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Tale of a Mother’s Day Puppy

May 11, 2016


NOTE:  On this May 11, I have a publication note and a dog memoir to share with you.  My poem “Welcoming Springtime in Indiana” is in the May issue of Indiana Voice Journal.  I invite you to read my poem at the following free, online  journal:


I hope that reading “Welcoming Springtime in Indiana” will give you warm memories of past springs and pleasant moments of this month of May.


Tale of a Mother’s Day Puppy


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


May 11 of 1980 was Mother’s Day:  on that Sunday of thirty-six years ago, a buff-colored cocker spaniel was one puppy of the litter born on a farm in Shirkieville, Indiana.  The farm was near the farmland of former Indiana Senator Birch E. Bayh.  Upon returning to Indiana after four years of teaching in Ohio, I found that I could not remain dogless:  my seventeen-and-a-half-year-old Toy Manchester/Chihuahua Prince had passed away on March 20.  So, on June 20, 1980, I happily welcomed Chico–the Mother’s Day puppy–into our home.  What a picture-perfect puppy!  He was beautiful both as a pup and mature dog.  The photogenic Chico, true to his breed, was very affectionate and liked to pose for my camera.  I think I took and have more photos of Chico than of any of my dogs.  He was my only pet dog who I registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC); thus, I gave him four names–Chico Gabriel Massa Rainbow–so that I could be certain that no other AKC dog was registered with this name.  What was really important was not his having AKC papers, but was his having a place in my heart and in my many fond dog memories.


My standard American cocker spaniel had the thickest hair of any of my dogs.  Often I thought that scientists should study the growth of hair on this breed of spaniel.  Although Chico periodically went to a groomer for a summer cut, I thoroughly enjoyed grooming him; and he loved daily groomings.  When I trimmed his hair or when I removed cockle burrs from his impressive coat, he was always very still and patient.  Chico quickly learned the command “Turn” so that I could groom the opposite side of him.  The one command which truly challenged him and the rest of us was “No bark.”  For whatever reasons, Chico was a barker.  (Thankfully, he was my only dog with barking issues.)  Despite many attempts of numerous varieties to curb his barking habit when a new person or persons arrived, he persisted with his barking.  Only old age curbed his unnecessary barking duties.


Please do not ask me why; but one Christmas season, I purchased as a gift the “Clap Hands” device for turning a light on and off merely by clapping one’s hands.  Well, this gadget not only worked by clapping hands, but also by Chico’s barks.  With each of his repeated barks, the lamp turned on and off, on and off, on and off.  Somewhat disappointed, I had to return the “Clap Hands” to the store.


During holiday seasons, we had to be very careful to avoid saying “Christmas tree.”  Chico, who associated the word “treat” with receiving one of his dog biscuits, became excited with anticipation each time he heard someone say “Christmas tree” because my positive-thinking pet interpreted “tree” for “treat.”  I am always amazed at what good listeners dogs are.  Like most people, Chico ate a few extra treats around Christmastime.


Another seasonal memory of Chico is associated with hot summer days.  When he was still young ,  he enjoyed swimming and also being atop a towel-covered float while I was right beside him.  Of course, I have photos of this water dog’s aquatic escapades.


Eventually, due to my diminishing vision, I had to give up running with Chico on leash; however, he still enjoyed running within a fenced area.  His favorite toy with which to play outside was an empty Cool Whip container.  Fetching or  scooting the plastic bowl around the yard and flipping it into the air provided him with good exercise and entertainment.


Nevertheless, when Chico was five, I decided that both he and I needed another dog.  After much reading and searching, I was delighted to find that a litter of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were soon to be ready for new homes.  While I will not tell my cherished Chelsea’s story here, I will share a few points of my Cavalier’s life in regard to Chico.


Although everyone thought that thirty-pound Chico would never accept and get along with the two-pound puppy, I was determined that the two would become good buddies.  Despite my failure with teaching Chico to limit his barking, I was thankfully quite successful with introducing the two spaniels very slowly to each other.  With gradual and supervised interactions, the mature dog and puppy did become best of friends.  Much to our surprise, my cinnamon and white Cavalier, who matured at 16 pounds, definitely became the “alpha” dog.  Fortunately, Chico was quite content to let the new little princess have her way at all times.  In our family room, the beige swivel chair, which had often been Chico’s perch to look out the window, became Chelsea’s chair.  Chico was quite happy with the much larger dark green rocking chair which was too high off the floor for Chelsea to have much interest.  Sometimes, when Chico was lying on the floor beside the beige chair, Chelsea jumped off the chair and over Chico with one long jump.  Her buddy never moved.  Frequently, I wondered if Chelsea was from a line of circus dogs because she enjoyed using Chico as a hurdle for her jumping tricks.  Chico just lay perfectly still and looked at her with that “There she goes again” expression.  How tolerant my older dog was of my younger dog!


Whenever I gave treats to my two spaniels, Chico always took the treat from the left hand, and Chelsea took the dog biscuit from my right hand.  Luckily, I did not really have to teach this behavior:  Chico and Chelsea were just pleasant creatures of habit.  Although a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is considered a lap dog and not a herding dog, she definitely had a herding tendency.  When I, with dog biscuit in each hand, called both dogs to come inside, if Chico did not immediately obey, Chelsea circled back and truly herded Chico to the door.  Her instinct was that all should obey “Mama.”  I loved observing the interesting and playful interactions between my two spaniels.


Like my Leader Dog Zoe, Chelsea passed away at much too young an age.  After her sudden loss, Chico would go outside in the fenced area, but promptly just would sit in the middle of the yard.  He only sat and did not want to move or play.  After this behavior persisted for several days, I worried that he, too, was not well.  After my cocker’s thorough check at the veterinary clinic (with even X-rays of Chico’s back), the veterinarian concluded that Chico was healthy for his age, but was mourning the loss of his best buddy Chelsea.  Thus, together Chico and I mourned the loss of our dear, sweet Chelsea.

Weeks later, Chico, with much encouragement and patience, returned to running and playing; and I applied for my first Leader Dog.  1989 ended on a stronger and more hopeful note; then, 1990 blossomed into a new stage in my life.  Chico was the beloved spaniel who was at my side during some of the most outstanding transitional periods in my life.  As I sit here and am temporarily dogless again on this May 11, I fondly recall Chico and wish I had such a spaniel at my feet to be with me on this journey of waiting for my fourth Leader Dog.


Warm, springtime  regards,



May 11, 2016, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. And yet another wonderful tale has graced the pages of your blog Alice. A customer of mine in Jackman had two spaniels, and oh my were they love bugs. I had a hard time getting back in my truck to leave every time I was there. Dogs, all dogs have found their way into my heart, and by the sounds of it, they share a chamber of yours as well. Hats off on a mighty fine piece of writing my dear, and keep it coming. God bless. dp

    • Deon–Thanks for sharing a comment about the spaniels who touched your life! The animals around us have inspired so much writing and continue to inspire our days.

      Enjoy the weekend! Take care–Alice

  2. Carole permalink

    Thanks for the canine memories, Alice. By the way, Bebe would love to sit on your lap someday!

    • Carole and BEbe–The “Little Queen of the Golf Cart,” in Florida, would be very welcome to sit on my lap one of these days.

      Take care–Alice

  3. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–Thanks for sharing this touching story of Chico. What a good boy he was to let the little girl have her way! Maybe he was just that much of a gentleman. And you truly made it a Mothers’ Day story when you referred to yourself as “Mama”–While many people with children love their dogs, those of us who don’t have children know that the relationship with our animals is so special and such a gift, even if they do have one little fault like barking. Oh, I can just see that light going off and on . . .

    Can’t wait for next Mothers’ Day when you won’t be sitting dogless.–Sue

    • Sue–Thanks for your kind and lovely comment, and thanks for understanding how important dogs are in our lives.

      Take good care–Alice

  4. Thanks for sharing your charming and heartwarming memories of Chico, Alice! I enjoyed reminiscing about the special role he had in our family.
    Love, Mary

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