Seminggu yang lalu, Ibuku meninggalkan kami.
Sebenarnya beliau adalah Ibu mertua, tapi kedekatan kami terasa seperti aku sudah mengenalnya saat masih ada di rahim.
Beliau sakit, dan pergi dengan cepat. Meninggalkan suami, 3 anak-anaknya dan 11 anjing.
Kami sangat terpukul, dan hal itu juga terlihat jelas pada anjing-anjing kami.
Tinggal dengan 11 anjing Bali tidak mudah. Mereka selalu memiliki cara untuk menantang kita, dan jarang mendengar perintah. Mereka membuat kelompok dan mengurus dirinya sendiri. Kadang aku berpikir, kami hanya tukang memberi makan saja.
Tapi, kejadian ini membuatku benar-benar belajar satu hal baru dan mengubah pandangan sinisku soal kemandirian mereka yang keterlaluan.
Saat aku tidak di rumah, Ibulah yang rutin memberi anak-anak keras kepala ini makan. Jadi Ibu sudah jadi bagian mereka juga.
Semalam sebelum kepergian beliau, semua anjing kami tidur di depan kamarnya. Tidak boleh ada anjing yang masuk ke kamar utama, terlebih karenaAyah yang alergi debu dan bulu halus. Tidak pernah terjadi sebelumnya, semua anjing tidur di satu tenpat yang sama. Mereka punya hirarki, biasanya tiap malam mereka terbagi menjadi grup jaga sayap depan, di teras dan di dapur.
Salah satu anjing kami, Kei, tiba-tiba saja menerobos masuk kamar dan tidur di dekat Ibu. Kami berusaha mengeluarkannya – dan biasanya sangat mudah – tapi gagal. Dia merebahkan badan seberat 25 kilogramnya di dekat Ibu, dan memejamkan matanya rapat-rapat. Kami menghardik, menyeret dan mencongkel pantatnya dengan sapu, dia tidak bergerak. Anak bongsor ini pura-pura sudah tidur lelap.
Dan Ibupun berkata,
“Biar saja di sini, mungkin dia khawatir sama Ibu”.
Dan kami membiarkannya di dalam, dengan 10 anjing lain tersebar di depan kamar.
Kemudian datanglah saat tergelap itu. Ibu pergi Senin tengah malam.
Pagi berikutnya, saat air mata sudah terkuras habis dan kami berusaha naik ke permukaan, kami duduk di teras dengan meminum secangkir air jeruk madu hangat, memandang kekosongan. Pikiran kami beterbangan ke ingatan masing-masing tentang Ibu.
Dan pagi itu, pemandangannya begitu menyejukkan.
Satu persatu anjing kami datang, menyenggol kami dengan moncongnya, menggosok kepala dan badannya pada bahu kami, naik ke pangkuan atau menyelusup ke sela-sela kaki, dan menjilat kaki.
11 anjing Bali kami yang keras kepala, yang sering saling menganggu dan berkelahi karena sebuah batu, datang dan menyokong kami, menarik kami kembali. Aku bisa merasakan kehilangan mereka. Bahkan anjing kami yang paling mandiri dan aktif, Nyamnyo, mendatangi suamiku dan duduk di pangkuannya, sambil sesekali mencium-cium dagunya. Sepertinya dia berkata,
“Kami ada di sini untuk kalian”.
Mata sembab kami tersenyum, hati kami seketika hangat. Kami sekeluarga yang sedang benar-benar hancur, tidak punya sisa kekuatan untuk menarik satu sama lain. Dan makhluk-makhluk inilah yang melakukannya. Mereka merasakan, dan langsung tahu apa yang harus dilakukan.
Dan disitulah kami, 15 makhluk saling berpelukan. Kami menangis sambil tertawa, mengelus kepala mereka dan mereka menggoyangkan ekornya pelan. Mata mereka menatap dalam ke jiwa. Dengan pasti menariknya kembali ke kenyataan. Kami merasa baikan.
Akhirnya aku tersadar, untuk seekor anjing Bali, ruang pribadi sangatlah penting. Mereka menjaga kita tanpa kita sadari, karena mereka memberi kita ruang. Dan saat akhirnya mereka melakukan intervensi, itu karena mereka tahu, saat kita benar-benar membutuhkan mereka.
Mereka mandiri, dan mungkin tidak selalu suka dipeluk. Mereka tidak suka saat kami mencium mereka dan memanusiakannya, tapi mereka selalu ada, di waktu dan tempat yang tepat.
Saat upacara kremasi dilangsungkan hari Rabu esoknya, semua pergi meninggalkanku sendiri di rumah. Wanita hamil dilarang ke setra (kuburan) jadi 10 anjing-anjingku menjagaku. Mereka memberiku ruang, mungkin untuk tenggelam dalam kesedihan. Tapi kemanapun aku berjalan, mata mereka mengikuti.
Sementara anjing alfa kami, Mona, pergi ke upacara kremasi. Dia tidur di bawah Layon (peti tempat Ibu beristirahat), di atas Bale (bangunan terbuka khas Bali yang ada di rumah-rumah). Mona sangat protektif, jadi tak seorangpun dari Banjar yang berani menyuruhnya pergi. Keluarga besar kami juga meminta agar Mona dibiarkan di sana. Saat Layon diturunkan dan dibawa ke kuburan, Mona melolong. Lolongan sedih dan panjang, datang dari seekor anjing kacang hitam putih berbadan mungil.
Dia mengikuti iring-iringan sampai ke kuburan. Menatap api membumbung yang membakar raga Ibu, sampai menjadi abu..
Mona menjadi pusat perbincangan. Semua mengatakan betapa setianya anjing itu. Tampaknya pemandangan ini jarang dilihat orang Bali yang sudah sering bersama anjing bertahun-tahun.
Atau mungkin, mereka baru saja tersadar.
Ibu kami telah mengajarkan banyak hal. Dan menyadarkanku tentang kepribadian anjing Bali adalah salah satunya. Aku ternyata belum banyak mengetahui mereka. Membuatku menghormati dan lebih menghargai keberadaannya. Mereka sudah di sini jauh sebelum kita; kenapa kita berpikir kita lebih pintar? Lebih baik?
Melihat kesebelas anjingku sekarang, aku sudah tidak khawatir. Ternyata aku bukanlah pengurus mereka, tapi merekalah yang mengurusku. Memberi mereka makan hanya satu hal kecil yang bisa kulakukan untuk membalasnya.
Terimakasih, 11 penuntunku, bersulang untuk masa-masa tabrakan emosional di lain waktu. Aku tahu, kalian akan selalu ada di sekitar, bertumbuh dan menjaga, melihat dan merasa.
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.
There is no doubt the Street Dog of Bali will survive. What it will look like as it inevitably blends with Anjing Ras, Foreign Dog, is an actioned outcome already underway and an observation currently happening. There have been claims that the original Island Street Dog variation will ultimately face extinction, logistically this is probably unlikely. Even though Bali is a small Island, similar in size to Tasmania, its undeveloped areas for now, still hold stable sanctuary for the ongoing survival of the dog in its original form.
The Bali Street Dog was Island isolated for a very long time and their preservation in original form would have continued, if not for tourism, explosive foreign investment and a massive migratory influx of humans and non-local dogs. This reality has presented a much deeper and long term danger to the dog, its impact much more insidious than the Rabies Virus. There is currently no acceptable human made vaccination against human greed.
Obtaining a formalized breed status may have possibly secured the dog in its original form and made it attractive locally and internationally. The Bali Kintamani Dog has achieved such a status and its protective shield is assured and growing. Unfortunately Street Dogs worldwide have always struggled for certified breed recognition and historically their fate and destiny has resulted in a mixed bred outcome.
There is no way of returning to a time when and where the Bali Street Dog had unfettered free roaming luxury. To dwell on that fanciful past is useless and a denial of the present and future reality facing the dog. There are issues presently on Island Bali that rightly or wrongly, place the plight of the Bali Street Dog at a very low rung, on a very long ladder of priorities.
History is vastly important and even though there are many who disagree, it’s still the only way to remind and show future generations the way things actually were. The Bali Street Dog will survive, it will not look as it once did and that’s the reality of forward momentum. What is important now, what has always been historically important, is to continue recording the subject, from its beginning on through its ongoing evolutionary journey.
Keeping the Bali Street Dog in the mind of those who believe that Protection of species history is important, is the only way to continue Promoting and Preserving its ongoing right to be heard.