Salukis are the oldest recognized breed of dogs, bred to hunt rabbits and gazelle. In California you don’t see many gazelles, but rabbits can be quite abundant. They were out in droves a couple of weeks ago when my husband and I took our three Salukis, Parker, Lexi, and Zoe, to Palm Desert for the Palm Springs dog show. Our hotel became a rabbit Mecca to our Salukis.
The rabbits were less visible during the day, but at night it was a free-for-all, making it fun for the dogs when they needed to go out and do their thing. It was not a joyful experience for me as I held onto the leash for dear life. Just imagine three Salukis with a combined weight of 127 pounds vs. my 90 pounds. The scale was not balanced.
A sleek, fast-running dog, the Saluki is categorized as a sight hound and aptly so, as you can imagine my dogs’ excitement when a rabbit crossed their line of vision. I needed the death grip to keep control.
It was time for the last walk of the evening. My husband was sprawled out on the bed, so I took on the midnight task of getting that last potty in. I strolled outside clad in my pajamas and a long heavy overcoat, thinking, “Let’s hope they do their business quickly as it’s freezing outside for this native California girl.” I spotted five rabbits scampering on the lawn. I thought I had a good grip on the leashes but soon discovered the leashes were twisted. As I unwound the leashes, Parker saw the rabbit before I could get a better grasp. Off he went with the leash trailing behind him. If I had been on the end of the lead, he would have been dragging me through the grass on his pursuit of the rabbit.
In shock, I stood there for a moment wondering if this could really be happening. I quietly yelled “Parker!” not wanting to make too much noise and risk waking all the guests.
I got strategic. Rather than have a second or third dog get loose, I gathered the two girls and scurried back to the room to get my husband’s help.
“Parker is loose,” I said.
“What?” my husband asked with a dumbfounded look.
“Parker got loose and is chasing a rabbit and I’ve got to go,” I said. “Meet me outside.”
I realized I had no flashlight and remembered that I could not yell for fear of waking everyone up. I relived stories I’d heard about other Salukis who got loose in the desert, and I saw myself stuck in Palm Desert for weeks, searching for my dog — or at least being up the rest of this night searching. I also had not informed the hotel that I had dogs with me, so I wasn’t really in a position to ask the staff for assistance.
So I persevered. Parker had run around the back of the buildings, and it was pitch black. I raced around calling “Parker!” in an audible voice but not loud enough to wake those in deep slumber. I walked behind about five buildings to no avail. I began praying to the universe or whoever is up there to please find Parker for me.
Wondering how far Parker had gone, I returned to the front of the buildings through the parking lot where there was light, heading toward our room to see where my husband was. I noticed some movement in the bushes and wondered whether it was another rabbit. No. It was Parker, waiting like nothing had happened. I called to him and seeing that he is my most obedient dog (he has met his Canine Good Citizen requirement — the first leg of his obedience title), he came willingly.
I gathered his lead and wondered whether he had gotten his rabbit. I then thought better of it — I really did not want to know what was out there in the dark. I hoped the rabbit got away in the brush, but I will never know. Instead, I focused on the fact I had Parker. I headed back to the room with Parker looking unscathed. I found my husband still in the room watching the girls. I just was thankful Parker was safe.
I had another task at hand. The girls had not done their business. I’d had enough excitement for the evening, so I took them out individually. You can guess I slept well that night, knowing Parker was cuddled at the end of my bed — maybe dreaming of rabbits.
The following night, another dog owner had the same experience, but at least she had a group of people to help her catch her dog. As it turns out, this dog was caught when he stopped to relieve himself.
I have stayed at the same hotel every January for several years running, and before this year I had never seen a rabbit. What brought out the overpopulation of rabbits this year? The drought? I guess I will never know.
Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Cori Solomon.