I grew up with dogs (including a corgi, a Jack Russell, a whippet/collie and border collies), and although we never had a spaniel, my aunt and uncle had two little blue roans called Mint and Belle who I always absolutely loved as a child. In my mother's Observer's Book of Dogs (an ancient copy with pics in black and white), I marked the two possible breeds that I would own when I grew up: a cocker spaniel and a whippet.
When I was in my early thirties I was finally in a position to be able to get a dog, and it had to be a cocker. This was back when show cockers had their tails docked as a matter of course but I wanted one with a full tail. So I searched far and wide and eventually found a breeder down in Bristol who had stopped docking her pups.
I had a choice of two girls who I went to visit when they were 3 weeks old. Both equally beautiful, but one seemed a bit more whingey than the other. The second one, when I picked her up, settled into my arms, sucked my little finger whilst eyeing me carefully, and then wriggled down and waddled off. She had a think about it, and then came back, snuggled herself tight into my side and went to sleep there. It felt as though she'd made up her mind, so that was that.
5 weeks later, teeny little Bella came home with us. Her first night away from everything she knew and she bounded around, picking up toys we'd bought for her and grabbing my hands, trouser legs, anything she could get hold of with those needle teeth, absolutely nonplussed at being away from her home. She was amazing, and grew up to be the most bomb-proof, savvy little dog I've ever known - and also hugely mischievous!
As a puppy she was simply stunning, to the point that we'd be mobbed in our local London parks with people surrounding us and wanting to pick her up (her first proper walk was in Greenwich Park where she met designer Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, who also had a cocker, and was picked up and cuddled by the actress Daniela Nardini).
As she grew, and her ears got longer and fuller, it became clear that mealtimes were a bit of an issue as she kept draping them in her food and water and they ended up smelling like old dishcloths and being quite revolting. I was working in publishing at the time but was also venturing into being a ceramic artist, focusing on making pieces on the wheel, and so I decided to make Bella a bowl. The first one was hopeless (way too small) but the second one was perfect for her, and hey presto, no more mucky ears (see below)! I was on a forum called Cockersonline at the time and so I advertised the bowls on there (this is the original post), and to my surprise became inundated with orders. I soon started to get requests for traditional, straight sided personalised dog bowls, cat bowls and even ferret bowls! The business was named, obviously, after Bella, and her face adorns the logo.
Very sadly I lost Bella in March 2019 but she is a legend where I'm concerned and will always be a huge part of the business. She was definitely my dog of a lifetime, and although I do plan to get another cocker when I'm in a position to, nothing will ever be able to replace Queen B :-)