Or at least not so darn cute. Maybe so many of them wouldn’t end up in rescue if they looked like this:
And I wish ad agencies would stop choosing the Westie as their adorable pitch-pup for whatever brand of dog merchandise they are trying to sell.
Because here’s the deal: people see these cute little white bundles and think “oh, how adorable!!” Next thing you know, they’ve rushed out to buy one without realizing the first thing about what they are actually bringing home. And a few years later, after health and temperament problems have driven everybody to the edge, Westie Rescue gets called in.
Westies might be the cutest little things you’ve ever seen in their fluffy white advertising guise but deep down, these are terriers, people!
OK, so maybe I don’t really wish Westies were ugly. Instead I wish their potential owners would thoroughly check out the breed before deciding it is the dog for them.
Here are the breed characteristics of the West Highland White Terrier:
- Quick, alert, and intelligent
- Fiercely independent
- Social, loyal, and affectionate
Did I mention energetic? Bred as ratters on farms and ranches in Scotland, it’s in their genetic code to be intelligent, independent thinkers. They are not passive lap dogs! I can’t imagine a worse scenario for a little Westie than to be sitting all day in an apartment looking out a window waiting for somebody to come home. Truly that would be the equivalent to canine hell on earth. There are other cute little white breeds out there much better suited to a quiet, less active lifestyle.
Thank goodness for reputable breeders who screen potential buyers of their puppies. But far too many Westies come onto the market through puppy mills, just like the hell hole from which the Tennessee Seven were rescued, and go into pet stores. And then anybody with enough cash can buy the dog, no questions asked.
There are two main reasons we see Westies come into rescue:
Health issues. Westies are prone to skin allergies and cheap dog food is a main culprit for setting those allergies afire. This is the least upsetting image I could find of a Westie just torn apart from the horrible itching and scratching. Believe me, this is not that bad compared to what often arrives.
Behavior issues: Well, yeah. Many of these “bad” dogs deemed uncontrollable by their owners are simply behaving as they’ve been bred to do. If they are not properly exercised and disciplined, they will take over the house. Both of mine have had their moments where we’ve had to let them know, quite firmly, just who is boss in this house.
The adorable little white furball image is misleading. In fact, it is a giant case of false advertising. Here is a much more realistic image of who a Westie really is deep down in his little terrier heart:
I have a couple heartbreaking stories of Westies who were brought into our foster care too late and didn’t make it. But let’s not go there today. I want to share a happy story with you of a rescue Westie girl who seemed to be on her last legs.
Bailey came to us through a kill shelter. She had been dropped off at the shelter by her original owner in very bad shape and adopted by somebody almost immediately. That person returned her to the pound lickety-split after a visit to the vet. The vet had advised putting her down because of her condition. She was loaded with infections in her ears and eyes and her skin was just ablaze with itching.
I will spare you photographs of her condition when she arrived. The sight of her infected eyes made my stomach wobbly, if you know what I mean.
A few months of good quality food, eye drops, medicated shampoos, and look at her:
Bailey was now ready for adoption. And, boy, did she hit the jackpot. Her “furever” home was with a lady on Long Island who had served nationally in Westie Rescue and couldn’t wait to bring a new pup into her fold. Bailey continued to need treatment for her eyes and, sadly, we learned she did become deaf. But her Westie spirit was indomitable, and she lived out the rest of her days, another five or six years, pampered and cherished.
If you’re thinking about getting a Westie, please remember that in their little terrier hearts, they really want to look like this:
They want to run, dig, bark at squirrels, go for walks, terrorize other dogs at the dog park, and take over the household. They don’t ask for much in return: a quality dog food, regular vet visits, a good stomp every day, a little love.
If you know of somebody who is overwhelmed by the expense and responsibility of caring for their dog, no matter the breed, urge them to contact rescue organizations. There is no shame in giving the dog up, but there is in allowing them to degrade to the point they can’t be saved.
And for sure there are good, responsible Westie owners who are doing all the right things and still dealing with skin and other health issues. You’re not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the throw-away Westies, the ones that didn’t live up to their marketing image and ended up in the shelters. For them, I write this. For Cody and Jack and far too many others…..
Thanks for reading,
Proud Westie Mom