WHWTCA Spotlight on Performance - Fall 2001
When I got my first Westie over 16 years ago, some friends were the obedience trainers for a local town's park and recreation program. Of course, they told my I had to bring my Westie to their obedience class. Luckily for me, they also were Airedale breeders, therefore, no ever said you couldn't obedience train a Westie. So my first Westie was Wee Geordie MacPeg, CDX, JE, CG, CGC.
However, Geordie's first love was "getting the rats," and he spent many happy hours at AWTA trials betting bags of dog biscuits with his other Westie pals. When the AKC started testing their Earthdog program, Geordie was the first dog to complete what is now the Senior Earthdog Test. He went on to be the first Westie and one of the first 10 Terriers to earn the AKC Junior Earthdog Title at the age of 12.
Westie number two came along when Geordie was about three years old, Evermore's Miss Gillian Marple, CD, JE, CG, CGC. By the time you start to train your second dog in obedience you think you know everything there is to know. Wrong, the saying is true; "you ruin the second dog you train!" I wasn't smart enough to realize that Gillie's temperament was totally different from Geordie's and she could not be trained by using the same techniques. But like Geordie, Gillie loved "getting the rats," especially when she'd beat the boys at those AWTA Trials and wins all the dog biscuits. Gillie also earned her AKC Junior Earthdog Title at the age of 12. Gillian had a very successful "show biz" career appearing in numerous TV commercials, print ads, and an HBO feature film, Barbarians At The Gates with Jonathan Price and James Garner. Gillie and daughter, Molly, appeared together in a Diet-Coke commercial when Molly was only five months old.
Clanblair's Chantilly, CD, CGC (Pip), Westie number three to be obedience trained. Pip is my rescue Westie, I bred her, and I sold her and then got her back after she had been abused. Pip taught me what obedience training is really all about. Its about patience, trust, humor, and most of all bonding between owner and Westie. It took over a year to gain Pip's trust and build up her confidence. Pip earned her CD out of love for me, not because she liked doing obedience.
Westie number four is Clanblair's Piper O'Peter Pan, UD, NA, TDI, CGC (Molly). By now I had finally gotten this obedience training down. I learned when to push and when not too, realizing that some days its just better to stop training and go back to it another day. Molly is the first dog I trained and competed with in the Utility Class. In Utility the dog works away from the handler on almost every exercise and with some exercises you may only communicate with the dog buy using hand signals.
Molly is the ultimate obedience Westie. During her career she has earned an All Breed High In Trial with a score of 198 from the Open B Class, an All Breed High Combined Open B and Utility, a Terrier Group High In Trial, a Westie Specialty High Combined Open B and Utility, and seven Westie Specialty High in Trials. Molly won her Terrier Group High In Trial on the same day in Arizona as her brother Dirty Harry won Best of Breed at the Valley of the Sun WHWTC Specialty, a very special day for me.
My first taste of agility was with Molly. We started taking agility classes when Molly was around five for about six months. At that time there was no AKC agility, only USDAA and NADAC. Because we were concentrating so heavily on obedience we did not start competing in agility until the AKC program was started. By that time Molly had earned her Utility Title, so getting back into agility was a breeze and Molly had earned the first leg for Novice Agility in about five months after starting to train. Then we ran into a big problem, the teeter-totter. Molly hated it when it banged on the grounMolly Jumpingd. After trying all the agility tricks with the teeter I resorted to obedience. Molly didn't mind the teeter banging on the ground if she was lying on it rather than standing. So I taught her to do a drop on recall when she hit the pivot point and she finished her Novice Agility title.
Earthdog was another matter for Molly. She hated it! How could the daughter of two Westies that loved "getting the rats" (Ch. Politician O'Peter Pan, CD, CG x Evermore's Miss Gillian Marple, CD, JE, CG, CGC) hate Earthdog so much. Every time we tried it, Molly would look at me and say. "What me go down there and get dirty?"
Molly became a Therapy Dog (TDI) when my mother had to spend a very long period of time in a nursing home. She loved visiting my mother, sitting on the bed and getting treats. She became a regular with many of the patients, and we continued to visit even after my mother returned to her home.
At the age of 12 Molly is semi-retired from the obedience ring. She still loves to go and occasionally competes at obedience trials in the Veterans class usually taking first place, but only at the best locations and under her favorite judges. Molly was very honored in 2000, when the San Francisco Bay WHWTC offered the Veterans obedience class just for her. Molly received the highest score given that day, and graciously received her due, when the spectators stood and cheered her.
After Geordie crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I knew that I had to have another male Westie. Mary Bradley invited me to come and see the male from her first litter (Ch. Brybern's Errol Flynn x Ch. Donnybrook's Grace Blessing). I asked if a puppy temperament test could be given as this Westie would not only be shown in breed, but my be a performance Westie too. Mary readily consented, as she had never seen a puppy temperament. Little did she know I would arrive with an entourage? Four of my friends, all Westie owners and I arrived on her doorstep armed with a video camera, and all the items necessary for the test. Harry passed with flying colors and he excelled in all of the performance areas. We also tested his sister, Gabby, who did very well too.
After looking at my tape of the puppies I went back a second time to see the male. Mary had both puppies trimmed and sparkling clean, I played with them for a while in the house. Then I insisted we go out into the yard. The puppies ran around and rolled in the grass having a wonderful time. What Mary didn't know was she had a leaky sprinkler head and the puppies discovered it. I turned around to see brown and white spotted Westie with his head and tail up totally full of himself in a perfect show pose. He barked at us as if to say look at me I'm the best thing since sliced bread. Mary said, "oh, Harry you're so dirty." All I could say was "when can I take DIRTY HARRY home?" That's how Ch. Whitestar's Dirty Harry, CD, ME, NA, CG, TDI, CGC got his name. Not only was he dirty, but he had so much attitude and reminded me of the Clint Eastwood character.
The first AKC event that Harry was entered in was Earthdog at the age of six months. I trying again to see if Molly would "get the rats." She didn't, but Harry showed what a mighty hunter he would become. I entered him in "Into" and when it was our turn I put him down, touched his nose to the ground to get the scent and off he went down the tunnel. It took him three tries to get to the rats. He had to keep coming out and telling me all about it. I sent him back in and when he made it the whole 10 feet he dug, barked and growled. A few months later we entered another trial and Harry passed Intro with flying colors. Harry earned his Master Earthdog title (AKC's highest Earthdog Title) before the age of three.
While I busy training His Dirtiness in performance, his breeder, Mary Bradley was showing Harry in breed. And Harry "was making our day" wherever he went.
March of 1998 was the first time Harry was entered in Breed at the San Francisco Bay WHWTC Specialty, 6-9 month puppy class, where he was Best Opposite in Sweeps and Winners Dog for his first major. His next show was the Northern California Terrier Show, and once againHarry getting rats! Dirty Harry and Breeder Mom stole the show. Harry was Best In Sweeps, Winners Dog, and took a Group II in the Bred by Exhibitor Group. At the Lake Mathews Kennel Club show, Harry was Winners Dog, Best of Winners and Best of Breed from the 9-12 month class. Again from the 9-12 month old class, Harry and Mary were Best In Sweeps, and Winners Dog at the WHWTC of California Specialty in conjunction with Great Western Terrier Association where Harry also took a Puppy Group II.
Harry finished his champion from the 12 to 18 month classes at the 1998 West Highland White Terrier Club of America National Specialty at the Montgomery County Kennel Club in October. Harry and Breeder Mom won the Bred by Exhibitor class and went on to be Winners Dog and Best of Winners. The next day Harry competed in Earthdog qualified Intro and almost qualified in Juniors, but stopped working the rats five seconds too soon. However, two weeks later back in California, Harry earned his Junior Earthdog Title.
At the October 2000 West Highland White Terrier Club National Specialty the Winners Dog and Best of Winners was McAlpin's Claim to Fame at Kirkton (Ch. Whitestar's Dirty Harry x Ch. Pennywhistle O'Peter Pan) owned by Allison Platt. Harry is very proud of his son, Spenser, for following in his pawprints just two years later.
After finishing his championship Harry and Breed Mom, Mary Bradley went on to win Multiple Groups placements and Best of Breeds. These included BOB at the Valley of the Sun WHWTC Specialty and the Greater Washington WHWTC show when they hosted the Roving Specialty in 1999. Just to prove he was a very versatile Westie, Harry ran in agility the next day. Harry qualified but I didn't, I sent him in the wrong end of a tunnel. Though we didn't qualify it was a wonderful feeling to have the BOB dog on Friday and have the same Westie do a clean run in agility the next day with all those confirmation people watching.
In October of 1999 Dirty Harry earned his Versatile Dog Award from the West Highland White Terrier Club of America and October of 2001 he will receive the WHWTCA Versatile Dog Excellent Award. Harry earned his AKC Companion Dog obedience title in February of 2001 with a score of 195.5 and first place in the class.
Harry is currently on hiatus from the breed ring to work on his performance events. He will start to compete in Open Obedience at the end of October and has started Utility classes. Harry would like to start competing in Open Agility as soon as he gets his last Novice Agility Jumpers leg. However, I seem to be holding him back, I keep cutting the corners on those sharp right turn jumps causing Harry to knock the bar.
Training Harry in obedience has been another learning experience. He is a quick learner for the most part, but occasionally he makes up his mind he can't do an exercise. I have found that if I back off that exercise for a few weeks, when we go back to it he can do it just fine. Once in a while we have a test of wills to see who will be alpha. What Harry doesn't realize is that I will always be "alpha bitch."
I am not working on perfection with Harry the way I did with Molly because Harry is a dog who will shut down if pushed to hard. But he has something Molly never did pure joy in doing obedience. He approaches the obedience ring just like the breed ring with his look at me "I'm the greatest attitude" and I don't want to jeopardize that in anyway. Whether or not Harry ever wins a High In Trial remains to be seen. Just as long as I remember to laugh the day he's working on a 198 and runs out snatches up his dumbbell and brings it back to the judge instead of me. Harry loves a good laugh and lots of applause.
Dirty Harry did his first professional "show biz" job this past July in an ad for Little Cesar Dog Food. You'll know its Harry if you see a Westie wearing sunglasses riding in a red Lexus convertible next to a beautiful blonde.
All my Westies over the years have brought me great joy and love and I cannot image life without a Westie.
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