Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bayud's Story--Will Israel's Dogs Survive?

This is Bayud.

He is a Canaan dog, Israel's National dog, and one of the last of his breed to be found in the wild. He was born in the southern desert. When the photo was taken, Bayud was living at a Bedouin camp, where his eventual role in life would have been that of guard dog. Like his father, his ears would have been cut to make him more alert before being put to work protecting the Bedouins' most valuable possessions--their camels.

Back at the Sha'ar Hagai kennels, near Jerusalem, Myrna Shiboleth had been struggling for over 40 years to save the breed from extinction in the wild. She frequently traveled to the Bedouin camps, looking for new dogs, but had not done so for several years because of difficulties in finding a male guide to accompany her. She could not have entered a Bedouin encampment as a woman alone.

She did eventually find a guide and was led on foot over a dusty trail to the camp, hidden among low hills. Dogs began barking and running toward them as they approached. Myrna was thrilled to see that they were Canaans--exactly what she was looking for.

After the women, dressed in their finest clothes, had served tea, photographs had been taken, and all the civilities observed, Myrna asked whether they might have one of the dogs. To her delight, they offered Bayud, who was the very dog she had been hoping for.

There was some trouble getting him into a crate, as the men feared to approach him. Then a woman approached, saw the situation, and put the dog into the crate without difficulty. It is the women among the Bedouin who care for the dogs and feed them. Consequently, it is only the women and children who are able to handle them.

Within a very short time after that, Bayud made the transition from semi-wild to house pet. Also, I'm sure he likes improving his breed's genetic diversity more than he'd have liked guarding camels.

Now, in 2012, Myrna's kennels are facing an eviction order from the Israeli government, with the next hearing scheduled for October. She fears that a loss in the courts will put an end to their breeding program, and consequently to their hope of saving the Canaan dog from eventual extinction.

The Bedouin way of life is disappearing. Therefore, says Ze'ev Trainen, a scientist and Israeli dog expert, "In 10 or 20 years, no more Canaan dogs will exist in the desert." Then, unless the gene pool is already broad enough, the dogs will face extinction.