by Sheryl Wall
In 2002, our first West Highland White Terrier (Westie for short) joined our family and I have been in love with the breed ever since. Our first Westie we named Mei Kumi Na Tisa. Her name is Swahilli for May 19, which is our Anniversary and she was our gift to each other for our first Anniversary. We chose a Swahili name because our love started in Africa but that is a whole other story. Later our Westie family grew and Cosette (Natisa’s daughter) joined our family. The two of them are inseparable.
Westies originated in Scotland. According to The Complete Dog Owner’s Manual by Amy Marder, V.M.D., Westies were named Poltalloch and Roseneath Terrier before they finally got the name West Highland White Terrier. Sometimes they get confused with the Scottish Terrier, but Westie are always white, have smaller ears and body. They were bred to be all white so they would be easily seen in the field while they hunt. The breed is all terrier and were bred as an Earth dog, which means they hunt prey in the ground such as gophers so its natural for them to bark and dig. They are not the best breed to co-exist with rabbits or rats because they were bred to catch rodents. When Natisa was still a puppy she came with me to my friend’s house. Their rabbit recently had babies and we went outside to see them. I didn’t think about it at the time that Rabbits are considered rodents; Natisa, however, knew this fact and took off and almost caught one of the rabbits.
They have a high prey drive as well as being very active. According to A Kennel Club Book: West Highland White Terrier by Penelope Ruggles-Smythe, they are full of vast enthusiasm and courage and are always eager to work. You can’t expect a Westie to be happy as just a lap dog. They need a job and an outlet for all that energy. They make excellent agility dogs. Cosette has achieved her championship in CPE Agility. She lives to run and loves to learn. She learned how to walk the teeter by watching my friend’s German Shepherd do it. She is an eager student so I have taught her many things including how to read by following the methods in “Teach Your Dog to Read” by Bonnie Bergin Ed.D. and Sharon Hogan.
Westies are strong willed, intelligent, energetic dogs. They are not for the first-time owner for they can often manage to gain control of the whole household, I know Cosette attempts this often. I can just imagine how a conversation with her would go… Me, “Cosette come” Cosette says “I don’t want to so I will just stand here and stare at you till you change your mind.”
Life with a Westie is never boring. My two girls always keep me on my toes. My sister, Lorie, and I took them to Petco once. Lorie helped me walk them around and we were on other ends of the store. Well, Natisa and Cosette wouldn’t have this so they decided to talk to each other across Petco. They know how to make their will known and do so often.
Westies are not typically the best suited for young children but if you socialize them together and teach kids to respect a Westie, they can become the best of buddies. My 4 year old daughter and our Westies love each other. Kiana spends a lot of time training them as well. She taught Cosette to ride in her wagon and she takes her for a ride. She did this using treats all on her own. They are also learning to run Agility together and make quite a good team.
As long as a Westie has an outlet for all the energy and a job to keep their minds active and out of trouble they can, at the end of the day, cuddle up for some lap time. In fact, my two girls are cuddling with me as I write this article. Hmm, maybe they know it’s about them and they want to be sure I don’t say anything bad. Hey, they are intelligent after all. Natisa makes an excellent therapy dog and has been one for over eight years. She has a way of bringing encouragement to anyone she meets, she doesn’t know anyone she doesn’t like. She is even great with other dogs and befriends anyone and everyone.
Westies aren’t for everyone but if you love to be active with your dog, have a bit of strong will yourself and love the unpredictable, then I don’t think you can go without the love of a Westie. They are little dogs with big hearts and are always ready to go and enjoy life with their owner.