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.
It’s inevitable, given such extreme emotionally charged energy levels involved in the welfare arena, that an eventual removal and on many occasions a rapid withdrawal of most participants will occur. For those few who last the longest in this endless game of heartbreak the emotional scarring and subsequent damage is not that difficult to imagine.
Bali is no different at all when it comes to what shocks dismays and destroys the minds and souls of a rapidly growing number of caring individuals with a desire to save the Islands community canine. Torture, neglect and a whole host of uncaring actions doesn’t stop as you enter tropical island airspace and unfortunately years of marketing has portrayed a whole population of Balinese as smiling greeting gracious and kindly humans. Unfortunately, that urban myth has been grossly unfair on Bali people who underneath all the hype and performance are quite simply people.
It’s globally recognized that individuals involved in rescuing suffer a whole range of emotions, unfortunately mostly negative as time goes on, and that most of those individuals end up much worse off than the furry beings they originally hoped to alleviate pain for and from.
Vicarious traumatization is very real, very corrosive and has very verifiable data showing that layers upon layers of damage is the absolute death knell for those who probably set out with good intent, good health, very wishful thoughts and modest bank accounts. If left unchecked its progression is completely destructive to the rescuer and rescued and ironically both parties end up feeling horribly abandoned again.
There is always an element of saving in varying degrees in rescuing and when it comes to Bali dogs the degree is in the upper limits. This viewpoint is probably fueled by the historical reality that dogs on the island where/are still free roaming and the chance of seeing suffering is unavoidable in such a paradigm. But you can’t save Bali dogs if there isn’t a problem, as perceived by a population that doesn’t regard the dog as a valuable priority. As unpalatable as that is, it’s a factual reality on an island that derives its complete existence and survival from purely economic mechanisms.
Acceptance of such clinical realities are naturally troublesome to the emotional wellbeing of those who regard sentience as a universal occurrence. The realization that life for the iconic Bali local street dog is not going to get better is for those in the field of welfare probably one of the most emotionally difficult aspects of where things are at present and very unwell into the future.
Anyone who has had the pleasure and privilege to live alongside Bali Street Dogs will most certainly know that in no way will such an incredible dog burn you out. What scorches, burns and ultimately destroys are the actions of dog’s best friend.