My first encounter that I can remember with a Bali Dog (or a dog in my young perspective) was 24 years ago. I was 3 back then, and I remembered stroking this light brown hair of our family dog, Beni. My father said that he got Beni from his hometown, in the foot of Batukaru Mountain, center of Bali. Beni’s Mum gave birth to 3 puppies, one of them was Beni, in a small cave that she dug by herself, in the middle of family’s cocoa field. Beni’s Mum was called Luweng (means female in Bali’s lower cast language), a foxy dog lives to guard the family’s cocoa field of 45 acres. I have never met her, but how my Dad described her made me proud.
Being a Balinese who is surrounded by and growing up with dogs for 27 years (my entire life) I almost forgot how valuable they are. They are just everywhere that their existence seemed very… common. They have been there for too long that you stop questioning their value. They were in our homes, keeping our field away from strangers and wild animals, cleaning up secretion for those who don’t have proper toilet (true story), following us to the rice field, waiting for our lunch scraps, playing with our children, forming a pack to protect the entire village. Whether they are brown, white, black, white with black dots, cream, brindle, or dark brown with black snout, long hair, short hair, ear up, ear down, slender, tall or short, named Beni, Pepe, Heli, or Dogi, these dogs have been part of Balinese life, learning and positioning themselves in the village hierarchy.
Funny how those incredible versatility of Bali Dogs seemed to be forgotten or at least not counted as ‘special skills’ anymore because they have been around for too long. They know Balinese’ routines, they read us, they protect us. They even sacrifice themselves (even not willingly) to ceremonies. Something that no other dogs can win over. But we, Balinese, feeling very normal about it. It is not special. It is just what they do.
With many other types of dog that invade Bali since late 2008, their existence becomes unfavorable. The other types of dogs with all of their brandings and seemed valuable (money-wise), attaching new brand on Bali Dogs that are used to be called just ‘Cicing’ (Dog), into Cicing Kacang (Peanut Dog/ village dog). Which is for me, a downgrading brand.
Balinese with all of the fast improvement, feel that we need to catch up with technologies, lifestyle, and market offered by the world, but deep inside, we are still this naïve village people, who just want to do the thousand-years routine, who are no different than Cicing Kacang, the dogs we forget existing. The improvement blinds us in some wrong place, and degrading some most valuable objects of Bali.
Bali Dogs, money-wise, would never win against these fluffy-beautiful-high maintenance dogs. But cultural-wise, they are jewels. Bali would never be the same without them barking, forming a pack in the village, chasing motorbikes, ganging up on new comer dog, puppies running around with Mama, scavenging garbage in the market or cemetery. Somehow, with those things happening for thousands of years, they are just happened to be wrong now. Why?
Why do we try to blame the one that help us but ignore the ancient state of mind that we still have? Why do we blame these dogs for scavenging garbage saying that it is bad for the environment or tourism meanwhile we just can’t stop littering to the river, at the back of our house or everywhere? Why do we blame these dogs for rabies meanwhile we are the ones who can’t resist importing unlicensed dogs? Why do we blame these dogs for having puppies now meanwhile we can’t stop breeding the imported ones? Who is the real problem exactly?
All of us, Balinese, we need to sit and think again of what we have done to them.
And we need to think hard.
Their loyalty, dedication, and sacrifice. Not for several years. We talk about 12,000 years. Have we acknowledged them enough?
That ordinary dog that we have for very long time, that we have never look over twice - just to observe how amazing are their builds, marking, antics, or daily activities – are undoubtedly the most valuable dogs. That they deserve their indigenous trade mark of “Bali” as their breed in front of a very ordinary name; Dog. Not cicing kacang. They deserve more gratitude, more loving, more protection, from us, Balinese. From one indigenous to another; from one Balinese, to another.