The Birth of the West Highland White Terrier Club

Below is an article published in the New Zealand Kennel Gazette in March 1990, written by the late Pat Warren who with other enthusiastic Westie owners was instrumental in establishing the Club.

The Birth of the West Highland White Terrier Club

By Pat Warren

My first encounter with a Westie was when visiting England in the late 1970’s with my 18 month old son and meeting my mother’s five year old dog. What he bore with great fortitude and good temper from my son made me want a dog just like him. On my return to Auckland I looked around for a pup – easier said that done! I even contemplated bringing one in from England but no one wanted to send their pups so far away.

Finding a breeder in New Zealand took some time as there was none advertised and New Zealand Kennel Club were unfamiliar words with my non-doggy friends.

Some eighteen mnths later I managed to trace a breeder, Jean Welson, who incidentally, was away when I called. Fortunately for me she had gone to stay with her daughter who lived a few doors away from my sister-in-law who called me to say she had seen a couple of Westie pups playing. I rushed to the address to find one bitch was available and though I hadn’t wanted a bitch, snapped her up. (The snowball had started)

Although I had only wanted her for a pet, Jean encouraged me to join her at the shows, giving me tips on ring proceedure, grooming and trimming. I enjoyed the days out with her and will never forget when my bitch won her first Challenge at Cambridge (The snowball got bigger)

When my bitch was of breeding age, Jean suggested I help foster the breed and have a litter, and in fact whelped her for me at the time. So I slowly got more involved (The snowball gathered momentum)

Although Jean was a great help, lack of information on all aspects of the breed was very frustrating, so I joined the Terrier Club to learn more. I was still very much a novice when I was elected on the Committee. Helping to send out their “Terrier Tales”, I noticed there were about thirty Westie members. I wrote to them to see if they would be interested in keeping in touch and exchanging items of interest (the snowball fot even larger)

Just about everyone wrote back, so every month with the backing of my husband Phillip, I sent out letters with any information I could glean together, local and overseas. Subscribers paying the cost of postage only.

After the newsletter had been going for a couple of years, a few who lived fairly close to each other, decided we would organise a picnic day. It was a great success and people came from as far away as Hamilton and New Plymouth. It was then the seeds were sown that we needed a proper Club.

The newsletter about that time was going to approximately 60 – 80 Westie owners and with the increased cost of paper and copying was getting beyond me. (The snowball had got out of control)

I approached several Westie owners who were subscribers to advise them of the situation and whether they thought we should try for a affiliated Club as the organised days had been well supported. It was decided to call a public meeting to gauge how much interest would be shown. The response was overwhelming and a Steering Committee namely Mrs L. Allen, Mrs A Scott, Mrs P. Buchanan, Mrs P Warren, Mrs L Tennet, Mrs J. Fleming, Mrs S Blackburn, was formed to do the groundwork. Mrs Judy Fleming acting as Secretary/Treasurer and the others to do fund raising.

Everyone was very helpful in the formation of the Club from subscribers who got behind fund raising activities to the other Dog Clubs with words of encouragement and advice.

Although only a fledgling Club we are very sound financially and our membership continues to grow. We put prospective buyers in touch with breeders who currently have pups or wait-list them. Follow up new owners to see they are coping.

We run a rescue service for lost dogs, re-house loved pets when their owners are unable to keep them for various reasons. Give grooming and coat care advice and try to help owners with any problems they may have in regard to their dog.

Caring is the key word for the Specialist Club and I believe I have been well rewarded for the effort put in, by the happiness the club has fostered and friendliness of members in their eagerness to help each other.