There are endless things about Bali that will twist your head around. There’s the exciting and exhilarating physical reality of visiting a tropical paradise, then there’s the reality of living on an Island with all its cultural and day to day very real stuff.
Bali is a developing Island with a predominately unique Hindu belief system sitting somewhat isolated in a developing country with a predominately Muslim belief. Changes are happening at a frenetic pace through the whole region and Bali and Balinese are desperately attempting to hold on to balance and culture. In greater Indonesia, Bali and her traditions are certainly opposite to anything found on the teeming archipelago. A classic ‘all about face’ truism.
The same can be assigned to the magnificent Bali dogs, who from face to tail appear to be like any other dog. However as unique as this small Island most certainly is, this Islands first canine is also uniquely different. Like no other dog, yet still a four-legged furry canine that carries tradition, culture and history in every loping stride and in their dogged refusal to submit to extinction. They are tough, like their Island humans.
Bali seems like chaos, one of many reasons’ visitors become hooked, nothing could be further from fact. Order and routine are routinely ordered and strictly adhered to. Daily, weekly and monthly events are designated, disseminated and delegated from a unique Balinese calendar year. Nothing on the calendar face has components that are familiar unless you are Balinese. What appears to be a very free flowing life, filled with wonderfully coloured ceremonies and daily offerings to keep Gods happy and Island balance intact, is in fact an ancient devoted discipline handed down through endless generations. Without such determined control, culture and tradition and existence would be lost rapidly. Bali dogs must fit into this strict life, otherwise their survival is also untenable.
From an outsider perspective there appears to be no connection between dog and human. This view is certainly understandable given the difference in cultural relationship. Everything about the union is ‘face about’ physically and ‘about face’ culturally. This can give rise to justified emotional responses when neglect, mistreatment and cruelty are an observed norm rather than a rarity. Unfortunately, open expressions of emotion, anger and frustration displayed in physical form, are not well received in a culture were ‘loss of face’ is seen as an unstable and out of control imbalance.
Life on Bali is nothing like life anywhere else. The routines orders and disciplines are about maintaining a way of life that’s constantly attempting to balance and appease forces that are completely foreign and unknown to outsiders.
When there’s so much force to keep in check, a simple dog that’s been by your side through it all becomes an unseen unheeded force, by virtue of its predictable stability. This unfortunately dilutes awareness for the goodness and stability of what has always been just there. Its sad, wrong and a waste of something so rare that once it’s gone there’s no coming back at all.
A Bali dog is the epitome of Bali wrapped in fur and the quintessential essence of Balinese human/canine history.
So, next time you happen to catch the eye of an old worn out Balinese warrior dog, remember one thing. On Bali it’s all about face on so many levels, and on the face of this dog and all the way back she and her pack have seen it all and then some.
That deserves a simple nod in respect of what she and they have faced.