Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Dog's Life

Yeah I'm gorgeous.JPG
Yeah I'm gorgeous.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
I guess that I could say that I know dogs. I've been breeding American Rat Terriers for over ten years now for rat hunting. Rat Terriers are more or less the American version of the Egyptian baladi dog. They were bred from a variety of working terrier breeds to produce a hardy, intelligent, loyal dog who could be trusted to guard the farm, livestock, and family of the farmer. Any dog who was too stupid not to learn to leave the chickens or sheep alone was shot, as was any one who bit a human. Veterinarians were in short supply so only the strongest survived. My working terriers are great dogs.

When we moved to Egypt we were given a female baladi dog in Alexandria. Pepsi was one of the smartest dogs I've ever seen. She was adult when she came to us, but she settled in right away and seemed to know that the children were her mandate. She was there to play whenever they wanted and was patient with the nonsense that a four and seven year old could come up with. If we went out for the evening, the babysitter had to understand that Pepsi slept outside the children's rooms and no one, but no one, was allowed in. When someone stole her shortly after we moved to a new house in Alexandria, we were all heartbroken.

A year later a lovely baladi dog called Lackie had a litter of pups at Smouha Sporting Club and I promised the children that we would take one of them. Someone took Lackie away to a farm when the pups were about 8 weeks old and it took us a couple of days to find the pups. We couldn't find the brown one that we'd decided we wanted so we collected a white one with a black face. Once she'd been cleaned up, Milligan was an adorable ball of cream fluff with a sooty face. When we found the sister that we'd originally planned on adopting a few days later, the difference between the two dogs was horrifying. Without her mother, the pups was thin and hungry. There was no way to leave her behind, and Stella came home with us.

Stella died last month of heart failure. She was over 15 years old and had helped to raise my children. She was unfailingly gentle with people and other dogs, although in her old age she did find the active terriers a bit annoying sometimes. Her sister Milligan died about 5 years earlier from cancer of the thyroid. These two dogs were amazing individuals and important members of our family. Whenever I had to have someone in our home to do any repair work, one or both of them would station themselves near the workers and simply watch them. As long as the men did their job in that place, the dogs simply watched, but if they wanted to move around the dogs would herd them to the kitchen door.

A couple of years ago my neighbour Morad had a litter of pups over at his place. My daughter saw a lovely auburn female and decided that this was destined to be Stella's understudy. Having had Pepsi and then Stella (the name of a local beer) the new dog was called Ganja, a name that is utterly meaningless to the local population. Ganja is not as patient as Stella was, but she is constantly on guard watching the house and garden, when she isn't catching a few rays on the picnic table.

Not all baladi dogs have such a good life. These are basically feral dogs. They may be descended from someone's family pet that was tossed out in the street and managed to survive. They might be descended from the wild dogs that have lived in Egypt for centuries. Virtually every farmhouse has one or two lying about in the yard ready to warn the family of a visitor or to drive off any marauding dog or fox that might show up. The farm families might give them a crust of bread every so often but usually the dogs fend for themselves entirely. They do not, however, prey on the livestock of their own house. For reasons best known to the dogs, they choose a family and then proceed to protect the members and belongings of that family, despite the fact that they get nothing, even affection, in return. Most of them are lucky to live to be two or three years old, considering that they are never vaccinated for anything and no one has the means or the money to take them to a vet if they get sick.

The feral baladi dogs of Egypt play an important role in the ecosystems of the country. In the cities where they live in the streets, they help to dispose of garbage if it is left around. They also are major predators of rats, mice and weasels. They are also a pool for the propagation of rabies, distemper, parvo and corona viruses. They also often suffer from some utterly brutal treatment at the hands of children who have never been taught to care for or understand animals.

Associations have been formed to help the animals of Egypt who have no else to help them. One of these associations is SPARE (the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights, Egypt) which has a shelter not far from where I live. They have a website at where it can even be arranged to adopt a dog from Egypt. Imagine, you too could have your own authentic Egyptian baladi dog. Some other groups such as Animal Haven specialise in cats, while the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends works with both dogs and cats. The Middle East Network for Animal Welfare has a site at The Brooke Animal Hospital ( is there for donkeys, mules, and horses in Egypt, many of whom lead lives that would make Black Beauty blush. But then the lives of their owners isn't exactly a picnic either.


Anonymous said...

having just returned from Sharm el Shiekh, i am sorry to say i witness the most barbaric cruelity in flicked on a dog, i demanded the egyptian guide stop the young girl from doing it, but he just said "oh what a pity" I was told not to interfer as it was their culture. I did interfer and vowed to save this dog. Please help me and advise what to do. I know the location and the Reps name who could trace the dog... if it is still alive. is it possible??? date of visit 23.09.2005

Bernard Hull said...

1.Abu Sir? Is this the same as Abu Suier where I was serving in the RAF during the 1940's.

2. What is the name of the wild dogs in the desert? I seem to remember them as Piats.

Maryanne said...

I've heard some of my Egyptian friends call Abu Sir "Abu Suier". Don't know why the difference. And I've only heard the baladi dogs called baladi dogs. There is the Armant, which is a feral dog from an area near Aswan, and there are names for the jackals and other canids that used to roam the area. Back in the 40's I daresay there were still jackals and maybe even the odd hyena around.

Anonymous said...

Hi, im moving to Cairo next month and i have a pekinese dog that lives with me inside the apartment.
i have heard that dogs are not allowed to live inside apartments in Egypt. can u help me and let me know how true this is.
thank you

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

In fact, many of the dogs living in Cairo are apartment dogs. Most landlords don't care if you have a small dog in the apartment. You will find some Egyptians are simply terrified of any dogs, even little ones. This can make walking your dog a bit of a trial.

owen said...

As Baladi dogs appear to be feral dogs that really don't need humans and have been living wild for so long they seem to breed to type, I'm interested in their diet. Do they eat small mammals in their entirety or do they eat larger prey and pick at the choice bits?

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

The really wild baladi dogs are mostly scavengers but also eat small mammals (rats, cats, etc) and whatever poultry they can catch. They do adopt to a farm family if given half a chance. I have two farm-bred baladi's and one desert bred.

Anonymous said...

This is an old blog entry but I enjoyednreading it. We adopted a baladi puppy in Cairo late last year and evacuated him during the revolution. He is now in Washington learning to be a civilized city dog and doing pretty well except when he gets the urge to run free and bolts for the door.

He is distinctive and when people as about him I explain he is a very rare baladi purebred - until my wife pokes me in the ribs for stretching the truth. Interestingly, these dogs are very similar to Canaan dogs (gogle it) and a total stranger asked me if he was one of them one day.

Anonymous said...

I have exported thee baladi dogs - a mother and two of her pups. They are absolutely beautiful and really smart. It has taken alot of training to get them to be obedient, as they require strong firm handling, but they are great house guards and loyal. They are with me now since 5 years, and I have three loyal pets.

Anonymous said...

I too have three baladi dogs at home in Europe. They were totally wild at first and have needed a lot of training - which is on going all the time. They adapt well to new locations - mine adore the snow. They run really fast, take sharp turns, and their senses are extremely keen. My three are great guard dogs as they jump up high in the fenced off enclosure in my yard just to warn off any potential intruders.

Anonymous said...

I think all dogs should have a good home there is no need for stray or abandoned animals, dogs are loyal and love you for who you are, they do not judge, they are much nicer than alot of people on earth, if I had little or no money I would make sure that my dog had food before myself (that's the truth) it breaks my heart when I go on holiday and see these poor animals on the streets I just want to take them home so sad.

Anonymous said...

I have a baladi dog here in Ireland, born in the streets and disabled at 8 weeks old. She came here for surgery and is now functional and pain free... Herself and her brother were semi feral but it literally took them a day to come round to being spoiled and living comforts. I've fostered hundreds of dogs an own 5 and can say that by far my baladi is the most intelligent, friendliest, loyal and funny dog I've ever encountered 😄 every home should own one

Anonymous said...

I help transport rescue dogs, most coming out of Quebec as they have numerous high kill shelters. A dog has approx 3 days in the shelter & if not rescued they are gassed! I was lucky to transport a Badali. He was rescued in Cairo & was at a foster home until transportation was available, this took approx 3 months. His name is Puzzle. He came 9,203km on a 13 hr flight! Puzzle is a very quiet boy, while I had him in my car Puzzle got comfy & didn't move just enjoyed the quiet. I would imagine being in a crate 13hrs in the cargo area was a very loud & cold, uncomfortable. He had no idea how to get into a car, once in my car he didn't want to get out! I had to lift him in & out. Puzzle is currently at a foster home. He is doing very well as he has figured out that he is safe & enjoys regular feedings & a comfy spot to lay his head.
Puzzle will be put up for adoption soon. We just need to get him nuetered & see how he gets along with other animals, people & places!!
If you are thinking about a dog please consider a rescue or a rescue Baldai!!!!