The continued well-being for the Bali Street Dog is not dependent on one school of thought, one position, and one action.
On observation it can be said that its being well has been depleted, especially over the past 20 years. The reasons for this are already well documented and there is no going back to pre that. Its fate is firmly tied to changed conditions and its adaptation is occurring.
However, Bali Street Dogs are still entwined in Balinese culture and that’s where their well being and survival now hang. For all the intervention on their behalf, what has really changed and improved for them?
Many Bali people know how to live with their dog, always have, but have forgotten. Caught up in frenzied development and material temptation, their dog has become seen as second class.
The well-being and survival of the Bali Street Dog will never continue if Bali people are told what to do.
Thankfully there are also many humans who are asking, debating, challenging and working on finding alternative options that are in the interests of the Bali Street Dog, it’s vitally unique heritage and their imperative position in culture.
Pertemuan pertamaku dengan anjing Bali (atau cukup anjing saja dalam perspektif mudaku) adalah 24 tahun lalu. Saat itu aku masih 3 tahun, dan ingat mengelus Beni, anjing keluarga berbulu kecoklatan. Ayahku bilang Beni didapat dari kampung halamannya, di kaki gunung Batukaru, dari induk bernama Luweng (yang berarti wanita dalam bahasa Bali). Luweng beranak tiga, salah satunya adalah Beni, di dalam gua yang dia gali sendiri sambil menjaga kebun coklat milik Kakek yang seluas 45 are. Aku tidak pernah bertemu Luweng, tapi cara Ayahku menceritakannya saja sudah membuatku bangga.
Sebagai orang Bali yang sudah dikelilingi dan tumbuh bersama anjing selama 27 tahun (yang juga seumur hidupku), aku hampir lupa betapa bernilainya mereka. Saking banyaknya jumlah mereka di sekitarku, mereka begitu terlihat… biasa. Mereka sudah terlalu lama bersama kita sampai kita berhenti memikirkan nilainya. Mereka menjaga rumah kita dari orang atau binatang asing, ladang, memakan tai-tai majikan dan tetangga yang belum memiliki toilet, mengikuti kita ke sawah, sekolah, menunggu sisa makan siang kita, bermain dengan anak-anak kita, berkelompok-kelompok untuk melindungi desa. Entah mereka berwarna coklat, putih, hitam, putih dengan totol hitam, krem, anggrek, coklat tua dengan moncong hitam, berbulu panjang, pendek, kuping naik, kuping turun, ramping, tinggi atau pendek, bernama Beni, Pepe, Heli, atau Dogi, anjing-anjing ini sudah menjadi bagian dari kehidupan orang Bali, belajar dan memposisikan dirinya di dalam hirarki desa.
Lucu kalau ternyata si anjing yang serba bisa ini malah dianggap biasa oleh sebagian besar masyarakat. Seperti sudah tidak dianggap keahlian spesial, saking lamanya mereka berada di sekitar kira. Mereka hapal rutinitas kita, mereka membaca kita, mereka melindungi kita. Bahkan mereka mengorbankan diri mereka untuk upacara. Sesuatu yang tidak akan bisa dimenangkan anjing jenis lain. Tapi kita, orang Bali, memilih untuk tidak melihat itu sebagai hal yang patut dibanggakan. Itu sudah sangat, sangat biasa.
Dengan banyaknya jenis anjing yang datang ke Bali sejak akhir 2008, keberadaan anjing Bali semakin tidak diinginkan. Jenis anjing lain dengan semua merk dan nilai mereka (jika semua bisa dinilai uang), menempelkan merk baru ke anjing Bali yang dulu biasa disebut anjing atau Cicing saja, menjadi “Cicing Kacang”. Dan menurut saya, merk itu sangat menurunkan nilai mereka.
Masyarakat Bali, dengan segala kemajuan yang cepat ini, merasa bahwa kita harus mengejar semua teknologi, gaya hidup dan pasar yang diberikan dunia. Tapi jauh di dalam hati, kita masih orang-orang desa Bali yang polos, tak ubahnya seekor Cicing Kacang, anjing yang sudah kita lupakan keberadaannya. Kita hanya ingin melakukan tradisi yang sudah ada ribuan tahun bersama kita. Semua kemajuan ini membutakan kita di tempat-tempat yang salah, dan menjatuhkan beberapa hal yang paling bernilai di Bali.
Anjing Bali, dilihat dari nilai uang, tidak akan pernah menang melawan anjing cantik berbulu penuh dengan perawatan mahal. Tapi dari nilai budaya, mereka permata. Bali tidak akan pernah sama tanpa anjing Bali yang menggonggong, bergerombol di jalanan desa, mengejar motor, mengeroyok anjing baru, anak-anak anjing berlarian bersama induk mereka, mengorek sampah pasar atau kuburan. Entah kenapa, setelah sekian lama hal itu berjalan, semuanya baru terlihat salah sekarang?
Kenapa kita menyalahkan sesuatu yang sudah menolong kita tapi tidak pada pola pikir kuno yang kita punya? Kenapa kita menyalahkan anjing-anjing ini karena mengorek-ngorek sampah, berdalih keindahan lingkungan dan pariwisata sementara kita sendiri masih sering membuang sampah sembarangan? Kenapa kita menyalahkan anjing-anjing ini soal rabies sementara kita sendiri yang tidak tahan membawa anjing tidak jelas ke pulau kita sendiri? Kenapa kita menyalahkan anjing-anjing ini beranak pinak sementara kita tidak berhenti menternakkan anjing jenis lain? Pernah berpikir siapa sumber masalah sebenarnya? Kita semua, sebagai orang Bali, harus meluangkan waktu sebentar untuk duduk dan berpikir tentang hal-hal yang telah kita lakukan pada anjing Bali.
Dan sepertinya kita harus berpikir dengan keras.
Kesetiaan, dedikasi dan pengorbanan mereka. Bukan dalam beberapa tahun. Kita berbicara 12,000 tahun lamanya. Sudahkan kita menyadari nilai mereka?
Anjing biasa itu, yang kita miliki sejak lama, yang tidak pernah kita perhatikan – bahkan hanya untuk melihat kegagahan mereka, warna, kelakuan atau keseharian mereka – tidak diragukan lagi adalah anjing paling bernilai yang harus kita banggakan. Mereka berhak menerima gelar “Bali” di belakang nama umum mereka; Anjing. Bukan Cicing Kacang. Mereka berhak mendapatkan penghormatan, kasih sayang dan perlindungan lebih dari kita, orang Bali. Karena kita sama-sama pribumi, karena kita sama-sama penduduk Bali.
My first encounter that I can remember with a Bali Dog (or a dog in my young perspective) was 24 years ago. I was 3 back then, and I remembered stroking this light brown hair of our family dog, Beni. My father said that he got Beni from his hometown, in the foot of Batukaru Mountain, center of Bali. Beni’s Mum gave birth to 3 puppies, one of them was Beni, in a small cave that she dug by herself, in the middle of family’s cocoa field. Beni’s Mum was called Luweng (means female in Bali’s lower cast language), a foxy dog lives to guard the family’s cocoa field of 45 acres. I have never met her, but how my Dad described her made me proud.
Being a Balinese who is surrounded by and growing up with dogs for 27 years (my entire life) I almost forgot how valuable they are. They are just everywhere that their existence seemed very… common. They have been there for too long that you stop questioning their value. They were in our homes, keeping our field away from strangers and wild animals, cleaning up secretion for those who don’t have proper toilet (true story), following us to the rice field, waiting for our lunch scraps, playing with our children, forming a pack to protect the entire village. Whether they are brown, white, black, white with black dots, cream, brindle, or dark brown with black snout, long hair, short hair, ear up, ear down, slender, tall or short, named Beni, Pepe, Heli, or Dogi, these dogs have been part of Balinese life, learning and positioning themselves in the village hierarchy.
Funny how those incredible versatility of Bali Dogs seemed to be forgotten or at least not counted as ‘special skills’ anymore because they have been around for too long. They know Balinese’ routines, they read us, they protect us. They even sacrifice themselves (even not willingly) to ceremonies. Something that no other dogs can win over. But we, Balinese, feeling very normal about it. It is not special. It is just what they do.
With many other types of dog that invade Bali since late 2008, their existence becomes unfavorable. The other types of dogs with all of their brandings and seemed valuable (money-wise), attaching new brand on Bali Dogs that are used to be called just ‘Cicing’ (Dog), into Cicing Kacang (Peanut Dog/ village dog). Which is for me, a downgrading brand.
Balinese with all of the fast improvement, feel that we need to catch up with technologies, lifestyle, and market offered by the world, but deep inside, we are still this naïve village people, who just want to do the thousand-years routine, who are no different than Cicing Kacang, the dogs we forget existing. The improvement blinds us in some wrong place, and degrading some most valuable objects of Bali.
Bali Dogs, money-wise, would never win against these fluffy-beautiful-high maintenance dogs. But cultural-wise, they are jewels. Bali would never be the same without them barking, forming a pack in the village, chasing motorbikes, ganging up on new comer dog, puppies running around with Mama, scavenging garbage in the market or cemetery. Somehow, with those things happening for thousands of years, they are just happened to be wrong now. Why?
Why do we try to blame the one that help us but ignore the ancient state of mind that we still have? Why do we blame these dogs for scavenging garbage saying that it is bad for the environment or tourism meanwhile we just can’t stop littering to the river, at the back of our house or everywhere? Why do we blame these dogs for rabies meanwhile we are the ones who can’t resist importing unlicensed dogs? Why do we blame these dogs for having puppies now meanwhile we can’t stop breeding the imported ones? Who is the real problem exactly?
All of us, Balinese, we need to sit and think again of what we have done to them.
And we need to think hard.
Their loyalty, dedication, and sacrifice. Not for several years. We talk about 12,000 years. Have we acknowledged them enough?
That ordinary dog that we have for very long time, that we have never look over twice - just to observe how amazing are their builds, marking, antics, or daily activities – are undoubtedly the most valuable dogs. That they deserve their indigenous trade mark of “Bali” as their breed in front of a very ordinary name; Dog. Not cicing kacang. They deserve more gratitude, more loving, more protection, from us, Balinese. From one indigenous to another; from one Balinese, to another.
The Bali Dog’s relationship with the people of Bali has prevailed for thousands of years. Even as rapid changes continue to accelerate, its historical connection and cultural significance is inseparable from the dog human union that has always endured on Bali.
Their ancient symbiotic interaction based on mutualism has been naturally mirrored worldwide. For thousands of years humans and dogs have practically benefited from the shared relationship, in some way.
The same applies with many ancient indigenous dog human relationships. The Bali people and their dog story, has remarkable parallels to one of their closest relatives, Australia’s first people and their Dingo.
Following its arrival into Australia 4000 years ago, the dingo was readily accepted into Aboriginal life, both practically and spiritually. Dingoes have long been valued companion animals to Aboriginal peoples, serving as hunting companions, camp guard dogs, camp cleaners and as bed warmers on cold nights. Spiritually, dingoes have been regarded as a protector and representing ancestral spirits – able to perceive the presence of evil spirits undetectable by humans.
When www.thebalistreetdog.com interviewed Drh Kadek we asked for his extensive professional knowledge and his personal opinion on the unique Bali Street Dog. The responses that Drh Kadek gave are insightful and enlightening.
As a Drh of Veterinary Medicine in your opinion what makes the Bali Dog unique in comparison to Breed Dogs?
Firstly, Bali Dogs are much tougher than other breed dogs. This is because centuries of Darwinian natural selection has eradicated many of the bad genes that are so prevalent in other breeds, which have been reproduced through artificial selection to exaggerate certain characteristics. For this reason they are much better adapted to survive in the wild, and we vets rarely see problems such as heart murmurs or hip dysplasia.
Secondly, Bali Dogs are more street smart than other breeds. This can sometimes make them more difficult to handle, because they have a strong memory to recall traumatic events experienced earlier in their lives and their natural tendency is to stay alert to anything suspicious. This is one of the reasons they make excellent guard dogs and will sound the alarm if they see a possible intruder.
What is the importance of the Bali Dog within Balinese Culture?
The Bali Dog is deeply entrenched in our culture. Our ancestors always had at least one Bali Dog in every household, although the model of pet ownership is very different to the West as often the dog will live outside and not sleep in the house. Despite the Bali Dog being a strict part of our customs, many Balinese either do not think to take their Bali Dog to the vet if it is sick, or they simply do not want to spend their money on that.
Also we cannot deny that the Bali Dog has a traditional use in ceremonial sacrifice (blang bungkem), for male brown colored dogs with a black muzzle. However this tends to be less frequent these days and is reserved for the larger ceremonies.
What do you think the greatest danger is to the Bali Dog, in regard to their survival?
One danger is that now other pedigree breeds are becoming so popular in Indonesia as a status symbol, interbreeding with these other pedigree breeds will dilute the purity of the Bali Dog gene pool.
Secondly, the Bali Dogs are sadly seen by many as inferior to the pedigree breeds, and even if those people have pet Bali Dogs, they may be reluctant to spend money on vet care for them when they get sick.
Thirdly, although it is very important that we neuter the Bali street dog population wherever possible to reduce the puppy mortality rate, it is tame and domesticated Bali dogs that are the ones we can catch. The more feral ones are very hard to catch. Therefore these feral ones are often the ones that reproduce, and those character traits that made them more feral may be exaggerated with each generation.
Do you have Bali Dogs?
Yes I have 3 Bali dogs living in my house in Pejeng, near Ubud.
Can you describe the Bali Dog in three words?
Agile, Smart, Protective
Hildred Geertz imparts a mythological tale in his book Story Telling in Bali about the hunting dogs of the King of Kungklung.
The King’s dog’s names were Blang Uyang and Blang Suun. These dogs were remarkable hunters; no jungle animal was safe from them. This made the other animals of the jungle alarmed and angry. They called a meeting to ask ‘How can we kill these two dogs’. The Anteater said ‘If you make me the King of all the animals I will kill them dead’. All of the animals are happy to hear this and agree with his request.
The Anteater climbs to the top of the royal pavilion whilst the King is dining. Blang Uyang and Blang Suun are seated at the King’s feet. They both see the Anteater and in protection of the King they jump up to attack him, in so doing they knock over the King’s dinner. The King is furious; he jumps up and cuts off the heads of both of his dogs and two of his servants. Other servants come running and try and put the heads back on. In their haste they put the wrong heads on the wrong bodies. The heads of the dogs are placed onto the bodies of the humans.
This is why every full moon the dogs of Bali mourn. They see shadows of dog’s heads with a human body and that makes them sad. The story says that because of this happening, Bali Dogs are permitted to eat offerings, because they were correct when they tried to protect the King.
Ida Bagus Made Togog (1911 – 1989)