Asking someone with a beating heart to care for another beating heart is a very big risk. It demands an answer, which in the case of heart stuff has an obvious degree of emotion attached.
Requesting that they look after another beating heart, in keeping with how they would wish to be looked after, is asking for a very reflective honest position to be taken, especially when such a request involves the heart of a different species.
Offering an opportunity in the form of a formal job, working at looking after and caring for another heart, a heart that beats in the chest of a species not related to you, can most certainly remove emotion, raise pressure and deflate everything that is being asked and requested.
Trusting that another human will have the capacity for compassion and empathy when it comes to being paid a salary to care for and look after an animal that they have no connection with, while responsibly performing duties in keeping with good physical and mental health can of course be statistically and brutally disastrous.
After so much negotiation, talking, discussing, questioning, answering and so forth and so forth and so…….. To witness that instinct and gut feeling was actually right. To know that trusting, offering, requesting and asking was the only way.
To observe that a job looking after Bali dogs could give purpose, emotional meaning and foster caring connections while building strong lifelong bonds is very humbling. It also gives faith through evidence that good heartedness still beats on, even under the overwhelming pressure of material corrosiveness.
Exploring and understanding cultural norms is necessary to gain a framework under which to insert animal well-being interventions. Within Balinese culture there is a deep belief in Karma, the law of the universe. People firmly believe that happenings and events, both good and bad, directly relate to Karma. It is said that you are either paying Karmic debt or enjoying Karmic deed. The belief is that all is interconnected, past, present and future. All actions will affect your current and future life.
The Karmic belief system can be a topic to facilitate discussions to challenge entrenched behaviours that are detrimental to animal well-being. It can also be a conduit to reinforce desired or changed behaviour. For these conversations to be authentic they must be initiated and led by Balinese people.
The young girl in this image recovered from a serious and life threatening illness only after her father placed a small black puppy on her hospital bed. Her recovery was attributed to the presence of the puppy and as a result her family have dedicated their lives to saving Bali Dogs, believing that it is their Karma to do so. This decision and subsequent actions are independently enacted.
This type of situation can be leveraged as evidence to other community members of the need to repeat behaviours that have positive consequences and to reflect upon behaviours that harm or hurt other sentient beings.
Culture is man-made and remains constant until one generation says to the other – why?
The young generation of Bali is the generation to focus upon in changing the existing cultures attitude towards the Bali Street Dog. Influenced by external factors the young Balinese are already adopting behaviours of a pet owning culture previously not demonstrated. Veterinary visits, leashes, collars, grooming and pet beds are symbols of a changing awareness as to the value of pets as part of the overall family.
The challenge is to ensure that the Bali Street Dog is a recipient of these changing behaviours. This will only be achieved by young Balinese themselves advocating to their peers and elders for the value of the Bali Dog within their culture and society.
For this reason thebalistreetdog.com continues to support local initiatives such as those facilitated by Yayasan Seva Bhuana.
Change will not come about because outsiders demand it. Change will only be created by internal influencers. It needs to start somewhere, and it starts with the young.
Our recent presentation at the Animals for Asia Conference held in Kathmandu highlighted opportunities presented through Balinese cultural norms and how they can be leveraged to influence positive animal / human health outcomes.
During the presentation Agra Utari spoke about a well-known cultural symbol that is present at all village ceremonies. The Pecalang are the Balinese Community Police and consist of men from the village who volunteer to secure the local area and control traffic and events during ceremonial activities.
The model of Pecalang can be used to illustrate herd immunity to a village. The Bali Street Dogs of a village will form a pack and naturally guard their home compounds and village area. By vaccinating and sterilising these dogs you have a pack Pecalang protecting the community from outside animals who are not vaccinated and that maybe carrying the rabies virus.
This Pecalang Pack could wear a collar of the same colouring as worn by the men of the Pecalang. A collar of red, white and black symbolising the protective role of the dogs within the community.
It was an honour and privilege to attend and present at the 10th Animals for Asia conference held in Kathmandu, Nepal, this week. The theme of the conference was 'Changing Human Behaviour.’ Our presentation focused on the ancient connection between Balinese people and their Indigenous Dog. Sharing the stage with Agra Utari from Yayasan Seva Bhuana gave an authentic voice to our presentation and shone the international spotlight on a unique and ancient human/animal relationship. Our presentation abstract is below:-
Culture makes strategy a dog’s breakfast.
The island of Bali is world famous for its stunning scenery, beautiful ceremonies and astoundingly unique culture. Over recent years it has become infamous in some circles for its treatment of the islands Indigenous canine, the Bali Street Dog. A rabies incursion, an under prepared government, spiraling human deaths and a massive growth in tourism has resulted in a plethora of formal and informal animal welfare groups and organization’s all vying to save the Bali Street Dog from a supposed annihilation.
Bali dogs have lived alongside Balinese people for thousands of years. Theirs is a unique reciprocal relationship entwined in scripture, ceremony and mutual obligation. A relationship that does not align with the Western cultural context of pet ownership. Within this non alignment is where the greatest threat to the Bali Dog lies. Foreign initiated sterilization programs, rescue activities and adoption appeals abound throughout the tourist areas. The vast majority of these are underpinned by the Western context of responsible pet ownership and openly demand human behavioural change for Balinese people to emulate the Western model of pet ownership.
Unsurprisingly, these ethnocentric attempts are limited in their impact, even when implemented by local people. Repeated calls for laws, tourism boycotts and attempts to increase the value of the Bali dog within its own culture seem to make little difference aside from alienating local Balinese against any form of attitudinal change towards their companion animals.
Culture really does make a dog’s breakfast out of ethnocentric strategies.
This presentation unpacks the role of the Bali Dog within Balinese culture and demonstrates that when you forget that you know it all and listen loudly to what already is you can influence positive change. Illustrated with examples of optimizing local culture to influence positive change this paper outlines the story of a father dedicating his life to the health of his local village dogs in order to repay his karmic debt for the life of his child; the use of cultural symbols within the fight against rabies by using existing norms and structures to reinforce the need for herd immunity; and the use of Balinese youth culture to make animal welfare cool and an activity worthy of extensive social media sharing.
These stories all reinforce the importance of working within cultural context. The need to explain, inform and empower locally driven choice by giving people skills and resources, not charity, is the path to sustainable human behaviour change.
Change that is positive for people and their animals.