It was the first time I had seen Salukis in person. Somehow I had caught wind of a lure-coursing trial, held by the Saluki Club of Greater San Francisco, in Redding, CA. What an experience!
Salukis are rather 2-dimensional, like cardboard cut-outs of dogs: beautifully conformed in length and height but negligible in width. You don't see many Salukis out and about, probably because their owners are tired of people asking “Don't you ever feed that poor dog?!” In public they are grave, composed, showing little reaction to anything except a fleeing lure. Even the puppies at the event acted ancient to me. Of course, my comparison was my Malinois, Coda, who spent the entire 5 hours peering, sniffing, wiggling, whining, bounding, gnawing, barking, or tugging :-P

Lure-coursing is done with a very long length of cord, laid out around a field using several guide-spools, and attached to a motor that reels the string up quickly, drawing the lure through the pattern laid. Between courses the club let me try Coda on the lure. Though she was enthused about playing kill-the-plastic-bag with me, she wouldn't leave me to chase it. She has no such compunction when it comes to squirrels, let me tell you, and if it had been a tennis ball on the line we might have gotten somewhere.

That same day, Celeste Schmidt titled her German Shepherd/Lab, Dakota, in AKC Coursing Ability (the inaptly named CAT title). He has only coursed a few times but took to it like a duck to water. Awaiting his turn, he would add his frenzied barks to the baying of the caged Salukis as the coursing machine fired up and another dog took off down the field. What fun! It was way better than a NASCAR race. You never knew when one of the contestants would romp off into the sunset followed by a plaintively calling owner, or a dog would trip, tumble head over heels a few times, and spring back up on track again. A neighbor's border collie broke onto the field at one point and a curly-haired terrier had to pause a few yards into her run for a potty break. The spectator dogs never tired of baying and barking excitedly at the start of each race. A doberman and two bullmastiffs ran for titles, as well as numerous terriers and mixed breeds. They didn't finish as fast as the Salukis but they clearly loved the run from start to finish.
Read more about lure coursing on the sports page!