A pack of little white, round faces on four legs will have its day in the sun as the Grand Strand Westie Club takes its annual group stroll in the park.
The club welcomes everyone with the breed, known formally as West Highland white terriers, to join its third annual “Westie Walk,” meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday at Myrtle Beach’s Valor Memorial Garden on Farrow Parkway at The Market Common.
The Westie breed is among 13, including Scottish and cairn terriers, with origins to Scotland, which made plenty of news last month with the failed Scottish independence vote, as well as another Ryder Cup won by Europe on the greens.
Living just south of Myrtle Beach with two Westies — Parker and Mac, ages 7 and 6, respectively — Dale West and her husband of 21 years, Charlie West, started the club’s annual walk about three years ago. Dale West shared how these dogs swept their hearts and how they have found a band of fellow families whose households get some spark and spunk from the pooches.
Question | How did the get-together for a community walk with Westies take foot, or paw?
Answer | My husband and I had heard about one in Charleston. Well, that’s two hours’ drive down and two hours back. He said, “Why don’t we start one here?” So we put a notice in the paper that we were having one, and we made some fliers and distributed them at some local grooming places. The first time, we got about eight Westies, and it’s kind of grown since then.
Q. | How is the time of day and time of year chosen?
A. | We do this on a Saturday morning, and we just meet and walk around The Market Common; that’s all we do. Everybody stops, and they want to take a look at, and ask about, the Westies. It’s kind of a unique breed.
We’re trying to do this in the fall or the spring because everybody’s so busy and because it still gets warm at this time of year; that’s why we make it at about 9 in the morning.
Q. | For years, Westies have been pictured on boxes of Milk Bone dog treats. How have Westies become such famous fodder for dog food commercials on TV, too?
A. | They’re also on ads and cans for Cesar dog food. Some of them have the little pink ears, I mean the color inside their ears, and some have the black ears. It must be that they consider the Westies with pink ears the photogenic ones. Maybe they just photograph better.
On the Westie Walk, you’ll see bigger ones and smaller ones. A lot of them are groomed with their skirts on them.
With our boys, we have them groomed about once a month, plus you can’t bathe them more than once a month because they have very sensitive skin.
Q. | How did Westies become the dog in your lives?
A. | We had retired and moved down here from Maryland, and after about a year, were thinking about getting a dog. We were kind of looking around but not seriously. We belonged to the Goldwing Road Riders Association and a friend of ours said, “I have to get home to my babies,” and we wondered, “What are you talking about?” He said, “I raise Westies,” and we said, “Can we come by and see them?” He had a male and a female left. We fell in love with the male and said, “Well, we’ll think about it.” So we went home, I researched Westies and I think I said to my husband, “We need to go get that guy.”
A year later, we thought we needed to get him a playmate, and through a Westie rescue group based in Columbia, we filled out the paperwork and kind of forgot about it. That’s when they told us about this other dog needing a home.
Q. | What other characteristics make Westies so popular and enduring?
A. | They were originally bred as hunting dogs; they are varmint hunters. The rescue dog we have, from a family they kept him outside on a run, and the dog was digging up their backyard. Well, that’s a trait of a Westie pup. There’s no way around it, but eventually they outgrow that.
They’re very easy to train, and both of ours have been housebroken forever. We got our rescue when he was about a year old.
They’re wonderful dogs with children. All of the children in our neighborhood know Parker and Mac, and they run up and have to pet them. The children have grown up with our dogs.
Another fact about Westies: When they’re born, their little ears flop, then when they’re about 2 months old, all of a sudden, their little ears are standing straight up. and West Highland terriers are always white.
Q. | How has word been spreading about these annual Westie Walks for more community camaraderie?
A. | It does not cost anybody anything, and our club has no dues, and I send out an email two to three months ahead of time, and I even have a couple of people who don’t have email, so we pass out fliers. What’s really funny is we had put a notice in The Sun News one time, and seeing something about Westies, a lady called. She said, “Our name is West, too. Where are all the Westies meeting?” I said, “M’am, I’m talking about a breed of dog, West Highland terriers.”