Before talking about our dogs, I want to give you the opportunity to read a poem that is special to me. I've had many pets (mostly dogs) and have lost many of them as well. When my dad died in May 1999, I thought about all the pets he'd owned, one of which died shortly before he did of the same heart condition... and this poem came to mind. Please read The Rainbow Bridge. One of our beloved westies crossed the bridge on March 3, 2003. Please read Callie's story.
The First OneNumber Two
Third Time's a Charm!
We have a cat and 3 West Highland White Terriers. For those who own westies, that probably says it all. For those of you who don't, allow me to elaborate. Westies are relatively small dogs, weighing from 12 to 18 pounds. They have a coarse white coat with a softer undercoat. They are awfully cute, as you can see from the picture here.
But there's more to it than that. Westies have the personality of a BIG friendly dog who refuses to be ignored. They love attention and will hound you until they get it. They have very quick reflexes... they were bred as varmit hunting dogs... and can get to your hand (to be petted) even before you decide where your hand is going to be!
Petting one can be a very fulfilling and loving experience. Petting two doubles the fun. But petting three? You must be extremely coordinated with your feet or be able to move your hands really fast to master this seemingly impossible task.
The First One
As I said, we have three. The first was quite accidental. In early 1995, we had decided to buy a cairn terrier, but saw an ad in the paper for westies. Since my wife has always wanted a westie, we decided that a road trip to see them would make for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. I had no intention of buying one... I made this clear before we got into the car. Little did I know that my wife and daughter had other ideas.
When we got there, my daughter (who was 4 years old at the time) immediately picked up this tiny cotton-ball looking puppy and cradled it in her arms. "I think I'll call her Baby Cuddles", she said sweetly, looking at me with the most adorable eyes I'd ever seen.
"Sweetie, we aren't buying a puppy today", I replied quickly as I felt my resolve melting.
She put it down and went to play with the other one. I watched her for a minute, then realized that I'd lost track of my wife. I turned to find her cradling that same puppy and looking at me with eyes that said, "I know we said we weren't buying a dog today but...."
What could I do? So Jessica's Bonnie Wee Cuddles (Cuddles) had found a home.
My wife is on several dog obedience lists (she teaches obedience) and westie lists on the internet. In early 1997 she received an email outlining the plight of six westies who had been dumped on the steps of the Humane Society in St. Louis, Missouri. A puppy mill owner, who decided to close down before being forced to do so and facing possible criminal charges, had left them there.
Within a week, we had one of them flown to us. When she arrived, she was an awful mess. She was extremely overweight. Her hair was matted and filthy. She smelled awful! She was shy and acted as though she'd been abused. And she had already been given 4 baths before being sent to us!
But she looked at us with such loving and trusting eyes. Eyes that said, "I've had a hard life. I really need love right now. And I think you are going to do just fine". We christened her Jessica's Bonnie Caledonian (Callie).
We immediately took her to the vet. She had to have a couple of teeth pulled, she had ear infections in both ears that were almost untreatable. Her bladder was so infected that she had the symptoms of being in heat. She was placed on high doses antibiotics and powerful ear drops.
When we took her to the groomer, she was given many baths and had numerous mats cut out. The groomer said that she was in the worse shape she'd ever seen. She was so moved by the story of how she got to us, she didn't even charge for her services!
Now she is a happy dog. She still hasn't learned to play. Apparently life in a small crate took its toll on her psyche. But she is loved and petted all day long. And she will be as long as she lives.
I'm devastated as I write this:
On March 3, 2001 Callie went to play and wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge. About 3 months ago, she started exhibiting symptoms of a brain tumor. Of course, we treated it as aggressively as we could, but we ultimately lost the battle. She died in our arms, knowing that she had a permanent, indelible place in our hearts.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Roger Dew, our veterinarian. He embodies the special and so sought after traits in a vet. He is, of course, extremely experienced and knowledgeable, and provides the best of care for his patients. But beyond that, he is compassionate and understanding... taking the time to insure that his patients... and their owners... receive his best care and his undivided attention. He was with us every step of the way with Callie... from the day we received her... to the day we had to let her go. Dr. Dew, we give you our deepest and most heartfelt gratitude for all that you have done for and with us.
Looking back, she'd cheated death many times in her life and there are not words to express how blessed we were to have her as a part of our family. She lived her life with us surrounded by love and lavished with the attention she should have received all her life. I hope that somewhere, this side of the rainbow bridge, she is chasing butterflies and finally learning to play... and knowing that she is loved.
We'll never forget you, Callie.
Third Time's a Charm!
The internet was the source of number three as well. Apparently there was a semi-local couple who bought a westie puppy before doing any research on the breed. They didn't expect such energy and demand for attention. Neither did they expect (DUH!) that a puppy would chew as much as she did. So, one week after they got her, they gave her up to the local rescue coordinator, who contacted me by email.
So that day, Jessica's Bonnie Mollie Oh My! (Mollie), came to live with us! What a bundle of energy!! She is the lickingest dog I've ever seen! And she's our daughter's shadow.
Let me get on my soap box for a moment. Puppy mills are one of the banes of modern society. They breed females of all breeds, often kept in unclean cages and given a poor diet with little or no exercise. When the puppies are born, they are often snatched from their mothers long before they should be and sent to all parts of the country to be sold in pet stores.
The average consumer who walks into a pet store and coos at the cute puppies has no idea how that puppy came to be there. Suffice it to say that when that consumer purchases that cute puppy, he or she only perpetuates the unforgivable breeding practices of such puppy mills.
I say all this to make a point. Don't buy pets from retail pet shops! Most pet shops get their puppies (and kittens) from puppy mills. If you ask, they'll tell you that they don't. Don't take that chance. Do your homework to determine the breed you want. Then find a reputable breeder. Most breeds have national clubs that can help you with this.
I know that I'll get all kinds of hate mail from any pet shop owners who are reading this. That's the price for being right.
If you are interested in researching a particular breed, the American Kennel Club web site is a good place to start.
If you are interested in learning more about West Highland White Terriers (including rescue information) please visit the West Highland White Terrier Club of America
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