On New Year's Day, 2001, our family was blessed by the addition of a purebred Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier. Her registered AKC name is "Denalai's Miss Millennium", but we know her as Millie.
Millie is an important part of our family, and we're proud of her. Because of that, I wanted to share some of my stories and pictures. I'm sure the vast majority of this will only be interesting to other and/or potential Wheaten Terrier owners, but that's what pictures of the grandkids are all about!
I just started this page on Sept 23; I have a lot more pictures to add. Click here to meet Abby, our toy poodle.
Millie cuddling with Mom
Millie was born in Milwaukie, Oregon, in October, 2000, as one of a litter of 8 puppies. We had been researching dogs for a year before we got her. We chose a Wheaten Terrier because we have a tendency towards allergies and asthma in our family. The Wheaten Terrier was third on a list of "dogs for allergy sufferers" we found on the Internet (following Bichon Frises and Poodles). They were correct; we have encountered no increase in our allergic episodes at all.
We met Millie's mother at Washington's Brush Prairie Dog shows in 2001, and immediately fell in love with her. The breeder interviewed us as much or more than we interviewed her, which is a Good Thing on both sides. We had been on a waiting list for four months before the litter was born. It was worth the wait.
Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers undergo a fascinating set of color changes throughout their childhood. When we brought Millie home, she was a little ball of brownish-red fluff with a black muzzle. She looked pretty much exactly like the rest of her litter; I would have had a hard time placing Millie in a line-up of her brothers and sisters.
This dark brownish coloring remained unchanged for about the first 9 months of her life. At that point, you could start to see much lighter colors hair growing out from underneath. By the time she was a year old, she was almost pure white. Then, at about 18 months, her coat began to change again, as she started to grow her hard outer coat. This is much stiffer hair than the soft white, and it is a light brown color. The mix of the light brown outer coat with the soft white undercoat gives them the wheat color in the breed name.
It is almost a shame that this outer coat had to come in, because that soft white undercoat is snuggly soft.
Millie is daddy's dog. There is no event in her day so exciting as the moment when daddy comes home from work. She spins and twirls, and generally makes a huge fuss until she gets the chance to wash my face.
How can you resist that face?
We used crate-training with Millie when she was a puppy. I was rather dubious of this technique. Locking her into such a small area seemed almost cruel. However, the books kept saying sensible things about dogs having a "den instinct", so we stuck with it, and I have to say that I was wrong. It was good for her, and it was good for us. The books said she would not soil her bed, and with a few exceptions, they were absolutely right. Even now, at almost two years of age, where she is essentially the same length as the crate, she still curls up in her crate at bed time (although she hops up on the bed after the lights go out). It is her "safe spot"; she will head there during the day if she gets nervous, or if playing gets too rough.
And because she is so comfortable in her crate, it make even long travel much easier. We put the crate on the back seat of our van, and when she has had enough of the family, she hops into the crate and rides happily. I strongly recommend crate training for puppies.
Her favorite position in her crate is on her back, with all four legs up in the air. This picture was taken at bedtime. You can see her favorite toy in the back of the crate; a fluffy stuffed cow with lots of extra legs.
Millie in her crate, 24 months -- click for big image
Millie was a slow to be housebroken. She wasn't making huge messes, of course, but I'd have to say she was a year old before we could really say with confidence that she was housebroken. It is entirely possible this was related to the dietary issues I will relate later.
Millie is insatiably curious. She must know what is going on at all times. The first day she jumped up on the "forbidden" living room couch and noticed there was a big new world outside those windows, it became her mission in life to monitor that world. Millie now spends many hours each day posed on the couch, watching out the window, and occasionally reporting on unusual goings-on. Of course, Millie's definition of "unusual goings-on" is quite a bit different from OUR definitions.
Millie watching out the front window
We made a mistake during Millie's first year in not socializing her sufficiently with other dogs. As a result of this, she tends to be jumpy and fearful around other dogs, even if they are much smaller than her. This has made for some hilarious scenarios. We introduced her to our brother's 8-week-old black lab puppy about a month ago. The puppy played like all puppies do: it jumped and frolicked and pounced. Millie rapidly backed away. The puppy decided this was a great game, and an amusing push/pull chase ensued before we separated them. By the end of the day, the two were getting along much better, but this is a situation we could have prevented.
Millie has a very sensitive stomach. We were advised by her breeder to use a good quality chicken-based food with no more than 24% crude protein. We followed that advice religiously, but Millie never attacked her food the way most other dogs do, and at one year she was quite a bit smaller than we expected her to be. She was throwing up her meals once or twice a week, and her ribs could be plainly felt. Finally, I brought home some other kinds of food, and we discovered that Millie is apparently allergic to chicken. I'm told this is unusual, but not unheard-of. We have now switched her to Nutro Lamb Meal & Brown Rice, and she is thriving. You can see from the pictures above that her ribs are comfortably well-padded, and she no longer throws up after meals. The kids found some chicken-based snacks in the pantry a couple of weeks after we switched to lamb, and even those snacks caused her distress.
This was an interesting reinforcement of the object lesson: "all dogs are different".
Millie gets bored with her food. Plain, dry food by itself is not sufficiently interesting. We found some soft lamb and brown rice stuff in a container that looks like a sausage. To the human nose, it has a rather strong scent, but Millie really likes it. With a tablespoon or so of that stuff crumbled in it, she finishes the dry food almost every time. There are two brands, and Millie likes both: Pet Botanics Lamb Meal & Brown Rice, and Natural Balance Lamb. We usually use the Pet Botanics, because that's what Petco carries.
Millie loves the white yogurt drops. Every time she comes in from doing her business outside, she gets a yogurt drop. It didn't take long for her to make the connection, although she did try to come up with a shortcut. After a week or so of using the yogurt drops, she would ask to go outside, but as soon as we opened the door, she would trot out, make a circle, trot right back in, and give us a picture-perfect "sit" waiting for her treat. It took a bit more training to get her to associate the yogurts with bathroom time.
Millie also likes the rawhide Dent-a-bones, although other kinds of rawhide do not interest her. She chews and unwraps the Dent-a-bones until they are a long, wet, sticky, slimy, disgusting mess. My wife is convinced that Millie leaves these slimy things directly in her path just so she can step on them. At nighttime, we often play a game where Millie brings a half-chewed Dent-a-bone onto the bed, my wife tosses it down on the floor, Millie brings it back, and so on.
Our breeder kept telling us that Wheatens are "indoor dogs". Well, somebody forgot to tell Millie. Although she spends most of her time in the house, she is just as happy outside romping in the grass and dirt and mud. Oregon's seemingly omnipresent rain is not an impediment to Millie's enjoyment of the great outdoors. Terriers were bred to chase rodents down rodent holes, and Millie has derived enjoyment out of pushing her snout down a promising-looking gopher hole on more than one occasion.
On the other hand, Millie is not a swimmer. The Wheaten web sites say that some Wheatens love the water, and some don't. We've taken her to the ocean and to large lakes a couple of times. She jumps and frolics through the shallows, but she isn't much interested in getting in any deeper than an inch or two. She very much enjoys the sand at the beach, however.
That lack of interest in water even includes her bath. Although she does not mind getting soaped, getting scrubbed, or even getting blow-dried and trimmed, she just hates the sound of running water. Our first bath experiences were contests of wills that I do not wish to repeat. We've learned that if I draw three or four inches of water in the tub without her being present, we can put her in the water and get her completely soaped up without much complaint. If I could find a way to rinse her without running more water, I'd do it.
When we took her to get her first professional grooming, they found exactly the same thing. They said as long as we gave her a bath before I came, Millie was welcome to come back, but they were not interested in doing the bath thing again.
We keep Millie's hair trimmed relatively short. I've heard this referred to as a "teddy bear cut". Millie is a family member, not a show dog. She gets dirty. That means the big, long foofy cut is just not practical. In addition, I like to see a dog's eyes. I don't like long bangs, and the only way to get that Wheaten face is to have long bangs.
Millie has one habit I have not seen in other dogs we have kept: she often lays down with her back legs spread out behind her, flat on the floor. We call this her "frog dog" stance. I mention it here only because it is awfully cute. We've heard some other Wheaten owners say their dogs do the same thing.
We have two children: Amanda is 14, and Jonny is a rambunctious 10. Millie treats the two children very differently, mostly because the two children treat Millie differently.
Jonny is a good buddy. The two of them play well together and chase each other. Amanda, on the other hand, is a litter-mate. She is someone to be wrestled and growled at and mouthed.
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