Sunday Dinner with Sandy Collins

A Strike to the Heart, Culture, Dogs, Sunday Dinner

For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Sandy Collins to join us. Sandy owns American Water Spaniels and since the breed makes an appearance in my upcoming novel, A Strike to the Heart, I wanted readers to get to know what it’s like to live with these adorable dogs.

Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!

Without further ado … Sandy, please introduce yourself. What’s something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you? 

Hello, my name in Sandy Collins.  Dogs have always been a part of my life as I was growing up. I have been involved in canine sports & enrichment since I was 15. Such as AKC Obedience, Schutzhund, AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests & Nosework. I work as an Emergency Veterinary Technician in a Veterinary Specialty/Emergency Hospital for 20 + years now.

I understand you own an American Water Spaniel and are a champion of the breed … can you give us a little of your background? 

I was introduced to American Water Spaniels in 1992. My first after school job was working for Paul Morrison at his Canine Training & Learning Center. He was the one to introduce me to the breed, and taught me the strong foundation I have in canine education. I grew up with German Shepherds, but it was working with American Water Spaniels that I learned the great latitude of canine expression, and dog language. I applied what I learn from Paul and his AWS to my own German Shepherds, competing in Schutzhund for 15 years.  But it wasn’t until 2014 at my husband’s request that we bring home our own AWS from Little Brownies Kennel.  Since then, 3 more AWS have joined our family – you can’t just have one!

Can you tell us more about your dogs?

Our current furry family consists of 4 AWS (Easton, Leda, Mack & Prairie), 2 German Shepherd Dogs (Xaina & Odin), and a cat (Tad). Easton is 7 years old; he is an AKC Champion, has his Senior Hunter title and is working toward his Advanced Senior Hunter title. He is the STUD dog of 4 litters. Leda is 3 years old and the mother of 2 litters. Mack is 18 months old, & Prairie is 14 months old. Leda, Prairie and Mack are all working toward AKC Spaniel Hunt Test titles as well.  Xaina, our 11 year old female is retired from Schutzhund.  Odin is the 5 year old male, he is my son’s and the cat’s best friend. 

What makes the American Water Spaniel special or unique from other breeds?

The AWS is unique due to the versatile size, and a working ability that balances nicely in the field then comes home to relax with the family. They stand apart from other hunting breeds because they both flush and retrieve game. They can work in the water, in the field, sit patiently in a duck blind or ride in a canoe comfortably. Their medium size makes is easy to pack them up and take anywhere. In my experience, Water Spaniels have an extraordinary way of interacting and responding to their people both in the field and just hanging around the house.

What does a day in the life of an American Water Spaniel look like?

Any chance an AWS has to be close to his person is a perfect day. If you are working in the kitchen, your AWS will be at your feet and will follow you back and forth while you move about. If you are otherwise sitting at your desk or on the couch, your AWS will be in your lap or on your feet. When it’s time to go out for a walk or some training, he will spring up into action! They are able and willing to put in a long day walking, training, working or hunting for several hours. If swimming is part of that day – then it’s a bonus!

What makes life difficult for an owner of an American Water Spaniel?

I imagine some of the frustrations AWS owners run into can be a few of their behavior qualities. AWS tend to bark often and at anything they consider to be interruptive of their quiet time. Some resource guard food or space. Young adolescent AWS need structure and set boundaries to remain a respectable part of the family. The challenge is enforcing the rules when the canine student is so adorable!

How important is it for American Water Spaniel owners to stay abreast of new knowledge and information about the breed? Why?

Knowing your breed helps enable you to learn and continue to learn how to interact with and train your dog. The difference between working with AWS vs other breeds such as a Labrador Retriever or German Shepherd is understanding the balance the AWS provides working independently as well as working with his handler as a team. AWS are quick to learn, sensitive to the handler, they have incredible food drive, and they are always forgiving.

What do you like best about owning an American Water Spaniel?

I love their individual expressions, both exclusive to the AWS and to each particular AWS. It’s difficult not to think you are actually having an interactive conversation with any one of our AWS. They respond as if they know exactly what you are saying. We truly enjoy how much they love to be next to you, always touching and cuddling. Different from our Shepherds, who are always near, but constantly on alert and on the “job.” An AWS knows how to take a good nap!

What do you wish potential dog owners would know about the American Water Spaniel before bringing one into their home?

Even as a medium size dog that loves to be in your lap, or spend a day here and there on the couch, they need a job. If a busy lifestyle in some type of canine training, active dog sport or outdoor activity will not be a part of your normal everyday, then the AWS is not the dog for you. Although they are adaptable, they do enjoy routine.

What advice would you share with other dog owners about the American Water Spaniel?

The secret to an exemplary canine companion with the American Water Spaniel is to provide your AWS with proper socialization, and training from puppyhood through adolescence. They need to be mentally challenged and provided with clear boundaries. Good foundations in training and outdoor activities will set you and your AWS up for happiness with a lifelong best friend.

The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Sandy, thank you for joining us today. I loved learning a little more about the American Water Spaniel. In A Strike to the Heart, you’ll get to see the AWS in action. Find out more here.

If you would like more information about the American Water Spaniel, you can visit Sandy’s website, or Sandy recommends visiting the Great Lakes American Water Spaniel Club, Paul & Lynn Morrison with Little Brownies Kennel, American Kennel Club (AKC), United Kennel Club (UKC). In fact, in a couple weeks, Paul Morrison will be joining us for Sunday Dinner. So stay tuned!

Over Sunday Dinner next week, Lynn Owen will be here to tell us more about life on a dairy farm. See you then!

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