Meet my Dogs: Amalu
Amalu was a little bit of a surprise compared to my first two Azawakh, for whom I planed and planned. I had followed her father, Sadhu since he Carol Galebe imported him from Niger in the most recent Sahelian expedition. The heavily patterned brindle, looking black in some photos, was striking, but I liked his presence, his structure, and his expression. I further liked how Carol described him - she could take him anywhere and he was easy and calm in public.
When I found out that she had bred him, I was excited to see how the puppies turned out and follow their journey. Around the same time, I was listening through Pure Dog Talk and had recently listened to the Bill Shelton episode about how to create a family of dogs. The idea being that instead of having one blood line that you work with, you have two that you breed that you can periodically cross into. Ami was about ten months old at this point and Anubi as 2.5, but I kept thinking about: where do I go from here? I knew that particularly with a rare breed and small genepool, it was going to be easy to breed myself into a corner and I would have to find unrelated dogs.
It seemed the smarter idea to add another bitch and let her grow up immediately rather than doing so down the line when I was going to have to wait for her to grow up before breeding. Thinking about it, for a spur of the moment idea, a lot of thought went into the idea. So I reached out to Carol saying that I had followed Sadhu for some time and loved him and that Badana, the mother of the litter, had an interesting pedigree not closely related to my own dogs. I expressed my interest about a week before the puppies were born and we exchanged messages.
Once the puppies were born we weren't in contact for a few weeks, but then Carol confirmed I would be getting a puppy - I'd had to convince my husband as to why bringing home then was important. We made arrangements for Carol's friend to fly Amalu and her brother to the US from Brazil. We met them at the airport in New York. Customs took ages, as is often the case, and I was in a rush to get to my flight.
I took Amalu out of the crate and picked her up. She was a bit dazed and tired from the flight and she just sat in my arms happily. I went to put a collar on her and she shrieked and tried to wriggle away. I felt badly for her, but changed from a martingale to a slip lead (much easier to get over the head) and she relaxed again. I took her to the dog rest area and put down pee pads. Then I tried the collar again and she was much more willing.
From there we made a mad dash to check in for our flight. An entire flight had been cancelled and everyone was rebooking their flights and ahead of me in line. A couple people noticed my panicked look and they allowed me to slide forward to the front of the line and check in. We made it through security and boarded the flight and made it to Seattle just barely more than 24 hours after I had left.
Amalu was an easy puppy. Amidi, who can often be standoffish with dogs fell in love with her immediately. The other dogs were more used to dogs coming and going and they loved her. We started a puppy preschool class immediately and she was bright and focused. She came to flyball and did recalls. She went to puppy daycare at my work and became increasingly comfortable with new people (she tended to love new dogs immediately).
I took her to her first performance cluster two weeks after I got her and carried her a lot of the time but she still got to watch a Fast CAT practice and be crated at an event and watch agility. A week later, I left for the AKC National Championships and she stayed with a coworker and friend so my husband didn't have to watch her. During that time she met new people and dogs and even sat in on my friend's class that she was teaching. It was the first time I'd had a new to me dog board with a friend and it was such a good experience for teaching independence I will certainly be doing that in the future.
She went on her first vacation to the beach with us over Christmas and fit right in and loved running on the beach. During that time she was the most wary I've ever seen her of people, but she had such a nice time the rest of the time the people quickly became background noise to her. We played lots of Look at That and other focus games to help her gain some confidence through that fear period. She was such a trooper for staying in a cabin and then a hotel and I'm glad I accustomed her to travelling early because COVID hit a bit over two months later and we went into lockdown.
Raising a six month old Azawakh during a lockdown was a fascinating experience. I never truly stopped working because I was doing a lot of online lessons. It was just about perfect timing in some ways because Alu was of a perfect age to demo new behaviors for my lessons, so she got a ton of mental exercise. That being said, I still had far more time on my hand than I'd ever had in my life so we hiked. We hiked a ton. At first we took it as far as Amalu could handle, she would start to lag a little and we'd turn back. But within a month of hiking she was running along with the adults and having the time of her life. Her recall became particularly great for a young dog because we practiced daily.
Going back to work away from the home was hard for her initially. She'd whine and cry and fuss even though I had been careful to give her crate time away from me during the full lock down. Eventually she started to relax when I had to leave and she settled into the new routine. All that foundation work as a puppy certainly helped her, even if she didn't practice some things as often as she would have in a pre-COVID world.
At 11 months, Amalu came to the first Pure Dog Talk retreat with me and she shocked me by showing quite well in the mock show. She had been to one handling class before the shut down and I never expected my COVID Azawakh puppy to be able to pull that off. After that and with friends' urging, I took Amalu to her first UKC show (she's not allowed to show AKC because she doesn't have a three generation pedigree) a month later. She was a year old and she took Best Female over Ami both shows. I was blown away with how well she tolerated the exam and who beautifully she moved. A friend even took her back into the ring when I had to bring both girls into the ring and she did fantastically.
COVID certainly did have un-expected side effects though. One of the first events to open back up were lure coursing events because they were outside and you could adequately socially distance at them quite easily. As such, Amalu got to do lots of puppy and practice runs. Her first trial she was absolutely terrified of the environment, but she got more and more comfortable each trial until she was actively sniffing people's hands in curiosity. However, during the pandemic Amalu spent much more time with my other dogs than she normally would have. She has always played rough with Amidi in particular and when I started running them together in both racing and coursing, Amalu would try to play. Both Anubi and Ash will tell her off and she hasn't messed with them since, but Amidi won't say a thing. It's taken a solid six months to get her running cleanly with my other dogs and depending on the day it's still hit or miss, but I've seen a huge amount of maturing from her in the past few months and she's been running cleanly lately.
More so even than racing and lure coursing, Amalu has a love for agility that brings such joy to my heart. We did a lot of body awareness foundations that I do with all my puppies but she didn't get to play much at all until she was nine months. And within a couple months of practicing 5-15 minutes a week she went from this:
To this two months later:
To this at 15 months, again all with limited practice:
She is such a complete natural, which considering agility is very much a manufactured sport was a shock to me. She has a perfect blend of handler and obstacle focus. There have been many times when I wished I had more time to devote to trialing her in agility and eventually I might send her with a friend to trial if it conflicts with another event because agility is Alu's absolute favorite in the entire world.
In many ways, Amalu is the perfect pet temperament for an Azawakh. Amidi is a very busy dog. She wants to be up and doing things much more compared to my other dogs. Anubi is calm and dignified, but he also gets troublesome if he doesn't have a job, much much more so than a typical household would desire. Tabiri is insecure and a bit sharp for the average person - very stable but sharp. Amalu on the other hand is avoidant of strangers but tolerates them easily. She will alert bark but settle quickly. She is super focused and trainable but has a brilliant off-switch even as a puppy. I hadn't been sure what to expect from a dog whose father came from the Sahel, but I have found her quite alike to my other Azawakh. In fact, in temperament I find her closest to Anubi who is the furthest removed from desert blood of my dogs.
I love this girl so much and I'm so looking forward to our future together.