Many of here agree with you on the vaccinations. Unfortunately if you have not kept up a regular schedule of some sort with your Vet they are required to do an exam. It's illegal for a Vet to prescribe or advise on an animal they haven't seen. How that plays with time between visits I'm not sure.
I agree as well that you can end up seeing Vets who claim specialties in areas they are not certified in. Or dabble in such areas. With the internet it is fairly easy to check such things. Specialists will have a certificate at least from an authority in whichever discipline you need. They may not have a DVM from a VET school in that specialty, be it ophthalmology, chiropractic, homeopathy or what have you but there are organizations for these specialties. Which will complement their DVM.
Some specialists require a referral from the animal's regular Vet just to protect their valuable time from those who think they must have a specialist when they don't. It also helps to reassure them that other possibilities for whatever the ailment is have been investigated and discounted.
Unfortunately I think you need the regular Vet appt. for a number of reasons, not just to get the referral. Good luck. I hope you are able to get this cleared up.
Russian Spaniel? Wow. I think they must be quite rare? I just googled and can 't find any breeders in Canada, but that's now of course and your boy is 12. THey look quite bit like our ESS who was a field bred girl.