How can one Saluki connnect people across the globe?
I'm Margarat, and that's my dog Johnny up there in the photo. He's a Saluki, a Middle Eastern hunting breed with a 6,000-year history of chasing down dinner for their owners that's evident in his physique.
Johnny himself is from Israel, and in coming to the U.S. he is part of a worldwide effort to preserve the diverse genetics of desert-bred, "country of origin" Salukis. Because of Johnny I've become acquainted through social media with Saluki owners from across the Middle East who share photos and videos of the dogs they love.
Why A Saluki (from Israel!)?
My love for the breed started 50 years ago when a neighbor's Saluki got out and showed up at our front door. As I stood face-to-face with her my feelings were something like "who is this magical being?"
My parents refused to get me a Saluki of my own (I was only 8 years old at the time), but my mother did agree to take me to dog shows where I referred to my abridged pocket edition of breed standards as I moved from ring to ring to learn more about the breeds I was reading up on. It was the beginning of my journey with dogs that took me beyond just having a household pet to learning about the wide, wide world of dogs - the breeds, their behavior, and their care.
My very first job as a teenager was working summers at a kennel that had Salukis, Borzoi, Scottish Deerhounds, and few other "sighthound" breeds. It created a dream in me that I would sometimes tell others of having an "estate" with fences so I could have as many Salukis as I wanted.
Fast forward to 2019, after many years of other dog jobs (including my own business), and having a had succession of dogs of my own. I was browsing through social media and started seeking out Saluki posts... JUST TO LOOK I told myself. I discovered a breeder in Israel who would post videos of her large group of dogs running effortlessly for miles and I couldn't stop watching. I also learned that she collaborated with Arab breeders, working to preserve local indigenous bloodlines of Salukis and to bring dogs from those bloodlines into the Israeli Kennel Club so that their pedigrees could be officially recorded.
That's when I realized that my childhood dream was within reach. While I wouldn't call my home an estate, it was all mine and I could finally have a Saluki if I wanted to.
But I paused to consider how, after years of adopting mixed-breed dogs from shelters, could I justify buying a purebred dog? It couldn't just be because I wanted one, I wanted to do something beneficial for the breed too. The answer was that by importing a desert-bred Saluki I could play a small part in improving the genetics in the U.S. of this ancient breed. Genetic diversity is key to reducing inherited health problems in dogs, and believe it or not, this ancient breed has been developing some due to closed breeding pools in the U.S. & Europe. My admiration for Salukis guided my decision.
Everything fell into place... it just so happened that this breeder in Israel had a male puppy available that she was willing to have go overseas, and when I wrote to her and shared my personal story she agreed. It wasn't easy due to COVID travel restrictions, but Johnny eventually made his way to California and was greeted happily by me and my other dog, becoming an integral part of my life and fulfilling my childhood dream
Dogs Bring Us Together
Since then I've stayed in touch with his breeder in Israel and met others in person from the region. The dog nerd in me loves to see photos and videos from not just Israel but also Iran, Syria, UAE, and other parts of the Middle East, as well as seeing other desert-bred dogs that now live abroad.
Seeing the diverse range of Salukis that are appreciated across a diverse range of countries is a true testament to the way that dogs can bring us together.
Our love for our dogs demonstrates our compassion and humanity. That even in times of difficulty we love and care for them as best we can. And the dogs, of course, demonstrate to us the simple but essential grace of acceptance.