The fastest Westie in... agility

Renée Heginbotham and her husband were suffering from empty basket syndrome when they decided to get another puppy. They chose Mabel. Even as a pup she was quiet and gentle but is totally focused where agility was concerned. She refuses to lark around with the other dogs at club but waits calmly for her turn. And then she flies. Oh yes, don't mention her ears!

My husband and I - don't I sound like HRH - had nursed another Westie, MacTavish, through liver failure for many months and then been six months with only two dogs. Our two dogs consisted of a  Lancashire Heeler named Emma, adopted at two years old with us being her fourth home, and Peterdog another adoptee with a mother Westie with a super pedigree and a bull terrier father, also with a super pedigree, they being next door neighbours and taking a fancy to each other!

Hello Mabel
Mabel was born on 1 June 2000 and advertised in the local press on 13 July 2000. I had decided that this time round I wanted a little lady but on viewing the two puppies, the dog puppy was full of his little self while the bitch puppy sat shivering in the basket. 

Now all the good advice given is to leave the sad puppy well and truly alone. I admit that I hesitated but Eric, my husband, said that as I wanted a little girl to go for it or her. 

The cheque was duly signed and this tiny tiny scrap, exactly six weeks old on that day was carried to the car and deposited on the front seat nesting inside a cushion with Peterdog eying the intruder from the back seat.  Emma went home in my husband’s car as she was deemed unpredictable. 

This quiet shivering little scrap sat very quietly for the first five minutes of the journey taking it all in. Then the shivering stopped. The tiny mouth opened and an ear bending raucous noise came forth. She, Mabel as I had already decided to call her, was hungry. There was indecent haste to feed her immediately we got home, after which she settled quietly in the puppy cage on her vet bed and slept and slept, until the next meal!

She immediately became a happy puppy always looking for a snuggle and still is and puppy hood continued unabashed with her being quiet and calm although there were early agility signs as she would jump over the front wall to play with her two friends.  

Mabel Mabel strong and able
When she was 12 months old, I contacted the Ramsey DTC to see if a beginners agility class was starting and it was. Why I had never thought about doing agility in all the years of dog owning I’ll never know but, as older age is knocking at the door, there I was chasing around after an energetic Mini. 

This is Mabel - and don't mention her ears!Mabel progressed well - pity about the handler - although we have never competed off island, and in her first major show against UK handlers got a fourth followed by a second the following week. We were so proud of her.

There has been a little set back when she got bored doing the same course and instead of running up the A frame took off as though jumping a hurdle and landed face first into it. It is taking extra encouragement to get her up the ‘A’  but we’re getting there as she got a second in an agility show last week against all the breeds, along with a third and fifth.

A little brother for Mabel
Peterdog joined the Dog Heaven late last year and the empty basket syndrome was happening all over again so Mabel’s quiet staid life was to be shattered three months ago when Tobias joined the family, a 9 ½ month old Westie who became too much for his elderly owner.

Mabel has to chase him to put him in his place and, of course, that is what he wants. It is lovely to see both of them running across the fields but, not so lovely when Tobias decided he wanted to drink from a water trough, only to find that birds balance better on two feet than does he! A green algae covered dog is a sight to behold.

Tobias has now started in the beginners Agility class and the Hooligans class for obedience.  Of course Mabel was too perfect to need obedience classes.

So all you out there considering agility and wondering about a mini, don’t get one thinking they are slow, please, because they are not unless you are an Olympic sprinter; but if you want fun with lots of crowd pulling and loads of ahhhs and ooohs and you like to bask in reflected glory I would recommend a Westie. Just watch the pounds don’t pile on or they won’t make the A-frame!

Happy jumping.

Flash: Since writing this, the Hooligan has passed his first stage Obedience and a actually came second so we will have to start another shelf for him to pin his rosettes on!

Well it has happened,
Mabel has met stiff opposition from her little brother Tobias. He had his first outing on Saturday at a ‘demonstration.’ He is just short of his 14 months and in the jumping he got... wait for it...  a third. The two either side of him were collies .   Boy, can that little dog jump and fast with it.  To think that he has only just completed his beginners and never done a full course never mind been outside at a country fete with all the distractions.  We were so proud of him.  He was going well in the time, fault and out but in fact was going so fast that he couldn’t make the turn, slid along the grass and dropped a jump with his chin!

About the author...
Reneé Heginbotham
came to agility later in life, never having thought of it before and loving it despite being short and round. She arrived in the Isle of Man four hours after marrying with two suitcases, a week’s stay at an hotel and a husband, each of us with a job to go to.  Nearly thirty three years on they are still on the Island.

She is part of the financial sector although lucky to live and work in a tiny village right in the north of the island.  Her office window has an 'aspect,' as they say, a view in summer that shows no human habitation - just corn fields and rolling hills.

Reneé's first dog was there when she was born, a very large black and white Springer Spaniel aptly named Whisky.  After losing him, her mother’s heart never healed so the next family dog was a Lancashire Heeler, Charlie who was acquired in 1975. As a pup, Charlie had one ear up and one down. He was a little dog with lots of love in his heart but who unfortunately engaged his teeth before his brain. Still they never held it against him.

A year later another Lancashire Heeler joined the fold named Susie as a companion. Charlie and Susie stayed with the family for 12 and 1 4 years respectively with MacTavish, the Westie filling the empty basket after Charlie’s demise, Peterdog the Westie X Bull Terrier being adopted when Susie was 13 and well schooled by her he was.  Renee's 14 year old Lancashire Heeler, Emma is now doing the same good job teaching manners to Tobias. If Mabel can run, Tobias shows every sign of flying over the jumps. He has even shown signs of popping off the ‘A’ above the contacts, which is quite a feat for a little dog.

From Kim Bailey...
Just to let the lady know that her Westie is not the only agility Westie around. I know of own!

Westies are brilliant at agility. Speed is not an issue. I am only sorry that I have not yet been able to compete with them. Belle is exceptional especially as she is 3.5 years old has 12 portosystemic shunts and cirrhosis of the liver, diagnosed at seven months. They said she would be lucky to see her first birthday. She was to have started competing this year but unfortunately her health has deteriorated and she now has an enlarged heart, fluid on her lungs and a micrococcus infection. Nevertheless she still attends lessons with my other bitch Westie, Jade. Belle will have a walk on the dog walk or a weave or even a go on the seesaw. She loves agility and does not want to give it up no matter how ill she is.

Jade, who is Belle's niece, will be competing next year. She would have started this year but due to Belle's health we can not in all fairness take Jade yet. However, Jade has a saying that she 'feels the need for speed.' This is one Westie who does not care if the legs of the others are longer. She is waiting for the jumps heights to be lowered next year and then she will let these longer legged dogs know who is fastest. She loves to run. Jade's nickname is Kamikaze. She has no fear and knows no bounds.

So if you want a great family pet and agility dog you will not go wrong with a Westie. I have yet to hear of a dog with as many serious illnesses as Belle who still does agility, but she loves it so even if she is just watching Jade run and meeting her friends. I think personally that agility has saved Belle's life so far. She has so much love for it that it keeps her going mentally and physically. 

I have started a website which is to give details on Belle and Jades fight with liver shunt and their agility training... if I can get Jade to slow down enough to take pictures. He he he!


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