Who let the dogs out?

Meet Michael White, Andrea Morley and their 12 canines.

saluki dog 88 (photo credit:)
saluki dog 88
(photo credit: )
How many times have we parents groaned and moaned about the responsibilities of child rearing, ferrying our offspring to school and all manner of social engagement, or finding a babysitter for the one evening on which we can finally nip out for a show and restore some semblance of normality to our harassed lives? Spare a thought, then, for Andrea Morley and Michael White who share their modestly sized home in Moshav Mata with no fewer than eight fully grown saluki dogs, plus a litter of four fast-growing pups. For those unacquainted with the magnificent breed, the saluki is a hunting dog that bears some resemblance to a greyhound, but is a lot shaggier and more regal looking. "The Arabs call them 'gazelle hounds,'" explains White. "Traditionally they are well respected by the Beduin who relied on them for much of their food. But the Beduin lifestyle has changed and they are not used for hunting these days." Just to put things into perspective, fully grown male salukis attain a height of about 70 cm. The four youngsters at the Morley-White canine kindergarten are now just over three months old, full of puppyish joie de vivre and growing fast. "They mostly get on with each other, but I think you can see their personalities coming out," observes Morley. She and White are looking to pass two of them on to new owners, but not to just anyone. "The saluki is an aristocratic animal," continues Morley. "These are all pedigree dogs and we want them to go to a good home, to someone who appreciates their beauty and their qualities. We've had people interested in the puppies but we didn't feel they were people we could trust to take care of the dogs properly." Morley and White fell in love with the breed over 30 years ago. They also forged a strong bond with this country. "We started coming here [from their native UK] in 1989. We love it here, despite some hiccups along the way." Some of the obstacles, unsurprisingly, resulted from the nightmare logistics of getting the creatures over here in the first place. "We had enormous problems. We had five dogs then. Lots of airlines simply wouldn't take them," Morley recalls. "And we couldn't take them all in one go. Michael had to make two trips between England and Israel, with some of the dogs, in the space of 24 hours." "It took me three hours just to get through security at Heathrow Airport," White adds. "And we almost missed the plane." Once here, things eventually improved - at least for the dogs. "They couldn't find them at Ben-Gurion Airport," says Morley. "By the time they found them the whole place had heard the story. There were people taking photographs of all of us. It was like being a Hollywood star." Then there was the matter of transporting humans and canines to their new home in Moshav Beit Zayit. "The taxi driver made sure the dogs had a comfortable spot among all the boxes, but Michael and I were just shoved in anywhere." In fact, at least for the salukis, this was something of a homecoming. "The saluki originates from the Middle East," explains White. "I have Ash's [White's 12-year-old dog, the senior member of the troop] family tree. We have traced him back 20 generations to the Jordanian royal family." Morley says she is keen to get word of the salukis out to the rest of the country. "It is so sad that so few Israelis know anything about these beautiful creatures. They belong to this part of the world." They have also, it seems, been around for longer than any other canine. "Their history goes back 8,000 years, and they have been preserved as a pure breed by the Beduin for centuries." But how do Morley and White manage with all the dogs and hang on to their sanity? "We take them for walks in pairs," says Morley. "They have to be paired off according to how they get on with each other, otherwise the walks simply wouldn't be doable." Keeping them nourished, one assumes, must also be a challenge. "Not really," continues Morley. "They eat meat and pasta and lots of things we have, and some other snacks and goodies." Naturally, the salukis initially ran off with all the major prizes at the Israeli dog championships before logistics, once again, got in the way. "We had to move house, some of the dogs were attacked by other dogs. It was a nightmare." Despite the sleepless nights - Morley says she is often woken by the dogs fighting over who gets to sleep on the sofa - the lack of domestic space and difficulty of getting away for a vacation or, even, for an evening, Morley and White say they wouldn't give up their canine pals for the world.