West Highland White Terrier Club of America

WHWTCA Spotlight on Performance - Summer 2007

Gone in 60 seconds…

Just like the movie title, that’s how quickly my life changed when I saw a 60-second commercial for a vacuum cleaner. The commercial featured a little white spunky dog that grabbed my attention and would not let go. Now if the commercial was realistic the dog would have been trying to kill the vacuum, but we all know about truth in advertising. I didn’t even know what kind of dog it was. I had not even thought of getting a dog. I initially dismissed the idea as crazy, but there was that commercial again and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of that dog. I found myself looking for the commercial to come on. I would stop whatever I was doing and watch that dog. I called a friend of mine, who was able to tell me that it was a West Highland White Terrier.

As fate would have it, I had the opportunity to care for a Scottie mix for the weekend. I thought this would clear up this crazy idea as I was quite busy with gardening, softball and various other activities (all of these activities would leave later with the addition of each new dog sport in my life). The weekend of dog sitting went well. The size, sturdiness, activity level and temperament of terriers were perfect for me.

Mac, Grady and Kenzie underneath Mt. McKinley on a road trip.  
Yes, in keeping with park rules, they are on leash!

The pursuit of finding a Westie was on. I contacted someone from the Westie club in Washington State. I can’t remember how I even got the number. The gal knew another gal whose dog had just had puppies. I contacted this woman, and they had a male available! After numerous phone calls and orders from various dog supply catalogs of everything I might need, I was ready.

In July of 1994, at the age of 9 weeks Mac got off the plane, and he was mad. I could hear him barking long before he arrived in the office. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen once I opened that crate. Home, thankfully, was only 10 minutes away. He came out of the crate, grabbed a squeaky dinosaur I had bought for him and shook the living daylights out of it. So my new life began. This dog would teach me so many things.

I had read that a terrier will rule the household unless an obedience class was taken.  I took Mac to the local dog club’s practices to socialize until he had had all of his shots, then enrolled him in a Basic Obedience class at the age of 4 months. At this young age, Mac had decided he did not like a 2 year old male Rhodesian Ridgeback in the class. He would growl at this dog and bark and every week it was worse. I know now the instructor’s response was inappropriate. I left in tears that night and continued the class without my puppy for the remaining 3 weeks.   Mac was a handful to say the least. I had a steep learning curve.

 However, I persevered with him to earn a tracking title, Agility title and to be the first Westie to earn an APDT level one Rally title. He went on to earn the level 2 title in Rally. We worked on TDX, and he was always fun to run in Agility. I always said I absolutely love this dog, but I won’t have another one like him. When he died of Hemangiosarcoma at 11 years, 8 months, I added “and I would do anything to have him back!” He left a hole that can never be filled. He started me on this life in dogs and dog sports. I can think of nothing more rewarding, or any other hobby I would rather do.

In 1996 I decided it was time to add another Westie to Mac’s life and mine. This time I had a laundry list of questions, and if I wasn’t asked a laundry list of questions in return, I never called back. I also had access to the internet and email by this time. I put my laundry list on Westie-L looking for a puppy that met these requirements. Daphne Gentry had a contact for me, Allison Platt. She had a puppy that fit what I was looking for. After many emails and phones calls, I made arrangement to come to Maryland to pick up Kenzie.

While in Baltimore, Allison told me about Montgomery County. It took a while to understand it wasn’t in Alabama and what a National Specialty was. Taking Kenzie home, I had been bumped and earned a free ticket. Allison and Daphne had agreed to sponsor me to become a member of the WHWTCA.   So I decided it made sense to use this free ticket and see what the “National” was all about, even if it was for only 3 days. I was hooked. In my club in Juneau I was the only one with terriers at the time. Here I was introduced to a dozen people doing performance with their Westies.  And the shopping, I had never seen so much Westie stuff! I was in absolute heaven.

Allison also sent me home with a 3 page article on Tracking and a tiny tracking harness.  I read the Tracking article over and over and proceeded to train Kenzie to track. What happened in reality was that Kenzie was a natural, and she trained me. I returned to Montgomery with Kenzie entered in Tracking, Obedience and Earthdog. I had never seen Tracking or Earthdog, but what the heck. I would just tell everyone where I was from with no road access, and they’d understand why I was such a hick. In preparation for entering tracking at Montgomery, I sent a video to Allison of Kenzie tracking to see if, in fact this is what I was suppose to be doing. She informed me that she spent most of the time with Sue Ammerman looking at the beautiful Alaska scenery, but also that Kenzie looked fine. That was all I needed to hear.

The day of the test it was overcast and misty just like in Juneau. I got out of the car and said to Allison “she’s going to nail this,” and she did. There are no words to describe finding a glove or the Zen-like feeling following your dog to that glove. I am hopelessly addicted. In that same year I video taped the first Westie Agility trial and thus persuaded our Juneau club to buy equipment, which wasn’t difficult as most members were ready to try it.

Kenzie training for her TDX

If I thought that TD title was a high, two years later I entered her in TDX at the National. It was 85 degrees we had gotten off track on one place and had difficulty finding where the track went on the other side of the road. Her article indications were perfect with sits at each one. Kenzie is used to Alaskan temperatures, had too much coat, had been working for an hour and was plum worn out, when she made it through the second road crossing. I started to cry I felt so bad for her. Kenzie had never given up on a track in her life. The pure determination she has while tracking is incredible. We reached the bottom of the hill, and she sat…the tears turned to tears of pure joy as I went up to retrieve the glove. To date, this is the best title I have ever earned on a dog.

My Kenzie has her own mind and does things when she is in the mood. She will go through brambles, water, work in thick reed grass while tracking, but will not sit if the grass is wet in Obedience. To date, she has her AKC Novice Agility titles, UKC Companion Dog title, 2 legs on her UKC Companion Dog Excellent title, 1 leg on her Junior Earthdog title, 2 legs on her AKC CD, 1 leg on her AKC Rally Novice title, APDT Rally level 2 with one level 3 Leg and recently qualified in NADAC agility at 10 ½ years old. I really wish we had more AKC activities we could participate in for when she is in the mood, there is no stopping her and when she’s not; you do not have to worry about getting a big head.

In 2001 a friend I had met at Montgomery and Great Western had a litter of four boys. I liked her dogs for both performance and conformation and gave Marcia Lozes a call to see if she had homes and if there was a Show/performance pup in the litter. To this point, I had trained and competed in every sport except for conformation and what was one more thing? Marcia said I could have first pick! I picked up Grady in Pasadena, CA. Mary Kuhlman, a Westie Obedience maven, Marcia and I had a great time with the puppies. Grady crawled into my lap and cinched my choice.

Grady easily earned his JE (Junior Earthdog) in 3 runs, 2 at Great Western then later that year at Montgomery and finished his Championship owner handled by the age of 2. When he was three he got his UKC CD going 3 for 3 with a high in trial when I just wanted him to stay in the ring. He got his Tracking Dog title at the Roving in WA State in 2005 and also came in 2nd place for the most versatile Westie at the Roving. These titles also made him my first Versatile Dog with the WHWTCA. At Montgomery in 2006 he again showed me just how fast he can be in Agility if I only run him in large shows. He qualified in jumpers coming in under time on two runs for his title. He also qualified in Rally Obedience with scores of 98 giving him his Rally Novice title. With these two new titles he became a Versatile Dog Excellent with the WHWTCA. This was icing on the cake

as I always have a good time with the Westie folks at Montgomery. Grady is an absolute character, but one of the most sensitive dogs I have ever met. When Mac died I was devastated and just sat on the couch. Grady crawled up into my lap, put one paw on each shoulder and his head into my neck and stayed like that for at least an hour.

Grady gets his Junior Earthdog title while 
friend Jody does her apprenticeship.

Katherine Hepburn joined the pack in 2005. Sue Ammerman, Finishline Westies, had a litter where I knew 4 generations on both sides. Off to Pennsylvania I went to pick up Kt. Her registered name is Finishline’s Spitfire after a Katherine Hepburn movie and boy does she live up to it, absolutely no fear and as bold as they come. So far she shows great promise in Agility, Tracking, and Earthdog and in Rally & obedience if she’s worn out. I had her entered in a 4 trial-2 day APDT Rally trial. In the morning she was round up, focused on everything but the task at hand and wanted to do her own thing. By the afternoon trial, she had calmed down enough and came away with a score of 196 and first place. Same scenario the next day with a score of 194 and third place. She loves to be the center of attention and definitely fits the breed standard part where it says “no small amount of self esteem”. At my request, Sue and Dawn Martin picked her for me, and they could not have done a better job!

A common site, Kt with no paws on the ground!

Besides the absolute joy my dogs have brought to me, I have met some of the most wonderful people. I would have never had these chances, had I not seen that commercial over 12 years ago. While I would discourage anyone from picking a dog from a commercial, it was serendipity for me. Today I cannot imagine a life without at least a couple of Westies. While I like a few other breeds of dogs, that would mean one less Westie in my life and that I just cannot do.