Benji – A tiny dog with a massive heart
In July 2020, I decided to look for a small dog to be both my therapy dog (I am a Psychologist), and my companion that I could train to have fun in the sport of agility. When I researched small dogs that were both agile and willing to please, a few breeds stood out. However, the Biewer Terrier a la Pom Pon really stood out for me. I was initially captivated by their cute appearance in photographs. But then their description in the breed standard as set out by the American Kennel Club told me that this little dog was everything I was looking for: “The Biewer Terrier has a light-hearted, whimsical, childlike attitude. Although mischievous at times, they are obedient and make a loyal companion… expression is more human than that of a dog, being bright and intelligent….. devoted to their human family”. Once I read this, I was already in love! And thus, my search began.
Despite numerous leads, it wasn’t easy to find a genuine Biewer Terrier. Unfortunately, in South Africa many Yorkshire Terrier breeders are interbreeding their dogs with Biewer Terriers. Often, when I called a potential breeder, I would be told that Biewers and Yorkies are actually the same breed, just with different colouring! Each time I heard this story I knew that this was not an ethical Biewer Terrier breeder, and one to be avoided. However, with perseverance, I found Correne Hitge, the owner of “A Heart’s Whisper” . What joy it was when she informed me that she had one male pup available! A Heart’s Whisper Apollo (later to be called Benji) was born on 17 July 2020 to mommy Toshka and daddy Rascal. He was only two weeks old at the time that I first contacted Correne, so I had a good while to wait and prepare for my little arrival. However, time flew, with lots of updates, photographs and videos from Correne, and finally the big day, 20 September 2020, was here. This was the day I would meet my new baby Apollo Benji Anderson!
From the day I collected him, Benji has been a special boy. He handled the 8-hour car trip from Virginia in the Orange Free State to Gillitts in Kwa-Zulu Natal like an absolute pro! As soon as we arrived home he played with his new teddy like a vicious little Rottweiler, totally relaxed in his new environment. He has captured the hearts of everyone he has met so far in his little life. He has already exceeded every expectation I have ever had. He is unbelievably bright and wherever we go people comment on how gorgeous he is and how super-smart he is.
Benji is already performing a sterling job as a therapy dog in my therapy room, bringing smiles and giggles to people who are struggling emotionally. He is extremely intuitive and knows exactly what level and type of interaction a client needs. I often get comments such as: “He makes me so happy” and “How can I stay sad when I have Benji here”. My clients often joke that they come to see Benji, not me!! One of my clients even set up a photograph of Benji in the therapy room of a hospital to which she was admitted, so that she could feel at home there with his little face to keep her company.
Benji started puppy school as soon as his second set of vaccinations had taken effect, and he has been regularly attending obedience training with Grant Smith, owner of The Smart Dog K9 training centre and Smart Service Dog, ever since. He also completed an “Agile puppy” course as a young pup, where he was introduced to some of the agility equipment and I learned how to teach him some important foundational skills for agility, such as hind leg awareness. From the beginning he started learning a new dog sport in South Africa called Canine Hoopers, which consists of an obstacle course of hoops (to go through) and barrels (to go around). He absolutely LOVES Hoopers, competing in his first show (NFC – not for competition – due to his age) at 4 months. He absolutely wowed the audience in that one!! Hoopers is kind to dog’s bodies (and is therefore suitable for all ages) because it does not involve jumps and the courses are designed to flow smoothly. More recently he began attending beginner agility classes, but he cannot compete in agility until he is 18 months old, when his bones and joints are fully developed.
Now 15 months old, and weighing in at 2.7kg, Benji has already achieved so much:
- He is already a phenomenal Therapy Dog.
- He qualified in Level 2 of Canine Hoopers in a super-fast time, only two seconds behind the large-breed dogs, and therefore winning the small dog category in July 2021.
- He achieved his Canine Good Citizen Bronze qualification (one of the foundational certifications for therapy and service dogs) in August 2021 at the age of 1 year.
- In October 2021 he completed the “TDS Scent Seeker” course, where he successfully used his nose to conduct a car search, a body search and other general searches, to find hidden items.
- We are planning to compete in CGC Silver, Elementary Beginners obedience and Rally obedience in November 2021 and we are working hard towards those goals.
Benji is a wonderful advertisement for the Biewer Terrier breed. He is loving, enthusiastic and full of energy, performing everything I have taught him with enviable speed and precision. He has the heart of a lion and will confidently tackle any task. He loves treats and toys, so both are good motivators when I am training him. Toys, however, sometimes make him over-excited, especially in Hoopers, resulting in a barking dog spinning circles around his much-slower mother!! It is as if he is saying “C’mon mom! Where to next? Hurry up!! Why are you so slow?” He honestly puts most bigger dogs to shame in everything he does. He is my baby, my little angel and my ever-faithful shadow. Watch this space people………
By Helen Anderson (owner of Benji)
28 October 2021