Lashyn's Journey

Stephen Bodio

I first heard the work “Tazi” spoken by a German woman
who had lived in Iran, over ten years ago in the eastern
United States. She used it to refer to my Arab desert-bred
saluki, Luna: “What a beautiful tazi!”

At the time I thought it was just a regional name, Persian rather than Arabic.
But a little later I was given a video by some Russian friends that depicted
Central Asian “salukis” chasing foxes in Kazakhstan with the help of a golden eagle.

Although it was in Russian, its wonderful photography showed me a world of high
deserts and mountains that reminded me of my own New Mexico high country.
The dogs were very like my salukis, dogs descended from “desert” Arabian stock,
although some had more hair on their rear legs and more “feather” generally.
They looked like dogs I would like to meet. My last saluki died in the early nineties,
and I thought that Kazakh tazis might be even better adapted to our local conditions.
Also, it was getting difficult to find good salukis of hunting stock.
With internet connections it becomes easier to search for unusual subjects.

Searching “Tazi” in 2001 we came in contact with Sari Mantila in Finland and the web
magazine Naturalist in the Ukraine. Sari wrote to us: “There are both Kazakh or mountain
type tazis and Turkmenian or desert type tazis bred in St. Petersburg. Kazakh type is a bit
bigger and stronger, their skull is a bit wider, ears larger, and they have more feathering.”

Although many people think of New Mexico as a hot state, it is more a dry one.
We live at 6500 feet (2000 meters) and look out on mountains that rise past
10,000 feet (3200 meters) to the south. Spring is hot, windy, and dry, with
temperatures up to 35C. Rains come in July, cool down the high country,
and make everything green. Frosts begin in October, snow a little later.
In January, night temperatures can go as low as –20C.

The high mountains are covered with pine forest, but at our altitude we have mostly dry grassland and open juniper woodland. All in all, it seemed to be not unlike Kazakhstan. Our main coursing game animals are rabbits, black-tailed jackrabbits (also called prairie hares, very similar to Eurasian hares) and several kinds of foxes .
We also have coyotes ( like small wolves) badgers, and antelope. Given these factors, we decided to look for a Kazakh tazi. We had enjoyed Sergiy Kopylets' articles in Naturalist , and particularly admired “Cheetah,” his brindle female. Brindle and black-muzzled dogs were rare, maybe non-existent, among American salukis, and we thought the color was attractive.
In August of 2001 Sergiy wrote to us about his dogs.

“In 1995 I brought to Kyiv two bitches from southeastern Kazakhstan,
from the region called Jetysu (in Kazakh, Seven Rivers Land.)
I lived in this region all my life and know this breed from 1970.
I hunted a lot with them…with both tazi and goshawk after hares.
It also happened to me to hunt with tazis after foxes, gazelles,
mountain goats, wild boars, wild cats, badger, and others.

Those two bitches…were ones from the best specimens of their breed in that region of Kazakhstan, both in exterior and in work.” He told us he would be expecting a littler from Cheetah, our favorite, and Akkus, at the end of the winter. Sure enough, on February 21, 2002, came a note from Sergiy: “17th of February, Cheetah pupped.
One of them is a bitch, colored like mother. Do you still want to buy a puppy?”
We did! Quickly we sent a note to Sergiy, and began to prepare. The logistics were complicated.
First we thought that I might fly to Finland, and go to Sari's, where Sergiy would deliver the pup.
When this proved impractical, we began a frantic series of e-mails.
For a couple of months, the internet traffic between Magdalena, Kiev, and Helsinki was constant, complicated by Sergiy's having moved his home.

But with help from Mykola Rud', we worked out a plan. The puppy would fly from Kiev to Amsterdam via KLM, then on to Los Angeles, where we would meet her. Meanwhile, Sergiy was sending us photos of her with arrows pointing to her:
“Your puppy.”
She looked wonderful, fat and dark -brindled. Our anticipation and impatience grew as we waited for her to have her shots and then wait thirty days before she could fly. By then she had a name, by a falconer, Sergiy, for a falconer: “Lashyn” – peregrine, a word I had first heard in Mongolia. At last the week came.. We planned to take two days driving time to Los Angeles, through the hot deserts at the hottest time of the year. Luckily, our pickup cab was air-conditioned. Our trip was complicated by the presence of two almost-fledged falcons, a male gyrfalcon and a female saker, who we hoped would make a team with Lashyn and our Hancock lurcher “Plummer,” already an experienced hare dog.

They were at an age when it would be harmful for their training and socializing to be left alone. And to complicate everything further, the young gyr had suddenly developed a lung condition. Hoping it was not the nearly always fatal fungal condition aspergillosis, we packed his medication and a box set up so that we could fog him with healing drugs, and set off for Los Angeles. The trip was uneventful. Both falcons were well-behaved, and our usual motel in Tucson, owned by a falconer, was used to guests with dogs and hawks. When we got to Los Angeles the gyr was not any better, but our first order of business had to be to get our pup. LAX, a huge airport, didn't make it easy.
She had landed in the morning, and they told us to come in for her at 14:00. After sending us from building to building for paper after paper, they finally allowed us to enter the terminal she was in about 16:30.

But it wasn't until 17:50 that they wheeled out her box. I opened the door and crouched down until I could hold her collar.

“Lashyn” I said, again and again, softly.
I thought it would be the only word she understood.
I have a few words of Russian also and used them all in hope that they would sound a bit familiar.
She came out all at once and leaped into my arms.
I carried her to the truck, and she curled up in my lap.

For the next few days we remained at a motel in Los Angeles to give her a chance to know us and to put
the increasingly sick bird in an oxygen chamber in a veterinary hospital.

Lashyn decided immediately that she belonged to me, and me only. For our first four or five days she wanted to stay in physical contact with me wherever we were.
Outside, she would wrap her leash around my legs. Inside, she would sleep touching me.
At night she would crawl between Libby and me, and kick.
If I took a shower she would not enter the bath, but she would put her head in.
We drove home three days after picking her up, stopping to drop the sick gyr at our vet's in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where, sadly, he died the next day. Both birds and the pup rode in the cab for the whole way.
When we arrived at home Lashyn, now full of confidence, tried to refuse the lurcher and the dachshund entry into “her” truck! In a few days everyone had bonded, and Lashyn had reluctantly accepted that the didn't have to sleep between us, to our great relief. We had already introduced her to the falcons; now she met our pigeons.

Unfortunately she then (and now) considers them food rather than companions.
They have to be careful when she is around.
Sergiy had warned us: “Lashyn should from childhood get used to falcons,
as she is very lively and hot-tempered and has sometimes caught birds.”
I had an early warning when she stalked a blackbird at a truck stop on the way back.
Now she would stalk pigeons, waiting until one was foolish enough to land on the ground
outside the fence. Then she would rush around the building and leap into the air after the
startled bird. She managed to catch several before they learned – and, several months later,
has just caught another.

The only other dog I ever had who could catch birds on the flush was my male desert-bred saluki. Their abilities and hunting instincts are too overwhelming
for them to resist temptation.

You can see that, while feeling sorry for the birds, I can't be too angry.
Tazis, like hawks, are perfect predators! As all tazi owners know, they can be destructive puppies.
Lashyn's first nickname was “Shredder”.

She has shredded toys, pillows, shoes, Libby's glasses, three birds, an antique pistol holster, a food dish that had resisted the teeth of ten dogs, a foam cushion, potted plants too numerous to mention, and a bonsai tree. I think she was jealous of the last – she ignored it for months, then tore it to pieces fifteen minutes after I re-potted it. I had dared to ignore her and she was
offended.
She still thinks of herself as “my girl.” Her success has been good on appropriate quarry as well.
She caught her first cottontail rabbit, with Plummer's assistance, when she was only four months old, the youngest that any of my dogs has killed.
She has now assisted in a couple of hare kills as well.
She hasn't worked yet with the falcon, but we will.
She seems to consider the saker to be part of the pack rather than a prey species – although she will steal food from her if she can!
She chases everything that moves – flushing quail, low-flying ravens and vultures, other dogs, and all true quarry species.
She is shy and sweet and fierce, like a wild animal who loves us and “her” other dogs.
She may be the most talented coursing dog I have eve had; she is certainly the best of all saluki types I have lived with.

I will continue with Lashyn's adventures as she learns more. Next year we must look for a male, in the Ukraine or Russia or Asia. She is the only one of her kind – that is, of Asian stock - in the States.

Her first winter should be an adventure for all of us.

Meanwhile, let me give a heartful thanks to Mykola Rud', Sari Mantila, and above all, Sergiy Kopylets'.

Lashyn is worth all the work we had to get her here, and more.

Ukrainian magazine "Naturalist"