Genetic malfunction, cross breeding, natural selection, environmental adaptation. Whatever the variables or reasons, short legged dogs on Bali appear to be increasing.
There are of course foreign breeds such as the floppy eared stumpy legged Beagle, the distinctive patchwork coloured imported canine that continues to rate right up there among the most favoured for local ‘ownership’.
It’s not until you begin to seriously look, that it also becomes obvious that there are definite ‘pure bred’ short legged (pendek kaki) Bali Dogs. For any avid follower of the stock standard sized Island dog the sight of a pendek kaki can elicit many more questions than available answers.
If the invasion of foreign dogs continues at current rates the obvious future for the indigenous Bali Dog is a crossbreeding inevitability. As unpalatable as this is for lovers of the ancient iconic unique Bali Dog, it is already happening. Bali Dog Combos are being rolled out with ‘interesting’ results.
It’s highly unlikely that Bali Dog original will disappear in the near future, however their isolated unchanging continuum was shaken with the arrival of Rabies and their balanced world was turned upside down when an open border policy heralded a foreign dog infiltration.
Bali Dog future will most definitely be a born bred Island version and although it may end up looking quite unlike its ancient relative it will still be a Bali Dog.
But as space becomes a very scarce and much sought after commodity and as calls for more restrictions on free roaming dogs curtails them more and more an inevitable evolution of rampant numbers of short legged Bali Dogs could be a future reality.
If this future vision becomes a future fact, its cuteness factor could be the short and simple key that unlocks a continuance for a canine that is battling to hold on by the skin of its paws.
As the overall number of Indigenous Bali Dogs appears to be decreasing the amount of those reaching old age appears to be increasing. Without any scientific data to analyse or refer to, numbers at either end of the spectrum cannot be verified, so it is through observation only that these conclusions are drawn.
The number of aged Bali Dogs sunning themselves on the steps of compounds does seem to be on the rise, at least in the areas that we frequent. There must be reasons for this increase. Is it the sterilisation programs at work? Sterilised dogs do live longer. Is it because of the parasite control treatments being doled out by welfare agencies? Is it a manifestation of a growing economy giving people more disposable income for veterinary care? Or is it a combination of all of those things. Is it because villages are no longer burdened by unmanaged dog populations and all of the associated nuisance behaviours that go along with ill-mannered packs of unsterilized dogs. When populations are managed people end up with the dogs they want, and people usually care for things that they want, in their own way.
Whatever the reason(s) there is something very heart-warming in seeing the rheumy eyes of an old Bali Dog trying to focus on you as you walk past their compound steps.
It wouldn’t be surprising to conclude that the number of genetically ancient Bali Dogs, on an Island clamouring for new and fashionable, are in fact decreasing rapidly. But what’s more surprising, given the rampant rush to throw out the old and usher in the new, is the sight of ‘many’ aging Bali Dogs, especially in Banjars and villages away from urban areas.
Possible reasons may be as surprising as factual reality.
Indigenous dogs have historically lived short lives. Life for them generally ran parallel with their human companions, tough symbiotic conjoined existence with a lifespan measured in survival mode criteria. Of course there were exceptions. But on average dogs that were simply useful no more, in an era of generational hand to mouth reality, lived on average 5 maybe 6 years.
Nothing has changed, Bali Dogs still on average live short lives. So incredibly strong is their genetic spirit, they will perform whatever function is indicative to their nature, until they draw their final breath. Function for a Bali Dog is, just is. From the range of duties that individually they are blood lined imbued with, their need to fulfill their designated activity(s) is everything. To deny them their life force need is completely cruel and against their natural spirit.
A Bali Dog will never stop working, from exuberant puppy to blind lame old dog; they will do absolutely everything to go on doing just what they do. For thousands of Bali Dogs their functional lives do continue for as long as their short lives last, they are the lucky ones, even though at times on observation it may not look that way. It’s the others who end up caged physically and emotionally, those who may end up living a perpetual useless daily date into old age, who end up suffering the ultimate indignity.
To never run free and at full force at an imaginary date, just being and just doing what they were born to do.
Dia duduk manis. Memandang tuannya, yang sedang melambaikan serangkaian janur di depan matanya.
“Apakah itu mainan?” pikirnya.
Tuannya meminta dia diam, dan dia menuruti, sabar. Si Tuan menaruh benang putih di atas kepalanya, menepuknya pelan. Dia juga mengikat benang lain di tangannya. Dia memandang tuannya memohon supaya dia boleh makan sesajen di depannya – setumpuk biscuit, roti manis dan pisang – yang sudah memelototinya balik dan sangat menggoda. Si tuan menyingkirkan dupa di atas sesajen itu, dan dia tahu itu tanda kalau dia sudah boleh memakannya sekarang. Dia langsung melahapnya sekali makan.
Pemandangan ini sangat lazim dilihat di Bali hari Sabtu lalu. Sabtu lalu bukanlah hari Sabtu biasa untuk para binatang, Sabtu kemarin adalah hari perayaan mereka. Orang Bali memang selalu punya caranya sendiri untuk menghargai alam dan ini adalah salah satunya.
Tumpek Kandang jatuh setiap hari Sabtu Kliwon Wuku Uye (perhitungan kalender Bali), yang merepresentasikan penghargaan kepada hewan yang sudah membantu dalam kehidupan sehari-hari. Sebelumnya ini hanya ditujukan pada ternak, namun sekarang hewan peliharaan pun mendapatkan upacara special di hari ini!
Ada serangkaian upacara dan sesajen yang dibuat untuk para hewan sebagai symbol cinta dan penghormatan atas pertolongan mereka. Pada hari tersbeut, hewan akan mendapatkan sesajen seperti yang sering dilakukan di tempat-tempat suci. Sesajen ditujukan kepada Sang Hyang Pasupathi atau Rare Angon yang merupakan seorang gembala.
Agama Hindu Bali mengajarkan harmonisasi hidup bersama hewan dan lingkungan, yang dikenal dengan Tri Hita Karana (hidup dengan lingkungan, Tuhan dan manusia). Hindu percaya ada Tuhan di setiap makhluk, untuk itu kita harus menghargai semua. “Hormati dan cintailah binatang itu karena mereka adalah kekuatan alam semesta” – Sarasamuscaya (manuskrip suci Hindu)
Dengan begitu banyaknya cerita sedih soal hewan dan isu lingkungan yang memburuk di Bali belakangan, Tumpek Kandang seperti tamparan keras untuk kita orang Bali, mengingatkan kita untuk lebih menghargai hewan dan lingkungan. Sebuah pengingat untuk yang lain juga bahwa tradisi Bali tidak hanya tentang kekejaman terhadap hewan. Ada beberapa tradisi manis bersembunyi yang harus kita pertahankan dan rayakan.
Saat aku melambaikan rangkaian janur di depannya, aku berdoa agar dia hidup panjang dan selalu sehat, melindungi kami sekeluarga.
“Apakah dia bahagia?” pikirku.
Aku minta dia duduk bersabar, dan dia selalu melakukannya dengan baik. Kutaruh benang putih di atas kepalanya, dan satu lagi di kakinya. Dia melihatku seakan bingung, tidak mengerti apa yang aku lakukan. Dia mengintip sesajen di depannya – setumpuk biscuit, roti manis dan pisang – menunggu aba-abaku agar dia bisa menghabiskannya. Aku mengangguk sambil menyingkirkan dupa dari sesajen; dan dia tahu itulah aba-abanya. Dia menghabiskannya dengan cepat. Aku tertawa, Aku tahu dia bahagia. Aku tahu dia dicintai.
Video Credit: Putu Karmadita & GEDESANTO channel
He stood still. He looked at her – the master – swinging a bunch of leaves tied together in front of him.
“Is it a toy?” he wondered.
The master instructed him to stay put, which he did, patiently. The master put a white thread on his head, patting it gently. She also wrapped one around his hand. He looked at her one more time, asking if he is allowed to eat the offering – a block of crackers, a sweet bun and banana – that has been staring back at him all this time, teasing him. Master put away the incense on the offering, and he knew right away that it was his cue. He finished the offering in one sitting.
This is a view that some of us can see in Bali, last Saturday. Last Saturday was not just a Saturday for animals, it was their day. Balinese always have some unique way in expressing gratitude towards the universe and this is one of them.
Tumpek Kandang (Toom-perk Kahn-dung) falls every Saturday, Kliwon Wuku Uye (Balinese calendar calculation), which symbolizes a gratitude towards animals that have helped Balinese in their daily life. This was initially aimed at livestock because of their value, but nowadays the enlightened people of Bali take it to the next level. Pets deserve this ceremony too!
There are a set of ceremony and offerings made for the animals as a symbol of love and respect for their help toward human life. On this day, animals will get some offerings just like what people are doing with their temples. The offerings are purposed for Sang Hyang Pasupathi (Sung-Young Passhou-pathee) or Rare Angon (Ruh-ray Aang-on) who is a herdsman.
Balinese Hinduism teaches the harmonization of animals and environment, otherwise known as Tri Hita Karana (harmony with environment, harmony with God, and harmony with humans). Hinduism believes that there is God in every creature; therefore we need to respect everything in the universe. “Respect and love animals as they are the strength of universe” – Sarasamuscaya (holy manuscript)
With many sad stories about animals in Bali, and the worsened environment that comes with it, let this Tumpek Kandang be a slap on the face for us Balinese. To remind us that animals deserve our highest gratitude. A reminder for others too that Balinese tradition is not only about sacrifice and torture for animals. There are also sweet and humble traditions in between that we have to keep and cherish.
As I wave the leaves in front of him, I prayed may he live long and healthy, protecting our house and family.
“Is he happy?” I wondered.
I asked him to stay put, and he always did it well. I put a white thread on him, and wrapped another one around his paw. He looked at me confused, not sure what I was doing. He peeked on the offering in front of him – a block of crackers, a sweet bun and banana - waited for me to let him finish it. I nodded and put away the incense on the offering; he knew that it was his cue. He finished it fast. I laughed. I know that he is happy. I know that he is loved.
Video Credit: Putu Karmadita & GEDESANTO channel
Human Canine connectedness has been known for thousands of years, inked on paper, painted on walls, laid out in scripture, expressed verbally in every language. Yet it still amazes and astounds, which of course it shouldn’t, when the bond verifies itself in unquestionable physical manifestations.
The Bali Dog is of course a dog. However in the dog world, its dogness has its own unique quality and state of being.
Remembering human kindness/unkindness appears to be a skill, albeit instinctively driven, that Bali Dogs have certainly attained. Whether through intelligent evolution or otherwise, their awareness and reaction to past memorable stimuli and their ability for recall is a flashing sign post in regard to their reasoning.
It’s a universal and very unquestionable reality that beings in possession of a vehicle that connects brain signals to body bits via a nervous system will most definitely experience pleasure pain and all forms of feeling. This reality is undoubtedly present in every sentience type. Bali Dogs are categorized as type specific. To believe otherwise is sad, selfish and unfortunately ignorant.
The Bali Dog utilizes its full arsenal of historically ancient and geographically isolated Island mechanisms and senses to work out friend from foe, selectively filing away memories for future fast track referenced recall. It can still come as a huge shock, even for those who know humans don’t sit atop the great tree of intelligence that a dog could drag up memories from deep unconsciousness into full blown nowness.
But when it does happen and when it’s seen and witnessed and recognized in all its reactive forms, it is indeed a humbling moment, an emotional awakening and quite simply the greatest free lesson about interconnectedness and the simplicity of simply doing no harm.
Because the act of causing harm against sentience is an action against nature and that is unquestionably a crime of the highest order.
It is Nyamnyo. Who came into our lives with his big grin, full of joy, in between his skinny legs and popping ribs. He is a white Bali Dog, origin unknown. One day he just came and stayed, out of the blue.
Wise people said, “If a dog came to your house and stayed, keep it. It is the carrier of peace and prosperity.” So we did.
First he slept in our garage, so every day we took turn feeding him when we are going out. Few weeks later, without us realizing, he was just there, sleeping in front of our porch and wagging his tail. He was so skinny, his stomach arched. But we feed him; a lot. He turned into a gorgeous white Bali Dog, lean and muscular. A macho dog, we called him.
His attitude is why we called him Nyamnyo. He had this obsessive licking disorder, he loves everybody. He has to kiss you in the face, in the mouth, ears, neck, hair, you name it. His licking made sounds, “Nom, nom, nom.”, and that. Nyamnyo is the Indonesian version of him chewing your face off. Anyone who came to my house will remember Nyamnyo first, as his character stood out. For us, Nyamnyo is a goofy dog. Nobody can tell him off, he does whatever he wants to do.
For me, he is a wanderer. Somehow he wandered and stumbled upon our house, thinking that it is a safe place for him, spending the rest of his short life. He has the purest and free-est soul of a dog. He was not bound. He did not belong to the pack. He is a solo dog and the life of the party at the same time. I have always adored him, my flamboyant guy.
Every time I came home, he will be there, with his big grin, and pink tongue dangling from his mouth, doing a little dance for me, jumping to take my hand with his mouth. Same thing happened when I am about to go somewhere, he did a little dance for me, and take me to the garage, looking as our car driving by, leaving him, waiting for us to come home again, so he can do his dance.
I lost him, on the day I thought we could dance again soon.
It is Kiki, my strong boy. He had a series of unfortunate events since he was a puppy. He had always been a timid dog, but eager to please with his high pitch voice every time I came home.
Kiki was found as a puppy, beagle cross. His mother who was ours too, she dug a cave to give birth behind our house without us knowing. When the rain poured, she was crying for help, and we found that her three puppies were drowning in the cave she made. They were all saved, and Kiki was one of them. Long story short, when the mother and his two siblings died, Kiki was the only one left. His timid personality made him the victim of the pack bully. Imagine a nerd with glasses, who always got shoved to the locker by big guys, that nerd is Kiki.
But he was a whole other dog when he was out for the hunt. His Bali and Beagle blood made this amazing matrimony a hunting machine. He will find rat, frog, chicken, ducks and roast pig (yes, suckling pig) single handed.
My mother in law (RIP), one day when she came home, found all my 12 dogs were feasting on this huge roast pig, except Kiki. He was standing there, full of grace, looking at his friends as if saying, “it’s my birthday today, so here’s a pig, my treat.” If you have been to Bali, suckling pig is a festive dish that is a ceremonial delicacy. How did Kiki get it while we are staying in the middle of the rice field? Let it remain a secret and if anyone felt as though his suckling pig was stolen a few years ago, I am so sorry.
His killing machine mode was what got him into trouble too. He got his nose cut, almost fell off. Then a year later his neck was almost cut by a wire trap. And every time I took him to the hospital, he was calm. He was following orders; he was still a happy guy whenever he saw us. I could see the trauma in his eyes, but he shrugged it off. That is why I have always loved him. He forgets, forgives and moves on.
I lost him, on the day I thought he will live forever.
It is Bongi. A shy untrusting dog that I took from a trash pile when she was a puppy, she was so small I could not see her the first time I passed by. She was so scared, wet, and hungry. I took her in, tried to adopt her out, but she felt most comfortable with me. So she stayed.
She was a mix of Terrier and Bali Dog. She was lovely she loved water, loved dirt. She was having the time of her life in my house, running back and forth on the rice field, hunting for rats and digging in their holes. She always, always had her nose dirty because of the many holes she dug. She was the lowest level of the pack, because she had too much love to offer.
She did not fight back.
She was struggling with her food possessiveness, something that we were working on. She was too shy with new people. No one can touch her except me, my husband and of course, our beloved Mama. She will always find a way to sneak into our room, curled up next to us, with her sad eyes and furry ears. Since the day I found her, she decided that I was her home. I was her protector.
I lost her on the day I thought she will be safe from everything.
It is Aming and Botak. The youngest members of the pack, the dynamic duo, Yin and Yang. They were still puppies, barely 10 months old. Like any other puppies, they were full of energy; they were troublemakers, both young and beautiful. They started rough, with almost no hair, skinny and full of fleas. With just a little love, they bloomed. Their hair is the shiniest; their bodies were at their best.
Aming will say hi with his little howl. Then drop his body and curl near us. Aming helped me to take care of three neonate puppies I found in a garage. He loved puppies, sitting with them and hugging them, especially when nights get chilly and the puppies need extra warmth.
Botak will greet us with his happy face. Always smiling, standing there, looking at us and wagging his fluffy tail slowly. He pranced every time he walked. Every sunset, he will stand on the top of the rice field tier, looking very stoic, creating a magnificent silhouette of a Kintamani Dog.
I lost them, on the day I thought we will grow old together.
I lost five of my dogs, poisoned, on the same day my mother in law got cremated. I lost them on the day I thought it would not get any worse than that. The feeling….. I could barely cope.
That feeling, that I was not able to help them, to hug them in their last minutes. They must have been so scared. Did they think of me? Were they looking for me while they were grasping for air? Would they think I left them alone in agony? Would they be angry with me for not being there?
Would they think that it is not fair that I am gone now, as before they were all there pulling me up in my difficult time?
I was just, afraid to feel.
When I got home, they were all already buried. I was too scared to visit them. I saw the red soil, and pictured their bodies under it. Are their spirits surrounding me now? Are you dancing, Nyamnyo? Are you crying, Kiki? Are you howling, Aming? Are you wagging your tail, Botak? And are you, Bongi, sneaking behind me and licking my feet?
I was still, afraid to feel.
When my defense mechanism was a bit cracked because of my mother in law, it is now strengthened because of my dogs.
Then I choose not to feel. I choose not to remember. I just breathe. And move on.
I choose to be a cold hearted bitch when faced with deaths. Six loves of my life left me on the same day. Each of them left a deep cut to my chest. I chose to be a Bali Dog. I shake it off, and walk through.
Life has been giving me too many lemons it gets bitter, so bitter that my tongue could not feel anymore.
Now I am numb.
Rest in peace my loves, wherever you are. Floating next to me, rotting under the soil, or on that rainbow bridge those positive people often talk about.
I love you.
The ancient Bali dog Bali people relationship remains ongoing and is most certainly enduring. There is no between in the union. As a body part functions with the whole, Bali dogs and Bali people move as one, separation is not a question to be asked, not until some malaise disease or drastic amputation occurs. In that respect the Union is healthy.
In general terms Bali people are now cohabiting with fewer Bali dogs. The reasons for this can be witnessed from economic and environmental impacts. As finances in our modern competitive world become constricted, food for dogs must give way to human and family survival. Even though historically Bali dogs have simply survived on family and community scraps, their free roaming activities have been severely curtailed, especially in urban areas. Therefore demand from dogs for more family compound based food sources has increased. Environmentally things have become physically tight. Space is at a premium in rapidly developing urban locales and more people negate dogs.
Bali people are also becoming more affluent and this corresponds with the purchase of foreign breed dogs. The urge for new and novel is most certainly not isolated to one culture or another. It’s generally spread across the globe and Bali people have in dog terms most certainly pinned their ears back and bought up big in foreign pooches. The obvious result of this has seen a drop in local dogs but an upsurge in crossbreeding. It’s not unusual to see Husky cross Bali dogs and endless themed variations trotting around or hunkered down in cramped cages. Small has also become fashionable; prize style is still in vogue, and again as space and access becomes more pressing, tiny canines fit the bill. The Union is changing and adapting but is still enduring.
There is no data readily available as to the number of RW restaurants on the island, so it’s not possible to determine if there is an increased market for dog meat, or if there is just increased noise about the trade on social media pages. Either way there is no doubt that the trade impacts on the number of dogs being seen on the streets and is a risk factor for the Bali dog survival. The extent is unknown.
To ensure the continued survival of the Bali Dog and its position within the fabric of Balinese culture there are several focus points that will need attention.
Continue to work with communities outside the tourist and urban areas. Use participatory methods to determine solutions to problems. Offer sterilisation as the only humane form of population control. Build community responsibility into any programs, even if it’s a long, long term program goal – keep it firmly in sight. Offer humane euthanasia for those populations that are unmanaged and where communities are resorting to cruel and inhumane practices to self-manage (i.e. puppy dumping or trading dogs for RW). Continue with education programs to ignite empathetic responses within young children in the hope of breeding a kinder generation. Encourage and motivate local people and groups to activate and agitate within all levels of government for government bodies to view humane animal management as a localised public health concern for which responsibility is shared.
Finally, encourage and empower local groups to lobby internally and externally on behalf of their Indigenous Dog.
As many of us know, they are worth fighting for.
Agra Utari representing Yayasan Seva Bhuana at Animals for Asia Conference. Kathmandu, Nepal. December 2017.
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.