Quirks of the clan

As regular readers know, this site’s officially endorsed house dog is the West Highland White Terrier. They are a frisky, feisty and affectionate breed, quick to make friends and very intelligent overall.  Like all breeds, they have their quirks.

Westies can always be counted on to do three things: dig, chase small animals, and bark. The first two usually result in character comedy, such as a readiness to make threatening noises at squirrels even when said squirrels are sitting on a tree branch forty feet above the ground and thus safe from anything a Westie might try.

Mind you, the whole thing may look comical, but the dogs mean business. Shortly after The Strapping Laddie came to live with us at Villa Villekulla, he killed a squirrel and proudly brought it into the house for a victory lap through the kitchen, living room and dining room. Great for his self esteem, but at the time we were throwing a birthday party for Dances With Mermaids and the house was full of five-year-old girls, some of whom had only started getting over their fear of The Strapping Laddie. I think the chorus of screeches that rang through the room shaved away some of my high-end hearing.

Still, I didn’t want to hurt The Strapping Laddie’s feelings, so after I wrested the trophy  away from him, I made sure to praise him and pet him. I might even have put a few splashes of Laphroaig in his water dish. Just as encouragement, you understand.

This week, a special guest Westie named Benny is staying with us at Villa Villekulla and it’s been interesting to see how he learned to fit in with Clan Westie. For the first couple of days, Benny made frequent trips to the front door, sniffing the lintel and waiting for his owners to come back in and take him home. He appears to have gotten past that stage, though I still notice him staring at corners, as though expecting his owners to spring out into the open and call his name.

Benny’s owners trimmed his hair close along the body and hindquarters but let his hair bush out along the chest, neck and head, giving him a rather leonine profile. I’ve taken to calling him Kimba the White Lion. You may counter by saying that Westies don’t look very much like lions, but when you come right down to it, neither did Kimba. While getting adjusted to his new surroundings, Benny left a few puddles on the floor, so every now and then I refer to him as Benny and the Wets. I’m just a cornucopia of Baby Boomer references today.

The Strapping Laddie, being an easygoing fellow, is happy to join in the occasional tussle but otherwise seems indifferent to the visitor. The Dowager Empress, who has gotten grumpier with each passing year, growls the Westie version of “Get off my lawn” whenever Benny strays too close. Leave it to The Highland Fling, youngest of the clan, to take to Benny in a big way. When something happens in the backyard that demands immediate investigation, The Highland Fling and Benny are always the first through the door and down the steps.

But Benny’s character truly revealed itself a few days ago, when we had a thunderstorm of almost surrealistic intensity: strobe lights, hissing curtains of rain, sideways lightning bolts and a general sense that the seventh seal may just have been broken. Quite a show in the sky, but the show in the house was almost as noisy.

Benny, you see, is a wee brave thing, so brave that he tries to tell lightning to back off and get the YAP outta Dodge. He delivered his warnings from one end of the house to the other, barking at each window, then moving on to another part of the house to promise all kinds of trouble if the storm didn’t clean (YAP) up (YAP) its act (YAP) right (YAP) now (YAP). Even the other members of Clan Westie, usually ready and willing to raise the roof whenever a dog walks past the house, stayed stretched out on the floor, following Benny’s threat displays with mildly confused looks. Since lightning flashed and thunder rumbled an average of every fifteen seconds, we got to hear a lot from Benny.

And when the storm ended, after about an hour and a half of intense thundering and barking, Benny hit the cushion like a bag of peat and stayed there until the morning, when he rose to begin another yappy day.

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