I’m not much of a sports fan. I wasn’t glued to the tube during the Olympics this summer, except to catch a few touching moments. When the camera panned the crowd to zoom in on an athlete’s mom and dad, I’d become positively unglued. Some parents couldn’t sit still, comically moving in sync with the performance. Others were just the opposite, frozen in their seats with hands clenched. But mostly, it was their eyes that did me in. The tears they couldn’t control. They saw much more than just an Olympian.
The athletes felt something too – call it a gentle nudge inspiring them to just go for it without fear of failure. After all, in the eyes of those who love them, they’d already won the gold.
The coned crusader pictured here has won better than gold. He just doesn’t know it yet. It takes time to achieve the thrill of victory, especially when one has so narrowly escaped the tragedy of defeat.
This is Sammy’s success story relayed by the family he met for the first time last week at Pearson airport. The same family, in fact, that inspired a West Highland White Terrier mix named Curly to make the flight from Iqaluit to their waiting arms one year ago! Break out the bagpipes for the multi-parented rescue family of Westies in Need (WiN), the largest Westie rescue in all of Canada!
You may recall my article about poor Curly and how she was saved by WiN before the Iqaluit shelter that first came to her rescue sadly closed for good. She’s all but forgotten her chilling experience in the North. Miss Curly-Q now resides in Ontario with a family that carries a (figurative) torch for her everyday.
While Curly snow-balled her way from the North, this Westie bravely soared from the East – the Far East to be exact.
Guessed at roughly seven years old, Sammy was rescued off the streets of Taiwan. It might have been a good thing if not for the fact he was headed to a local shelter with a staggering capacity of 900 lost and abandoned pets. Even so, it may not have been completely hopeless for him to find a new family except that Sammy was a very sick little dog.
Westies are prone to skin conditions, often thyroid-related. Fortunately, they can be resolved with conventional treatment, a breed-specific diet and homeopathic supplements. Sammy, however, benefited from none of these. After languishing untreated in the Taiwan shelter for six months, his condition had become near critical. But Taiwan is not without its own animal heroes. The Taichung Universal Animal Protection Association discovered Sammy and immediately swung into action. With a growing number of unwanted pets in Taiwan, they looked to the west for his salvation.
Based in Ontario, WiN has been making winners out of nearly defeated Westies and Westie mixes since its inception close to four years ago. Blame it on good old Scottish stubbornness, but this volunteer-based rescue organization refuses to set geographical boundaries when it comes to saving a life. They’ve never turned their backs on a woeful Westie yet, near or far, and that’s because they don’t have to! WiN always has a waiting list of wonderful adopters for this beloved breed. It’s a win-win situation!
But it’ll take time before Sammy reaches the finish line. Rest assured he’s going to make it. Something that happened soon after his arrival gave it away.
It was a long flight from Taiwan to Toronto for Sammy and seven other dogs sprung from the shelter. The scene in Arrivals that day was beyond description. Representatives from several dog rescue groups anxiously waited together to forever change the lives of a lucky few. But by the time the doors swung open, everyone in that room was anticipating the moment and everyone was crying tears of joy.
WiN foster parent, Natalie, was among them. Her tears were less joyful. Although all eight dogs had clearly endured an overwhelming journey, Sammy was in the worst shape due to his failing health. His skin was inflamed with painful lesions from nose to tail, his eyes were practically crusted shut, and his infected ears had taken on the cauliflower look of a long-suffering boxer. The gentlest touch made him flinch. So instead, Natalie comforted him with softly spoken words. At that moment, ever so slightly, he wagged his tail. It may have been a jet-lag wag but it was still a wag.
The next day, Sammy had a veterinary appointment – the first step to his recovery. At the end of the month, he’ll be meeting with a canine dermatologist at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph. In the meantime, Sammy is catching up on his doggy naps in between medicated baths. He braves bath-time like an Olympic champion in training, but most athletes probably don’t plant grateful kisses on their coach’s nose when they get close enough.
Sammy is the very reason why WiN’s largest fundraising event of the year matters so much. And that event just happens to be only days away! Last September, 292 Westies joined together for the annual wag-a-licious Westie Walk in Mississauga Valley Park and that’s not counting all their two- and four-legged friends. You don’t have to be a Westie or live with one to join in the fun. You don’t even have to be Scottish but it sure helps if you like bagpipes!
On Sunday, Sept. 9, a proud piper will kick off the day with a special Westie blessing. The WiN team will surely be thinking of Sammy. He’ll be there in spirit, but this strong-willed Scotsman isn’t missing next year’s Walk for the world! If that optimistic tail is any indication, he’ll be signing up for everything – Weiner Dunkin’ Contest, Musical Hoops and of course, the Terrier Races! And you bet your bagpipe-loving heart he’ll be leading the Parade of Rescues for the closing ceremonies with his future family gently nudging him to victory every pawstep of the way!
Medal or no medal, Sammy is about to win big.
Sammy is an approximately 7 year old male West Highland White Terrier with an Oriental twist, wagging his way back to recovery thanks to Westies in Need, www.WestiesinNeed.ca, Corrie@WestiesinNeed.ca, 905-936-6691 (Corrie). Looking for something better than flowers to give our future gold medalist? Walk and play for Sammy at this year’s Toronto WESTIE WALK on Sunday, September 9 in Mississauga Valley Park starting at 11 a.m.!