The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
In the beginning of 2002 my partner Razien and myself took charge of two 11 week old Saluki puppies. There is no doubt that as first time owners, we were well and truly out of our depths. Within a short time the two puppies had taken over our lives, and the next 12 years were spent very much in service of these two beautiful and wonderful creatures.
We had come into their lives through the World of Dogs and Cats Show in 2001. As the new owners of a fine old Berean home with a large garden – we had both decided to share our home with a dog. We were attending the show so as to undertake an assessment of all the dog breeds on show and afterwards, to swop notes and see if there was any commonality. While the two of us sat around the arena, a woman came walking past leading a dog that caught our immediate attention. Razien and me looked at each other and in a moment of complete harmony, agreed that that particular breed was going to be the one we would choose. After searching the ground for the women and her dog, we found her and engaged her in conversation. Her name was Margaret Osborne and her dog was a Saluki called ‘Diamond’. It just so happened that the breeder to Diamond, had a bitch that had just had a large litter of 11 puppies. We were put in contact with the breeder, and Razien flew up to Johannesburg to convince her to part with two of the litter. Razien returned to Durban with a video camera and footage of the two tiny puppies. The next couple of weeks were lived in desperate anticipation as we waited for the puppies to reach the correct age to be parted from their mother Freya.
Then began the difficult task of naming them. I visited the reference library and pored through large tomes of Arabic, Persian and Coptic words for something that was suitable. After writing a long list of names, I returned and the two of us debated for days what name to choose. Eventually we settled for Shikari – which in Persian means ‘hunter’ and ‘Sirocco’ an Arabic noun for the hot desert wind that blows from North Africa. So when our new friend Margaret arrived with our two boys from Johannesburg, they already had a name. How we decided to name one Shikari and the other Sirocco I cannot remember, but suitably named they were – for Shikari was a veritable killer and chaser after everything that moved, flew and ran, and Sirocco was the fleetest footed hound that ever moved over the Durban beaches. Thus began twelve years of mutual love, devotion and admiration, and service, did I mention service.
I do not want to write reams on saluki ownership bar to write one telling story. Several years ago we were walking both hounds at the Durban Greyville Racecourse, a popular venue for dog walkers. In those days one could let your dogs off lead. In the middle of the course is the Royal Natal Golf Club and its lovely greens, fairways and ponds. In a flash, both Shikari and Sirocco had caught sight of a flock of Egyptian Geese paddling in and around a far distant pond; and before you could say No! – they were belting across the fairways in hot pursuit, right past several parties of astonished and irate golfers. The two of us ran after them, highly embarrassed, yelling at them to come back. We split-up, me after Shikari and Razien after Sirocco. Anyone who has owned a Saluki will know that when they are in pursuit of game they go completely deaf. With my glasses bouncing on my nose I could see Shikari had pursued the geese right into the water and was paddling furiously after a plump feathered goose. I also saw an aggressive golfer threatening to hit my partner with his club. In an instance, I had changed my course and ran as fast as my legs could take me in the direction of Razien. I had every intention of jumping this man before he could assault my partner. I shouted at him that if he did I would take him apart with my bare hands. Me running up in such a pique persuaded him he was going to be the loser and he backed off, but not before telling us how he was going to report us for upsetting the lives of the course’s resident flock. Eventually we retrieved both hounds, and put them on lead. They never looked more alive and excited, how could we be angry with them. When we got back to the car, hot, bothered and shaken we noticed that Shikari had a large tuft of hair missing from the top of his head. Evidently, a goose had pecked it clean-off his pate. It took weeks to grow back.
I just loved the fact that in these two hounds embodied a genetic link back to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Fancifully-minded as I am – every time I hugged their bony bodies or stroked their silky hair, I knew that thousands of dog owners had did the same right back and into the misty past. My admiration was akin to those hard-working artists of Mesopotamia who carved their images into stone, my devotion similar to that of the noble Egyptian Pharaohs who mummified their favourite hounds, and my love like that of the humble Bedouins of Arabia and Persia who welcomed these dogs into their tents. Here were creatures in whose enigmatic brown and black eyes I could see all the way back in time. Such has been my admiration as an artist – for in their form and motion, I found so much to captivate my mind, heart and eye.
Three months ago, the last of our two beloved dogs died – tumbling Razien and me into an abyss of the deepest and most painful grief we had ever experienced. How was it possible that these two hounds who had managed to take over our lives so comprehensively were no more. No rationalizing has assuaged my sorrow and any healing I have is as a result of a long and arduous slog out of the valley and back into the sunshine. I have cast around in my mind like a fisherman, searching for some positive and long-lasting way to commemorate and celebrate the lives of these two most exceptional creatures. This posting is their memorial – for I am attaching to it many of the motifs and designs that I have created of Salukis. To these I will add additional images as time allows. I trust they will disperse far and wide across the earth, that Saluki lovers will use them to illustrate a card, perhaps to adorn a t-shirt, or to simply look at for pleasure-sake.
R.I.P Shikari – Born 12th November 2001 – Died 22nd July 2012 / Sirocco – Born 12th November 2001 – Died 8th February 2014.
Shikari in old life.
Sirocco in the last year of his life.
A stylized drawing of Sirocco.
A stylized drawing of Shikari.
A stylized drawing of Sirocco.
A motif of a Saluki, Art Deco.
Saluki, Egyptian, 1305 – 1080 BC.
A motif of a smooth Saluki, Egyptian.
A Saluki puppy at play.
(above and below) Motifs of Salukis taken from the Baptismal Font to the French Kings, Islamic.
Motif of a Saluki, Islamic.
A Saluki motif, Islamic.
A motif taken from the Tomb of Tutankhamen.
A Saluki Hound taking down a Gazell, Egyptian.
An Islamic motif of a Saluki Hound.
A calligraphic-styled motif of a Saluki.
A calligraphic-styled motif of a Saluki.
A photograph of a mummified Saluki Hound, Egypt, Cairo Museum.
A stone relief of a Saluki Hound, Egypt.
A stone relief of two Saluki Hounds, Mesopotamia.
A Chinese painting of two Saluki Hounds.