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Two Very Special Springer Spaniels:
Saighton's Spitfire and NFC, NAFC Saighton's Scout
by John DeMott
- Photos courtesy of the Author

Part 1: Saighton's Spitfire.

During my fourteen years rearing and training the Saighton Springers I had the privilege of knowing many wonderful Springer Spaniels. Some went on to become outstanding Field Trial Champions. Some became great gundogs and companions. I dare say some of the owners of these dogs would say, "He was the best dog I have ever had." Amongst this illustrious group of spaniels were two that always stood out as very special dogs in my mind. They were Saighton's Spitfire and her son NAFC, NFC Saighton's Scout II. No doubt they were two of the most outstanding workers I ever had, but others were also very outstanding workers. What made them special to me transcended their working ability. The following are some selected memories I have of these two most unusual Springers.

Spitfire in front of the Big House.

It was a Sunday afternoon just before or just after my first Christmas in Wales, when Talbot told me that Eddie Griffiths was coming with two dogs he had been training. When Talbot didn't have a regular trainer he would farm out his dogs to various trainers. Eddie, who lived near Chester, England, was one of the regulars he used. As I didn't know anything about these two dogs or Eddie, he must have had these them since before I arrived in September. When Eddie arrived at Talbot's house, we proceeded to the other side of the estate. Talbot took us to a conifer woods. On the edge of the woods was some fairly open ground interspersed with bramble and bracken. Eddie got a young bitch out first. Immediately this bitch caught my eye. He worked her along the edge of the woods for a short distance. I was quite excited about getting to work with this bitch. She looked like she would be a lot of fun to shoot over. The bitch's name was Spitfire.

As we were walking back to the car, I said to Eddie, "That looks a very nice bitch."

Eddie was a quiet spoken dog man of few words. He said, "She is a very clever Spaniel."

Afterwards, he told me about the first pheasant he had shot for her. Spitfire was only eight or nine months old. Eddie was working her along a hedge when she put up a pheasant. He shot the pheasant. It was lying in a field on the opposite side of the hedge. Although he thought it a very difficult retrieve for a young inexperienced dog, he sent her. Much to Eddie's surprise Spitfire went straight through the hedge, jumped over the fence, and was back with the pheasant in no time; as if she had been doing it for years. Years later if he and I would meet and mention Spitfire, Eddie would talk about shooting this first pheasant for her, and how Spitfire generally seemed to know how to do things - well beyond what would be expected of a dog of her age and experience.

"It was important to let dogs have some more relaxed fun where training wasn't too serious and they could blow off steam."

Eddie put Spitfire back into the car then he brought out a very ordinary looking dog. It worked well enough. After a short distance, Talbot told Eddie that he was satisfied with the work he had done - and we would take the dogs off of him that day. As we were returning to the kennels, I was most disappointed to be informed by Talbot that I was to finish off the training of the dog and that he would have the bitch as his own personal shooting dog. I guess he saw the same thing in Spitfire that I had.

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