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Westie puppies rule the world

Westie puppies rule the world

Ten months ago, my Mum, Cooper and I found ourselves in a sleepy suburb outside of Brisbane, surrounded by a squeaking pack of tiny Westie puppies. It was a far cry from where we expected to be in December 2020. I for one fully intended to be at a nice crisp German Christmas market, sipping on mulled wine and impulse buying sparkly decorations that I had nowhere to display.

But, surrounded by these white creatures that more so resembled tiny polar bears than Westie puppies with their eyes barely open wasn’t entirely bad either.

 

For the love of dog

One look at all of our past content here and on YouTube, and you’ll spot a mile off that Cooper and I are “dog people”. Not part time or casual dog people. Oh no. We are those all-in-totally-obsessed-heart-eyed weirdos who quite literally would follow a wagging tail along the road, through a shopping mall, down a commuter platform and onto a train if it meant we could have just one pat.

If that sounds insane to you, maybe you better go find another post to read 😛

As long as Cooper and I have known each other, we have loved dogs. In fact, I recall the first time I thought Cooper (my co-worker at the time) was “sweet” was when he stooped down to kiss one of our mutual friends’ dogs on the head when he met it.

“That’s so sweet,” I thought…and looked at him kinda differently after that.

Jumping forward a few years, we had two blue cattle dogs in our lives. One, Stephanie, my beloved childhood pet who moved with me to a small rural town in NSW where Cooper ended up befriending her and giving her a roaring good time in her twilight years.

 

 

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A post shared by Sarah Blinco (@sarahblinco)

 

And the second, Harry (pictured above), another bluey who was quite simply the best dog you could ever, ever know. He loved us and we loved him with all of our hearts. Everyone loved Harry – he was a popular family member with all relations and friends. He had his own identity and personality. When you imagine the “man’s (or woman) best friend” analogy of a dog and their human living their best life, together, Harry is the dog in that picture.

That rainbow bridge, I tell you, it’s a wonderful place with all our four-legged mates chasing their tails and their tennis balls, just waiting for us on the other side.

But of course, there’s that time in between. And ours was spent living abroad and travelling. We were always dog spotting and stalking puppies in the park – well, everywhere really (pubs, trains, cafes, courtyards, the workplace…). The time was never right for us to get a dog when we lived in London. We did however, sign up to be Trusted Housesitters specifically to get our dog fix and give love to fur babies in the absence of their own humans who wanted to get away on a holiday somewhere.

 

Which brings me back to being surrounded by Westie puppies…

Since we had to leave London for now, and with so much loss experienced over the past year, we decided that it was time to bring in new puppy joy. (Well, when I say ‘we’, I mean I kept shoving the newborn picture of our future Westie pup in Cooper’s face until he said ‘yes’ :).

We couldn’t get a bluey again based on our apartment living requirements, so we set about searching for a breed that we feel is quite similar in personality: the West Highland Terrier. Maybe it was sentimental – Westies had been the first breed we pet sat for in London; or maybe it was always meant to be, but we decided to give raising a Westie a go.

That day surrounded by Westie puppies, we made our choice: not the loudest pup, and not the quietest – the one in the middle who did seem content enough with us gently picking him up and having a chat with him about his future.

 

What did we learn about Westie puppies?

Well let me tell you, Westies, they’re not the same as cattle dogs 😂 In fact, we’d clocked early on – at about 9 weeks old – that our little Westie puppy, London (named after our beloved adopted home in England) had no intention of listening to anything other than what pleased him. Our vet even said to us, “yeah, he’ll never be obedient like the cattle dog”.

‘Westitude’, we later discovered on a Facebook Group full of Westie owners – is an actual thing. Defiant, belligerent, obstinate.

But oh my God, he’s just the cutest little defiant, belligerent, obstinate thing we could ever know!

Also, we are kind of in love with him, which is evident by the fact he has nine places comfortably laid out to sleep at home (in a one bedroom flat!). We also bought a doggie cam so we could check on him and make sure he was ok and not fretting when he was a little pup. Additionally, London  has the luxury of attending doggy daycare during the week to keep him happy and social.

 

Best things we did to help our West Highland Terrier puppy as he grew up

If you’re considering the journey, go for it. These are the funniest little dogs you’ll ever meet! Actually hilarious! But here are my top tips based on our own experience:

    • Crate training was a new concept for us, but it’s the BEST thing we did. Even though London isn’t bound to his crate anymore, he still makes his way inside for his own peace, solace, warmth and rest.

 

    • The first eight weeks might be tough: they’re babies and need the same care human babies do. They also wake VERY early and need to know you’re there to help them with potty or nurturing.

 

    • Give your puppy the time he/she deserves. I think it’s easy to forget they’re still so young and really do need proper care. They love interaction and play, so spend time with them.

 

    • Ensure plenty of toys and stimulation are available for your puppy, especially if you’re going to be out.

 

    • But with that said, please please do not get a puppy (of any breed) without thinking through how he/she will spend their days. If you’re going to be out a lot in the future, will you provide daycare or walkers – what’s the plan?

 

    • Best treats we discovered are chilled carrots (he LOVES these) which are especially great when your puppy is teething; and peanut butter on a Lickimat (available on Amazon and at pet stores).

 

    • Our doggie webcam was so inexpensive on Amazon and well worth it so we could monitor in his early days how he was coping when we were at work.I spotted there was a two hour window in the afternoon when he started to panic and suffer from separation anxiety, so arranged for friends to drop in and play with him during that time while he was very young.

 

    • Get proper breed-related advice on how to feed and care for your pup: Westies tend towards sensitive stomachs and allergies, so do your research to ensure you are prepared and can prevent these things if possible.

 

    • Educate yourself: there’s a WEALTH of wonderful training information on YouTube. If you’re getting a puppy, spend time teaching yourself how to care for him or her. They deserve it, and your future self will thank you! Two of our fave trainers’ channels for this are Zak George and Michele Lennon.

 

    • Learn to go with your intuition. If a cry is more than a cry or you sense there’s a difference between anxiety and tantrum (and there is), take action on it accordingly.

 

    • Westie puppies are very social, so after vaccinations, ensure you’re getting your pup out and about to play with other dogs. Puppy preschool is a good option, as is doggie daycare in the long run. Dog parks are in every city, and you can find breed-specific or location-specific pooch meet-up groups on Facebook.

 

  • The world will revolve around your Westie puppy, because he/she demands it to be so 🙂

 

 

A future world with our Westie

As London grows, he is gradually shedding some of the puppy Westitude. He wants to hang out with us more and do dog things … like we remember dogs do. He’s brought so much fun and laughter though, and reminds us yet again of the value of dogs: they are pure joy.

He is certainly part of our pack now. Or perhaps, it’s us who are in his.

We can’t wait to see what the future holds: adventures with London in London, perhaps?

👉🏻 Read our popular post about pet care while you’re away, and house sitting as a way of travel or to take care of your own fur baby.

Do you have a question about raising a Westie puppy, or have a story to share? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below. 

Lessons on how to rehome a dog

Lessons on how to rehome a dog

Before Cooper and I set off on this house and pet sitting adventure, our intention was to be surrounded by dogs. Humbled by our experiences along the way, we have learnt eye-opening facts on how to properly rehome a dog. Our biggest lessons came in Malta, and we want to share with you here.

 

A family of rehomed dogs

In Malta we cared for nine dogs on our house sit. Geoff and Theresa initiated us into their family as Cooper and I each took hold of our own set of pooches. We got to understand their routines and personalities, and a highlight of each day was, of course, walk time!

Each morning in a flurry of excitement, fur babies of all shapes and sizes danced around the kitchen. Collars and leads were attached, although I can’t say patience is a strength of these cheeky dogs.

I took 12 year old Smudge – food lover, Dalmatian cross, big personality. In my other hand I had little Spike, the dog with nine lives, and old soul Eliza, mum to the fox terriers Cooper was handling, Christa and Giselle.

Geoff and Theresa showed us the ropes before they went away. Fearful giant Zula went with Geoff. We likened her to the lion who had lost courage. He also had ‘the Queen’, Amy, a type of woolly Sicilian sheep dog.

Our ‘dog whisperer’ Theresa, would wait behind and bring her two special rescued dogs. Rusty is just a pup, simply terrified; and Percy, a Dachshund mix, won’t look at anyone but Theresa.

We’d need to get to understand their characters before tackling these walks on our own. I’m pleased to say we did master it.

Smudge and Sarah on our Malta house sit

 

Navigating ‘Cat Alley’

Geoff and Theresa led the charge on the first few days we were all together. Determined to learn, we followed their instructions. Each day our dogs would go to the field behind their home, to play together and with other rehomed dogs.

Getting to the field meant navigating Cat Alley. Now that’s an adventure.

 

We’d all leave the house, one set of pups at a time, keeping an eye out for cars coming past the front door on the narrow road outside.

Spike doesn’t like motorbikes – he tries to attack them.

I had to learn quickly:

  • That a dog on a lead chasing motorbikes means all dogs I am holding onto will get tangled up!
  • If you’ve got a strong pup you need to be careful they don’t get away and run in front of a car. Use your good arm 👍
  • I also learned the hard way that my finger kept slipping on the ‘release’ button on the lead. This meant my leads would extend at exactly the time I didn’t want my dogs running away from me! Rookie errors.

👉Read: 6 lessons learnt as pet sitters, and things YOU need to know

 

Out the door: under 20 seconds ’til we’d turn the corner.

The Malta sun blazed upon us, even at this early hour. I’d see Cooper and Geoff ahead, core strength at work as they held onto their sets for dear life.

Welcome to Cat Alley, where the dogs go crazy. Christa and Giselle especially, their little frames finding tiger-like strength each day, as they dragged forth, onward towards their nemesis.

Cats on car tops glaring down, or scaling trees, scoffing at our spectacle. Then we’d spot them on the road ahead, taunting the dogs! Cat Alley. A dog’s worst nightmare? Or dog owner’s?

 

The strategy for getting through here was to be quick and strong. As a team, we’d managing our yelping, excited pack, quietly hoping a lead wouldn’t snap, and doing our utmost to prevent the dogs from tangling and running into each other.

Old Smudge would always stop at the most inconvenient time to do his business here too. Honestly if he wasn’t so damn cute… !

Sarah Blinco and Cooper Dawson on house sit with 9 dogs in Malta

 

Field of dreams

After undoubtedly the most active four minutes of the day, our double-gate entry to the field is in sight!

There’s two gates here for a special reason. Many of the dogs are anxious or hyper-sensitive. So, we bring them into a holding area and shut the outside gate so no-one disappears down Cat Alley and onto the street. Second gate opens, and our group flies into their freedom field.

Theresa, Geoff, Cooper and I put down our leads, fill up water bowls and lead the dogs around the field to play.

A friend of the field, Caroline, gave us a tip:

Always keep walking, don’t let a group of dogs congregate while owners chat and gossip – it can lead to ‘too much excitement’ (or a brawl).

 

The field, rented by Theresa and Geoff, is an important space that helps dogs socialise and get into a happier frame of mind.

Sicily is about two hours’ ferry ride from Malta, and there’s a terrible homeless dog problem there.

Sarah and my family of pups in Malta

 

Rescue dogs and their families

Cooper and I have met many beautiful rescue pups over the past year. Their families shared with us meticulous details on any anxiety or behaviour to care for in their rehomed dogs. It’s a privilege to have been able to get to know so many beautiful personalities. In Malta, we were followed around, up and down stairs; The dogs snuggled with us in the lounge at TV time, demanded cheese at meal time, and lapped up love at bedtime. We love them!

Parents of all of the rescue dogs we’ve met care deeply about their fur family, and have been matched with their furever pups. But there are heartbreaking stories of terribly high ‘return’ rates to shelters that we have heard of too.

 

How to rehome a dog – things we can learn

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a dog person and/or you are looking to rehome a dog too. All dogs, like people, have unique personalities. To effectively place a dog in its furever home, a proper match needs to be made.

Theresa and Geoff explained more about this to us when we spent time with them, and in the video above ☝

The dogs they’ve rescued have been through TRAUMA: neglect, serious abuse, abandonment.

It’s why some of our babies on the house sit were reticent to be too near to us.

Theresa and Geoff have a really low ‘return’ rate. They put in the time to match families and dogs though, as you’ll see in the video above.

 

Adoption and rehoming tips

Details we garnered to help you find your perfect pooch:

  1. See what you can find out about the dog’s personality and background. Does he/she need to run around, are they best with a family, or a couple/single?
  2. Will the breed/personality be right for your circumstances – do you have young kids?
  3. How active is your dog going to need to be, and can you cater for this?
  4. Have you considered an older dog, not just a puppy? There are so many benefits to rehoming older dogs who have just been down on their luck. Puppies are NOT right for everyone.
  5. Are you willing to socialise your dog – take them to a dog park and to learn to play with others?
  6. A dog deserves love for life, and you should be able to pay for vet bills if required.

 

Theresa and Geoff are always on the lookout for good homes for dogs they rescue. Show your support and get in contact via their Facebook page, Adopt a Sicilian Stray.

 

 

How a dog hotel is helping find furever homes 💕

How a dog hotel is helping find furever homes 💕

This lovely story on how a dog hotel is helping to find furever homes popped into our inbox recently.

We were so inspired that we had to share. We’re embarking on pawesome travels ourselves, and one of our most visited posts here is on options available for your dog when you travel. So, we figured this dog hotel item is a good fit 🐕

A boutique dog hotel making a big difference

As this tale goes, in March 2017 Ashley Bush received a photo from a friend. The pic featured an adorable little dog called Chester who was ‘one of the team’ greeting guests in the lobby of a Florida hotel, the Aloft Tallahassee Downtown.

Chester was a rescue dog, recruited as part of the hotel’s foster dog program.

Curiosity got the better of Ashley. That’s how she ended up stopping in to meet Chester.

The Leon County Humane Society had placed the Pekingise/Chihuahua cutie at Aloft for his effervescence and abundant cuteness. They also figured he had a unique ability to thrive in the busy environment of a hotel lobby. If he got tired, they’d set him up with his own doghouse, a custom-built replica of the hotel.

Ashley said she felt an immediate connection with Chester (pictured below).

“I put him on a leash and took him around. He jumped up on the sofa next to me, very curious and sweet. Chester seemed very well-adjusted.”

 

How a dog hotel is helping find furever homes - Chester before adoption

 

Travel + dogs 🐶

Ashley and her partner, Walter, ended up adopting Chester 🙌

How many of us are likely to book a local hotel staycation, and leave with a furry friend? Cooper and I probably would!

Chester was the third dog adopted from the Aloft Tallahassee Downtown as part of their foster pet program. This excellent initiative was started by the Aloft Asheville Downtown and it’s spread to some of the group’s other hotels in America.

Each hotel partners with a top local animal rescue facility and hundreds of rescue dogs have found new homes through the collective program.

 

Chester before adoption - amazing work being done by this dog hotel

 

Where did the idea come from?

Seems serendipity was at play. Emma Ledbetter, director of food and beverage at Aloft Asheville, was flying to interview for her current job. She sat next to a man who worked at an animal rescue facility. They got to talking, and coincidentally ended up sitting next to each other on the flight back. That’s when she had an idea…

After securing her job, she brainstormed with the hotel’s general manager about having an ‘ambassador dog’ that would ultimately be adopted.

The first canine guest, Gabriel, was housed in the back office and it took just three days to find him a new home. Staff then moved their foster dogs into a contained area in the lobby, and had the custom dog house built.

“Even associates who aren’t really dog people got excited and helped make the program a success,” Emma says. “And the guests love it. It’s so fun to see businessmen come in and the first thing they do is greet the dog.”

 

Chester after adoption

 

Corporate culture and man’s best friend 💕

Ingrained in McKibbon Hospitality’s corporate culture is the opportunity for teams to undertake projects that will enhance the guest experience, lift employee enthusiasm and do good in the community.

“The foster dog project is a perfect example of how these factors converge,” says Randy Hassen, President of McKibbon Hospitality. “It checks all the boxes. And it’s a great example of innovative thinking about how to run a successful hotel. We’re not surprised that three of our other Aloft properties started their own programs.”

 

Chester is still living happily with Ashley and Walter. But, his new family haven’t forgotten where he came from. They frequently take him for visits. His hotel family still loves him too.

 

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We’ve since discovered there’s a number of hotels around the world running schemes like this! Here’s 5 you might like to read about.

If you know of any other great schemes like this, or awesome animal tales linked with travel, let us know about it in the comments.