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Gail Goodman's definitive book on Salukis Saluqi: Coursing Hound of the East

The Disappearance and Reappearance of Meshi

Gail Goodman
© 2009 Gail Goodman, Midbar Salukis


I have lived in many beautiful places. Some have a grand beauty while some have a more subtle beauty. The beauty of wild places, grand or subtle, remains for me awesome. Most of these beautiful places have not provided safe free coursing for my Salukis. New Mexico does and I am finally home. I love life here and so do my Salukis. We’re all thriving in this land of enchantment.

           For all the hours I have spent in the field with my hounds I have been really fortunate that they have coursed, for the most part, uninjured. One of my Salukis was hit by a farm truck on a road where there were never any vehicles. Her rear leg was shattered below the stifle but she got up and continued the course on 3 legs. She returned with the leg dangling. She made a full recovery. But one of my hounds had a fatal fall that broke his back. The fatality will forever remain in my mind, hence I try to be super cautious where I turn my Salukis loose to run.

           Not far from where I live is a vast, fairly trash free, mostly traffic free, fence free, gun fire free, people free area, which though overhunted, still produces a hare here and there and a long, safe run for the dogs. I have a pedometer and know that sometimes I walk over 5 miles just to flush a single hare, but my goal is exercise for me and the dogs, and exercise we do get.

           I park in different areas but I stay only on one side of the gravel road going through the area. My Salukis are familiar with the area and my rotations through it. When I first started taking my now 3 year olds out, one of the males, Eyal, simply did not return after a course. Out of the blue a fellow on a quad appeared and I was able to flag him down and I told him that my dog had disappeared.

I had seen the dog trotting in front of a vehicle, which also had come out of nowhere, but as I tried to run towards the road, Eyal simply vanished. I pointed to where I’d last seen Eyal and ran as fast as I could in the ever increasing heat to get my truck, which I then drove like a crazy person right over the dry, roadless area to get to the graded track where I’d last seen Eyal.

           Meanwhile the guy drove off on the quad and within a short time I saw him herding Eyal towards me. He couldn’t catch him, but this guy was a cowboy and he sure could herd a Saluki! Eyal came within 10 feet of me and the truck, me calling his name but he seemed dazed and was going right by me, oblivious to my calls. Suddenly he heard his name, stopped, looked at me, and recognized me. He seemed so happy to see me and he was very thirsty. On the leash he went, and he had a good drink.

           All the times I had been out to that area, I had never met this fellow, Casey Morrow, hunting coyotes out there. This day was my birthday and there was Casey at just the moment when I needed help. I told him it seemed like fate had simply sent him to me as a “gift” on my birthday. We met again the next day, Casey and his wife, Jeannie, and I asked for his phone number, just in case I had another “emergency.” He said sure, that he lived nearby, and he spent a lot of time out in the area hunting.

           Over the months I’d called him a few times when it seemed I’d lost a dog, but they would always show up before I panicked. It always helped me stay “somewhat” calm knowing that Casey wasn’t far away. Casey, in my mind, had become my coursing guardian angel.

Monday December 29, 2008

           Knowing that the area I enjoy coursing is heavily hunted by others, I avoid going out on weekends and holidays. Wanting to get out before New Years and while the weather was clear and beautiful, off we went, mid-morning. Driving out of the green belt, the Rio Grande valley, dense with farms and homes, I saw two big dogs dead along the road, apparently hit by cars. Momentarily I thought, “bad omen, turn back,” but I didn’t.

           A tight barbed wire fence divides the area I walk from a heavy scrub area to the south where there are range cattle. My Salukis have not had any experience with barbed wire, so I generally stay away from the fence line. However, this day I was closer than usual because I simply had not been able to find any hares in other places. So, I parked on a track near some scrub and opened the tailgate and out jumped my group which consists of two almost 14 year olds, two five year olds, and three 3 year olds.

           The scrub formed a barrier between the open area and the fence and surely would provide an escape area for any hares that the dogs might get up in the open. I felt like it would be safe to walk there. And in no time up jumped a hare and off they went on a short sprint after it. Back they all came for some water. As we were standing quietly, those that wanted water drinking, up jumped another hare, and off they went again. This time the hare ran a long ways with the youngsters pressing hard. The hare circled back to where the course began, the dogs close behind, and ran into the scrub, just as I had expected, and the dogs lost it.

           After a few moments I see Meshi running along the ridge, overshooting where I was parked, going by at a gallop. I didn’t think anything except he’d circle back. Then Kushi came right to me out of the scrub, a straight line from where they lost the hare. A few minutes later Calanit and Tiffy came back via the road where I was parked. No Eyal, no Meshi. I gave the girls water and waited. No boys.

           So, I started to walk out in the open. Still no boys. Then Eyal appeared, coming down the same road Calanit and Tiffy had returned on. He didn’t see me in the field but he took a drink from the water bowl I leave at the truck, then he almost started back away from the truck in the direction he had returned from. I was calling him and he finally heard me and came to me. No Meshi. Since it was very unlike Meshi to get disoriented, I began to worry.

           So, I thought I’d just give Casey a call to see whether he was home. He answered and I asked him where he was: “Texas.” “I might have a lost dog, when will you be back?” “Tomorrow.” “OK, thanks. Maybe I’ll find him.”

           Meanwhile, hours were passing, not minutes, hours. Meshi had disappeared at about 12:30 PM. It must have been about 3 PM now. I called a falconer who also lives nearby and hunts the area and he came right out. We drove all over, up and down every track, through every accessible area.....no sight of Meshi, who is black and should have been easy to spot. He knew the area. Where was he? I was thinking the worst, that he might have just collapsed and died and he was somewhere in the millions of acres of scrub and I’d never find him.

           Klint left. I laid out a blanket from the truck covered with the scent of the group, left the bowl of water, right where I had parked, and then drove to the one house out there to tell the occupant that I’d lost my dog. She said that there were packs of coyotes and stray dogs galore, and I shouldn’t expect to ever see him again. Great.....just what I needed to hear.

           As the sun set I drove home with the heaviest of hearts. Meshi was the leanest of my Salukis and though it had been in the low 50s during the day, the nighttime temperature would be in the 20s. How would he survive?

           As I was driving home I called Lane Bellman, as I so often did after a beautiful walk, but this time things weren’t happy. She said “Meshi’s out there and you’ll find him. Don’t give up.”

Tuesday December 30, 2008

           First thing in the morning I went to animal control and reported my dog missing. I called Home Again microchip and reported Meshi missing. I called the local paper and placed a lost dog ad. I called the home owners association of the community bordering the open space, where lots and lots of dumped dogs hang out, and left a message with the woman I had met who lives there to please be on the lookout for my dog.

           I loaded up the truck with my coursing group, and off we went. They seemed a little puzzled since I rarely go out two days in a row. I drove to the place where I had been parked when Meshi disappeared. I opened the tailgate and out they jumped. The water bowl was a block of ice and the blanket was just as I’d left it.

           I headed in the direction I’d walked when they flushed the hare that Meshi chased. No hares, no Meshi. I headed towards the scrub and walked along the ridge where I’d last seen him. Hours passed, my feet hurt, the dogs were tired.....not a trace of Meshi.

           In despair, I called Casey. I told him, barely choking back tears, that I’d been searching for 2 days now and I couldn’t find the dog. He said “I just walked in the door; give me a few minutes to gas up the quad, and I’ll be right out there.” The Salukis were so tired they just jumped in the truck and curled up. I just stood there, nearing numb, waiting for Casey.

It was about 2:30 when Casey pulled up on the quad. I described the course and where I’d last seen Meshi. He drove off in the direction I’d seen Meshi running, through the scrub, down the fence line. No sign. He suggested that we follow the fenceline west then south and then I should go to the houses that were on small private parcels in the middle of this vast ranch. I had no idea that any people lived out there, but Casey knew them all, as well as the rancher who owned the cattle.

           We drove the fenceline and found some large, fresh tracks of a single dog travelling south along the barbed wire fence, seeming to try to get through the fence as he traveled but then continuing south. Casey rode farther south while I went to thnbsp;          Each had a pack of dogs around it, so it would be unlikely Meshi could approach. But I spoke to one owner and he said the same thing the woman who lived across from the open space said, packs of coyotes, feral dogs, AND neighbors who simply shoot stray dogs.....I shouldn’t be hopeful about finding my dog....alive or otherwise. I gave him my phone number, just in case. I met another neighbor coming home, a truck full of hay bales, and flagged him down and told him about Meshi. He was kinder. He said “I sure hope you find your dog.”

           Darkness was approaching. I went back to the blanket, refilled the water dish and left a bowl of food. Again I left with a heavy heart. I called Lane with the sad news, no sighting. She said, “Don’t give up. Meshi is out there. I know you’ll find him and he’s just fine.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2008

           Since neither Casey nor I had even sighted Meshi, I thought maybe more people searching might help. I called Robert Place because he knows the area well himself. He agreed that I needed help and he volunteered to come down with Nancy Takacs to help search.

           We all converged at the spot where I had been parked for days now. The water was frozen, the food untouched, and the blanket as I had left it. I was very discouraged. We searched on foot, drove the roads, drove off road on the quad....no sighting. Robert and Nancy took a break to free course while I drove about 10 miles down the highway to the nearest housing project to the south. I stopped the mailcarrier and anyone I could catch backing out of their driveway and told them about my dog and gave them my phone number. I drove back and forth on the highway to see if Meshi had been hit. No Meshi, thank goodness.

           Returning to the area I stopped at a nearby school and talked to the caretaker and left my number. And yet again I was told about packs of coyotes and feral dogs.

           We regrouped at the blanket. No one had seen as much as a shadow of this black Saluki. Casey pointed Robert and Nancy towards a possible hunt location, since there was simply no point in just hanging around. We had been searching all day. I just didn’t know what else to do. Casey and I pondered this disappearance. And yet another day was closing with no Meshi.

           Though I was feeling less and less positive about ever seeing Meshi again, trying to brace myself emotionally for the worst, when I called Lane, she insisted that he was out there and that I shouldn’t give up.

           When I got home there was an e-mail from Cassandra Kraham. She said that she had had a dream and that I need to look for Meshi near horses. In her dream he was somewhere near horses. I think as I was falling into an exhausted sleep, I momentarily visualized the guy with the truck load of hay.....

Thursday January 1, 2009

           Though any sense of optimism was fading, I simply could not just leave Meshi out there without finding him, one way or the other. I kept thinking to myself what Dan Belkin had said during a hunt some 20 or so years ago: Salukis will return along the line of the course. So, I just clung to the idea that Meshi would come back to the place where he had begun the course. I had absolutely nothing else to keep me going.

           As I drove into the area I saw a lot of cars up by the model airplane flying area. I drove up there and talked to a few people. One man said early that morning he had seen 2 dogs, a black one and a white one, running out there. I thought it was highly unlikely that Meshi would be with another dog but I gave the guy my phone number, just in case he saw the dogs again.

           Since my younger dogs were just tired, and I simply could not face having another dog going missing, I had only my dear old girls, Nadira and Klelah with me. Nadira only leaves my side momentarily to chase the hares a few 100 yards....sometimes a bit farther, and Klelah runs around looking for things to roll in. But, they are great walking buddies. I drove to the place I had last seen Meshi. The food and water were again untouched.

           We began our walk, and walk we did, for hours. I actually had to put Klelah on lead because the scrub was so thick I was afraid I’d lose her. She could vanish in a minute or so and being a little hard of hearing....well....on lead for her!

           We walked and walked. It was rough going over the sandy uneven ground. Here and there I thought maybe I saw Saluki tracks, but no Meshi. Nothing. Since the food was still untouched and the water was again frozen, all I could think was poor Meshi.....it was so cold out there at night and he had so little fat reserve to start with.

           I saw some people with dogs in my binoculars, so when I simply couldn’t walk another step, I loaded up my 14 year old troopers and drove towards them. It was Klint and another falconer enjoying the beautiful New Year’s day. But they hadn’t seen any sign of Meshi. I left feeling extremely disheartened.....hopeless, actually.

I decided to drive up and down the highway once more before giving up for the day. On the return trip, a truck with hounds and heavily lathered horses was stopped at the stop sign on the road coming from the mountains. I turned into the road, blocking the truck, and jumped out of my vehicle waving like a nut case. I immediately recognized the guys from the coonhound field trail. They had been hunting mountain lions. I told them I’d lost my dog and that I just didn’t know what to do other than go to the place I’d lost him. One of the guys said: “Yeah, that’s what they say, but I lost a coonhound and she ended up 20 miles from where I lost her.” Great. They said they might be going out again the next day and they’d keep an eye out.

           I was near despair.

Friday January 2, 2009

           Ran a few errands, met Jean Warner, Joel Scheinberg, and Ray McGehee for lunch. They were heading south to a hunt. Joel told me about a dog lost in CA for many days that was finally located by hiring an airplane to fly slowly over the area. The dog was located very quickly. This dog had been sighted repeatedly during the searches. It had been many days but he was fine.

           After lunch, almost like a robot, I went out to where I had lost Meshi. I simply couldn’t NOT go, but I was more numb than anything. It was probably about 2:30. As I was driving into the area where I had left the food and blanket, and where I was parked when I lost Meshi, I saw 3 silhouetted shapes moving in that direction. I couldn’t make out what they were. I thought kids on quads, maybe. They were moving right towards the road that I would take. As I got closer I saw that they were 3 people on horseback. I honked and honked and waved and they slowed and moved the horses off the dirt track. I jumped out of the truck and told them I was looking for a lost dog. “A black dog with a white chest?” one of them asked. “Real shiny?” “YES....have you seen him?” I asked, almost collapsing from the sudden shift in this seemingly hopeless search. “We saw a black dog running like all hell was after him. We saw him yesterday at about this time too. He sat down and barked at us. I thought that was an unusual lookin’ dog to be out here,” one of the riders said. “You mean he’s alive?” “Very much alive and running. If you look where I’m pointing, maybe you can still see him.” And the woman dismounted and tried to hold my shaking hands to direct my binoculars, but I couldn’t see Meshi or any dog. She suggested that I drive in the direction they saw him and maybe I’d find him. They said they would circle around towards the area.

           I drove as fast as I could down the dirt tracks towards where I thought they said they saw Meshi. I drove up and down the sections....nothing. As I drove I tried to scan every inch of ground; no Meshi. I came back to where the riders were. I told them there was no sign. I was standing in front of their horses which seemed as tall as buildings. I gave them my card, writing my cell phone number. They said they’d be riding again tomorrow and if they saw him, they’d call me.

           I decided I’d check the food and water and blanket and walk a little while. I was feeling pretty shaky from the sudden burst of hope. I got to the place on the track where I had been parked the day I lost Meshi. The food and water were gone and the blanket was all dug up like Salukis do before they’ll curl up to lie down! There was some fresh feces there, too. I thought it looked too dark and dry to be coyote feces.

           I called Casey, beyond excited. He came right out on the quad. He looked at the feces but felt it could be coyote droppings. He said it’s hard to tell. It just depends what they have been eating the past few days. He drove the quad all over the area where the riders indicated that they’d seen the black dog. Nothing. Meanwhile, with Eyal on lead, I again walked through the area where we had flushed the hare that they had all chased. No hares, no Meshi.

           I was so stressed I hadn’t brought more food in case the food I left was eaten. I guess I assumed if Meshi found the food, he’d just stay there and wait for me. It didn’t dawn on me the food might disappear but no Meshi. Casey called his wife, who was home sick with the flu, and asked her to bring some dog food while he searched some more for Meshi. Within minutes poor Jeannie pulled up in their jeep, handed me a container of yummy food, based on Eyal’s desire to eat it, and she headed straight home and back to bed. How incredibly kind people can be.

           Casey and I stood there in this magnificent place, puzzling over the missing food and missing dog. I told him the story of the lost CA dog being found with an air search. This idea had seemed pointless until the sighting by the riders, but now, maybe. I had to find Meshi before Sunday because a winter storm was due in and he would surely just freeze to death.

           Casey said that there were guys at the local airports who would probably be willing to take their small planes up to fly over the area and see if they could spot Meshi. He said they shouldn’t charge much. The USDA would also do it, because they do predator control from planes, but they would charge over $200 an hour. And, time was of the essence. I said I’d try to find a plane tomorrow.

           Casey left, but I sat there as darkness rose up towards the wanning light. Orange turned to deep blue then black in the most profound quiet. I sat there hoping that as the light vanished, Meshi would appear. But only the complete stillness and quiet surrounded me. I turned on the engine and drove slowly towards the highway.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

           I got up early. Casey said he’d go out first thing and check the food. I called him and he said the food and water were gone but there was no sign of the dog.

           I then started calling all the local airports. There is a private airpark/airport right across the highway from my house, and one in the next town. I spoke to a very nice fellow who said he was working but if he could rearrange his schedule he’d let me know within the half-hour. I then made my way through every number for both airports, and even called a company in Albuquerque.

           Between these unproductive calls, I get a call from a man, Lee Norris, who runs a sky diving school in Belen, and he said he’d be happy to spend a few hours looking for my dog! He said he has a dog that flies with him and he knows how bad I must feel about losing my dog. I was speechless at this man’s generosity.

           I described the area where I had been searching and where Meshi had been sighted. I told him I could get there and park where I lost Meshi within the hour. I got a few calls from the air for better directions, and I loaded up the group I take each time we go out, and headed for the foothills as fast as I could safely drive.

           As I approached the flats I could see the small plane making a grid a bit north east of where the riders had seen Meshi. I have no idea whether there’s a special cell phone rate for calling airplanes, but I did and told them to look for me as I pulled up to the blanket, empty water and food dish. I let the gang out of the truck. They smelled around with great interest. I refilled the water dish and watched the plane moving low over the area.

           I just didn’t know what to do anymore. So, I just started walking in exactly the direction I had been walking when they flushed the hare, ran the course, and all but Meshi returned. It was robotic already. The group fanned out in front of me, ran through the scrub searching, dear old Nadira right at my side.

           The plane was making wide circles around the truck. As I turned to walk parallel to the truck, I saw a black shape, a coyote like shape, I thought, sort of round backed, by the truck. My binoculars just weren’t good enough to give a clear image. The animal stopped at the water bowl. Then the black shape jumped into the truck and I thought no coyote would jump in my truck. No stray dog would jump in my truck...it has to be MY DOG.

           And I started to move towards the truck as fast as I could over the soft uneven ground. I got Eyal on lead for fear there might be some tension between the brothers, and I started to call Meshi, Meshi as loudly as I could. Up went the black shape’s head and I could see brown and white and Meshi started to move towards me. It WAS Meshi! He came right to me, stopping momentarily as the girls approached him, not exactly sure who it was. Meshi’s tail went up at their advance but he came right to me, a hairy black skeleton of a Saluki but seemingly OK otherwise.

           I was so overwhelmed with emotion my coordination wasn’t good and I fumbled with the clasp of the lead, fearing that Meshi would simply disappear again. Once on lead we walked towards the truck, just as we would have done had he not vanished. He wasn’t feral or spooked or anything but his normal self, as though only a normal course had occurred. It was a beautiful, clear day, just about 12:30, just the time I had last seen him 6 days before!

           As the plane made a pass over me I waved frantically to indicate that I had the dog. They didn’t understand but left me a message that they’d been flying for 2 hours and hadn’t seen so much as a shadow of my dog. I called and left them a message that I had him. When I did talk to the pilot I asked him if he’d seen where the dog came from. He said no, only that there was a black dog by the truck which he thought was one I had brought with me. So how Meshi got to the truck, from which direction....no one will ever know. He was simply never spotted from the air.

           I then called Casey who had spent so many hours searching. He came right out to see this elusive skinny canine. No one, of all the people who searched, and who I met casually, or me, had seen even a whisker of Meshi in all those days. Only the horseback riders had seen him and renewed my waning hope that he might be found alive.

           I called everyone who had helped with the wonderful news. Lane choked back tears of joy and reminded me that she always knew Meshi was out there alive and that I would find him.

           When I called Cassandra, who had had the dream about the horses, I told her about the riders and that I hoped they would call me so that I could thank them and tell them Meshi was safely home. She laughed and said that if they called me, the return number would probably be “another world.” Cassandra then shared with me a communication she had had with a friend who was able to “connect” with Meshi. The friend “did a candle for a symbolic line of, shall we say, spiritual helpers called ‘boiaderos’ (cowboys), around the same time I had my dream. The essence of the ‘boiadero’ is the ‘cowboy’ who rounds up whatever is lost (animals, people, and can also be looked at in a more metaphorical sense, i.e. what is lose, i.e. what is lost within a person....very complex!). So it is so interesting that people on horseback are what came to help lead you back to Meshi! The horse in my dream was anxious and wanted to get out (and was larger than life), so I think I tapped into that archetypal ‘cowboy’ wanting to get out and do its work.”

           And, considering that Casey had said in all the years, in all the hours he had spent in that area hunting, he had never seen anyone on horseback....as strange as this has been.....this IS New Mexico, the land of enchantment.


           It took a day or so for me to even unpack my fanny pack I was so exhausted. And Meshi, once a picky eater, was ready for every meal, twice a day to put weight on, and licking his dish clean.

           The vet gave him a clear bill of health. His bloodwork was normal and he was miraculously none the worse for wear. He had a few what appeared to be barbed wire cuts on his muzzle and forelegs and that was it. How he survived will forever remain a mystery.

           We have been out many times since this evee. And I have never seen another soul out there on horseback.

Best of all, I can once again look out my kitchen window and watch the weather roll in over the constantly beautiful Manzano Mountains without thinking that somewhere out there in the vastness a black Saluki is searching for me, cold, hungry, searching and searching.... that Saluki is right here beside me safe and sound.