On the eve of my little man’s 12th birthday I think of how big an impact he’s had on my life. It’s because of him I do what I do. The desire to learn more and more about dogs and dog behaviour and to become better and better at what I do are a direct result of bringing Rufus into my home at the age of 9 weeks.
I had spoken with a breeder who had a litter of puppies but they were spoken for. She agreed to see me anyway. I wanted to meet her and like all good breeders, she wanted to meet me. 
As we chatted she again mentioned she didn’t have a puppy for me just yet, I’d have to wait. No problem, I assured her. In my research to acquire my first puppy I knew I might have to wait.

As we chatted she put two wee ones on the floor to explore. At the end of the hour visit, Margaret said to me “if you would like one of these puppies, you can have one”. I was flabbergasted! “Which one would you want?” As far as I was concerned it was no contest. One was clearly an outstanding puppy – upright stance, perfect westie tail, beautiful face and fabulous attitude
Once week later, I had a beautiful 9 week old Westie in my home. Life hasn’t been the same since.

He has taught me so much. When I first got him I hired a trainer who taught me to use methods I wasn’t comfortable with. Not shock or prong collars but smacking him hard on the bottom of his chin for biting, popping him hard on the leash for pulling, giving hard tugs for not responding to a recall and on and on.

When she felt I didn’t smack him hard enough under the chin for biting, she would encourage me to “do it harder”. I couldn’t. The same thing with popping the leash, “do it harder”. I couldn’t.
That sent me on my journey to learn a better way. I didn’t think hitting my dog was the best way to train.
It also began my personal journey, learning to speak up for myself and not do something just because someone in authority says so. Whether it’s a salesperson in a store asking for personal information (not getting it, no reason for you to have it) or a Veterinarian not taking my insight into consideration (I live with the dog and know him better).

I have learned to be my dog’s advocate and stand up for him in scary situations. I used to care about hurting other people’s feelings. I would continuously set my puppy up to be stressed. 
A light bulb went off one day on a walk. A person walking their dog was approaching. I knew my puppy would bark and lunge. I decided at that moment to protect my dog and not care about the other person. I crossed the street.
From that moment on I protected my dog while I taught him other dogs were safe and predicted good things. To this day, on the eve of turning 12, he still looks to me when he sees a dog in the distance – “where’s my chicken?”

As he lies on the couch beside me, I wonder how much longer we have together. It’s not uncommon for Westies to live up to 16 years. Right now, his eyes are getting cloudy, his hearing is not what it used to be, he has arthritis in his back legs due to bilateral luxating patella and something is going on with the front legs too. He’s slowing down on walks, has difficulty jumping onto the bed and couch.

He greets me with a waggy tail, he snuggles on my lap, he loves to come on car rides, he loves to roll on his cookie before eating it, he loves to lie in the sunshine – either outside or in the sun spot in the hallway. He has bursts of energy outside and I have to walk briskly to keep up. He needs to be the fun police in a group of dogs. He loves to have his ears rubbed.

It’s hard to believe 12 years have passed but I’ve learned so much in that time and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to become what I am because of him.
Animals come into our lives for a reason.  I truly believe the right dog finds us to teach us something. We just have to be willing to open our hearts and minds to hear it.