Salukis. For over forty years, I have been owned by these amazing hounds.
Yoda was my first heart dog, and taught me the meaning of that term. He came to me as a 10 week old pup, and was a central part of my life and my soul until his death at almost 13 years of age. Yoda was amazing. He was everything anyone could want in a canine companion. He went with me everywhere and was a true ambassador for the breed. Everyone loved him, and if he wasn’t with me when I would show up at any kind of gathering or event, the first question everyone would ask was, “Where’s Yoda?” More than one person who “didn’t care for dogs” told me, over the years, that Yoda was the exception. When he died, he took a part of my soul with him, and left an emptiness … that Heart-Dog Space … that I thought could never again be filled.
Jai came along when Yoda was old; my husband had actually seen an ad for a Saluki pup, something that just doesn’t happen very often. It turned out to be an old friend who was helping to place the last pup of her friend’s accidental litter. He came home at 6 months. Sadly, Jai died very suddenly at age four, an event that crushed me, but also led to some good things in the Saluki world. His sudden death opened up the online Saluki community to honest discussions of health issues, and several friends got together to gather data. Our efforts helped Dr Mary Dee Sist with her Saluki Health Research. One of the friends who formed SIGH (Salukis In Good Health), the data-collection group, with me was Lin Hawkyard. Lin and I grew to be close friends, and it is her Ryder who now sleeps on my bed.
When Yoda passed one early December, within a day or two, I had a dream. He came to me with a little gold female Saluki. He presented her to me, and I could hear his voice in my mind say, “Her name is WindDancer, and she needs you, Mom.” It was in January, a little over a month later, at around 9 in the evening, that my phone rang. The same friend who had brought us Jai (who was still with us) told me that her friend had a house fire, and the home was destroyed. Her first Saluki litter was 9 months old, and a number of them were still in the house. No lives were lost, but they had nowhere to go. My friend had taken three little females, and was trying to place them. She told me there was one who had been born with badly twisted hind legs that had taken splinting to straighten, and she had serious shyness issues–terrified of everyone. “No one will want this little dog, so I’m calling you.” I told her, “We’ll be there in a few hours.” We arrived around midnight. My friend was in the middle of describing how frightened this girl was, and how no one could touch her, as I sat down at the dining room table. A little gold Saluki immediately crawled out from under the table and climbed into my lap. My friend was stunned. I just put my arms around her and said, “Hello, WindDancer. Mommy’s here.” Dancer was almost fourteen when she passed away.
When Jai died so suddenly, little Dancer went into a depression. The two had been the very best of friends, and our poor little golden girl was beside herself. A good friend on the other side of the country had just had a young boy returned to her. Pascha was not quite two at the time and needed a family. My friend asked if he could come live with us, and of course I said yes. As soon as Pascha walked through the door, Dancer’s blue mood vanished, and the two became bonded pals. Pascha was the sweetest, most easy-going, and gentle soul. He loved to cuddle, and always tried his very best to please. He was completely devoted to Dancer, the love of his life. And Pascha loved to sing. All of my Salukis but Ryder have been singers; they will howl with music and with each other. But Pascha, though he couldn’t carry a tune to save his life, took the joy of singing to new levels. His favorite song was “Lonely People” by America. In the middle of the song is a harmonica rift, and Pascha would wait for it, staring at the speaker with ears up, and immediately launch into a heartfelt howl fest as soon as the harmonica started playing. When Dancer passed away, the fact that Kai was already with us was Pascha’s saving grace. We thought we might lose him, too, at first, but he bonded with “the puppy,” and stayed with us for almost another year. Paschie passed away suddenly one day, about three months after his 13th birthday, leaving Kai as an only dog for quite a few years.
After Yoda died, I didn’t think I’d ever have a true heart dog again. I loved Jai, Dancer, and Pascha dearly, but there was something about my connection to Yoda that was missing in that love. Then Kai came along … and proved me wrong. A thousand times over, he proved me wrong, and he was and will always be the soul-anchor of my life. No dog can ever take his place. He was “One of a Kaind.” Kai’s story is told in the reincarnation chapter of Penelope Smith’s book Animals in Spirit. He was born in a litter bred by a very dear friend of mine, Amy Charles. She’d had me do a session to see if her girl knew yet whether she was pregnant, and Zahrah started the connection by telling me my puppy was in there. I told her no, I was not in the market for a puppy. I already had two Salukis, and really didn’t have the room or desire for three. She argued with me. Amy believed Zahrah. Then two psychically sensitive friends, out of the blue, told me the same thing. Let’s just say that by the time Kai was born, I had been convinced. The second we walked through the door of Amy’s house in Michigan and she placed my boy into my arms, a bond was cemented that not even death can sever. He was my friend, my companion, my soul’s comfort, and my protector. He took care of me through terrible pain and illness, and kept me safe from all dangers (real or imagined). I was never once afraid if Kai was by my side, and we understood each other at a level that defies explanation. When Kai died of a horrible aggressive cancer a few months past his 13th birthday, I didn’t think I would survive.
And then came Ryder. My dear friend Lin, who had fought side by side with me for Saluki health and welfare issues for so many years, lost her battle with cancer. Her family and the friend who was helping to place her three dogs called me and asked if I would give Ryder a home. I had said, over and over through Lin’s illness, that I wished there were more I could do for her. This was something I could do for Lin, and I haven’t regretted a single moment. Ryder is a dear, sweet boy, beautiful in a way that takes one’s breath away. I am stopped on the street with him by strangers all the time, to be told how stunning he is, and how he looks like a prince or an angel. He is a show champion in both the US and Canada, and has won multiple specialties. He has children and grandchildren the world over who bring pride to Lin’s bloodlines–I have no doubt that she smiles down on every one of them from Heaven. Ryder came to me at 8, and he is now, as of the writing of this page, 13 and a half. He, too, is battling cancer. In July, he was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen. He has, so far, beaten all the odds, and is doing quite well four and a half months later. I know, however, that every day is a gift … as Ryder is a gift in my life. He came to me when I was horribly broken, and when he was grieving for the lost love of his heart. We helped each other through the grief, and it has created a beautiful bond. Ryder is an angel, my angel, and I will do all I can to make each remaining day heaven for him, until it is time for him to return to his Lin.
So, that is why the site is called “Gazehound.” Salukis are Sighthounds, also called Gazehounds, along with other breeds such as Afghans, Greyhounds, Whippets, Borzoi, and more. In the early days of online activities, when the Internet was very new, friends heard me talk about my hounds and nicknamed me “Gazehound,” or “Gayze” (taking the “y” from the spelling of my first name). Although I don’t actually go by “Gazehound,” if someone calls me “Gayze,” I answer to it as readily as “Gayle” after all these years.
I hope you enjoy the slideshow above, where you can see the dogs whose stories, if you’ve suffered through the length of this page, you now know.