A Brief History Of Primetime

By Owner Karen Cottingham

  In 1979, I became active in the Wicomico County Humane Society One of the most shocking things I found was the number of purebred dogs that were abandoned by their owners at the Humane Society’s shelter. I was not aware that even then, many national breed clubs had ‘Rescue’ organizations that worked to keep purebreds out of shelters. As my interest in protecting dogs grew, I took on the responsibility of Vice President of WCHS, which mainly consisted of weekly visits to the shelter to sign the paychecks of the employees. This gave me a sorrowful look at the dozens of dogs that were to meet their untimely fates due to lack of resources to keep them and lack of adopters to give them homes.
My first show dog did not come to me until 1985, when I purchased a Newfoundland pup from a local breeder of quality Newfs, Dee Craig. This was indeed a stroke of very good fortune, because that breeder became my mentor and good friend. Our daughters grew up together, traveling to dog shows and helping us whelp puppies. That first Newfoundland pup grew up to be my first Champion show dog, CH Seaplay Tyree Lady Jessica. We still have one Newfoundland, Kilyka’s Primetime Tess, and are always ready to volunteer for Newf Rescue.
My next leap into the world of dog sports came with Obedience training. I competed with four Newfoundlands to their AKC Companion Dog title, and continue to believe in the positive reinforcement method of training as the best bonding experience you can have with a dog. After a few years of training my own dogs with the local dog training club, the Obedience Chair asked me to begin teaching Beginner’s Obedience, and to become one of the first local instructors of Puppy Kindergarten Training, a special type of training that involves management techniques, positive reinforcement, and lots of socialization. I have been teaching Puppy Kindergarten classes for over a decade. I was one of the first trainers in this area to teach the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program, which awards the CGC certificate to any dog that passes the CGC test, whether purebred or not. I administer this test every November during our AKC Dog Show weekend, as well as at every Sussex Spaniel Club of America annual National Specialty.
In 1991, the American Kennel Club’s official monthly full-color magazine, ‘The American Kennel Gazette,’ ,asked me to write an article on how I managed the publicity campaign for the local AKC club. We were trying something new for a kennel club: television advertising. As a non-profit organization devoted to the protection of purebred dogs, we had a lot to say about how a prospective puppy buyer should go about choosing a purebred dog. Need I say that we do not recommend buying on impulse from a pet store (read: Puppy Mill). The article was published June 1991, with full-color photos from our public service announcement. AKC clubs all over the US contacted me for more information on how they could accomplish the same goal in their communities. The AKC followed with a series of television announcements produced for use on any television station to promote responsible dog ownership. In 2004, I participated in the AKC’s Communications Seminar, and was interviewed for the AKC Gazette again in 2005.
Back to our personal history: Since it’s hard to sleep with a big, hairy Newfoundland, I wanted a slightly smaller breed to be my ‘bed dog,’ and having fallen in love years before with sporting breeds, I chose an English Cocker, who also became an AKC Champion, and produced beautiful pups who showed well. But after two generations of Engies, I realized that I had not the time, money, or energy to devote to a beautiful breed that required many hours of grooming. I still enjoy the company of other people’s Engies, especially during the annual MSDA Hunt Tests.
For a number of years, I admired the male Sussex Spaniels of Bobby Lewis at my annual trip to Roanoke, VA for a weekend of dog shows. After consulting with Bobby about the breed, I knew I had met my match. The Sussex had the substance of bone that I loved, and the lack of grooming that I craved! Sussex are shown ‘natural,’ which means that a quick trim of the feet could be all that is necessary in terms of trimming. I do tend to like to trim my dogs a little more just because I learned with Newfoundlands this rule from the world-famous Peggy Helming: If you don’t like it, cut it off....only referring to hair, of course! And, a big bonus to a ‘show-off’ like myself: Sussex are primarily owner-handled, so I could show my own dogs and win!
I talked with the few Sussex breeders that I could find. It seems that Sussex had fallen out of favor with American hunters, who wanted large, fast dogs in the field. Very few Americans hunt with flushing spaniels today, preferring pointers, setters, and retrievers. But there are still some hunters who love to watch the spaniels work in the field, and three dogs of my breeding have the AKC Hunting titles to prove that Sussex can still do the job they were originally bred to do! One of the most recent generation of Primetime Sussex hunts regularly with her co-owner in Utah and another is training for hunt tests.
After a year and a half of searching for a Sussex Spaniel of my own, I found a breeder who had to reduce her number of dogs, having three breeds and being a military family, they moved often. Linda Shannon of Eadweard Kennels offered to sell me an adult female that she had begun to show, on the condition that she would receive a pup from my first breeding. That bitch became my first foundation bitch, Eaweard’s Golden Bonanza, who I called ‘Anni.’
After obtaining ‘Anni,’ I made my first trip to the Westminster Kennel Club show in NYC to choose a stud dog. My heart skipped a beat as I watch CH Sand Creek’s Up To Snuff, CDX, SH in the ring. I couldn’t wait to talk to his owner. After a brief conversation, she asked me to send her the information on my bitch, and we would a arrange a breeding on Anni’s next season. Snuffy and Anni produced my first Sussex litter in 1993, which included my first two Champion Sussex: CH Eclipse’s Snuffalupagus, and CH Eclipse’s Blossom. At that time, I was using the kennel name Eclipse. Snuffalupagus, aka ‘Gus’ was breed photo in Dogs USA for many years until his son Miles took his place. Miles, who passed away in 2006, was our most famous Sussex. He was one of only a handful of ‘Versatile’ Sussex Spaniels, having his Championship, Companion Dog, Senior Hunter, and Rally Novice titles and is recognized in the archives of SSCA.
In 1994, I traveled to Sussex, England, original home of the Sussex Spaniel, to bring back Oldhoban’s Lucy Lastic, who was in whelp and brought forth four English pups on American soil. Three of those four pups earned their AKC Championships, and the fourth has a field certificate.
Lucy and Blossom were truly the foundation of the Primetime line. Blossom combined the best of the two prominent American lines, and Lucy brought me two of the best English lines. Since 1994, several of my friends in the US have imported English Sussex to enhance our gene pool, and I regularly receive kudos from our English counterparts for starting the recent trend to bring the quality English blood back into the American lines. In 2001 we imported another Oldholbans dog, a Lucy grandson, Oldholbans Golden Showers. Ann Findlay, the last breeder of the Oldholbans Sussex, passed away just three months after selling Lucy to me in 1994. Her daughter, Sara, contacted me to request that I take the last of the Oldholbans line and continue it in the US. So, I imported Oldholbans Golden Showers, aka ‘Teddy,’ who earned his AKC Champion title in just ten shows, and sired two lovely litters before his retirement.
My first Sussex, Anni, produced three AKC Champions in two litters. In my two ‘American’ litters from Lucy, six Champions were produced, plus one AKC Companion/Rally Novice dog and two AKC field titles. In Blossom’s four litters, three finished their Championship titles. Blossom had her fifteen minutes of fame by winning Best of Opposite Sex in the Sussex ring at the Westminster Kennel Club show in 1995. I will allow her to remain comfortably in retirement for the second half of her life. Blossom’s daughter, Daphne, produced one of the most outstanding Sussex Spaniels of today: CH Primetime Frasier, who hunts regularly with his owner in California. At just two years of age, he was honored with an Award of Merit at the SSCA National Specialty Show in 2004. We are currently showing Blossom’s granddogs quite successfully in the conformation ring. In 2003, I attended the ‘Eukanuba,’ the AKC National Championship Show in Long Beach, CA, and brought home a four-month-old male pup, Simply One Cool Cat, who earned his Championship and sired three litters before permanently retiring to his pet home.
My husband, Pat, and I attend the Sussex Spaniel Club of America’s National Specialty show every year, no matter where it occurs in the country. Pat opens the show with the National Anthem, as he and his quartet, The Qwireboys, have done for the local shows for the past several years. We conduct the Canine Good Citizen test every year at the National for the endowed Happy Go Lucky award, which is given to any Sussex Spaniel that earns its CGC at the National. We also conduct the annual fund-raiser auction and assist in field events. Every fall, Pat & I camp out at the Maryland Sporting Dog Association AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests, where we serve on the Hunt Test Committee.
We are now breeding our fourth generation of Sussex Spaniels under the Primetime kennel name, which we began using in 1995. The name Primetime came from my ‘day job’ as an advertising account manager at the local CBS affliate television station. You will recognize TV shows and characters in our dogs’ names. In our pedigrees you will see the Eclipse name as well as many other Sussex kennel names from the US and the UK when you look back three generations. We are proud of such a broad gene pool in such a rare breed. We continue our tradition of health screenings on all breeding stock and we will remain in competition for the highest honors in the breed we love.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. I am extremely grateful to Pat, my beloved husband and partner since 1996, as well as my children: Charles, Rebecca, and Daniel for allowing me to continue in this obsession with dogs, and for helping me achieve the success we obtained thus far. Each of them has done everything from whelp puppies to scoop poop, and laughed and cried with me over our triumphs and tragedies. We look forward to many years of breeding, training, and competing with Primetime Sussex Spaniels!
Karen Cottingham







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