This page is for me to jot down some of the things I want to say about Pip. It will be about his life, not his death, and will not follow any chronological order - just memories. The photos below are new to us, taken by Ken Allan when Pip was 6 weeks old. They are lovely and I hope Ken won't mind me adding them to Pip's story.
Pip, Altaya Sandpiper, was born on the 10th October 2006, in a litter of 9 to Amber, Altaya Rekhmarah, and Jack, Mumtaz Khamsin of Timellie. His mother and breeders loved him, but his absent father did not like him one little bit when they met some time later. Jack never did take to him, but having only one loving parent did Pip no harm as the wonderful start Amber, Elaine and Neil gave him more than made up for coming from a single parent family. Neil noticed that from an early age Pip was unusual in holding your gaze and looking you straight in the eye.
Pip left the bosom of his maternal family on a cold December evening after Christmas and travelled north without a murmur for a couple of hours on my knee in the back of the car. He slept all the way and woke to find himself the centre of attention to Rosa and Becca. Rosa didn't really welcome him and made sure he kept his distance, but Becca after a very short bout of barking decided we'd brought home just what she needed, the thing that had been missing from her life to date - a victim. She took over his upbringing. It would not be true to say she mothered him, more that she took on the role of disciplinarian and torturer. She chased him incessantly around the garden. We were mindful that little puppies could be damaged by over exertion with adult dogs and tried to stop her, but Pip totally loved being chased. He never grew out of this trait, always preferring to be the chased rather than the chaser. Despite being brought up by a bully, Pip was neither aggressive nor overly submissive in response. If he'd been a person I'd describe him as assertive. He respected her but never cowered under her bullying. Having said that he used to scratch the floor or the door to draw our attention to his desire to walk past her in her bed and his need for one of us to be standing between him and her. She could be scary.
Pip loved the the garden pond and would jump in there knowing Becca was reluctant to follow. He was fascinated by frogspawn, and at that time the pond had a liner. This he proceeded to demolish by digging in the pond. We emptied the pond and replaced the liner, so Pip responded to this challenge by repeating his digging exercises. In the end, because we could not stop him digging, we emptied the pond again of liner, plants, creatures etc and reconcreted it to try to make it water tight and Pip proof. We never did find out where all the fish escaped to although we occasionally get postcards from some of the older inhabitants in warmer climes. (No we don't). Pip foiled our every effort to protect the pond - fencing around it, nets and frames over it. Fences were for jumping over or knocking over, nets just made the digging more interesting. The reconcreting didn't work as he thought it was for scratching to file his nails - he could make his feet or himself totally disappear if the clippers ever dared show their face. So the pond continued to leak and is now just a hole in the ground that half fills up with rain water. Pip of course thought it was a special watering hole just for him complete with interesting detritus. He preferred the 3 sources of water in the garden, the pond, the zinc bath intended for washing his feet and the watering can to any fresh filtered water on offer in the house. Naturally his favourite source of water in the house was the downstairs loo, or if he got very lucky the loos upstairs.
Pip loved to garden. His choice activities were pruning, digging and emptying plant pots. I liked to leave the cutting back of old stalks etc till the Spring to provide shelter and seeds for birds over winter. Pip had no such scruples and liked to bite them down. On one occasion when he was a small puppy I noticed him rubbing his head. On investigation I found he'd got a twig lodged across his mouth. He trusted me to get it out and I felt like I'd performed successful open heart surgery. Pip just resumed his pruning. He objected strongly to plants taking up space in plastic pots. As far as he was concerned plastic pots belonged to him and their sole purpose in life was to provide him with something to play with, shred up and scatter all over the carpet. He developed quite a determined capacity to extract any and every plant from the pots however root bound, and I gave up trying to grow anything.
Pip loved playing and seemed to have boundless energy. His first favourite toy was his squeaky chicken and he was torn between wanting to toss it about to catch it, keeping it in his mouth and making it make its delightful noise, and burying it for later in one of his excavations. He played happily with balls foreverin the house and would bring the ball back to chase after again and again. He wasn't so good at bringing balls back outside, not always making the connection that if he wanted it thrown so he could chase it, he had to return it first. Fizz and her older Spanish Water Dog mate Ellie introduced Pip to frisbees and going into the river for fun. Ellie was very good at retrieving the frisbee and returning it for another throw, but Fizz and Pip were more reluctant to give the frisbees back. My favourite videos of Pip are of him playing with his frisbee - like watching joy on legs. He also liked playing 'king of the castle' and would climb on to the table in the garden, or the raised rockery pond and look so pleased with himself, taunting Becca who was no climber.
Pip was a real water baby, attracted to any water anywhere whatever the temperature. He would insist on going into the river by 'our' fields even when there was snow on the ground, and would go in and out of the Swale in the Dales in coldest February without the slightest shiver. Becca would have the gentlest of paddles and Coco isn't interested at all, although all three liked splashing and chasing through the pond in the field in high summer. We think Pip used the river to escape both Becca and Coco - it was solely his domain -, and would come out reinvigorated ready for another chase. He had tremendous stamina and could keep playing and running for what seemed like hours, reluctant to leave the field before he'd had his 'moneysworth'. Rosa used to like going in the Swale or any pond/puddle we came across, but it was obvious that she used water to lie down in to cool herself - she had a very severe heart condition. Pip never seemed to get hot (or cold until the end), and never panted. Pip loved water in all its disguises, he revelled in the snow, liked to splash and break the ice on puddles - like a child in a new pair of wellingtons - and he especially loved walking on frozen water or ice skating. He would deliberately slide on the ice and liked doing twirls as well. He was just fascinated by it. It was his complete reluctance to engage with the snow before Christmas that made us realise something was terribly wrong. It was so out of character. He was so hardy and fit it never crossed our minds that he would ever be ill. We revelled in his robust good health and anticipated years of him just getting stronger and stronger. So many critiques for Pip said he was a slow maturing boy, one to watch, with time on his side. I still can't accept that it wasn't. I can't believe he's gone forever.
His ability at agility was amazing, and he'd come on so well. John was even considering going in for agility competitions. Pip was never going to be the fastest dog on an agility course, but he concentrated and focused so well that he didn't make mistakes. I remember John practising pre-agility training at home, having to encourage Pip to put his front paws on a low stool, and then getting him to move his back legs around the stool. Pip was concentrating so hard on trying to understand what was being asked of him that I swear I could hear his brain working. Eventually he would make a noise as if to say 'enough, my brain hurts'. I loved watching Pip jumping over the hurdles, but never managed to get just the photo or video I wanted, again thinking there would be plenty of opportunities in the future. Unfortunately every time he jumped I would press the wrong button on the camera almost as a reflex as my finger jumped with him. We were very proud of him when he did a pre-agility demonstration in front of lots of salukis and their owners at the Earby Welfare Walk in September 2009. Pre-agility seems to be about teaching the dogs where their back legs are - apparantly they don't normally know.
Pip was never a 'barky' dog which was a great relief after Becca, and misled us about saluki puppies in general as Coco can burst your eardrums with monotonous regularity if he spies another dog as you're sitting in the enclosed space of a car. Pip could however howl for England if the mood took him and was quite an effective moaner. He travelled well and was never sick. He liked to stand and watch the world go by from the back of the estate, then sleep. If Becca was being particularly stroppy
Pip would travel on the back seat in his harness, and he always had to travel like that in my car on the way to work and training. He would get in, have his dentastick then settle down quietly. It wasn't always like that. For the whole of the first trips I took him on to puppy training he howled and fussed and was a nightmare. Eventually he learned that we were going somewhere fun and never repeated that behaviour. Thank heavens.
While car travel never made Pip sick he found that mobile phones, pens and television controls really didn't agree with him. He tried several pens just to be sure. Other mobile phones and TV controls have ever since been kept out of the reach of all salukis. He never acquired Becca's and Coco's penchant for paper tissues, but could dig or chew a hole in any bedding you care to mention. The exception to this was the little blue blanket that came home with him from Elaine and Neil, having been slept on by his mum. This blanket is still intact, has been washed hundreds of times and went everywhere with Pip. He slept on it at work, learned to 'wait' and 'go to bed' on it at Good Citizen training. He even used to take it into the garden for an airing and run around. The activity Pip most liked to do with his blue blanket was humping. He would even pull it off the washing line in his impatience to play with it. He only tried to bury it a couple of times.
Pip had a passion for any shoes or slippers I stupidly left lying around within his reach. Countless pairs of my favourite shoes were treated to his special attention, which was to chew on the heel. Normally he concentrated on only one shoe out of each pair. Too frequently I would find one shoe missing and eventually discover it buried in one of Pip's holes in the garden. I took to hiding my shoes to keep them safe but Pip just saw this as a game of retrieval and didn't understand when I wasn't pleased that he'd found the shoes for me and returned them complete with bite marks.
Whenever Pip did anything that he suspected he shouldn't he would get so excited that he invarably barked and drew attention to his misdemeanour. He clearly thought he was very clever if he'd sneaked on to a bed and muddied the bedding. His woof of delight would lead us to him and he would look so pleased with himself it was impossible to be cross with him. The first time he retrieved the remains of the roast beef from the kitchen he was so thrilled he brought it through to show us. He did get slightly more worldly wise eventually, but never became as sneaky as Becca who would steal things and hide them in her bed for later. Becca had obviously never read that chocolate is poisonous for dogs. I came home once to find a bag of chocolate coins off the Christmas tree had been sucked to the point that it was just a bag of gold foil. A few hours later I remembered that I had put 2 bags on the tree. The second was buried untouched under her bedding. The chocolate had no effect on her, and neither did the half a bowl of chocolate mousse prepared for a dinner party that she devoured while I left the kitchen for a few moments.
Pip did not have Becca's sweet tooth but thought that any meat, fish or cheese was fair game, and put out of his reach (or so we thought) to make acquiring it more fun. He was very sweet natured and never mean. I'm not sure that the local squirrels and cats would agree with this description but he never managed to catch one, although in an encounter with a cat he was lucky not to get his eyeball scratched and he lived with the little scar under his eye for the rest of his life. Although Pip's chase instinct was highly developed, the only rabbits he ever caught were mixie rabbits and he had no killer instinct despite having regularly practised shaking blankets and cushions to death. Pip would bring the poor creatures to us to despatch.
For the first 2 years of his life Pip went to work with me. My boss also bought her slightly younger (by 3 weeks) Spanish Water Dog bitch puppy to work, and they would spend an hour playing together and then fall asleep before another play.They would get so tired from their playing that they would fall asleep anywhere and usually on top of each other. Fizz (so called because she was born on Bonfire Night) was Pip's first girlfriend and they were friends for a long time, going together to puppy, Bronze, Silver and Gold Good Citizens as well as beginners agility. It wasn't long before Pip was towering over Fizz but this did not interfere with their play or love affair. She would reach up and put her front paws around his neck and give him a cuddle. They didn't really cause much havoc at work, staff would step over their recumbent bodies in our very small crowded offices and happily there were no tumbles. We did get a little concerned when they started chewing through the cables on the floor, and eventually Pip and I moved into a separate office on our own. The staff based at the office and visitors to the centre would always come and say hello to Pip and bring him treats. Most of the people he regularly saw were women and he was always very gentle and polite with everybody. The only exception to this good behaviour was when a particular male care assistant would bring me his timesheet every Monday morning, and Pip would tense and either hide under my desk or, if he was feeling particularly brave, make grumbling noises at the poor chap. I eventually realised it was my fault. Every Monday morning when this CA brought me his timesheet he always seemed to have a complicated question to ask about holiday pay or wages, to which I could not immediately provide the answers. I realised that it was me tensing everytime he approached, wondering what challenge to my knowledge was going to be raised today, and Pip was so sensitive to me that he tensed too. Pip was generally so good with all the visitors that I did consider using him for Pets As Therapy but never had the time.
While John did the ringcraft and showing I did the puppy and Good Citizens training with Pip. It was absolutely essential that Pip was well socialised after Becca, we wanted him to get on with other dogs and to be able to take him anywhere we were going. Pip enjoyed all the training, especially meeting all the dogs and would get very excited when he arrived at the training venue. The puppy training was in an equestrian centre sandschool. The first challenge the trainer set us was to be more interesting to our puppies than the horse muck buried in the sand. I failed miserably. Pip was in heaven digging up the soft sand in the company of lots of other excited puppies. Fortunately most of the KC good citizens training was in an outdoor enclosure where the challenge was to keep our dogs interested in us rather than the horses, donkeys and cows in the field surrounding the enclosure, who would wander over to watch the dogs going through the paces. It was as if we were there for their entertainment, and if we were practising something that didn't interest them (like long down waits) they'd wander off bored and complaining that there was never anything worth watching in the field these days, or it was always repeats. Pip would moan about repeats too. He would happily practise something a couple of times, but then lose interest and refuse to do it again. I persuaded Kim the trainer that this was a saluki trait rather than just Pip being pig-headed. Fortunately she bought it and would tell me not to try to do anything more than twice. Most of the other dogs were well behaved gundogs who were eager to please. The exception to this was Fizz who was a gundog with a mind of her own and led my boss a merry dance.
I think it was at training that I discovered one of the traits Pip had inherited from his grandfather Oz, which is that when he was excited about being around other dogs or just happy he liked to express his excitement and happiness by attempting to hump me, or the bag with his things in, or my coat or his blanket. The other trait he inherited from Oz was the way he sat down on a settee, which was like a person does - back legs on the floor and bottom only on the seat. He did it naturally from being a small puppy so it wasn't learned behaviour and we've never seen the others do it. He would look as if he was attending a tea party and was ready to engage in the conversation.
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