Article first appeared on Baraka Book n°18 annual 2003
Desert Rose Salukis
When and why did you get involved in Salukis?
I grew up with dogs. My father raised Setters and I had several breeds as pets but I never knew about show dogs until I got Salukis. I saw this beautiful hound at the vets who completely snubbed me and I felt in love. It took me six months to find one of my own and that was a total disaster. I had her shipped sight unseen and Lulu was a temperamental basket case. We bought another Saluki bitch hoping that she would help and they disliked each other intensely. Nevertheless we were hopelessly hooked on the breed. Then we went to the first Saluki National in Kentucky and started learning a little bit.
How do you assess the main bloodlines you have been using to build your lines on?
We've used Bel S'mbran primarily through, Bel S'mbran Promise of Atallah (Twyx) and Sundown and Mata Salamata both coming through Ch. Sahava el Arish. Of course there's overlap and many other influences in these lines but, to simplify, when I think of Twyx the overwhelming impression is of great beauty and wonderful heads that are still recognizable in his descendants. Mata Salamata has many strengths but primarily the lovely, flowing movement comes to mind. When I come to Sundown, it's the legendary Sundown Darjalan (Biscuit) and how he could produce so many great Salukis. His get won the SCOA National Specialty five times and in 2003 his great-daughter was BOB. Names such as Bashir, Treasure and Krystal are known the world over and there are many others. We recendy bred to Ch. Bagdad Creme de la Creme who has Twyx on both sides of his pedigrec with a lot of Jen Araby and some english lines thrown in. I remember many of the early dogs in his pedigree and they were beautiful, smooth Salukis and wonderful movers. I think this will be a breeding that we're very happy with.
How much insight, objective evaluation and genetics study effect your breeding programs?
I have only bred to well-established lines that I have studied and the breeders have been well known. I also think this is one of the great strengths of the SCOA National Specialty. I've attended every one that's been in Kentucky and get to see the dogs from puppyhood to old age. I see the lines that age well and those that don 't. I see the dogs that are robust and those that are spindly.
And also I get a good idea of health problem: but the new blood that I bring in really isn't too new. If I were to go out to the unknown dog, l'd certainly wait and see a few other litters develop first.
Ch. Desert Rose Lion King
Could a very tight inbreeding reveal one's own bloodline weakness?
We've all seen a tight inbreeding work very well and some that were disasterous. We haven't considered an inbreeding because we breed so infrequendly that every litter counts. I think you have to be willing to cull and that's not an option for us. I think this is more of a question for a big kennel that breeds many litters.
How have you built your bloodlines up?
We started with a Pharout bitch from Alice Donaldson who was a Twyx (Bel S'mbran) granddaughter and bred her to Ch Clarinda Sunna Sarea Bashir. Then we took a Batal bitch who was also a Twyx granddaughter to Ch. Mata Salamata Jadaan Khan in Germany. This produced my all-time favorite male Ch. Desert Rose Al Qahirah Z'bee. He's the sire of our SBIS Ch Desert Rose Marrakesh who combines these two lines. Recently we bred her to Ch Baghdad Creme de la Creme in Australia and are thrilled with our three youngsters.
Which are the dogs that have most influenced your breeding?
Our own bitches have been most important. Our first bitch to be bred was Ch Pharout Eve's Lotus Elan. Her mother was a top producer bred to a Twyx son. Lotus was also a top producer and ASA Brood Bitch of the year based on a single litter. Our CousCous (Ch Desert Rose Marrakesh) is her granddaughter. Her other grandmother is our Ch Batal Capriole Desert Rose. The males that have most influenced our breeding are Ch Bel S'mbran Promise or Atallah and Ch Sundown Darjalan. They're everywhere in our pedigrees.
Have you noticed any changes in the breed in the latest years? are there any typical saluki traits that we are losing?
Well. I must say I think the breed has improved. I see sounder dogs, better fronts, necks and shoulders and definitely better temperments. The fact that we now can breed to a dog anywhere in the world has helped immeasurably. When I first started breeding we had east coast and west coast dogs in the United States.
Now we can look for the best quality no matter where it is but I do see concerns too. Some of our judges are rewarding the sickle-hocked dogs that fly around the ring like a German Shepherds and others like the prow front that looks like a Dachshund but there are many correct Salukis and I hope it stays that way.
Which are, in your opinion, the most tolerable and, on the contrari, the most unacceptable faults in the breed?
I mentioned a few faults in the last question but, in addition to those, I am a topline nut. I want to see the arch over the loin! We're breeding too many flat backs or worse, in this country. I also like light movement. A pounding Saluki is not much of a Saluki in my book. Then strong feet. A foot should be well-padded with long well-arched toes. My other bugaboo is a tubular dog. A Saluki should be instantly recognizable as a silhouette with an arch over the loin, a deep brisket and a good tuck. This is critical. What faults I can tolerate is more difficult. I dearly love a high earset but wouldn't penalize a dog too strongly for a lower one, and I really don't mind a gay tail. Of course I don’t want it curled completely over the back but l'm much more forgiving of a happy tail than most.
What points should a female have to be used as a brood bitch?
A brood bitch should be of excellent quality. She must be sound in temperament, conformation and in tip-top health. I would also be concerned with her pedigree and want to see as many of her family as possible particularily her littermates and parents.
What are your projects as a breeder in the future?
We breed very infrequently - usually every three, four years - so we really don't have any serious plans at the moment. We have a beautiful bitch, Desert Rose Queen of Sheba, who is only a year a half old. We've only shown her a few times because we're showing her brother now and we plan to keep her in the classes for the National Specialty. She’ll probably have the last Desert Rose litter because we’re getting too old to be responsible for many more dogs. Enough people are using our lines that we can just get a puppy from one of those breedings in the future. But Sheba is too young to breed now so we have lots of time to decide where we want to go with that.
How do you train and condition your puppies for the show ring?
For the first six months or so we take them a lot of places for socialization. Our puppies went on many trips, even to a Saluki Specialty where they sat on strange laps and received a lot of attention. We also take them to puppy class where we play games and meet other puppies. I then take them, once or twice, to a groomer friend of mine. They obviously don't need this but it's quite an experience for them with all the yapping, blowers and machines. We play in the yard with a pole lure that they chase and then just let them run wild on our fenced-in acre. Throw in a trip or two in the motor home and I figure they're ready for anything so we start weekly handling classes. This last litter went to the National at one year old. It was Sheba's first real show and she was 1st in the Futurity in the 12-18 class and 2nd in her sweeps class. She has since gone on to win Best of Winners and Award of Merit at the Huron ValIey Specialty. We're not showing her now because we've got her brother out. He wasn't able to show at the National because he injured his leg and had to be hand-walked all summer. He went to his first shows at 15 months and finished in 6 straight shows with 3 Best of Breeds over specials (champions) so our program seems to be working.
How do you pick a show prospect?
I don't even think about it until they're 8-10 weeks old when I can really assess their movement and attitude. I want a puppy with a proud head carriage who says "look at me" and moves with power, grace and style. That's my puppy assuming the rest of it is well made.
What is the physical structure of your ideal saluki?
Well, l'll start with the head because that's the most important part to me. Long after a dog is retired from coursing or showing, l'll be looking at that head on my couch. My favorite head is long, with parallel planes. a flat skull and a high earset. The underjaw is strong and he has a good scissors bite. The eyes have an almond shape and give an oriental look. The pigment is black. The whole look is well-chisled and fine. It's carried on a long, well-muscled neck which is smoothly set into well-laid back shoulders. The Saluki should be smooth and square with a tight tuck, a deep brisket and a moderate, rounded croup. The whole animal should be fine, never coarse, but strong, flexible and agile. My ideal Saluki is in a very famous photograph that most fanciers have probably seen. She's Wayne Jensen's Ch Jen Araby Bekitaten. The photo can be seen in the Classic Saluki, winter 2001 on page 65.
As far as you are concerned, how important is it to exchange information with other breeders in order to achieve good results in a kennel?
I've learned many things from other breeders and I hope that l'm still learning. There's a wealth of information out there and nobody can know it all. That being said, there's also a lot of misinformation too. Every breed has its myths and legends; perhaps Salukis more than most because of our romantic past and we have to be careful not to be too gullible. Since the advent of the internet it's become even more rife with misunderstandings and fallacies. I remember when I was first in the breed and all you heard was that Salukis should have 45 degree shoulder angulation. Sometimes I still hear it. We have to be very careful.
What about your last experience at the national?
Well, I was very happy that our puppy did so well at her first show. I didn't expect that CousCous would win Best of Breed! It was especially gratifying to win under such a respected breeder-judge as Sharon Kinney and in such strong competition. No other win will ever match this and it was all the more signifigant since we bred both parents. It's every breeders dream.