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It was almost nine years ago that Joey, my West Highland White Terrier, came to live with myself and my family. He was the only puppy remaining from his litter and I felt he must be lonely without his siblings. I had intended purchasing a female dog but when, along with my youngest daughter, I saw Joey, he made an impression. But I was still certain that I should bide my time until a bitch puppy was found.
My daughter was disappointed; she too had fallen for the lonely looking pup who had waddled over to us, but I was sensible and knew I should stick to my guns and wait until we found exactly what we wanted. Well, that's what I said. However what I didn't know then was that night, this rather scruffy young Westie would invade my dreams. In my sleep he looked at me in such a beseeching way, asking me to be his new mum.
The next morning found me discussing the pup with my youngest son and youngest daughter, as these were the two most interested. Of course, they were impatient for a new playmate and encouraged me to return and collect this pup.
Before buying I asked lots of questions as to why this particular pup was left and I was told that he had been promised to a lady owner who, since choosing this pup had fallen and broken her hip. She had asked that he be kept for her but sadly she didn't recover as well as she had expected and consequently felt that she was no longer in a position to care for this puppy, or in fact any pup, at this time. I don't know if this was true or not but I couldn't see much reason to doubt this information. And although this westie wasn't the gender I had intended to adopt, home with us he came.
The essentials were acquired and we took Joey with us. The next few days were spent making Joey feel comfortable and welcome. He was given lots of fuss by my daughter. My son was quite pleased with him too but, then being twelve years old, had other things to do. His days were filled with football, rugby, computer games and homework and so he didn't spend quite so long oohing and aahing over the new addition to the family as did his younger sister. But he promised to help in the care of this young canine and he (until leaving home to study at university) quite surprisingly kept pretty much to his word.
A few days later found us at 'Pets at Home' looking for some more purchases for the puppy who had now been named by the children as Joey. One of these purchases was 'A New Owner's Guide to West Highland White Terriers' by Dawn Martin.
Before deciding on this breed I had done a fair amount of research. I wanted a dog that didn't shed much fur because my daughter suffered with asthma. I thought it sensible to buy a breed of dog that wasn't too large as I couldn't handle anything which pulled too much on a lead. I wanted a dog that could be lifted when necessary. And when looking at pedigree breeds it became apparent that certain breeds were more prone to illness than others. But although I had gleaned some knowledge so far, I thought a book specialising in West Highland White Terriers was an important buy.
Over the next few days I had a read of this book and learned some more about the breed. Over the years that we have had Joey I have sometimes used it as a reference guide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
(Taken from the back cover)
'Dawn Martin has many years of involvement with West Highland White Terriers including owning, breeding, grooming, showing and working them. She has actively campaigned her West Highland white Terriers in many areas of competition. Dawn has bred, owned, or co-owned over two dozen champions in addition to dozens of obedience, agility and earthdog titlists. Dawn is the owner of a well-established grooming business.'
APPEARANCE OF THIS BOOK
This is a hard back book which is small (approx. 9"x6"x3/4") and fairly thin and therefore also fairly light in weight. Because of its nice size it fits well on a shelf or in a cupboard. Also it is easy to handle whilst reading. It displays a photograph on its front cover of a Westie sporting a 'show' haircut; it has a long skirt and the lion shaped haircut around its head.
On the back cover can be seen a picture of the author with five cute and whiter than white Westie puppies.
The spine has bold black print displaying the book title. I mention this as I choose to keep this book in a glass fronted cabinet on a shelf with some other hard backed reference books and having the title clearly displayed makes it easy to pick out quickly from amongst the other books.
The contents page is clear and shows the sections to be found in the book alongside the relevant page numbers. Here and there are attractive photographs of Westies.
THE SECTIONS CONTAINED WITHIN ARE AS FOLLOWS:
~~ Origin of the West Highland White Terrier ~~
I enjoyed reading this section and found it interesting to know more about the heritage of the breed. It says that the Westie as a breed dates back to the seventeenth century, and now I quote:
'It is told and retold that James 1 of England (1556-1625) sent a request to Argyllshire for six little white "earthe dogges" which were to have been presented as a gift to the King of France.'
~~ Standard for the West Highland White Terrier ~~
This section is interesting but I don't like it as much as some other categories as, in my opinion, it is really aimed at breeders or, I feel, with a view to showing the dog. I have no interest in doing this and even if I did it is from the perspective of the American Kennel Club. However, if you want to see if you have a perfect Westie specimen then you may find this part interesting.
I haven't gone so far as to see if Joey fits into any criteria of a show dog as if he didn't I wouldn't be sending him back; he is simply a family friend.
~~ Living with a Westie ~~
This is a nice section explaining how the traits of this breed have changed over the years as the Westie has become a family pet rather than, as in the past, a working dog.
There are useful hints on training and what can be expected from the dog along with hints on how best to manage the breed.
~~ Selecting a Westie ~~
This section gives information on where to purchase your pet and what to look for. But again, this section speaks of how to go about locating breeders through the American Kennel Club and The West Highland white Terrier Club of America. Of course, you could anglicise this information and to be fair, much of it is useful and still relevant whether you are buying a dog in America or the U.K.
This section speaks of the different personalities to be found in a litter
~~ Welcoming your new Westie ~~
Basically this section of the book covers the early days of settling a puppy into its new home and speaks of equipment needed. There are also many tips supplied about early training. There are a few paragraphs dedicated to crate training but I never used this, or even considered it.
~~ Grooming your Westie ~~
This topic takes up several pages. Some useful tips are to be found here on how to groom the Westie as well as information on the equipment needed.
As Westies are white and therefore show the dirt so much (and they love to dig in the garden) I thought the information on dry bathing was very helpful and was interested to know that baby talcum powder containing corn starch could be used.
The problems of fleas and skin problems are approached.
~~ Basic Training for Your Westie ~~
Quite a lot of information found here which could be useful for new owners and also owners of Westies who want to teach their old dog new tricks, so to speak. The author often speaks of this breed's independent nature and how best to motivate the dog to be in a receptive mood for training. Dawn Martin suggests that training sessions be kept brief to around five to ten minutes and perhaps to do this up to three times daily. This makes sense to me as I know with Joey that he can, for instance, choose to play and he will run around the garden with abandon, seeming to be thoroughly enjoying himself and then, suddenly will lose interest and he will decide that the game is over.
This section also covers socialising and behaviour classes.
~~ Activities for the Westie~~
Now the author speaks of activities which can be enjoyed together by the pet and its human, such as walking, tracking (this is through the AKC-American Kennel Club) and also events such as agility and earthdog trials.
There is a small but interesting few paragraphs on pet therapy, explaining that a dog can be taken into homes for the elderly or nursing homes. The author writes that Westies make ideal choices for this. Here I have to say that my Westie would not suit this job; he hates to be picked up for a start. Perhaps I should have spent more time on reading previous sections!
~~ Collections and Collectibles ~~
Just one page of text on this and a further page of illustrations/photographs. I have to say that this part isn't really for me. I have bought a few knick knacks over the years for my daughter, such as ornaments and brooches with Westies featured on them. But I haven't thought about this seriously so just buy the occasional item as I see it; I wouldn't spend long reading this section personally but other owners may well find this a good piece of reading.
~~ Sport of Purebred Dogs ~~
A few pages of information and chat about becoming involved in dog classes, activities already mentioned, and the showing of dogs. There are a lot of words written here about professional showing of dogs and explanations as to the fact that the dog must conform to rules of standard breed sizes, looks, etc. There are addresses supplied, such as American, Great Britain and Canadian Kennel club.
~~ Health Care ~~
General health care of dogs is included, as well as facts and problems which are more specific to the breed. It is interesting to read about veterinary checks which may be routine, or necessary in the case of illness.
The author speaks of spaying and neutering the animal and the benefits to the animal.
~~ Dental Care ~~
I would have expected this section to come under the previous one of health care but instead it has its own few pages which gives tips on what the dog should and shouldn't chew and further information for good dental hygiene and health for the Westie.
~~ Identification and Finding the Lost Dog ~~
This covers identifying your dog with various different means and the author writes especially of the benefits of micro chipping. Probably most responsible dog owners would now employ this way of identifying their pet as it is quick and easy to do but perhaps it wasn't as well known and popular a method when this book was first published. My dog has been micro chipped but I think I knew about this method before purchasing this book.
There is a list of things to do if the awful nightmare happens of your dog becoming lost. Mostly common sense things to do to help to locate the lost pet I would have thought but possibly there may be a suggestion that hadn't been thought of. Ina situation like this every scrap of information will be gratefully used.
~~ Travelling with Your Dog ~~
I don't think however many times I read this section and encourage Joey to put these ideas into practise will turn him into a good traveller and mean he is happier to be in a moving car. He is eager enough to get in but isn't a good or patient traveller. The author speaks of taking the dog often for 'short fun rides', so that he doesn't associate the car with a means of transporting him to another injection. This, of course, makes sense but my dog was taken as a pup many times in the car to parks and forests but never has enjoyed the journey. I think he just can't be calm enough in a car.
Please remember this edition was published in 1996 and so the author may now have changed this snippet. She says,
'I do occasionally let my dogs ride with me because I really enjoy their companionship, but in all honesty they are safer in their crates.' I think this may well have been written before dog car harnesses were well known of.
There are some useful travel tips to be found still.
~~ Behaviour and Canine Communication ~~
' Those of us who share our lives with pets understand the special part they play through companionship, service and protection' The author writes of the benefits of pet ownership, for example she says that the elderly may well care better for themselves when they also have a pets needs to see to.
We can also read more about behaviour and 'understanding the dog's language' I think here she is expanding again on previous topics and some of this information should have been kept in the training section.
Four further books are named near to the end as suggested reading.
There is naturally an index at the back of the book.
Overall I think this book was a worthwhile purchase and read for myself as an owner of a West Highland White Terrier. It is a useful book to keep as a reference. I actually feel it has been used more as a book to skim through after the initial read to back up things that come up in pet ownership.
It is an interesting and pleasant book to flick through, particularly as there are a number of cute photographs to be found throughout.
The book is clearly written and easy to understand for a new pet owner unused to having dogs to care for. Although the author, Dawn martin, is obviously very knowledgeable and comfortable with dogs, especially Westies, she still manages to convey information in clear simple terms, to the layman. Even though this book is obviously written by an American it is still relevant to any speaker of English or all owners of Westies, if translated, I would think. It does often refer to the American Kennel Club.
I would conclude that some sort of information is vital when welcoming a pet into the home and although so much is easily at hand on the internet it still is useful and desirable to be able to access information form a book. In the case of this one I would say it isn't a necessity but makes a pleasant addition to the Westie owner's home's non-fiction shelf.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
WH Smith: £8.96
* Published by T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
* ISBN : 0-7938-2765-5