The sun hasn’t even risen in a typical village of Bali. A wife in one compound opened her eyes. She looked at her two children and her husband who were asleep next to her. She looked at the ceiling and think,
“What should I cook today?” “Oh it is a school fee payday,” “Need to prepare for Galungan,” “Wait, need to go to neighbor to help her with upcoming Ngaben ceremony,” “Did the electricity has paid off?” “Need to tell husband to fix the roof, rainy season is coming,” “Wait there is nothing in the fridge to cook, market now.”
And many, many more thoughts, a check list for the day, an endless checklist.
A black and white Bali Dog curled up in front of the house and she clearly has scratched the front mat a little to make herself warmer, a natural instinct of survival. She heard the rooster screaming his lungs out; her ears were moving, but her body is so intact, her tail touched her nose. She wanted another 5 minutes.
The Bali wife also needs 5 more minutes, especially after big long ceremony in the temple that just finished last night. But she can’t. She needed to wake up or the checklist she just designed in her head will be ruined and fly out of the window.
So she stretched and got up, washed her face and got ready to the market. She opened the door and Duduk, her lovely Bali Dog waited in front of the door. She got up soon after she heard the door unlocked. She didn’t need her five minutes anymore, her favorite person was here and she was ready to guard her anywhere.
She looked like she was about to go somewhere, thought Duduk.
The wife walked out of the house with her dog on the side. She patted her head slowly and walked 5 minutes to the market. Duduk was there, next to her, sometimes she ran to her dog friends, had a little zoomies to warm her up in a cold morning. But she always comes back to her person.
Once she got back from the market, there went the chores. House, kid’s school, big family, neighbor, banjar (village community), temple, ceremonies and offerings. A-Z. Everything.
A Bali wife is the rock of the house. Imagine a life without them managing the Balinese household. Imagine the burden that was put on her shoulder by society. Or on any Balinese women that will become mothers, or someone’s wife. Anything wrong with the house, the kids, the husband. The wife will be put to blame. They mostly out of time to be herself. They do not have time to empower herself, to develop, to treat the mental burden they are having every day. They just serve, and most of times don’t get what they deserve. Any appreciation. Love and attention.
A Bali Dog, are having an exactly the same problem. Their loyalty and service are less appreciated. And maybe, that is one thing that our society has been built up to. “It is just the way it is. No questions asked. It is just the role, it is the nature.”
The nature of Bali Dog is a working dog, and their work is versatile based on the type of household where they were raised. A Bali dog who was raised in a farmer family will know their people’s schedule to go to the farm, or rice field. The one who was raised in fisherman’s family would not be scared of water or even the waves. A Bali Dog, who was raised in priest’s house, will know how to behave with many people coming to the house and stay still during mantra puja from his person.
They adapted, adjusted our family routine. They are not indoor dog; they belong outside in the yard where they can get up to chase rats, cats or burglars, anytime. They are free soul. They could not be contained. And most importantly, as the Bali wives, they just serve.
What will happen when Bali Dogs are not able to do this anymore? What is a Balinese household without a Bali Dog? It is just a household. There is no specialty, nothing to distinguish us to any household in the world. Their antics are what make Bali, Bali. It is very sad to see Bali Dogs are getting less and less appreciated. They are one important element in Balinese household. They are the rock along with the Bali wives.
A Bali Dog is a Bali kid’s first friend, the first one who taught them about loving animals. They can be clown to the family, they protect the family. Waiting for the husband to come home from work and walking alongside the wife to get to destination safely. Waiting for any leftover meal and staying in the kitchen whenever there is a cooking activity.
It is something that can’t be bought and never been taught. It is something that occurred naturally, as the thousands of years they spent to learn Balinese routine, character and behavior.
Something that we should not take for granted, something that should be more appreciated, protected and preserved.
A shout out to all Bali wives who thrive every day to manage the house with patience, love and integrity. And for the Bali Dogs who always stay beside them, ready to serve.
If we seek to understand why a community behaves in certain ways towards their dog population, we must first look at those animals through the lens of that community’s world view. The power of an ancient canid – human bond, is easily misunderstood but is not to be underestimated. For many ancient cultures, dogs were the first non-human animals who provided companionship; they helped with hunting; they learned to understand basic human speech in order to respond to commands and they actually answered back when yelled at. (Rose, 2011). These traits and their ability to interact with humans have inserted them into a unique place in the structure of society, somewhere between non-human and human.
These bonds have seen humans and canids travelling together over thousands of years. Indeed, the Bali dog has travelled alongside her people, and has borne witness to attempts at colonization, war, natural tragedy etc. etc. The Bali dog has not sat as a neutral observer to these events but has been subjected to the same processes as her people, if not with the same consequences. She has, in the Australian Aboriginal sense of the term, borne witness.
This witnessing together, of monumental world altering changes, the closeness of cohabitation, the necessity of sharing time, space and food has generated a bond between the Bali dog and her people. Musharbash (2017), suggests that this human-canid long-term co-residency and the familiarity it brings can manifest in the characteristics and social practices found in any society where humans and canines co-evolved. The Bali dog’s unique ability to remember you no matter how long ago you met; their innate proficiency in seeing you coming long before you see them and capacity to amass in large number’s when action occurs within their Banjar are just some skills that are definitely reflected in her people and community.
These ancient connections and reciprocal behaviour is summed up precisely by Ojoade (2003) in his observation that the role of the dog in Nigerian culture, his culture, is considerably more important than the role held in Western cultures, as Western cultures generally lack dog lore.
Understanding another’s world view does not signify an acceptance of that world view. It is simply an appreciation, an acknowledgment of difference and a point at which conversations can start.
Musharbash, Y., 2017. Telling Warlpiri Dog Stories. Anthropological Forum, 27(2), pp. 95-113.
Ojoade, 2003. Signifying Animals. s.l.:Routledge.
Rose, D. B., 2011. Wild Dog Dreaming. Love and Extincion. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.