Each Spring I searched for Westies on Petfinder.com -- usually a few months after Christmas there are dozens of listings for young dogs of all breeds. Every now and then there would be a Westie in our area, but I was always too late with my inquiries.
Until January 2008, when a little Westie puppy named Wendy was listed by a local rescue group. There wasn't even a photo on her page, but her name was so close to Wyndi (my first Westie) I took it as a sign that she was meant to be our puppy, so we sent in an application and waited.
Within a couple of days, Keli and I were in our local PetSmart meeting this new puppy. She was almost 5 months old, had been in the county shelter for about a month and had just been spayed and microchipped earlier in the week. Keli seemed to like her well enough so before we knew it, "Wendy" was riding home with us!
This puppy was so skinny we could see the bones in her hips and neck; her fur was thin and so full of knots and tangles, it looked as if she hadn't been brushed for weeks, if ever. And she was very mouthy -- every time we touched her she tried to grab our hands with her mouth -- typical puppy behavior. "Wendy" didn't know that it was bad manners to nip. She was full of energy, eager to please us and craved our constant attention.
"Wendy" happily chewed on Keli's rejected toys and Nylabones that first weekend. Later we found 8 puppy teeth scattered on the carpet. It must have been such a relief to get those out of her mouth!
After we decided this puppy was staying with us for good, we decided to change her name from Wendy to something else; even though that is one of things that drew us to her, it was just too similar to Wyndi. We tried out a bunch of names, but none of them seemed to suit her. Finally, one of us said Penny and that seemed to suit her.
The first few days were a little chaotic. We were prepared for typical "puppy" behavior from Penny, but we weren't completely prepared for living with two Westies at the same time, especially when the older one is used to being the only pampered pooch in the house and the younger one doesn't understand that there are rules that need to be followed. There were a few skirmishes and growlish arguments when Penny ventured too close to Keli. In time, Keli adjusted and accepted the new living arrangement. She even learned to share her space, as long as Penny didn't actually touch her.
Penny's education on how to behave nicely began right away, and she was a quick learner. We had play sessions several times a day to burn off that puppy energy, tossing balls for her to chase and bring back over and over and over again. After a few tosses, we used the ball as a reward to teach her to Sit and Lay Down. She was supposed to sit calmly before I would toss the ball for her; the sitting part was easy, but the calm part was (and is) still a challenge. She sits, but wiggles and wags her tail excitedly in anticipation before settling.
Housetraining was a bigger challenge for Penny, and at first she had lots of accidents in the house. She seemed to understand that it was GOOD to 'go' outside and when she had an accident, she appeared to feel guilty about it - but she did it anyway.
After a few months she was getting sneaky about it, too. We'd take her out and she'd take care of business, then sneak downstairs and leave us another little present. We decided to say nothing when we found her accidents, just clean up and focus instead on praising and rewarding the good outside behavior. I must add that a few lamb jerky treats after a successful trip outside worked wonders in reinforcing the good behavior. But it took about a year until I could say she was reliably housetrained.
Whenever we took the two dogs out together, we were constantly asked about Penny - why are her ears different than Keli's? Why are her legs longer? Why does her tail curl like that? Why does she jump so high? Why does she bark so much?
At first we thought she was just a little bit different ... but by her first birthday, we were fairly certain she must be a mixed breed of some sort. Besides the physical differences there were other clues. They vocalize very differently - Keli howls at the mailman, but Penny yodels. Keli trots like a terrier, but Penny gallops and can jump up onto a tall bed. She literally
Eventually, we bought a doggie DNA test and the results supported our theory - we learned that Penny is a Wauzer! (Westie/Schnauzer mix). We don't know if the mix was intentional or accidental. But all of those personality and physical characteristics that didn't quite fit a Westie make perfect sense for a Schnauzer! And understanding more about that breed's traits has helped us adapt and work with Penny's personality to deal more effectively with her behavior issues.
Every now and then I remind Penny how lucky she is that she ended up with us, but in reality, we are lucky to have added her to our pack. Her perpetual enthusiasm and constant search for fun and adventure keep us laughing every day!
Submitted by Donna of SewAmazin on ArtFire. Donna enjoys sewing and other needlearts and many of her creations have been inspired by or made for her Westies. In her ArtFire studio, you can find a variety of unique gifts, bags and accessories for people and pets. Penny and Keli act as models, muses and occasionally as quality control inspectors.
Donna is participating in the special coupon promotion this month from 10/23 to 10/29 to help raise funds for CFA's spotlight charity, Close to Home Animal Rescue. When shoppers use the coupon code, the artisans will donate 10% of the purchase to CTHAR.org. Read all about it HERE or click on the box below.