Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008
For contribution to the breed
Contribution to the Cocker Spaniel as a breed can be done in many ways. Some people breed dogs who found dynasties; some soar to heights in conformation, performance or field events. Others dedicate their efforts to improving the health or behavior or training of the dogs. And some take their passion and share it with the world.
Gladys Taber, April 12, 1889- March 11, 1980, shared her Cockers with everyone through her stories written from the 1930’s throughout her life. An author of more than 50 books, she was a columnist for Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle, and today her writings echo as true as when she first told them.
She wrote about everyday life on her historical Connecticut farm house with its “bevy” of Cocker Spaniels, an Irish Setter and a couple of cats. She promoted the breed to her readers around the world in her columns, “Diary of Domesticity” and “Butternut Wisdom”, where the antics of the dogs flushed up and retrieved many hearts.
Hers were not fictional stories, but were stories of her dogs. The Stillmeadow breeding program was based on Cockers from Latimer Rees, Wilmarland, and Ripplemark. Her bitches were bred to Tokalon, Rees’, and other sires from prominent kennels of the day located in New England.
Early in their dog careers, Gladys talks about their first foray into dog shows at the 1935 American Spaniel Club Flushing Spaniel show held at the Roosevelt in New York City. Co-owner Eleanor Mayer showed one of their foundation bitches, Rees’ Quicksilver, known as “Sister” in her books. Quicksilver won her Novice, bitches, parti-color class over Mignonette May, Tokalon Cherry Blossom and Wilmarland So Fair.
From there though she and Eleanor shifted their focus to obedience and tracking events, and supported local and ASC club activities including serving on the ASC Obedience Committee and as consistent trophy donor.
In 1952, she was at the ASC show and was invited to a group breakfast hosted by Clinton Wilmerding. Norman Austin was also at the breakfast and noted in his book on the breed,
“Many, many of us were devoted followers of her column and eagerly awaited each issue to find out what Daffodil and Jonquil had been up to. It was a heady breakfast indeed. Clinton Wilmerding talked full tilt about his much loved Cocker Spaniels and about all of the people who had influenced the breed …”
“….I vividly remember what he said in parting to each of us… To Gladys Taber he said, “When we are all gone, someone will read about us and the Cocker Spaniel and they will fall in love with the breed.”
And so each of the Stillmeadow books as well as her dog-care books, Especially Dogs and Especially Spaniels, reflect her own deep love and appreciation for the breed in ways that capture our hearts today. Reading her candid, accurate descriptions of her own Cockers could well tell the story of any of our Cockers today. Never sentimental or trite, they are genuine stories of real Cockers descended from the best bloodlines of the time.
She writes in Especially Spaniels, “The spaniels of Stillmeadow have told me many things, have taught me much. The practical, helpful tangible things I have been able to record for other spaniels and their owners. As the cockers race in and out of the room, lie dozing on the nearest couch, or climb up on the typewriting bench at hugging distance, they have made this their record.
“But the one thing they have not been able to tell me is how immeasurably they have enriched my life. The intangible is not so easy to communicate, it is too much like sunset or apple blossoms in twilight or dark branches against a sky or fire on the hearth.
“Surely that person is rare who never needs love and loyalty and warmth and selfless devotion in his life. That person does not need a dog. For the reset, unselfish love, patience in adversity, a cheerful spirit, unfailing approval, these are treasure in an unstable world well worth some small effort…”
Gladys Taber captured the timeless Cocker Spaniel spirit for all people who share her deep love for the breed.