October 17, 2007

Couple gives rescued Salukis a happy home

by K.C. Jaehnig


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. — She calls their ranch-style house with the huge fenced yard near the Williamson County line "The Home of the Fat Salukis."

"You don't see their hips and rib bones as well as you should, but we think they need to be happy," said Sara Long Roth as she cuddled one rangy hound and ruffled the silky ears of another.

"They like the couch, they like the bed, and they like pizza."

For Ruby, 13, and Durango, 8, happiness matters more than it might for the average pooch. The pair are "rescued" dogs from California, adopted separately in 2005 by Roth, a professor of food and nutrition at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and her husband, Kevin, with the help of a San Francisco-based group called the Saluki Tree of Life Alliance, or STOLA for short.

Ruby and Durango were luckier than many STOLA dogs; their previous owners voluntarily gave them up. Salukis taken away from their owners have not had good lives.

"In one case involving an animal hoarder, rats ate the dogs' food, so the dogs ate the rats," Long said. "They thought one of the dogs was brown, but when they got it clean, they found it was cream colored."

While neither Ruby nor Durango — nor Clifford, an older dog they acquired last year — had what Roth referred to delicately as "issues," the differences between the two rescues and Sultan, a pup the couple bought this summer, were apparent.

"It took a while for this to dawn on me because I had never had a rescued dog before — she didn't know how to play," said Roth of Ruby, the first of the two STOLA dogs to move in.

"She's social, especially with me — she's a mama's girl — but she was a kennel dog. She has learned to do the (leg) 'lean' thing, though."

The story of Ruby, Durango and Roth begins a few years back with Roth idly scrolling through the online version of the Daily Egyptian, SIUC's student newspaper.

"I saw a little box that said, 'Do you want to adopt a Saluki?' and I thought, this sounds kind of cool, so I clicked on it," Roth recalled. Doing so led her to the STOLA Web site, www.stola.org.

Dogless since the '70s, Roth had known she was finally ready for another four-legged friend. She'd been thinking of finding it at a Humane Society shelter, but the opportunity to give a home to the breed SIUC has adopted as its mascot proved irresistible.

And time consuming. The Roths had to fill out a four-page application, supply references and have a home visit.

"It's like adopting a kid — they're really serious about making sure their dogs are going to homes that can take care of a Saluki, because these dogs are different," Roth said.

Prospective owners need more than just a fenced yard and some space to run. They need vets who understand Salukis' medical needs — no injected anesthesia, for example, and particular drug dosages — and they must appreciate the dogs' unique character.

"These dogs have different temperaments," Roth said. "They're like giant cats in dog suits — curious and somewhat aloof."

Since Ruby's arrival nearly three years ago, the Roth pack has settled in nicely. Ruby, despite her advanced years and cataracts, has become "The Rubinator," the dog with The Look that can lay down the law. Durango, perhaps influenced by his name, loves to ride in the car. Clifford, used to being low dog on the totem pole, fits in just fine. Sultan, the puppy, is already the Drama King. Ruby is still working on "correcting" him, though with the difference in their ages, the outcome is not altogether assured, Roth said with a smile.

Roth hopes SIUC, either as a whole or through various student groups, will aid canine Salukis still waiting for homes by "adopting" STOLA as a fund-raising beneficiary, much as the SIUC Student Nutrition Academic Council, which she advises, has done this year.

"STOLA asks a $250 adoption fee when they place a dog, but it doesn't come anywhere near covering their costs," Roth said.

And anyone can help STOLA Salukis by shopping at iGive.com/stola (details on the STOLA Web site), where more than 650 merchants of brand-name merchandise have agreed to give up to 26 percent of each purchase made to the organization.

"It doesn't take a lot — it's very easy to do, and every time you go on line to shop, you can do something good," Roth said.

As for those who have the time and desire to open their homes and hearts to a rescued dog, they will find the rewards incomparable, Roth said.

"It's like a lot of things in life: the more you give, the more you get back, and you get back a lot from these guys — far more than what you put into them. Their unconditional love is just incredible."


KissesSara L. Roth, a professor of food and nutrition at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, goes nose to nose with Ruby, a 13-year-old Saluki, while cuddling 8-year-old Durango. Roth and her husband, Kevin, adopted the pair in 2005 from the Saluki Tree of Life Alliance, or STOLA, a non-profit group formed to aid Salukis given up by or taken from their previous owners. The Saluki is SIUC's mascot.

University Communications photo by Jeff Garner