West Highland White Terrier Club of America

WHWTCA Spotlight on Performance - Winter 2001

Nancy Gauthier's
Chucky, Candy Man (Buster), DD, and Gus

My first Versatility

I bought my first Westie in the mid 1960's. I began training in obedience immediately, and soon after I met Shirley Nichols who introduced me to the breed ring. With her help and help from many others I soon had my first champion, followed by many champions all of my own breeding, grooming, and handling. Many of these did well at Montgomery. My last champion was Candy Man (Buster). His story will follow.

Even though I was active and successful in the breed ring, the performance activities were and still are my first love. The special relationships and memories that I have had with each of my dogs is directly related to the interactions during the training, "performing" in the ring, and finally obtaining the titles of obedience in tracking, earthdog, and now agility. I frequently meet people, including judges, who will remind me of something that one of my Westie did in the ring. For instance, a judge reminded me of the time Candy Man while in the Utility ring had qualified up to the last jump. This was the bar jump. He stopping in front of it, paused, then began to deliberately push the bar with his paw until it finally fell off. Then he jumped it.

Even though Ch Skaket's Chunkies UD, CG (Chucky) was my first Versatility dog (and the first dog to get the Versatility award from the WHWTCA); I had had a few Westies before him that had obedience titles and championships. They died young (heartworm was a new problem back then) before they completed the extra titles needed for the versatility award.

Before the versatility award was in existence I was working with my dogs attempting to receive all the titles offered. Obedience titles included only CD, CDX, UD with none of the extra titles like "UDX" that is available today. The tracking title was new. AKC earthdog and of course agility was not in existence. The AWTA started their earthdog program when Chucky was a puppy. AKC picked up earthdog as a title about 8 years ago. Agility was maybe a thought in someone¹s mind in England when Chucky was a puppy. So when the Versatility award was offered "Chucky" had all the titles plus that he needed for the award. Of all of my dogs he was the most fun. I found the memorial letter that I wrote after he died. It tells his story.

A Memorial To CH. SKAKET'S CHUNKIES, UD CG

"Chucky" is gone now at the age of sixteen years. He was a special dog whose antics and love will be in my memories, and the memories of others, forever. He mad me laugh, cry and pull my hair out.

Those who watched him in obedience will testify to his "creativity". He would draw crowds, sometimes ten deep, all laughing. Judges would be doubled over with laughter, unable to "use their pencil". Even the sternest Judge would have to crack a smile, as I stood helpless, praying that he would at least qualify. He eventually qualified the nine time needed for "us" to earn his Utility Degree.

His favorite thing was the Working Terrier. He would never give up. At a Terrier Club demonstration, the cage was not strong enough. Within seconds the cage was open and the mice were running up my sleeves. I managed to protect them from Chucky and save them so the trial could continue.

Tracking was another story. He started his lessons about two years old. He quickly learned that "animals" lived in the fields. He also learned quickly that if he acted differently while on the animal scent, I would not let him go. After eight years, I gave up. He won that battle.

The breed ring was boring to him. Three shows in a row, upon returning to the Judge, he would look up and give the biggest yawn he could muster. However, that third time I caught on to his antics and jerked his head. He never tried that one again. In spite of himself, he received his championship going Winners at the Roving Specialty in l974. He was specialed only a few times. After winning five group placements, I retired him from the breed ring. He won again.

Living with him was a joy. He was a great companion, always doing something to make me laugh.

As a stud dog, no battle there. He achieved the Stud Dog Award. His last litter was at fourteen years old, bred to Ch. Skaket's Taffy CD, CG. It was a litter of five. Included in that litter are Ch Skaket's Kit Kat UDT, JE, NA, a super little bitch who will be 15 years old the March; Ch.Skaket's Candy; and Ch.Skaket's Maximillian, who belongs to my daughter.

We earned many titles together, including the first Versatility award given by the WHWTCA. The one battle we both lost was the aging process. He will always be with me.

I love you, Chucky.
Nancy Gauthier

My second Versatility & first Versatility Excellent

My next versatility dog was FIC. INT., MEX, BER, CA, AM CH Skaket¹s Candy Man UDT CG CGC (Buster). He is probably the best known of all my dogs. Last year, when the Versatility Excellent and Master Versatility award were added, Buster was among the first Westies to receive t he Versatility Excellent award. His story is in his memorial letter. It is to be noted that we were in the breed ring, obedience ring, tracking, and doing earthdog simultaneously.

FIC.INT. MEX, BER, CA, AM CH SKAKET'S CANDY MAN UDT CG CGC 1979-1993

When Buster was born, I knew that he was an exceptional puppy. He was one of two puppies in Ch Skaket's Lady MacDuff's last litter. His sister did not survive the birthing process, so Buster was an only child. As I watched him grow, I became more excited about his confirmation. Then his personality began to develop, and my excitement grew. He had that Westie spark, full of fun, full of life, tail always up, and full of himself. At 2 1/2 mo. old I entered him at the WHWTCNE match. I held the leash and Buster strutted his stuff as everyone was in awe of him. That day he became New England's Westie. If I did something that someone in New England didn't like, i.e., the way I groomed his head, I heard about it. I never "ring" trained him. I'm sure that if I had I would have lost what made Buster special. So I worked on his physical condition, played with him, watched him grow, and loved him. Except for Montgomery puppy class, the first time in the breed ring was at 13 mos old, under Ann Rogers Clark. He went BOS over 3 specials. About that time he began eating only enough to keep himself alive. I tried everything including steak, ice cream, etc. Then I began doing what I had said I would never do, force-feeding. After a short time he would take the food out of my hand. I then started spoon feeding him. Many comments were made as I sat on the grooming table at the show spoon-feeding Buster. Except for some long circuits, I was able to keep him in decent weight. Of course, at the end of his show career, he developed a piggish appetite.

He finished easily, then began to compete against the "big guys". His presence made him appealing to both judges and spectators. People in other breeds would tell me how much they enjoyed watching the Terrier Group while Buster was performing. They would make a point of being ringside when Buster was in the Group. If he were down, a little applause would pick him up. Competing for BIS he would be so up that I could barely keep up to him.

His first Montogmery win, he was full of "it". He kept trying to put his front legs on top of his competition. I worked so hard trying to control him until the judge, Ann Rogers Clark, told me to leave him alone. After she selected him BOB the spectators went crazy. There were more spectators in the ring than there were out of the ring. It took a while for the judge to clear the ring in order to continue the show. He went on to Group 4 that day.

Barbara Partridge handled Buster for me mostly out of country. It was a labor of love for both her and Buster. I was a spectator the day he went First Runner Up to the German Shepherd "Manhatan" at the Show of Shows in Canada. What a thrill to watch him float around the ring. He had many BIS's in Canada. In the middle of his show career, his obsession with squeaky toys got him in trouble. One fell on the floor within his reach; and before anyone could open his mouth, he had swallowed it. It took surgery to remove it. Thus, most of his furnishings were gone, but his spirit was not. So after a relatively short show career, I retired him.

I took him out of retirement at 9 1/2 years old for one more day at Montgomery. We arrived Saturday at the motel. I put Buster in the x-pen and watched him as he pulled himself together. He started kicking up the dirt and strutting his stuff. Somehow he knew where he was. The day of the show I did him up, stepped back and look at him. He was perfect; there was nothing else I needed to do. I brought him to the ring. As I held the lead I was in awe of him, as he floated around the ring. After giving Buster BOB, Neoma Eberhadt, the judge told me that she had tears in her eyes as she watched him. Later that day in the Group ring, he began the same antics that he had pulled so many times in his show career. While the Group judge was doing the individual exams, Buster wanted to sniff the ground. I didn't want him to get dirty, so I kept pulling up on the lead. After this tug of war went on for a while, Buster would lie down and there was no way I could get him up. I never knew how he knew, but once the judge finished the individuals and began looking at the group again, Buster was back on his feet doing his show thing again. He went Group 2 that day.

Obedience with Buster was one big smile. He got a leg toward his CD and a Group 1st and the same day. Going for his CDX on the Tar Heel Circuit, I threw the dumb bell out and sent him for it. Something triggered his ratting instinct. He attacked the dumbbell and wouldn't let anyone near it. I had to get on my belly and slowly pulled myself to him until I finally got it away from him. The ring was tied up for 5 minutes. Everyone was smiling, except the judge of course. It took many months of retraining before he stopped "ratting" the dumb bell and started retrieving it.

When I decided to push for his Utility he was going on 12 years old. We traveled up and down the East Coast. Problems such as "not enough light", the "food concession was too close", did not stop us. He got a leg in Virginia, New Jersey, and in Maine. At 13 years old he got the AKC Good Citizen Award. Motivating him to track took a tennis ball. He would do anything for a tennis ball.

The Working Terrier was easy for him once he realized that going over the top was cheating. He produced champions; many showed and finished by novice handlers. Some did well at the Group level as well as Montgomery. He had many other life experiences such as mountain climbing, canoeing, and orienteering (he never found the control for me).

Buster was the product of years of breeding. He was the combination of my two lines, 6 generations on one side, and 3 generations on the other side. But I take no credit for him. God created this wonderful creature and I was the lucky recipient. His life touched many people, and will continue to touch the lives of many people. Many people will smile for many years because Buster lived. My life with Buster was full to the end. Losing him has left a gap in my life that can never be filled. His memory will always bring a smile to my face, and joy to my heart.

My third Versatility & second Versatility Excellent

Ch Skaket's Kit Kat UDT, JE, CG, NA (Kit) is my third Versatility Dog. She was also among the first few Westies to receive the Versatility Excellent award. She received her Utility title at 12 years old, and her Novice Agility title just before her 13th birthday. She is now retire and in great condition. She will be 15 years old March 2001.

My fourth Versatility

My fourth Versatility Dog is Ch Lonach Devil Demon CD, TD, NA, NAJ (DD). I got her from Chris Forbes who showed her to her breed championship. DD is the brattiest Westie I have ever had (I say this with love). I have had one leg toward her CDX for 2 years. She will get her CDX before she is 12 years old if it kills me. She is now 8 years old. She is cute as a button and the majority of the time I have to laugh at her. I am not a person with the word "never" in her vocabulary until this dog. She will Never be trained in utility. Training her has not been difficult. but showing her at the open level in the obedience ring is something else.

My fifth Versatility & third Versatility Excellent

My fifth Versatility Dog is Skaket¹s Guess Who CDX, TDX, JE, OA, NAJ. (Gus). He received his Versatility Excellent award this past October. So he is my third Versatility Excellent Westie. He is my first non-breed champion Westie, but is the love of my life. He is different from my other Westies in that he is eager to please me the majority of the time. I have just begun training him in utility and he is doing well. He has 2 legs toward his senior earthdog. He and I are working toward his Masters Versatility. He is 6 years old so we have time.

I'm sure after reading about all my versatility dogs you must be thinking that I have spent a lot of time training them. In reality I have very little time for training. Most of my time training has been once a week at class (except for utility training, which needs more than just once a week). I have accomplished what I have because I am persistent, more stubborn than my Westies, have never taken any of this seriously, and my dogs live a long time.

I guarantee that if you begin working in the performance area of the dog world, you will find the satisfaction; the kind of pleasure found in the relationship with your Westie that is only obtained with through this activity; and special memories that will last you a life time. I know because I have all of these an d will continue to obtain more of these as I continue to work with my Westies.