What is important to the Bedouin is their tradition and their
honor, and one of the most important traditions is that of welcoming guests. So we were warmly welcomed, ushered into the
guest tent, and offered thick, bitter Turkish coffee, and then sweet herb tea.
Obviously, manners dictated that first we must sit around and
accept the Bedouin hospitality and discuss all manner of topics, before we could get down to the subject of dogs. Everything was open to discussion, from which sort of pick-up truck was the most practical for them (the
Bedouin are particularly partial to the Toyota these days), to politics, to the rights of Bedouin women (they do have a choice
as to whether to agree to marry a certain man or not). And finally, we got around to the dogs.
Salame had caught one male and tied him, so that we could photograph
him and possibly use him to breed to Timmie. There were quite a number of dogs
around the camp, quite typical Canaans, but all stayed well out of reach. There
was one particularly nice young red and white male, that, according to Salame, could be approached by no one, not even the
children. A number of the dogs were out with the sheep and would return with
the flocks in the evening.
The dog that had been tied was a young white male, that Salame
called Bayud the same as the dog I had taken the year before. According to Salame,
all white dogs were called Bayud which referred to their color, and all red dogs were called Foxie. We got a collapsible crate out of the car and set it up, as part of what we wanted to film was how I transported
home the dogs I got from the desert. Bayuds chain was pulled through the mesh
of the crate and he was pulled inside.
Although many dogs of the more domesticated breeds who were not
accustomed to being crated would, no doubt, have done everything in their power to escape the confinement, from crying and
screaming to trying to tear apart the crate with their teeth, Bayud, showing the intelligence and adaptability of the Canaan,
a breed that has had to be able to adapt rapidly in order to survive, did not act up.
He turned around in the crate a few times, saw that he was confined, and then lay down and waited to see what would
happen. I was able to put my hand in to him he sniffed it but did not try anything
else. After a few minutes, I was even able to lift his lip to check his teeth he appeared to be between one and one and a
half years old. This dog had never been tied or handled before, other than perhaps
being fed by the children, but although wary, was ready to withhold judgment until he saw what was happening.
After photographing him in the crate and being loaded into the
car, we let him out and tied him back in the spot he had been in originally. Now
was the time to attempt the breeding.
When I took Timmie out of the car, the Bedouins were fascinated
to see that she really was the same as their dogs! I slowly approached with Timmie,
not sure how Bayud would react. Would he attack a strange dog in his territory,
without being interested in the fact that she was a bitch in season?
Bayud immediately realized that this was a bitch in season, and
to my surprise, was interested enough to ignore me a total stranger in his territory and to start courting Timmie. Timmie was happy to sniff him and start to play with him, but when he started to attempt to mount her,
she objected. Ive never seen this male before and you expect that just like that
I will let him have me???? You must be joking!!! was Timmies reaction. I could
see that this would all take time.
Canaans are dogs that tend to be devoted to their one mate permanently,
if they have a chance, and are certainly not ready to accept just anyone for breeding.
It is known for a Canaan bitch running free to refuse all other males until a Canaan dog comes along. Even when dog and bitch are acquainted, they like to go through an entire play ceremony before they will
consider breeding. So Timmie and Bayud played, and Lloyd, who was fascinated,
filmed all of it. At one point, Timmie tried to show dominance by mounting Bayud,
and although he had been extremely tolerant of her to this point, this was not acceptable he flipped her over and pinned her
to the ground with a fierce snarl, to show her who was the boss here. I was careful
not to interfere, even though I wasnt entirely sure of how far this would go but I had confidence that the ritual would not
result in injury to either of the dogs.
Finally, I decided that there had been enough play Bayud was
getting tired and Timmie was still acting coy, though I could see that she had decided that he was acceptable. I decided to hold her to see if we could finally get a breeding.
I was not sure how Bayud would react to having me standing there holding his bitch some dogs can get quite aggressive
to protect a bitch from perceived rivals. But he totally accepted me and got
about his business, and soon we had an accomplished breeding. I was even able
to touch him lightly on the head and body while this was going on.
After the breeding, we released Bayud from the chain. I was sure
that he would take off for the edge of the camp. Not at all! He started walking
around the camp, marking everything in sight now he was a man, and he was showing the others!
He followed after us as we went towards Salames tent for another round of coffee and tea after all, maybe these interesting
strangers had another bitch for him in their car.
There was also a litter of puppies in the camp. The bitch had dug a deep den in a hillside, behind piles of rubble and trash getting near was really difficult.
The seven pups were about ten days old and were fat, healthy and shiny, and all of them were red or red and white. We decided we would have to come back again in another month or so to see how they had developed.
It is important to keep in mind that, although all the dogs looked
in good condition, not underweight for the most part and with coats that looked healthy, and the puppies were obviously well
fed by their mother, most of this was the result of the dogs hunting and scavenging for themselves. The Bedouin told us that they fed the dogs they threw them all the scraps and leftover, they said. But anyone familiar with Bedouin life knows that scraps and leftovers are few and
hard to come by nothing is wasted in their harsh lifestyle. The dogs scavenged
around the camp and in the garbage dumps of any towns within a reasonable distance, and hunted for themselves, mostly catching
small rodents and insects.
The rest of the day was spent in driving around the area and
photographing some of the flocks with their shepherds (mostly young boys) and the dogs.
Many of the dogs were Canaans, though some of them were dogs that had been picked up in town and brought back. None of the shepherd boys spoke Hebrew, but they didnt object to being photographed
with their animals.
That night we stayed over in a hotel in Beersheba. Timmie, throughout the day, had refused to urinate, though I had taken her out of the car several times
this was not her territory! Even though I walked her for a long time that night,
she refused, and was content to sleep in my room at the hotel. She behaved with
perfect manners, though it was the first time she had ever been in such surroundings.
The next morning we left to meet Mahmud and to explore a new
area. Timmie was very happy to get back into her car she had decided that this
was her property, and she was feeling very comfortable. Unquestionably, she had
been more comfortable all day than we were while we were sitting on the hard ground drinking tea, she was curled up on the
plush car seat with the air-conditioning onThe Bedouin found it very hard to understand why we would leave the car engine
on so that a dog could have air-conditioning.For the rest of the day, Timmie simply refused to get out of the car at all it
was hot outside, and anyway, who knew if we wouldnt decide to introduce her to another strange male! When I tried to get her to come out of the car to relieve herself, she set her feet against the seat and
simply refused to move.
The new area, which was between Arad, Massada, and the Dead Sea,
was much more remote than Tel Arad, and the Bedouin there were much more isolated and traditional and less social. Had we not come with Mahmud, who was known and respected in this area, we would not have been allowed in
the camps. We were warned in each camp that we visited that we were welcome to
photograph dogs, but we must stay away from the tents and not photograph in the direction of the tents, as the women were
there. The tents were closed to keep us from seeing the women.
However we were welcomed with typical Bedouin hospitality. We were also told that it was hard these days to find the real Bedouin dogs the dogs
were disappearing. Once there had been many, but now there were few and they
were becoming very hard to find, because in many places dogs were being brought from town that were mixing with the good dogs. However, the Bedouin had no idea or plans of selective breeding to try to preserve
these dogs that were so useful to them.
We visited a number of camps in the area, and in all of them
we found excellent dogs. Most of the dogs were hidden on the hillsides around
the camp, and until we started walking around, you would never have noticed that they were there. They blended in perfectly with their surroundings and never moved or made a sound until we crossed the
line into what they considered their territory and then they jumped up and started to bark. It was possible to walk right
past a dog that was a few feet away, lying in the rocks, or under a tractor or a pile of rubble, and not to see it at all. But should we turn in the direction of what the dog considered his territory, he would
leap to his feet, barking and circling and very efficiently guarding. It was rare that a dog would exhibit real aggression
towards us, though. The task of these dogs was to warn the Bedouin that something
was happening that required their attention, not to attack. The only dogs that
were aggressive were those few that we found tied in their camps these dogs, unable to move away to protect themselves, took
the only alternative and were ready to bite.
The dogs here were mostly cream or gold or reddish in color,
and there were many I would have been pleased to take home with me. But these
dogs were unapproachable. The Bedouin themselves were not always sure how many dogs were attached to the camp or where they
were we had to go climbing up the surrounding hills to look for them. And then
they stayed well away from us.
In a few camps we saw bitches that were obviously nursing puppies. For the most part, the puppies were so well hidden that the Bedouin didnt even know
where they were. One litter was in a place that the Bedouins knew about, but hidden so deep under a pile of huge bales of
hay that there was no chance of getting near the pups. In one camp, there were
two pups of about five or six weeks of age that were hidden under some barrels in the center of the camp. We were told that we could take them if we wanted. The parents
were nice typey dogs both father and mother were in the camp. They pulled the
pups out for us though litter brothers, one was very small, half the size of the second.
But both looked well fed and healthy. I accepted the gift of the two pups,
knowing that if I took only the bigger and better developed one, the small one would certainly be killed now that he had been
caught they had a number of dogs in this camp and didnt need any more.
The two pups were terrified when I put them in the car at my
feet, and Timmie was not enthusiastic either. How could I even consider putting
those Bedouin dogs in HER car?!!!! She turned her back and ignored their existence.
It was now dusk and time to head for home. It had been an amazingly successful trip we had seen many dogs, most of them excellent Canaans, and found
areas that we hadnt been in before. The filming had gone very well, and much
material had been gathered for the film I couldnt wait to see what came out of this.
We had achieved a breeding and brought home two puppies, and developed some excellent contacts for the future. Tired and happy, we got back to Shaar Hagai.
Timmie, though reluctant to leave her car, looked out, saw that she was home, heaved a sigh of relief, climbed out,
squatted and peed. Her territory!