“Balance on Island Bali is everything. It permeates all things, it just is”.
Sultan the small black Bali Street Dog, a dog with black markings on his tongue, a sure sign of high intelligence, a unique indigenous canine only to be found on Bali. Sultan was a tortured and tormented canine who we rescued from the brink of euthanasia. His existence was intolerable, a being who would shake and quake at the sound of a falling Frangipani flower, a soul that would urinate in a quivering prone position.
Sultan for those who already knew him and were deeply aware of his reputation was a dog who could not and should not be handled, a fearsome Temple dog with no chance of repair or rehabilitation. He came to us as a snarling and snapping beast, a broken and untrusting thing that had no time or quarry for any human. In those early days, weeks and months Sultan certainly appeared to not want us and they were so many times we would admit that we didn’t want him; it all seemed to be just too hard.
But, as days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months we developed a routine with Sultan and him with us. Still untrusting of each other we came to a mutually agreeable arrangement. Touch was still an issue for him but over time we learned how to invade each other’s personal space without too much snapping or snarling from either side.
During this time our young granddaughter had learned about Sultan, she had heard us speak about him and had even seen glimpses of him as we Skyped each other. She christened him ‘Salty Dog’ and the name stuck, because he somehow was not as sweet as the other dogs.
A trip was arranged, our family were coming to holiday in our home on Bali. Aside from the usual excitement and family feelings that accompany such a reunion, we were troubled by how our grand daughter would engage with, react to and actually be with Sultan, let alone how he would be with her. She was coming from a home with two small dogs who she loved and who loved her back dearly. She was accustomed to touching, patting and tail wagging type pooches and certainly had never been exposed to a snarling, snapping, damaged and traumatized Temple Dog. In our Skype chats with her and our daughter, it became apparent that she was expecting “Salty Dog” to be her instant friend.
We did not want our grandchild to be scared of Salty Dog, nor did we want him to scared or traumatized by her young and innocent expectation of him. We wanted their time together to be one that they both emerged from with happy memories, remembrances that would stand them in good stead for their future lives as individual beings.
So, we wrote a story book. Over weeks we penned and illustrated ‘Salty’s Story” in which we told of his journey in a way that could be understood by a 2 year old. Doing this gave us the opportunity to reflect upon him through the eyes of an innocent. No judgments and no excuses, just a simple statement of fact. The book was a statement of what had happened to him in his short life and it ended with some simple rules, a guideline of how to be Salty’s friend.
When our family finally arrived, we were anxious as to how they would respond to Salt Dog and how he would respond to them. He barked of course, he backed off of course, hackles raised with head held high and in a loud voice in true Bali Dog style, he told them in no uncertain terms that they were not welcome, into what he now considered his territory.
We sat our granddaughter down and with Salt barking in the back ground we went through the book together. She was sad for Salt when she heard his story but from the very first reading she knew and we knew she knew why he was ‘shouting’.
So every day for two weeks, we read Salt’s story together.
In between readings and having a holiday, she also learned how to walk around Salt Dog, how not to run when he was in close proximity. That it was totally OK to make loud noises, but to know that Salt would bark in response. Not because he was angry but because he was scared, not to jump when she felt his tentative wet nose at the back of her leg. How to walk in ‘circles’ with him, slow and gradual circles that got smaller and smaller, until she and he were nearly touching but yet not physically, just allowing both their energy fields to combine. We spent time teaching her to crouch down, to get on Salt’s level and to not be a threat to him. She began to understand that even though she was not a big person, to Salt she was a human and he was scared of humans, no matter how big they were.
Over the course of the two weeks both she and he learned to live together in peace and understanding and towards the end of her stay, which is when the photograph was taken, she took small piece of cheese from the kitchen. She crouched down on her haunches, held out her hand and offered the cheese to him. All of us larger humans held our breath as Salt approached but she sat still and simply exuded calm and loving energy. As the photograph shows he took the cheese from her hand. A small damaged Bali Dog had finally submitted and trusted a small human child enough to hand feed.
Whilst we adults were simply mesmerized by the relationship between the two of them, both Sultan and our granddaughter taught us the simplicity of the lessons learned from their time together.
At our family’s separation at Denpasar airport and with farewell struggles arising, our granddaughter unexpectedly struggled from her Mums grip and ran back towards the entry point. Suddenly and as quickly as she had broken free she stopped still and gained eye contact. What she proceeded to do was simply beautiful and beautifully purposeful. Crouching down on her haunches and putting her hands out in front she bowed her head and opened her hands and with that her heart, in the style of offering. As she arose and silently held our gaze we were embraced in total and utter understanding of love.
Not only had Salty Dog become her lifelong connected friend, but as a small human being she had understood the simplicity of acceptance, the power of energy and how the universal element of love can help mend and set free another sentient being.