West Highland White Terrier Club of America

WHWTCA Spotlight on Performance - Summer 2006

The Story of Barkley and Blue
Two Versatile Dogs
Susan Chapman

The story of Blue begins with Barkley, my first dog to achieve the WHWTCA Versatile Dog Award (VDA) and my first Master Earthdog.

Barkley was my first performance dog. His obedience training began before the days of ‘positive’ training, using the then traditional correction methods. None the less, Barkley’s willingness to please took us down a winding path of obedience, agility, earthdog and tracking. He earned a CDX in obedience - not a small feat for a Westie - and trained in Utility. He could perform each exercise reliably, but his growing inability to jump ended his career in this event as well as agility.

Earthdog was Barkley’s true calling and he easily attained the Master Earthdog title. Together we traveled to different tests and met many others who taught us both about the nuances of Earthdog training.

Barkley also earned 3 legs in agility, but the sum did not result in a title, since one was in Novice Standard, one in Novice Standard Preferred and one in Novice Jumpers. He was twice certified in tracking and came close to passing a TD on 2 occasions. The 1st opportunity missed was my fault, in that I thought I wanted to watch the earlier tracks rather than stay and calm my dog who had some signs of separation anxiety. As a result, my dog started hot and pooped out before he reached the end of the track. He had another close call when he turned off track (for some reason) and then step tracked the rest of the track after he had failed.

The addition of Blue to our pack was unplanned. A breeder in our area, Michele Czarnecki, had a litter and she invited me to visit. At the time we had 3 Westies, all of which were 10 years or older. My husband thought the last thing we needed was another dog, but how could anyone pass up an opportunity to visit a litter of puppies? I told Michele that though I was interested in a puppy, this wasn’t the time to add to our group. When I came back, my husband’s questions started with “Well . . . are we getting another dog?” I said I thought he didn’t think it was a good idea and his reply was that I generally did what I wanted despite what he thought. The door to opportunity was open and I called Michele the next day to say that acquiring a puppy was now a possibility.

I went to visit the litter again and did my own ad hoc version of testing. Interestingly, when I asked Deb Duncan for advice on how to select a puppy, she said, “You’ll know”, and sure enough I did – He picked me and I picked him. He was an outgoing puppy, but so were the others in the litter. All the puppies were color coded. I threw a couple of things, both hard and soft, to see if any of the puppies were interested in retrieving. The blue puppy brought back anything I tossed and he was very enthusiastic! He was also the one who seemed very interested in me. The “blue” name stuck because blue is my favorite color and he is my once in a blue moon dog since my last Westie was acquired 10 years before. For those that think that Blue is an odd name for a white dog - a blue moon is white.

At 8 weeks old, Blue was considered a conformation prospect. While this wasn’t my primary interest, I did agree that he might be shown if he turned out. My primary concern was to have a structurally sound dog who could do performance.
Blue has surpassed my expectations in many ways. From the time he was 3 months old, he was able to help Barkley by participating in Barkley’s hydrotherapy sessions, helping to make the weekly swims less stressful for Barkley. Swimming was something Blue loved and Barkley tolerated. It helped to strengthen Barkley’s weak rear end and provided no impact exercise for Blue.

At an early age, Blue was exposed to the concept of rats and tunnels, agility equipment (dog walks, low A frames, weave poles, but no jumping). His ability to come when called is the most reliable of any Westie I have had - even in the Master Earthdog hunt up to the den (thanks to the advice of Jane Fink who said that if you train a recall or any other command by the dog’s age of 6-8 months, you’ll never have to retrain it).

His conformation career began in Jan 2004 at the age of nine months when he won Best of Breed over specials and on the same day went on to win a Group 2. He was shown locally and did well in small competitions. The WHWTC of Indiana Specialty was our first try at bigger competition. He won Best of Opposite in Sweeps and Reserve Winners Dog. After that he won Best of Winners at the National Roving Specialty, Best in Sweeps at the Greater Washington Specialty, Best of Opposite in Sweeps at the Northern Illinois Specialty and Best in Sweeps at the SE Michigan Specialty. He finished his championship as a Bred By champion and then went on to receive an Award of Merit at our National Specialty at Montgomery in 2004.

In between showing in conformation, he trained in agility, tracking, and earthdog. In 2004, he became the youngest Westie to earn a Master Earthdog title, earning the WHWTCA Versatile Dog Award.

In 2005, he won his first Best of Breed and Best in Specialty Show (BISS) in June at the Northern Illinois Specialty and then went on to win the coveted Best of Breed and Best in Specialty Show at our National Specialty at Montgomery. This win along with 2 agility qualifications placed in him in the top rankings for Most Versatile dog at the National Specialty.

In limited showings, he finished the year #9 in Breed rankings. He also earned his Novice Agility Preferred title in 2005 and just finished his Novice Agility Jumpers With Weaves Preferred title.

Blue continues to show in confirmation as a ‘special’ while continuing his agility, obedience and tracking practice. In his off moments, he’s a contented couch potato. We continue down the path of new and old endeavors. Blue works hard and gives it his ‘all.’ Win or lose, qualify or NQ, he’ll always be special to me.