Thursday, October 15, 2009
County’s Top Prosecutor Has Top Dogs
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley is not used to having people ignore his orders in his professional life, but at home on a recent afternoon, his two Welsh Springer Spaniels gave him big doggy grins as they ignored his entreaties to relinquish their spots on the sofa.
“They like me, but they only listen to her,” Cooley says, referring to his wife, Jana Cooley, who grooms and handles the dogs for conformation competitions.
Conformation shows are like canine beauty pageants, where the dogs are judged on how well they exhibit the physical characteristics and behaviors associated with their breed.
According to the American Kennel Club—a national registry of purebred dogs which stages the famed Westminster Dog Show each year—Welsh Springers are supposed to be “active” with a “loyal and affectionate disposition,” along with a “stubborn streak.”
Dylan and Conor
But Jana Cooley says the dogs, 4-year-old Dylan and 2-year-old Conor, are really just “goofballs” whose “favorite position is flat on their backs.”
While the breed closely resembles the more commonly seen English Springer Spaniel, the Welsh Springers are a distinctive breed, and their trademark is their striking red and white freckled coat.
After the death of Tuxedo, a black cocker spaniel the Cooleys had for 17 years, Steve Cooley says he saw a dog walk by their house, pointed out the window and told his wife, “I like that dog.”
That dog, she says, was an English Springer, and while she was researching the breed, she discovered the Welsh Springer Spaniel. Having never seen a Welsh Springer before, the couple then went to a dog show in Pomona to look for one.
Steve Cooley says it was love at first sight for him. “I said, that’s it, period, no further discussion,” he recalls.
His wife was equally enraptured, and with a toss of her auburn hair, admits she’s “partial to redheads and freckles,” since she had red hair when she was younger and the couple has a daughter who inherited her mother’s bright tresses and freckles.
Jana Cooley says she wasn’t planning to show the dogs, but after talking to the breeder, she “found it fascinating” and decided it would be a good way to learn more about the breed and how to care for and socialize her dogs.
She says she took a class in handling and figured out the grooming on her own, insisting, “I’m a novice at it all.”
Raising a show dog takes a lot of work, she says, since the dogs require baths “a couple times a week,” frequent exercise and travel almost every week to competitions.
“That’s why people don’t do this unless they’re retired,” the former court reporter and aide to Supervisor Mike Antonovich jokes.
Her husband credits her with doing all the work. “I just go watch,” he says, adding that he has run across Los Angeles Superior Court judge Daviann Mitchell and Deputy District Attorney Greta Walker at shows.
While Mitchell and Walker both operate breeding businesses which have produced champion Rottweilers, and Dylan sired his first litter of puppies this summer, Jana Cooley says she has no plans to breed her spaniels herself.
“I need to learn a lot more first,” she insists, “but maybe down the line.” But if the dogs’ success in the show ring are any indication of Jana Cooley’s learning curve, then that date may not be far off.
As of August 31, Dylan was ranked in the top 10 of his breed nationally. He took second place in the sporting group at a competition in May and fourth place in the sporting group at another show in July.
Jana Cooley says she thinks he will qualify for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in December—an elite, invitation-only competition involving more than 4,000 dogs from around the world.
Conor, who began his show career last year, is currently working on his champion title. Dogs earn this title, reflected by the “Ch.” before their names, by winning competitions against other dogs of the same sex and breed who have not yet received their titles. The victorious dog will be awarded “points,” ranging in value from one to five, depending on the number of dogs in the competition.
Champions need to earn 15 points. Conor recently received five points at a show in Kansas and is three away from earning his title.
Jana Cooley says she is hoping to earn some titles in obedience with both dogs, and enter them in agility trials, which are a form of canine competition requiring dogs and their handlers to negotiate an obstacle course while racing against the clock.
The dogs compete under their AKC registered names, Ch. Saga’s Sweet Sherlock for Dylan, and Saga’s Winsome Watson for Conor.
Most show dogs, like Dylan and Conor, have a longer AKC-registered name and a shorter “call name,” which is the name to which the dog will respond. The AKC name will often include the name of the breeder to reflect the dog’s lineage and must be unique from any other AKC-registered dog.
Jana Cooley says that the couple had tried to come up with Welsh names for their pups, but settled on Sherlock for Dylan because of his long face and droopy eyes and since it “seemed to fit with the law enforcement theme” of a district attorney. So when Conor came along two years later as Dylan’s companion, he naturally became Watson.
The Cooleys deny that the dogs are spoiled, with Steve Cooley insisting the dogs are merely “well cared for,” although they sleep in the master bedroom and their photographs are lined up behind Cooley’s desk at work.
“I just like being around them,” he says. “It’s nice to see something friendly that loves you.”
And while he acknowledges “there’s a lot of good lawyers out there,” he grins as he says, “there’s a lot more good dogs.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company