A week ago, I just lost my mother.
Well, technically, mother in law, almost for 3 years now, but I feel like I have known her since I was still in the womb.
She was sick, all of a sudden and then left us. A husband, a son, a daughter, a daughter in law, and 11 dogs.
We are devastated, but it is also clearly seen from all of our dogs.
Living with 11 rescue Bali Dogs is never easy. They always challenge us, and rarely listen to our commands. They formed their own pack and mind their own business. We are just technically their feeder, and care taker.
But the experience I had with them during our loss warded off all my cynical thought of my dogs.
Mum was the one who feeds all these stubborn bums, when I was not around. So Mum is the dogs’ Mum too.
A night before her passing, all of our dogs were sleeping in front of her room. We have a no-dogs-allowed-in –the-master-bedroom policy, especially because my Dad who is very allergic to dust and soft dog hair. This has never happened, because they have their own guarding position during the night. Some of them would sleep on the front wing (entrance), middle (house porch) and lower wing (our outdoor kitchen).
One of our dog, K, suddenly breached into the room and slept next to her. We tried to get him out, which was usually so easy, but he didn’t move. He just laid his body below the bed where my Mum was laying. We dragged him (he is a heavy 25kg pig), pushed him with a broom, yelled at him. He stayed still and closed his eyes tightly pretending that he was already in a deep sleep.
Then Mum said,
“Let him stay, he is probably worried about me”.
We let him stay inside, and our other 10 dogs spreading around in front of the door.
And so it came, the darkest moment of our time.
She passed away on Monday midnight.
The next morning, when all the tears were drained and we tried to come back to the surface, we sat in the front porch, sipping a hot cup of honey lemon water, staring at the distance. Each of us wandered in the thoughts of her.
In that morning, I saw a soothing sight.
One by one, all of our dogs, came to us, nudged our face with their snouts, rubbing their head and body onto our shoulder, tuck themselves on our lap or in between our legs and lick our feet.
Our 11 stubborn Bali Dogs, that some of them love to bug each other and fight over silly stuff, came to us and support us, lift us up. I can feel the sadness in their eyes. Even our most independent, cheekiest dog, Nyamnyo, came to my husband and sat on his lap, while kissing his chin as if saying,
“We are here for you guys”.
Our puffy eyes started smiling, our heart were warmed. We were not on the state of supporting each other as four of us, these stupid mammal called human are too weak to lift each other. We are all on the edge of breaking. And these loving creature sensed, felt, and just knew what to do.
So there on the porch, we all had our own dogs to rescue us from grief, we patted their heads and hugged them. We cried with them. They slowly wagged their tails and their eyes stared into our soul. Pulled it back to where it should be. We felt relieved. We felt better.
At that point I realized, for a Bali Dog, personal space is very important. They watched over us without us knowing it, because they gave us space. And once they feel like they need to do some intervention, it is because they know, that is when we need them the most.
They may not always snuggly. They hate it when we kiss them or humanize them, but they are always there, at the right time, on the right place.
When the cremation ceremony was held on Wednesday, everyone was going to the cemetery except me. I was pregnant, so I wasn’t culturally allowed to attend. I was alone at home, and my 10 dogs were guarding me. They gave me space, but everywhere I go, they followed me with their eyes.
Meanwhile, our alpha dog, Mona, came to the cemetery. She slept below the Layon (a Balinese casket made of plywood, covered with white and yellow fabric where my Mum is laying), on the bale (rectangular open space for Balinese compound). She is a feisty dog, and not one of Banjar (community members) was brave enough to shoo her away. Our family also suggested letting her be. By the time the Layon was taken to the cemetery, she howled. A long sad howl coming from a black and white Bali Dog.
She followed the crowd until we reached the cemetery. And stared at the Layon until it was vanished into ashes.
She was the star, everyone was talking about it. Clearly, this sight was rarely seen from Balinese who have been living with Bali Dogs for many years. Funny.
Or maybe, they just started to notice now.
Our Mum, has taught us so many things. But surely she showed me about Bali Dogs’ personality. I thought I knew them, but now I realized I am still far from understanding their true selves. I respect and appreciate them more. They are here years before us, why would we think we can outsmart them? Why would we think we know better?
Looking at them now, I am not worried. I am not their caretaker, it is the other way around. Feeding them is just a small tribute that I can do to return their favor.
Thank you my 11 wise Bali Gurus, here’s to many emotional roller coaster to come. I know you will be there for us. Caring and growing, sensing and feeling.