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Emir part 3

I resolved to condition my mind to accept that he was not a greyhound and would not pursue his quarry in the same manner as a greyhound.

Emir was not my first encounter with a Saluki, though I had avoided the shows where hosts of competitors, dogs on slips, recited spurious tales of their hounds’ ability, each tale foolish enough to make Shah Jehan turn in his grave.

I had first seen Salukis on the edge of Jordon when a small band of Howietat had passed through the borderland, driving with them lean sheep and cattle and even leaner children and dogs.

The boys of the tribe, slow eyed, precocious children, quite distinct from the aloof, hawk-nosed adults, had run the puppies on jerboas, jumping rats of the desert, curious diminutive kangaroo-like creatures.

The puppies had then been entered to hare and would eventually course jackal and the, now rare gazelle. It was a training process that had stood the test of time, an aeon of the time, a process that had been used by Yazid II, the mightiest of hunters whose praises had been sung at the court of Haroun.

“The cities make a man cultured Yazid had said, “But it is the desert that makes a person a man.” Thus I would try to emulate the entering process of the Bedu, testing my puppy on rat and rabbit, running him much later on hare.

If he was brave and showed sprit, he would be coursed on fox and then when the time was ripe, I would secretly run him on deer, the real quarry of such a hound. Such a test for a dog, and so many dangers for the man who tried his dog on such forbidden quarry.

I would never rush him, never overtax this tiny creamy puppy and, at the end of my training session, I would materialise with my trained and entered hound, returning him to his owner like some tribesman offering tribute to the Sheik.

In the light of how events were to go, what a fool I was to dream of such things. Even as a babe he looked fragile, a tiny gazelle-like babe, Ill-equipped, so it appeared to weather the hazards of the chase across the English countryside, a land full of pitfalls, barbed wire and posts.

A lurcher puppy of the same age, a dog more greyhoundy than the others I had bred, appeared positively robust when compared to the hound puppy. It ate little, thriving on viands that would have been scarcely enough to keep an Italian Greyhound, and if it ate little it drank even less.

Perhaps the desert hounds have a metabolism that is different from other dogs. Perhaps they have the ability to extract every morsel of nourishment from food, wasting nothing, voiding only that which is completely devoid of nutrients, and totally indigestible.

Still as the summer progressed, he grew from puppyhood to lean, scrawny adolescence, and by the time he had seen his first leaf fall, he was as tall as a large collie.

The time of entering had come, and now I would walk up rabbits with him, conies, who could no longer hide in the grasses of the now bare cornfield.

I had been dissatisfied with his early training, his generally remote attitude and his disregard for obedience; I would call him, deliberately developing an imperative note in my voice, the sort of note that would ensure a terrier or a lurcher would come running to investigate the cause of my excitement, but Emir was indifferent to my cries, and he would casually sniff at a patch of grass and then, in his own good time, amble back to me.

At first I thought that he was deaf and his indifference to my commands was due to his hearing problem, but a bird had but to move in the undergrowth to find his ears raised and his body as taut as a bowstring.

He was certainly not deaf, yet he was not responding to commands. He found retrieving even more baffling, at first, in spite of much teasing and play sessions, he found little interest in a ball or dummy, and when I threw the object, he simply watched it fall or, if he was so inclined, he would walk to the fallen dummy, sniffed it, and the returned with just a faint look of distaste for the whole activity.

He was, I reasoned, simply a sighthound and not a lurcher, so I needed to adopt different methods if I was to succeed in his training. One evening I caught a rabbit in the long grass of the big meadow, a pathetic myxamotosised rabbit, emaciated and blind as the result of infection.

This I tied to a length of twine, and dragged the cadaver in front of the tethered hound. He became ecstatic, rearing and uttering a weak, un-masculine falsetto squeak that passed for a bark. I through the carcass and he raced after it, mouthing the fallen rabbit and then standing over it while all the time quivering with excitement.

I tried all manner of inducements to make him bring the rabbit back to me, throwing the rabbit in the air, rolling on the grass with the loathsome creature, and I almost considered mouthing the beastly object myself, but all inducements were to no avail.

When he became excited enough to want to pursue the fallen rabbit, he simply stood over the body and waited for me to pick up the creature. If I was correct that he was not a greyhound in temperament, I was equally correct in thinking that he was certainly not a lurcher, and as numerous pseudo sporting books described the breed as potfellers for the Bedouin, (the lurcher is kept primarily for the purpose of catching game) I wondered whether my approach to the training of the dog had been wrong, but if his training within the confines of my paddock was unsuccessful, my training in the restriction-free countryside was more so.