Change is constant and constant change is the only surety of existent and evolving life. However, no matter which and what way matter spins to create that reality, the reality for everything within its buffeting vortex can be deeply disturbing, especially when its changeable effects are abrupt and brutal.
There is something deeply humbling about observing the relationship between species, especially when the façade of difference is dropped and dissolved due to a crisis of sorts. It has been seen on so many occasions, stranded pods of whales for example, that it shows the best qualities of human capability in alignment with our symbiotic relationship with everything else.
Very recently a group of human and canine species were forced to deal with a rapid bone and soul jarring change to what had been their seemingly normal predictable and at times boring lives. Bali Street Dogs are tough and the people who dedicate their lives to them through pleasure or work also possess strength of sinew. But that toughness is not a hard rigid or unbendable force, quite the opposite, it’s a flow of feeling and a deep awareness in tune with life.
So as a small group of confused frightened and stressed Bali Street Dogs and Bali people faced the biggest change of their lives, the veil of separate lifted, the dogma of difference descended and what mattered most was managed from a groundswell of compassion and camaraderie.
We will forever be thankful to have been a tiny part of the scene of that time and will be eternally humbled by endless memories of the relationship between Bali people and their Bali Dog.
Let’s get one thing, very straight up and very front on. Bali Street Dogs are not pets, not in the traditional Anglo Saxon view of what a pet dog is and how such a pet should behave. To call a Bali Street Dog a pet would be as insulting as referring to an Earthling as nothing more than a monkey that resides on Uranus.
Bali Street Dogs are wild, not a stupid out of control and inebriated on a Saturday night type of wild, rather a very intelligent sharp and focused wild. A born bred and nurtured from a survival base of need type wild, a wildness that has remained tough and uncompromising in order to maintain purity of species.
You don’t pet a Bali Street Dog but that doesn’t mean you won’t, shouldn’t or can’t touch and give affection. General physical contact in comfort form is not something that has been a constant laid down norm within their genetic pool so they don’t seek out what is foreign. However, when the barrier separating human hand and canine fur has been lifted, there really is no stopping the train of affection and attention. They are very adept at working the system and given that they are pack orientation hard wired, they tend to play dominance like a game of psychological poker. As most commitments to the sharing of life with a Bali Street Dog involves cohabiting with more than just one, the pressure to pet after breaking through the wall of trust, can be immense. So be warned, once you have their full attention and have satiated their newfound desire for reinforcement in all its varied rhetoric, they will take everything you can give and return it with unlimited interest.
But as with anything foreign, attempting to react from a position of little knowledge is a sure setup for a failure of cluster bust proportion. As many foreigner and Bali Street Dog relationships end up in the shit box of tragedy, just as many Balinese and breed dog unions are joining them in the sewer. Just because a tail wags like a dog it certainly doesn’t follow that what’s attached will behave in ways that are familiar to you in a very unfamiliar environment and setting.
There are many reasons why touch has been missing in the lives of generations of Bali Street Dogs, but as time has changed and access to all things foreign has exploded the Bali Street Dog has touched the hearts of a growing number of new and non Balinese residents.
Like every other organism residing on this spinning speeding and molten centred rock, the Bali Street Dog has changed adapted and evolved to accommodate a perpetually uploaded and rapidly pulsating series of uncertain paradigm scenarios. Survival is a very real and present struggle, life on this inhospitable isolated beautiful blue dot at the back end of an unfathomably endless universe, demands it to be so. Whether we like it, agree or disagree with it, the reality is becoming brutally apparent that we are all connected and interconnected in ways that are uncomfortably inescapable. The internet is a growing reflection of what is a very simple and sure thing, we are certainly not alone on this planet and there is absolutely no escape.
The Bali Street Dog has evolved to be stronger with each generational cycle but as with everything else it is fighting to survive on a smaller and tighter surface. The old are making way for the new and the new are preparing the way for the next and next, on and on into infinity or extinction. That’s the simplicity of complex nature at its most impersonal best, fleetingly impressionable and impressively one eyed in its determination to go on against all odds. There may have been a time when the Bali Street Dog didn’t have to worry about a street filled with every obstacle imaginable, a foreign world that its forbearers would never have survived, let alone envisioned. The Bali Street Dog had the benefit of a consciously unknown past, was not hamstrung by traditional ties and was to some degree the maker of its own future. Now more than ever the human element within its life is a crushing reality, it has always been subjected to the desires and whims of humanities folly; however its very continued existence has become a growing and very noticeable issue.
All over this smaller and smaller world, interconnectedness and interdependency is happening in real and cyber time and the next generation of young Homo sapiens are springing forth to shape the world like never before. Using social media they are organizing creating shaping and demanding change from an old guard, a previous generation that they see as having screwed things up for their own selfish motivations. On Bali a small determined and focused youth are beginning to take back what they believe is culturally their right, a God given treasure that is being tarnished, the Bali Street Dog.
It’s been going on for a while now, all over the place it’s an ongoing activity in one form or another. Dolphins get done in by it, whales suffer for science under it, kangaroos are killed through it and even humans are not immune from its collateral colloquialism, although in the human realm culling is replaced with murder or population control or genocide. The art of the cull is a very broad brush stroke indeed, carried out only when there is a need, of course. To cull is to carry out a selective slaughter of wild animals for the purpose of whatever is deemed to be desirable in the best interests of all else but the slaughtered, obviously.
Bali Street Dogs don’t get their insides shredded by way of explosive tipped harpoons, or have their heads filled with lead after being picked off from a distance on the crosshairs of high calibre gunnery. Bali Street Dogs don’t get culled and they aren’t killed and not murdered, they undergo sweeping. Leaves get swept, dust gets swept and even the webs of spiders get swept, dog sweeping really doesn’t sound that bad and maybe therein resides the ruse.
Sweeping away Bali Street Dogs is certainly not done with a big broom or a designer pastel coloured brush and fancy pan, unfortunately no such rhythmic swishing and swooshing of the woofing is forthcoming. An ancient descendent of the wonderful wolf, a long lived linkage for the loved and pampered modern day pooch and the dog that science states has answers to the questions we haven’t even asked yet, gets swept.
As the world’s most powerful leaders prepare to majestically sweep onto Bali, the Bali Street Dog will be ceremoniously swept aside.
As the shapers and movers dine on all things fine, the Bali street dog will have strychnine, to hasten the end of their line.
Undoubtedly Bali Street Dogs create produce and empty their fair share of waste around the place and most definitely they are doing their part in heating up the biosphere. There is something quite iconic about seeing a hunched third world street hound, squeezing out the fibrous leftover remnants of societies throwaway. There are even some human street squat and squirt experts who still publicly exhibit the same action, although they are seen less and less these days.
As Bali screams itself hoarse into the modern world, the need to address increasing and wanton runaway levels of garbage is approaching a stink point of no return. There are endless forms of waste of course and a crap load more to be invented as time goes on. Apart from industrial grade plastic wrap strong enough to hang off speeding scooters and benzene based pollutants galore, there are new exotic silicone and rare earth metal messes for future generations to grapple with.
But one type of waste, that uniquely humanoid ability to take time and mess around with it, has been historically constant and unwavering in its predictable form. There are of course positive and negative approaches to what is numerically labelled as the passage and flow of existence.
Trying to save the Bali Street Dog, in the way it has been attempted, is an undeniably and absolutely negative waste of time. In the minds of most people, the reality has and is becoming overwhelmingly more and more openly apparent that saving the Bali Street Dog is not really that important.
On Bali the street dog just is, just a part of Bali life, just a part of the scene and just nothing more than just that. That pointed view of reality is understandable because they are an inseparable component of what has always just been. Wishing it to be any other way is a waste of time because unless a radical occurrence erupts to ignite a new internal awareness, the street dog on Bali will continue to be just a part of the changing scene of this Island life.
There are two emotions that stand a chance of changing human behaviour for a longish duration. Fear and hope are but only two points on the scale of feelings that make up humanities whole holographic reality. They are incredibly powerful players in the spectrum, unlikely partners that use surgical grade scalpels to expertly cut through the effluent. Precision tools that open, slice deep into the recesses of our psyche and expose layer after layer of conditioned toxicity. When fear and hope are administered in high enough doses and with the right intent, they can be successful in cleansing and discarding extraneous wasteful bulk, in order to enact and force rapid change.
It is hoped that the Bali Street Dog will survive and thrive in a future reality that is increasingly losing time and patience for their right to have a continued place in what was once their space. It is feared that time and patience will run out way before the spaces are full of places. There are no legislative laws to protect the Bali Street Dog in any way at all, nothing to stop the rot creeping them out and forcing them away.
Cruelty comes in many a guise dressed in a gown of endless colour, but it’s the twin forces of observable physical torment and its dark terrorizing and psychologically insidious sibling that really rule the rot. The Bali Street Dog is one really tough character in evolutionary survivability terms and physical sustainability measurements. It has a loyalty meter that is gut wrenching in its emotional commitment to its family, a laudable applaudable and totally selfless alignment of canine human interrelationship. The Bali Street Dog would have been totally eradicated by now if it had been a vicious wild beast that had no regard to its place within the structure of Bali life.
Laws and legislations and regulations will not always protect the vulnerable from the ills of human nature, history has certainly shown that. However no law or legislation or regulation is an open doorway that allows the cruel and callous to walk through on and over the souls of innocent beings.
The Bali Street Dog is becoming a nuisance in many Bali parts; it has been blamed for spreading the deadly rabies virus and it has brought shame to an Island of wrathful gods. So in the name of all those deities who oversee an Island of Gods, how can it be alright to allow a being that is named after you to be treated with anything less than worship?
When it comes to the care or caring of anything, the actions of human beings can be cloaked in so many coats of painted faces that it can be impossible even with industrial chemical stripper to get down to the base intent.
Welfare scare comes when those in the industry actually begin to obsessively believe and listen to their own whispers. Their internal voices telling them they really are in fact experts in what is fair and well for others. It becomes really scary when there is no room left for any other opinion other than their very own very opinionated opinion of themselves and their elevated importance, above and beyond all else.
The welfare of a Bali Street Dog is a nefarious subject indeed. Given half a bark and a quart of snarls, a plethora of pontificating persons would surely be expertly lined up gagging to regurgitate their wisdom.
We are certainly not experts or whisperers when it comes to Bali Street Dogs, that domain and dogma is very much reserved for them and how they see us with their collective noses.
The Bali Street Dog can trace its genetic linage way back to the wolf and we humans can thank the chimps for our make upped faces. A very wonderful book titled, “The Professor and the Wolf”, lays out the unfortunate route taken when the conniving chimp won the battle for our narcissistic nature. For such a blossoming bipedal beast to have bent toward the wolf, would of course have been impossible genetically and biologically, what a shame.
I like the simplicity of the main subject matter in this site, the Bali Street Dog. By simplicity I certainly don’t mean their intelligence or demeanour, far from it. I simply refer to the “get what you get” outcome actioned directly from their thoughts reality. There is no messing about with a selfishly playful and insidious menu choice of intent.
All we know and have concluded after spending a few years permanently with Bali Street Dogs and we really do mean permanently, is simply that if people were Bali Street Dogs they would be much better served by a nose that is trusted to guide and unhide, rather than eyes that belie and betray.
At least twice a day every day for the past two years, we have had the very pleasurable challenge of walking a few Bali Dogs around the streets of the Banjar that we live in and although it hasn’t always been an easy task, it has and still is an amazing life changing experience. It has taken more than just a few kilometres and a lot of sweat to maintain the routine of putting paws and feet in front of each other again and again. After all that time and all those steps the paws and feet are no longer out of sync or out of stride, they are now side by side with heads held high. It has not been an experience without considerable risk and danger, but when you decide to walk with Bali Dogs on busy Bali streets what should you really expect. If any chance of successful partnering was to be even remotely possible a starting position of no expectation was the only way to face a most foreign species and environment. In the post period wash up, which in time reality has been a reasonably short span of numerical experience, so much has occurred. In terms of happenings and occurrences and the non quantifiable stuff of life layers, the time spent has been eons.
In putting Kutuh Kelod up and forward for the, “Best and Most Friendly Bali Street Dog Banjar on Bali”, we are of course a little biased in our nomination. It hasn’t been a scientific polling event or an island wide search to find a recipient for such an illustrious title, but it also hasn’t been a superficial or knee jerked put up either. A lot of canine and human legwork and collective observation has gone up down and around the place to be sure of what we are saying.
So what are we actually saying about the small Ubud hamlet up in the hills of Bali and what qualities does it have and portray that would show and prove that it meets the strict criteria required for such an honourable award to be bestowed upon it, you might ask.
Well, in the beginning, back there, just a short two years ago, it was a Banjar like most other urban Banjars, a space full of all manner of stuff, people and paraphernalia, scooters and shops, cars and ceremonies, chickens roosters and pigs and dogs. There are cats of course, but in true generalized global and Bali feline form they stay out of sight as much as possible. All of the same things are still around, except that as progress and time has walked on with us, there’s now just a whole lot more, due to the inevitability of development creep. Most of the dogs from that time have made it through and a few new born additions are back filling the void as the old and infirm die or retreat to the safety of their respective compounds. In the couple of kilometre walking range that has been our regular path and routine route, there have been at least twenty steadfast indigenous dogs and the equivalent number of foreign bred canines of differing kind.
Initially the perception of foreigners walking indigenous dogs must have been seen as an oddity, especially as at that time there weren’t others doing it. But as the days weeks and months progressed, it became gradually apparent that the patterned activity was moving incrementally toward, just being seen as part of the picture of street life. As more contact continued, more upward smiling nods ensued, more greetings were exchanged and more questions were asked, a foreign feeling of possible rejection became an all around calm consensus of local acceptance.
The local people of Kutuh Kelod showed their commitment to the welfare of their canines recently, when after a number of residents and dogs suffered a rabies attack, they were more concerned about caring and preventing than reacting and killing. As more and more dogs were brought to the Banjar hall after answering the Kulkul call, it became so very obvious that the state of dog and human relationship was very healthy indeed. As carried dogs, walked dogs, scooter riding dogs and car ferried dogs continued to arrive for vaccinations and general checkups, the people of Banjar Kutuh Kelod not only exhibited what their Banjar represents, they also proved that at least in this small community on Bali, people really do love and care for their dogs, in their very own way.
“Sometimes when you start off doing the right thing, you actually end up doing the wrong thing”.
A philosophical term that is not often uttered, probably due in part to the universal fact that the degree of self awareness and introspection required in admitting that such an outcome has occurred, is sadly and usually way too much for us humans. Critical self analysis is usually skewed way out there on the positive arc of a swinging pendulum; no one likes to hear negative feedback from anyone else, let alone themselves and even though most of our negative musings are done in the sanctum of our own skulls, we are certainly not comfortable in publically admitting failure.
Brown or Brownie as he came to be known was a magnificent specimen of pure 100% Bali Street Dog. Standing tall with tail and ears held high he looked like a dingo on steroids, a magnificent creature who patrolled the streets of the Banjar in which he and we and many of his breed called home. He lived and guarded his family compound opposite the main temple and was a true alpha male who had the respect of all within his territory. Over many months we came to know and respect Brownie and within time he eventually reciprocated in his own canine kind. So it was with sinking hearts that one day we saw him injured. With his rear leg held off the ground and bent at a strange angle he was obviously in pain as he continued trying to rule his patch. The other dogs sensed his weakness and were quick to come in for the challenge but true to his nature he managed to keep them at bay. However, the once magnificent alpha male was down and in a weakened position.
The overwhelming urge to fix Brownies injured hind quarter was nearly unbearable in its intensity. The wanting to help him be complete and be his normal rambunctious self, the needing to see him charging as normal, to have things as they were, not as they are. All these wants and needs emerging as emotions and driving a choice of action were spinning like an out of control compass in a mega magnetic storm of mayhem. Had he been hit by an errant motor bike rider, maybe a cruel driver of a speeding car had deliberately swerved, could his owners have inflicted a vicious blow to his unguarded back end. How on earth had this happened, how could this have happened, this shouldn’t have happened and what should happen now, to such a perfect specimen. But it wasn’t uncomfortable for Brownie with his remaining very powerful three legs, as he continued to do what he always did.
Things happen just because that’s the way it is and sometimes there’s really nothing that can or should be done. The reality is that many things can’t be fixed without the possibility of making them worse than they already appear to be. There is no winning a case when it comes to the welfare of anything, because it’s a full and overflowing case of human intention, presented in its full spectrum of technicolour ego.
The Bali Street Dog is a dog indigenous on the streets of this Island but first and foremost it is a dog that is highly adaptable and intelligent. A dog that is capable of surviving and thriving in any environment if the conditions and intentions of what and who around them are of course favourable. Unfortunately the welfare of anything that is vulnerable and at risk can easily become a landscape of acidic warfare and whatever good seeded intentions that were planted in the beginning, can unfortunately end up bearing a very ripe fruit of poisonous pods in the end.
I am sure that if Bali Street Dogs could answer in ways that would and could possibly be conducive to our very limited understanding, they would simply voice the wants and needs that all beings have in common, freedom.
The want and need to continue to allow Brownie his freedom was so very nearly permanently interrupted that day and the day after and after and after. It was only Brownies free roaming reality as a dog that allowed his ungrounded paw to finally touch earth again and it was only a patient self reflection of human intent that stopped what could have been a selfish ego based decision removing that very freedom to recuperate.
Just as there is no safe sanctuary for the Bali Street Dog there is no secluded sanctum for the sanctimonious.
Obviously the last thing you want as a tourist on your visit to an Indonesian island, an isolated island that has a few hundred thousand feral dogs, is the inconvenience of them voicing their opinion and ruining your well earned holiday. Upsetting your me time from your time poor existence of reality, that other life your taking time away from, time that you so richly deserve because you really have worked hard and now it’s time for a break. It’s not as if the chickens are enough as you attempt to recline in your serviced villa, it’s a stretch when the pigs are doing their pig like noises and those bloody motor bikes coming and going at all ungodly hours, unbelievable. And let’s not start in about all those ceremonies and daily offerings that may eat into your precious pleasure. But when those frigging dogs, who have been around way too long obviously, start up with that barking and snarling and disturbance, enough is enough.
In other countries dogs don’t bark anymore and if they do their voice box is either chemically severed, electrically neutered or they are quite simply sent away to be disposed of. Comments like, “if they did that in my country, there would be trouble”, is an indication of the freedom of holistic speech that may have existed once upon a time, a freedom that is now a faded distant fantasy lost in a thick muted fog.
It’s a fascinating observation to witness the many fold motivations as to why people travel to foreign lands in search of difference from sameness. The organic and inorganic difference between Bali and any other place are extreme, how could they not be. To not like about what you’re finding dislikeable about the difference you have found is an individual right, no argument. But it is elitist and arrogant to expect and demand that you’re well earned and paid for vacation or long term migration be a mirror of what you have left behind.
In many places on Bali you can be anywhere but Bali, forget about the old, ‘real Bali’ stance, it’s not at all relevant in a supply demand business. So it’s certainly not an argument against change, that in itself would be arrogant and elitist, it’s about changing into what. There is no argument that the barking Bali Street Dog can be an annoyance, those clucking screeching chickens and cocks can be inconvenient and those pigs and piglets can be way too human like in their screams for my liking.
But hey, all those organic occurrences really are still some of the bygone noises of the real Bali, so maybe just give them a break while you’re having your break. Because like you, they really have earned the right to have their voice heard, as well.