Two weeks ago, we took a drive into the desert in search of Canaan Dogs.
We are always looking for new desert born Canaan Dogs to add to the gene pool of the breed, but they are becoming harder and harder to find. Civilization has invaded their niche in nature, and the Bedouin, for whom they held great value as protectors of the herds, are now settling in villages where they have no need for dogs. But we still can occasionally find Canaans in isolated areas.
Over the years we have made many expeditions of this sort. It is impossible to know in advance if there will be success in finding or seeing dogs – it is possible to travel around for days and see none. But hopes were high!
And indeed, we were in luck. Throughout the morning, we saw a number of Bedouin herds out to pasture – at this time of year even the desert is green and there is plenty of grazing – and all were accompanied by dogs, some of them really beautiful examples of the breed.
As we were getting to the end of our planned route, we passed a small Bedouin village, Hura. Outside the village was a garbage dump, and this was the spot that dead sheep were discarded. There were some vultures circling above, so it was obvious that there was food here, so maybe we would also see some dogs that had come to scavenge.
As we slowed down, we spotted a black and white Canaan male. The dog didn’t bark or threaten, but paced back and forth and seemed to be trying to lure the invading humans away from the spot. When we went back in the direction from which the dog had come, a female Canaan, brown and white, jumped out of the dense thicket of thistle bushes, barking, and trying to lead us away. It was clear that this bitch was nursing a litter, her teats were full of milk.
After some searching, on the edge of the extremely smelly dump, well hidden under the thicket of thistles, and comfortably ensconced on a thick layer of old sheep skins, with many well chewed and cleaned bones scattered around, we found the litter – four puppies about six weeks old, all females and all brown and white like their mother. The puppies were calm as they looked at these odd beings invading their territory. The worried parents watched from a distance, unable to cope with so many strangers, but never thinking of moving out of sight of their pups. There were no signs of fear – obviously these pups had never seen people before and certainly had never had any experience of abuse or mistreatment. When I approached and stretched out a hand, the puppies one by one approached. They had no objection to being picked up and cuddled, and were very plump, healthy, and completely free of ticks or fleas. The parents were also in excellent condition, very well fed from the carcasses, even though belonging to and cared for by no one.
It has been very rare over the years to find puppies in the desert. The dens are usually very well hidden and a distance away, but in this case the food supply was so good in this spot that the litter was accessible. And this was a unique opportunity to once again really see the life of free living Canaans!
One of the puppies came home with me, and has very easily and quickly adjusted to modern comforts. Her name is Dardar – the Hebrew name for the thistle thicket that was her first home. We hope she will grow up to introduce another new bloodline to the breed. Meanwhile, she has become my granddaughter’s dog and has taken over the household, enjoying all the perks of modern life. The only thing she didn’t enjoy much was the very needed bath, to free her of the essence of dead sheep…