Ataika and her mother in Almaty; Almaty life

Could it be ten years ago? More?

Ataika at 6 weeks, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in Konstantin and Anna Plakhov’s back yard, the day we met her, with mother Oska.

A month in our apartment, with days riding around in Askar Raybaev’s (Mitsubishi!) stretch limo; visiting museums and supermarkets and restaurants and archaeologists; then to New Mexico on KLM. What a strange postmodern dog’s life! Scenes of that month following…

Happy New Year Hunt

I try to hunt at least a little on New Year’s Day, which is a bit superstitious (Thanksgiving too, another story). I have been worried that Ataika, best of all dogs, was getting depressed from lack of activity; hell, I was, beleagured by, first, lack of feedback and misleading written advice from the new Rheumatology office, which caused one crisis (wouldn’t you think that a bottle that told you to take it for “one month” meant THAT, and not “Then come back for another?”) Then, my own stupidity led me to take too high a dose of another med without realizing some rather strong side effects- mea culpa. (I should note here that my “real” docs, Sarah and Jen, are perfect , and have nothing to do with these problems).

But even at my worst, I believe that I have a duty to my animals. Last week I wrote to Gil:

“Yesterday I made some sort of resolution that regardless of what I felt like I HAD to take Ataika out— she, the most cheerful and inteligent of dogs, seemed to be getting seriously depressed.

“Gil, it might be the best decision I have made in months. She and her line continue to be as remarkable as their Kazakh breeders claim. Remember, my old Lashyn died of “old age” when she was younger than Ataika’s mother Oska was when she gave birth to Taik (14!), and Oska then lived to 20! Her mother, Arys,  made 19.

“Taik is ten, and virtually hadn’t  hunted for around nine months. Not only did she seem utterly fit; she put up  a hare, ran it through a barbed- wire fence; remembered to flatten like a snake at full speed to go under the lowest strand; nearly caught up, turned it, forced it to flatten its ears (only hard- pressed hares do); ran it over a hill and out of sight, and returned promptly at my whistle, jumping OVER the four strand fence on her way back. Then hunted attentively for a half- hour over rough ground. As for me, I walked further over that rough ground than I had in a year!

“What a girl she is! I am sore but feeling re- energized. As for my future breeding, I am also thinking of her daughter Larissa, who embodies much of the line’s virtues,  and has already been offered as breeding stock…

“To be continued- I think I will take her out for quail next!”

I  appended this photo of ‘Rissa– who resembles her most of all her offspring– by Shiri, leaping like her mother:

Today I took Ataika out for a run, hoping for a cottontail.

” I didn’t want to go far, so went to the Rodeo grounds across Route 60, almost always good for a bunny or jack run, though it is hard for a single dog to prevail in coursing– you need at least another dog and/or hawk. I took the .410 just in case we saw a close cottontail past the fence that marks Village limits, inside of which you are really not supposed to shoot.

“Instead, we busted a rather large covey of Gambel’s quail– 20? Ataika once again proved her quality and good memory by carefully hunting up and flash pointing the singles and stragglers, five I think, within shotgun range, and standing to the flush (only once did I have to remind her to “hunt close”).  Since this was the first quail hunt for her in 3 years because of drought (she has hunted lagomorphs) I thought that was intelligent of her. Unfortunately all were within the Village. Now some of you may realize why I want an Accipiter or male Harris (or accurate air rifle), legal and effective within the village, where in dry years we often have more game , and still have dirt roads.

“Afterwards she insisted (as she does) on pulling out her own goatheads, and was predictably shy about being photo’d by Libby. “

Happy New Year!

“A Hundred Sorrows”

Old Year news, which I didn’t want to make anyone sad about during the Holidays. In the kind of  coincidence weirdly common in falconry– see the quote referenced above and quoted in full below– good friends (and good falconers) lost both my birds in one December week. Rio/ Guero had been brought to the point of taking quarry by Tavo Cruz when he went into one of those sudden twelve – hour downward  spirals that used to make an old eagler I know mutter that “Gyrs have AIDS”. It IS better these days, but Gyrs, in addition to being almost impossible for me to follow these days except under the best conditions, are still more delicate and “immunologically innocent” than many slighter species.

Meanwhile, Bodie had lost his good Saker in as strange a set of circumstances as I have ever known; to a coyote in his library at night, with a locked door between it and the young deerhounds, who would have settled its hash. The coyote locked itself in, and Bodie shot it with his 1911; his suburban neighbors in Corrales tried to get him in trouble for shooting it (in his house, mind you), because they feed coyotes. That this may well end up with the coyotes eating their toddlers apparently hasn’t occurred to these idiots. Read Valerius Geist.

Anyway, I lent him Chicken and she had a good season, flying and killing even large ducks on a nearby golf course pond, until one day she missed one, and not being the most lofty of falcons (that heavy Shahin wingloading that gives speed but not lift) landed on an electric transformer and fell to the ground, instantly burnt to death. This was a week after losing Rio. Sadly, not a rare fate for a bird; there is one in my alley that takes a regular toll of feral pigeons.

Both birds were given good lives, good flying and kills, and I thank my friends. But now I must devise a way of falconry that works for me with my present level of physical competence (and that uses ones I can fly off or out of vehicles if necessary). I think it will be small Accips and male Harrises, though some micro- falcons may work too.

The only falconry that is unacceptable is NO falconry. But Gace de la Vigne knew:

De chiens, d’oyseaux, d’armes, d’amours,

Pour une joye, cent doulours.”