (lest we find them rudely in bed).
One of his nicknames is Nancy Boy because we have a dear friend named Nancy, who Marshall adores. When he sees her, he starts squeaking and gets generally excited. The funny part of this is that Nancy and many others are Cat People. Some actually don't even like dogs (you can't trust these people) but Marshall makes instant converts out of them.

PAY ATTENTION TO ME

Above all else, Marshall adores attention. You can never give him enough attention. One would think this would never be a problem but somehow it started to become one.

One day Marshall noticed the bed shaking. He suspected that pretending to not exist would make the shaking stop. It did not. Since the movement continued, he had to investigate it.

"Oh boy," he thought, "Look at Mommy and Daddy. They're making the bed shake! Obviously they are going to need my help. After all, I'm a very helpful cocker."

Marshall's thought had proven wrong but he didn't entirely understand so he decided to go back up and offer to be helpful again.

"Hmmmm.... it's almost like they don't want my help," he thought.

Meanwhile, Daddy was getting a little agitated because Marshall wished to be included in this particular activity. Marshall wanted to be included in every activity. Normally this was not an issue but this particular activity had no place in it for even the most loved cocker. Not even in those weird movies he saw for sale in his spam.

Marshall, being a smart cocker, finally got the idea that this activity did not require his participation. First he decided to continue napping. Apparently he can nap through anything. Not finding the nap to be entirely satisfactory, he needed something else to get into. And boy did he find something.

Yes, kids, we discovered that it wasn't enough to keep focused on the task at hand; we needed to also remember to watch the dog. Because if we didn't watch the dog, expensive and rare stuffed animals would be found later on, minus limbs or in various stages of Torn Apart.

It's almost like the Cocker Mafia.

Hello?

Is dis Mr Leftystrat?

Yes, who is this?

Nevah mind who dis is. If you don't stop dat.. you see dat Disney stuffed toy? If you make me upset, dat stuffed toy is gonna show up minus a few limbs in da East River, capiche?

click.

Yup, he's a smart cocker....



Here's some worthless trivia: around 1922, cocker spaniels split into English and American varieties. So in the US, where I live, Marshall's a cocker. In England, where Jim Marshall lives, Marshall is an American Cocker. I grew up with an English Cocker called Ziggy. They're a little stockier than an American Cocker, with a larger snout, along the lines of a springer spaniel. The English Cocker rescue people tell me they're frequently misidentified as springers. Fortunately English Cocker rescue is not a full time job.