Above Photo of a Saluki in the ring by Joe McGinnis
This is not a new story; all the dogs in it have since passed on. But it’s my most requested tale, from the time it first appeared in a breed chat group entitled: Free Salukis to Good Home. So for your entertainment…
This morning we were walking the dogs when I heard barking that seemed to be coming from the far side of the fence. That area sometimes gets a tree over it and sure enough, a limb was on the fence and the barking was coming from the woods on the far side. Dammit. I crawled over and started calling, following the barking and eventually came upon Jeepers. Jeepers, being my good dog, came almost right away and I used one of the three leashes I had with me to hook him up and start leading him back. Lesson #1: Three leashes for 13 dogs?
Problem was, I sort of thought I’d heard two different dogs barking, so I called to my mom to find out if anybody else was missing. Before she could answer, I spotted Kitty, also outside of the fence. Mystery solved. Crisis over. Probably just a bunny. Kitty was on the other side of a downed tree so I just casually called her. Lesson #2: Always jump at the chance to grab a loose dog when you have it.
Suddenly, more barking—it was Wolfman barking in the distance with his ‘I GOT SOMETHING BIG AND I’M GONNA NEED BACKUP!’ bark. DAMMIT! I lunged for Kitty but she was already crashing off through the underbrush to help Wolfman. Something big means something that fights back: raccoon, bad snake, bobcat, wild hog, mama deer… I started toward the barking, pushing through kudzu up to my thighs with legs heavy as dream legs, dragging Jeepers behind like an anchor under a kudzu sea. I lost one shoe. Kept going. Jeepers was doing his best to help his buddies just by slowing me down, an evil plot, so I finally decided to let go his leash and plow on without him while he stayed behind. Lesson #3: A dog in hand is worth two in the bush.
Finally I clawed my way out of the kudzu, through some thickets, scratched, bleeding and one shoed, to stop and stare at Wolfman, Kitty and Beanie (where did he come from?) attacking a giant feral goat (where did HE come from?). A GIANT feral goat! Kitty and Beanie each had one of Goatzilla’s hamstrings and as fast as he could kick them off they were coming back for more. Wolf had the goat’s head and neck—mostly head, between the horns (this seemed a bad choice, but I’m no goat killing expert). The goat butted him and sent him flying through the air, over and over and as soon as he skidded to a stop he was back on his feet and on the goat again. I snatched up a stick, since I knew hands are invisible to Salukis in hunting mode and began yelling and pulling and swatting and doing what I could to get them off, but the dogs were oblivious even though I was using all my strength and voice. Finally… I was able to hold Kitty and Beanie off enough to turn to Wolf, who didn’t care what I did. Did I mention Wolfman was a serial killer when it came to, well, pretty much anything? Lesson #4: Be careful what you name a dog.
But eventually I had them all in a stand-off, Goatzilla and I facing the three of them as I gasped for breath and feebly brandished my stick. The goat stood firm, even allowing me to hold him by one horn. Time for some quiet talk, goat whisperer stuff and to decide who would get the last two leashes. The goat was closest—keeping him calm was the key to keeping them off—but would a 200-pound feral goat walk on a leash? Would a leash even hold him? Should I… Lesson #5: Put the leashes on somebody, anybody, DON’T JUST STAND THERE!
Because that was when I heard a loud crashing and out from the woods hurtled another two goats with three more Salukis—Sissy, Stinky and Jeepers (with his leash flying behind) right on their tails. Goatzilla gut-butted me and threw me to the ground and took off to flee with his friends and Wolf, Kitty and Beanie took chase. DAMMIT! Now I had three crazed goats and six blood thirsty Salukis running amuck in the woods and on the other side of the fence, still in our yard, but barely, was my mom trying to contain seven more Salukis that were going berserk. I was still so out of breath from breaking through kudzu I kept falling as I tried to chase them.
I began to realize just how bad a situation this was—if the goats ran out of the woods and across the field, the dogs would follow. The dogs would never quit and I could never keep up. Eventually they would cross a 55 MPH highway. Unless the goats stopped. I decided if they got another goat down, I would have to let them kill it so I could catch as many dogs as possible while they were diverted. I’m not a hunter at heart, so I was horrified at the thought, but even more so at the idea of my six Salukis running across the highway.
Fortunately, the goats avoided the open field, a smart move on their part. They kept running in circles, keeping to the wooded area. I could hear them crashing through the woods, catch an occasional glimpse of a goat or dog part, but I couldn’t catch up or even intersect them. I saw Wolf hanging from Goatzilla at one point but Goatzilla was still running strong and Wolf couldn’t stop him alone and now they were all split up chasing their individual favorite goat. I realized the key to the situation was Wolfman, who lived for the hunt—catch him and the others may not be so keen on continuing without their “headman.” One of the goats broke away from the others, with Wolf on his tail. My mom had now climbed over the fence to help. I tried to yell for her to tackle Wolf when he raced by her, but I was too winded to get the words out and just managed to squeak “Catch… him!” Lesson #6: Be explicit, even when you can’t breathe.
And so my 70-year-old mom threw herself on one of the other giant feral goats (she told me later she thought that’s what I meant by “him”) and somehow, she says, this goat seemed to know she was trying to help and he stopped and backed into a fork between two trees next to the fence. Problem was, this allowed the seven dogs inside the fence to reach through and try to bite him—not to mention Wolfman saw his chance now that his quarry was cornered. I saw my chance too. I lurched and stumbled, gasping, to them—and was able to tackle Wolf! I got the leash on him, but now what? There were still two running goats and five chasing Salukis. I tied Wolf to a tree where he started going crazy. Bad decision, but for once, one that didn’t bite me in the butt.
One by one I was able to catch the other dogs as they came to see the “caught” goat—or in some cases as they barreled past still chasing or hanging on the others. One by one each dog was passed through the other property’s barbed wire fence and then over our field fence—while we tried to keep the cornered goat still and while making sure the excited/jealous dogs inside didn’t jump them. Then we had to try to use our too few leashes to secure them so they didn’t run back around to the downed fence area. Finally we had everyone but Wolf and we got him through under great protest. I lost my other shoe somewhere. I am bloody, bruised all over and I can’t stop coughing from being so out of breath.
Two days later I went in for my annual physical. I was covered in bruises from goats and dogs. The nurse nodded politely as I explained and handed me a brochure for battered women.
Does this all have a point? Sort of. I should mention that almost every dog in this story was a Champion “show dog”; Sissy was a BIS winner and #1 ranked Saluki; and Wolf was a multiple group and SBIS winner. Around this time a Saluki friend suggested I incorporate some Country of Origin dogs (hunting Salukis from the Middle East) into my lines “to increase prey drive.” Yeah, I really need that. I don’t foresee the time when I will need to rely on my dogs for goat meat, although they have brought down deer and other assorted wildlife I have no desire to butcher and eat, but if the apocalypse comes I am sure I’ll be grateful. I guess. Meanwhile, it’s times like these that I question the wisdom of breeding for some of our breeds’ less controllable instincts! In our modern world the Saluki’s tendency to chase at all costs has too often cost them their lives, whether from being lost, being hit by a car, being killed by the quarry—or given away by the owner who has had one bruise too many! (Remind me to tell you the deer stories some time…)