When I was growing up my parents decided to buy our family a puppy. We hadn’t really had pets before, save for a couple of goldfish and a parrot who later turned out to be a massive racist. But my parents had both had dogs when they were young, and even though that was a generation ago and times had changed, I didn’t really have a problem with the idea.
The puppy we got was a West Highland Terrier. This particular one was highly thought of, but the previous owners had to part ways with him because they couldn’t afford to keep him. He had won competitions that the old owners entered him into, but that was in a different part of the country, and we were a little concerned about how he’d adapt to life in a big city.
It took a while, I’ll admit, even with us trying to ease him into his new life. After a couple of years we were so frustrated that we considered giving him away and replacing him with a cat or a rabbit, but then my mum suggested we enter him into a pet show. “Maybe he’s just missing being able to compete for trophies,” she said.
So we entered him into a local contest. While he had won big competitions in his previous home – he even competed at a national level once and, while he didn’t win, he did as well as could have been expected – we thought we’d go for something smaller and more comfortable.
Would you believe it, he only went and won the thing. That made our minds up for us – the puppy would stay. And now, as he reaches the end of his life, we’re delighted we made that decision.
Over the years we have entered him into bigger and fancier competitions, and never once has he looked out of place. Indeed most of the time we have found ourselves asking why we didn’t give him the chance sooner.
And on top of that, he’s improved the atmosphere around the family home. In his younger days, barely a day went by when he wouldn’t bring in some precious treasure from the garden. He found us a frog from next door’s pond which we left to its own devices and it provided great entertainment for years. He also befriended the Great Dane from up the road and allowed us to form a relationship with his owners which has lasted for years (even if we stopped seeing his puppies after a while). He even brought us a valuable jewel when we went on a trip to Holland and took him to the park.
Of course there were some less auspicious finds. Most of these were in his older days, but I do remember him bringing in a beautiful South American bird which ultimately proved more a curse than a blessing. In fact I’m fairly sure he only took it because he saw it being eyed up by the dog who belonged to that nouveau riche family at the top of the road eyeing it up.
More recently the gems have continued to arrive in their droves, but he often hasn’t brought us what we need or even want. Five or six years ago he found us a sturdy looking stick, which seemed like it would be great for kindling, but it soon broke and we never managed to fix it.
Now the time has finally come to replace him. Myself and my siblings have all moved out, but our parents wanted to tell us about their plans. The dog has borne a number of puppies over the years and they thought about just keeping those, but they weren’t sure any of them could handle the responsibility. There was also the option of buying a different breed – everyone is talking about pedigree German Shepherds, and I tried telling my dad that one of those would be great around the grandkids, but he was having none of it.
He and my mum had taken our old dog to a charity to give him away for the last few years of his life, and while they were there he started barking loudly but playfully at another Westie. I suspect he might have just been recognising another of his breed – all those years of lapping up spilt wine around the family dinner table might have caught up with him – but my dad interpreted it as our pet choosing his successor.
The new Westie hasn’t won any prizes before, and in all honesty he has had a rather unremarkable life, but my folks are happy with the continuity he provides. Good luck to them, though I think when the dust settles they might wish they had taken a little longer over their decision. Who knows, maybe they will decide to buy that German Shepherd in a couple of years after all.