Maggie’s family couldn’t let her first birthday pass without throwing a party.
They bought two cakes and mixed up a big jug of lemonade.
Their honored guests got something even more special - doggie chews.
You see, Maggie is the family dog. She’s a tiny purebred Westie, kind of like Toto in the “Wizard of Oz.”
Her owners, the Eric and Kim Johnson family, decided to invite other Westies and their owners to celebrate the occasion.
The people guests showed up with nearly 20 Westies at the Manito Park picnic shelter Monday night.
“It’s my favorite breed,” said Patti Sykes, office manager at the South Grand Veterinary Clinic and the organizer behind the party.
Westies are smart, cuddly animals, and probably the ultimate lap dog.
“They are very loyal, and they want to please their owners,” said Sykes, known in Spokane as the “Westie Lady.” “I think they are almost smarter than humans.”
Kim Johnson, Maggie’s owner, said she’s been a cat person all her life, but her two teenage children begged to have a dog for years. Finally she gave in when she discovered the virtues of Westies.
“All this dog wants to do is love,” she said. “She’s absolutely a people dog, much more affectionate than my cats. I expect her to purr.”
Most of the dogs came from the same breeders, Larry and Pam Kowalski of Alberton, Mont.
The Kowalskis made the long drive to Spokane Monday to see how their former pups are doing and to catch up with their customers.
They brought Maggie’s sire, McKinnon, and their latest purchase, a male Westie from the Queen Anne line in England. He’s named Sir McGregor of Whitebriar.
“I should get some really good pups out of him,” Larry Kowalski said.
Westies are descended from Scotland and once were used by Spanish sailors to hunt the large rats that took up residence on their galleons, Kowalski said.
Later they were used to hunt varmints.
Despite their soft cuddly look, these dogs possess a hunting instinct and are equipped with large teeth and strong jaws.
Fortunately, they don’t chew on people, their owners said.
The Kowalskis are among the top Westie breeders in the country. A few years ago, they sold a dog to a Secret Service agent who was reportedly fetching it for George and Barbara Bush.
They aren’t cheap. The pups go for $500.
The Kowalskis breed the dogs as a hobby, not as a main source of income.
Because Westies are fairly easy to train, new owners get an animal that’s 95 percent housebroken, Pam Kowalski said.
That’s not to say they can’t chew up a little trouble.
Tom Collins and his wife, Jan, said their first Westie tore into the box spring of their bed and climbed inside to explore.
The dog, Sassy, settled down when they purchased another Westie, Maggie Mae, to be a companion.
Tom Collins said the dogs can be possessive and often get jealous of one another.
“It’s almost like having kids,” he said. “If you pet one, you have to pet the other.”
He said one will hop on his lap for attention, and the other will promptly climb onto his shoulders.
“It’s almost a ritual,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos
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