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The Joy and Satisfaction of Rescuing a Westie

Sue Makepeace, Founder of the Westie Advice Group, talks to fellow Westie rescuers about the journey of adopting the unadoptable 

In 1999 we bought our first Westie puppy. We had always had large breeds and having a Westie was a bit of a shock, but we all just fell in love with the breed.  I wanted a small dog for a change and didn’t even know the name of the breed. I wanted one of those white dogs the old ladies have. It’s funny that I’m now one of those old ladies!

Our first Westie was called Millie and she came from a local home breeder, she lived a happy healthy life until she was 12 and then developed epilepsy.

Sadly, she only lived another eight months after diagnosis.

To say as a family we were devastated would be an understatement. I knew I wanted another dog but just could not commit to another puppy, so I decided to become a foster carer for a rescue. I completed the paperwork on a Friday in December and by the Sunday I had two dogs in foster. They stayed with us for around two weeks while the rescue matched them to their perfect homes.  It was never difficult letting them go because I knew they were going to a loving home that was suitable for them. Not every dog is the right dog for every home.

My fostering of dogs carried on for a few months, dogs came and went up until the April and I was asked to go and collect a one-year-old escape artist called, Martha.  She had a few behavioural issues and we felt she would be better staying with us permanently.  We put in the hard work and it paid off, attending training courses five times and never got beyond beginner level, I could have taught the class myself in the end.  She’s now 10.5 years old, great off lead, well socialised and a happy little dog.  She still likes a good old bark though, and she’s such fun, and keeps the others in order.

The same week in April I was asked to take in a 6-year-old male called Merlin who had a skin condition… and I was absolutely smitten.  We had never had a male dog before, and he was so loving compared to the independent Martha.  Sadly, Merlin passed away 4.5 years later, we were devastated yet again and Martha really missed having a companion.

Around three weeks after Merlin passed away, I awoke to a Facebook message from a lady saying she knew of a six-year-old male about to be put to sleep because of behaviour. He was in Leeds and all stops were pulled to get him to safety.  Max arrived here shortly afterwards; he’s also known as “Bitey Boy” because he has a history of biting numerous individuals.  It has not always been an easy road with him, we’ve had several trainers. But one consolation is he hasn’t bitten us, he’s 100% better than he was in 2016.  He’s a very happy healthy dog now and we know exactly how to manage him.
In 2018, six-month-old Ruby came to live with us, her owner had sadly passed away.  My daughter was going to adopt Ruby but in the end she couldn’t bear to separate her from the other two, especially Max who loves Ruby, he’s like her doggy parent and keeps her in check, plays bitey face every single day with her, and it’s brought him back to life at 11.5 years of age.

So the moral of the story is, no matter how hard a rescue dog can be it’s worthwhile, anything can be achieved with love, kindness, and perseverance no matter how broken that dog is.  Bear with it and you will be repaid a thousand times over, yes, they might steal your sofa along with your heart but it’s all worth it in the end. 

If you are thinking of fostering make sure it’s a reputable rescue and that they have the correct paperwork, and most importantly make sure they are insured and will cover your costs.

Adopting the Unadoptable

Kim Bailey’s Dexter is a 14th February Valentine’s Day boy, but he’s most definitely not a love bug in any shape or form.  Kim was planning on getting another Westie puppy to train for agility when Dexter literally dropped into her lap. Her previous Westie had passed away the previous year, but she still had her four Japanese Spitz.  

Dexter was known as a bouncer. No one was keen to take him on as he came with a reputation for being very grumpy and aggressive.  He had bounced around for a few weeks after being sold on Gumtree.  No one was able to trace his original owner and he had a foreign microchip.  Dexter had been to a few foster carers and prospective owners, but they just were not the right fit for him.  Poor Dexter was very confused and dazed, and little could be done to keep him calm until Kim fitted him with a harness that belonged to one of her older dogs.  This seemed to do the trick.  He also was taken under the wing of Furi, Kim’s youngest Japanese Spitz, who seemed to have a calming influence on him, and when he was stressed, she slept close by making him feel safe.  Dexter could be a Jekyll and Hyde character, switching from a loving dog to a snapping biting monster.  It was around this time Kim started to notice that something wasn’t quite right with Dexter’s rear end, he would always need to lean against something when going to the loo, and  he was very very sensitive in his rear end, an area never to be touched or you would risk getting bit.

Vet appointment booked, Dexter was quite happy to be muzzled for everyone’s safety, he had obviously been trained in his past.  Kim and the vet both knew something was seriously wrong and X-rays were booked for the following day.  The results were not only horrifying but heartbreaking that this poor boy had suffered in such pain for the first six years of his life. Kim and the vet had never seen anything like they had seen that day.  As a puppy Dexter had Legges Perthes disease and this had been left untreated.  Kim had a gut feeling as her Westie Jade had suffered the same disease but was operated on at nine months old and she had gone on to compete in agility competitions.  Poor Dexter had suffered for six years in agony, no wonder he was grumpy. 

Surgery was organised for two days later and Dexter took it all in his stride. The operation was a success, hopefully this would sort out his chronic pain. Rehab was difficult because he wouldn’t have coped with physio, so Kim made lots of adaptions at home for him to be able to exercise, including a pool so he could swim, luckily he loves the water. 

By this time Kim’s heart was breaking for Dexter and the amount of unnecessary pain he had suffered.  She searched and searched for a good reason to let him go hoping a loving and experienced home could be found, but her girls loved him and he had settled well with them, so the decision was made that he would stay, she just knew after what they had been through together she couldn’t let him go.  

After two years Kim noticed he was getting grumpy again and felt things weren’t quite right around his rear end yet again, this time scans revealed chronic arthritis, he was only eight.  The vet said that at some time in his life both cruciate ligaments had ruptured and were left untreated.  He will now be on arthritis medications and pain killers for the rest of his life to try and keep the pain under control.

It’s been a long hard journey for Kim, and it’s been a scary experience at times as he can’t always be trusted, she has the battle scars to prove it. It’s not all bad news though, Dexter can be loving and will have a snuggle but of course it’s always on his terms.  

Would Kim change it? No, she wouldn’t, she dreads to think what would have happened to her poor little man if she didn’t let him stay.  He’s well, he’s happy and lapping up lots of attention from four Japanese spitz ladies. 


When Saving Westies is Addictive


In 2007, Karen and Gareth Young obtained a Westie puppy from a friend and named her Molly, two years later Oscar joined them, and their little Westie family began.

Karen thought about adding another Westie to their pack and was considering a rescue. One evening whilst browsing through Facebook she read about a little dog called Heidi found wandering the streets of Hartlepool. Heidi was terribly underweight, was overrun with mites, had a serious yeast infection and hardly any fur.  But for Karen it was love at first sight and she just knew that Heidi needed to join their family.  

Over the next few years the pack increased and they were joined by Mungo, Louie, Bernie, Finley, Bentley, Max, Teddy, Rosie, Dudley, Archie, Hamish, Angus, Alfred, Rufus and the most recent little fella from Scotland, Fraser.

All of these Westies, for one reason or another were either unwanted, sick, had behavioural issues, including fear, aggression and biting, or were just severely anxious dogs.  Some were just old and incontinent.  The majority of dogs adopted by Karen and Gareth were on borrowed time and due to be put to sleep but were given a second chance.  

Louie, Mungo, Bernie, Oscar and Bentley sadly all passed away and all within a short time of one another.  Losing a dog is heart-breaking, but Karen and Gareth console themselves in knowing not only the amount of time and love they have given to these dogs but the amount of love they have received back.  Each dog is special, and every dog deserves a second chance.

Grooming day is run like a military operation and their groomer donates a whole day to getting the young gang looking very smart.  Feeding time is also run with precision and the dogs have learned that if you don’t eat your food, it’s soon gobbled up by one of the others.

The one thing that Karen and Gareth are struggling with is a way to get all of their 13 dogs out for a run.  They are hoping to get a large van fitted with crates to enable them to safely transport all of the dogs to a safe paddock 10 miles away.  Fingers crossed that with some fundraising, this should happen within the next few months.

When I asked them if it was all worth it? They say yes, of course!

So I asked them if they would do it all again? ABSOLUTELY IN A HEARTBEAT was the overall response.