A Mustang brought Peter Lowe to America, but Salukis kept him here. Mind you, we’re not talking wild mustangs — we’re talking Mustangs of the Ford variety.
The renowned lure-coursing organizer, competitor and judge was 24 years old and just out of college when he lunched each day in a typically British pub in Farnborough, England, 30 miles southwest of London. “There was a beautiful Ford Mustang outside the pub every day,” he says. “It belonged to the owner. I had to have this car.”
As an electrical engineer, Lowe and his fellow graduates were always getting recruited to work in the U.S., so he accepted a job in Pasadena, Calif. That job didn’t turn out to be what he had hoped, so he and his wife, Daphane, moved to Minneapolis, where he fulfilled his dream of getting a Mustang. His plan was to work for three years, pay the car off, then return home to England.
But you know what they say about plans.
“Things were getting better and better for me in America,” he says.
After relocating to Colorado, he and his wife had a place that would accommodate a dog, so in 1972 they acquired an Afghan Hound named Natasha, simply because Daphane wanted one.
Lowe hadn’t had a dog since he was 2 years old. “I must confess. I was really cruel to it; they had to take the dog away.” Pressed a bit, Lowe admits it likely wasn’t “cruelty,” but more the typical pulling of ears and tails and climbing atop that most toddlers will do if not deterred by their parents or the dog. After that, his mum and dad always said he didn’t like dogs. They never got another one.
Soon after getting Natasha, the Lowes started showing her – thanks to their milkman and vet tech. “Oh, that is a beautiful Afghan Hound,” the milkman said. “Are you showing her? No? You should definitely show her.” Next, the vet tech said, “You really should show that dog.”
“So, off we go to show the dog,” Lowe says. “That was the last win we ever had,” with Afghans, that is.
As many dog owners do, the couple soon wanted a companion for Natasha. A friend of the same vet tech, Afghan breeder and AKC judge Helen M. Haas who today lives in Grand Junction, Colo., sold them a puppy. “Now we have a boy and a girl. I come back from the office, I let the dogs out, forget the bitch is in season. You know the rest of the story.”
The Lowes lost the last of their Afghans just seven years ago.
In the meantime, they had some good friends who owned Salukis. The couples went out together to take the dogs hunting jack rabbits on the plains of Colorado. “The Salukis were just beautiful at catching rabbits,” Lowe says.
Still in his first years of having dogs, Lowe was once again at the veterinary clinic and Haas asked him if he’d ever been to a lure-coursing event. He hadn’t, and she urged him to attend an upcoming trial.
The sport was just getting started in the U.S., and several Coloradoans were working to get it established in their state.
“I’ve always lure coursed my Afghans because I believe they should work and not just be show dogs,” Haas says. “I always kind of encourage Afghan people to run their dogs because it’s the most exciting thing they can do.”
“What I told Pete was probably what I told every Afghan owner – that you should try it. It’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done.”
Haas still shows her Afghans, and, after all these years still thinks it’s “really important for them to do some fun things for themselves and not just for me.”
Although she doesn’t specifically remember giving Lowe his entrée into the sport, he certainly does. After all, her suggestion set him on a 40-year odyssey of promoting, competing in, and judging lure coursing.
And, as with most fanciers, all this was done as an avocation.
Lowe’s engineering career saw him retire in 2009 as chief technology officer for Assa Abloy, a Swedish corporation that owns security-related companies. At the time, he commuted 90 miles each day to his company’s office. Today he’s a consultant specializing in intellectual property and patents, and he walks just 30 feet to his home office. It is part of the Lowes’ home just outside Falcon, Colo., where they bought about 80 acres in 2001, specifically for the purpose of hosting trials. The entire property is fenced and can accommodate three lure-coursing fields running concurrently.
The Lowes’ home and kennel are fenced within the property as well. Their dogs have use of eight 160-foot long runs, each 16 feet wide, and access to all those acres when accompanied by Pete or Daphane.
“It’s always hard to find courses, especially here in Colorado,” Haas says. She’s coursed at the Lowes and says it’s a “super space.”
The irony of this well-designed and beautifully appointed lure-coursing site? None of the Lowes’ current 15 Salukis ever compete on it. “We moved to this ranch which has abundant jack rabbits,” Pete explains. “Ever since we did that, they’ve all stopped chasing the lure.” Perhaps surprisingly, after decades of being a top competitor, Pete is OK with it.
“I don’t really mind. I have friends who come here and enjoy it. My dogs have a lot more fun chasing jack rabbits with me. Later today, I’ll take a couple out and we’ll walk around the property and have fun. Dogs have such an instinct, so I don’t care. It’s been a reasonable thing for me,” he says.
“A lot of the sighthounds are a lot smarter than you think they are,” Haas says. “Once they chase live game, they know the plastic bag is just a bag. They know it’s going to come back to them. It’s really hard to maintain a really good lure courser for many years because they read the course. Some of them are just lure-coursing-crazed, others get jaded after about a year or two.
When Lowe was lure coursing his dogs, though, he says it was “totally thrilling to know that they’re really enjoying it.”
Haas shares her take on Pete’s immersion in the sport: “I think what happened is once you get a dog that runs really well, and once he got into Salukis, he had some super, super Salukis. Once you have some good runners, you’re hooked and that’s your life.”
The Lowes started their transition to Salukis with Ceius and Kamai in 1975 because “the type of Afghan that was functional and could hunt was quite different from the type that was doing well in the show ring, whereas you can take a good running Saluki and do well with it in the ring.”
At that time, breeders were “very, very restrictive about who gets Salukis,” Lowe says. From the very beginning, he and Daphane planned to breed them, so the pair of dogs was “carefully chosen by Gary Roush who is a good friend of ours.” Search Shafiq Salukis online, and you’ll get myriad hits. Despite Daphane’s busy schedule showing their dogs, most of the references are related to lure coursing.
Decades later, the Lowes don’t breed very often. “Our last litter was nine Salukis. We kept all but one,” Pete says. And they don’t sell their puppies. “We will occasionally give one to or trade one with very close friends.”
Looking back on his competing days, Lowe recalls one amazing day in particular. Their Saluki, Khayaal, was competing at the International Invitational in Kentucky. “She’d won Best of Breed. She had to run against a Greyhound and another breed. They ran them the first time, and it was a tie between the Greyhound and my Saluki.” The dogs took their mandatory 15-minute rest, then tied again. Another 15 minutes’ rest, and they tied once more.
One more break, and “out they come again. And this time, my Saluki was just overtaking the Greyhound and the bloody machine broke and everything stopped. Fifteen minutes later, what the judges decided to do is to restart that course from where the string broke, three-fourths around the course. The Saluki just didn’t have enough space to overtake the Greyhound again. People knew she would have done it easily” had they run the whole course.
Even though his dog lost, Pete says it was great how many people came up to him to say Khayaal would have won if the judges had made a different decision that day.
The Lowes have always liked to put both conformation and field championships on their dogs. Daphane has handled the showing always from the bred-by class, and he, the lure coursing, for almost all of their years together. When she’s off at a show, Pete manages the kennel chores. When he travels for business or lure-coursing judging, she takes over. “We’re together about 50 percent of the time,” he says.
Pete’s participated in a variety of lure-coursing events over the years. He recalls when people used to do open field coursing. “You chase jack rabbits. One Saturday we were at this hunt as they call them. Alcyonne caught a rabbit, which is unusual. She opened her side by going under a barbed wire fence. She was a black and silver. We stitched her up. It was like a seam between the black and the silver. So you couldn’t quite see where we’d sewn her up. We took her into the ring the next day, and she won the breed. It was a good testament to our breeding – or our embroidery,” he says with a chuckle.
Now 70, Lowe has no intention of giving up his Salukis or his active lure-coursing judging career anytime soon. Nor does he plan to return to England. He has too many dogs to do that.
“They keep you young,” he says. “They keep you active. They give you a sense of humor and you live your life with them.”