Identifying the Unidentifiable
If you take the time to carefully observe the people of Bali going about their daily lives in the company of their Bali dogs you will discover a unique connection. You will uncover a human – animal rapport that sheds light on just how their ancient relationship has survived against the odds. Of course, your observation needs to occur through the lens of cultural relativity, accepting that difference exists and that what you are seeing is not your normal, but it is the other person’s normal.
Balinese people have much to offer in educating outsiders about their Bali Dogs. But, the right questions need to be asked to elicit this information. Equally, outsiders have much to offer Balinese people in supporting them to maintain their ancient human – canine relationship. Formulating questions, or approaching conversations from a position of cultural superiority will only result in misunderstanding, not two way knowledge sharing.
Sadly it appears that there are some groups and individuals active on social media who have already decided that what appear to be attitudes of uncaring when it comes to how Balinese people treat their local indigenous canine are in fact generalized unarguable truths. Their value laden postings do nothing to promote knowledge sharing and instead only promote cultural shaming. Sustainable behavioural change is never achieved through shame.
This is not to say that cruelty, neglect and uncaring does not occur. Balinese people are not immune when it comes to the darker side of human nature and its propensity to inflict suffering on sentient beings.
The photograph is a simple and perfect example of the ease and flow within the Balinese human – dog relationship. There is an unwritten rhythm in how they are moving together, a rhythm that is felt, not forced. Take time to observe how the dogs mingle and meander through the legs of those gathered at ceremonies, at the local markets, among the children lined up to enter school. It’s an ancient dance of symbiotic genetic markers. Coded dance steps that have been unconsciously handed through human and canine generations to become simply unnoticed normality.
We could learn much from this ancient relationship, we just need to take time to watch, listen and ask the right questions.
Anjing Bali adalah anjing Bali. Mereka keras kepala, mandiri dan kuat. Perjalanan panjang yang mereka lalui membuat mereka seperti sekarang. Menghancurkan dan membentuk; dan mereka bertahan.
Tapi ini bukan tentang anjing Bali. Tulisan ini tentang sekumpulan wanita yang berwatak sama seperti anjing Bali.
Saat semua orang bekerja keras membuat dunia menjadi lebih baik, kami pun berusaha memperbaiki tanah kelahiran kami. Anjing Bali, lingkungannya, tradisi positifnya, semua hal yang ingin kami lindungi dan pelihara. Namun kami tidak ingin membuatnya mudah, kami ambil jalan panjang melelahkan; edukasi.
Untuk mengubah perilaku seseorang sama seperti membuat hutan. Menghabiskan waktu, tenaga, terlihat sia-sia, dan tidak cukup cepat untuk bisa dilihat orang. Yang mereka lihat hanyalah sekumpulan orang yang sibuk menggali, mencangkul, menyiram dan mengurus tanah dan tanaman-tanaman kecil setiap hari. Sangat monoton dan menjemukan, sampai banyak yang meninggalkan. Dan saat mereka mulai lupa akan hal itu, tanahnya sudah menjadi hutan belantara teduh dan menyejukkan, seperti apa yang mereka inginkan selama ini.
Setelah bertahun-tahun berjuang menyusun strategi edukasi dan materi, kami akhirnya mendapat kesempatan untuk berkendara di jalan panjang ini; edukasi kesejahteraan hewan. Yayasan kami, Seva Bhuana, dulunya adalah sebuah komunitas kecil yang ingin perubahan dalam diri masyarakat, bukan dengan paksaan. Kami menjaga edukasi kami agar tetap ramah, mudah dan tentunya berkelanjutan.
2018 adalah awal perjalanan kami, dimana kami mengunjungi sekolah dasar, SMP dan SMA di Tabanan untuk mempromosikan kesejahteraan hewan agar mereka juga dapat melindungi dan memelihara keindahan murni dari pulau ini. Kami memperkenalkan 5 kebebasan hewan, anjing Bali, kontrol populasi, dan isu-isu lingkungan.
Sungguh mengejutkan melihat antusiasme anak-anak yang kami temui. Mereka bersemangat menceritakan hewan-hewan mereka, tidak seperti yang banyak orang dengar selama ini. Mereka benar-benar paham bahwa hewanpun dapat merasakan sakit, takut dan terluka, sama seperti mereka. Mereka tahu vaksinasi apa saja yang diperlukan. Jika anda hidup seperti orang lokal selama beberapa lama di sini, mungkin anda juga sama bangganya seperti kami.
Meski ada juga anak-anak yang memerlukan sedikit pencerahan untuk mengerti hewan, yang mana saat kami telusuri itu terjadi karena kurangnya interaksi dengan hewan itu sendiri. Lingkungan memiliki peran besar dalam membentuk karakter seseorang. Simpati, empati, ketidakpedulian dan ketakutan bisa dibuat oleh masyarakat. Kami selalu bilang, dengan menekan tombol yang benar, mereka akan menjadi baik. Dan kami akan menaklukkan semua halangan ini.
Program ini hanyalah langkah kecil dari sesuatu yang besar dan berkelanjutan. Inilah yang dibutuhkan orang-orang. Perubahan dari dalam, perubahan yang benar-benar dirasa perlu oleh mereka. Tidak perlu lagi menuduh dan menunjuk hidung atas permasalahan lingkungan yang kita hadapi. Kita semua juga termasuk di dalamnya, yang membuat kita sama bertanggung jawabnya. Masalah itu sudah berjalan jauh di depan kita, tapi bersama sebagai kelompok, kita akan melewati jalan panjang ini.
Jalan panjang yang tepat.
A Bali Dog is a Bali Dog. They are stubborn, independent, and strong. The journeys they have been through have made them that way. It crushed them hard; it molded them into what they are now. They survived.
But this is not about Bali Dog. This is about a group of women, acting like one.
As everyone try to play their part to make the world a better place, we too thrive to get things done for our motherland. The Bali dogs, the environment, the positive tradition, all the things that we want to protect and preserve. But we do not make it easy for us, we take the long road; education.
To change someone’s behavior is like growing a forest. It takes up most of your time, too much energy, and can’t be fast enough for people to see. What they will see is this group of people digging, watering, observing the land and tiny plants in a monotonous level, almost boring until the point that they want to leave. And when they almost forget about it, the land has turned to be a beautiful place of what they have always wanted to be.
After several years of struggling with educational strategy and material, we finally get our chance to take this long road of animal welfare education.
Our Yayasan, Seva Bhuana was used to be a small community that wants change from within the people, not from our force. We keep our education friendly and approachable, and most importantly, sustainable.
2018 was the start of this journey, where we went to elementary, junior and high school in Tabanan to promote animal welfare so that they too can protect and preserve the raw beauty of the island. We introduced the 5 freedoms, Bali Dogs, dog population management, and environmental issues.
Surprisingly, the students that we taught were very excited to talk about their pets, unlike bad promotion of locals that people may have heard. They were well aware about animals especially dogs and cats that can be hurt scared and in pain, just like them. They knew what kind of vaccinations that their pets need. If you have lived as locals here, you will be proud too just like us.
Although, there were some students who need further encouragement in connecting with animals, and we found out later this lack of connection is due to limitation of interaction with the animals themselves. Environment played a huge role in creating how people react to an issue. Their sympathy, empathy, ignorance and fear were made by the society. We kept saying, by pushing the right button, they will go far. And those obstacles, we will conquer them.
This program is a baby step to something greater and sustainable. This is what these people needed. A change from within, a change they feel like needed to be happening, on their own. There is no need to bash around and point fingers to people who we thought causing the problem. We too are included in the problem after all, which makes us equally responsible.
The problem is riding ahead of us, but together, as a pack, we will get through this long road.
This right long road.
Born to roam free?
Before this current evolution of colonization/invasion began, questioning ‘born to roam’ was probably a quantifiable yes.
In respect to rapid changes they are now attempting to deal with and adapt to, the life style of Bali dogs and people, if historical evidence is correct, was probably vastly different. Their existence for a very long period was probably quite stable. Born to roam, in the eyes of old dogs and on the minds of old people, has now taken on complete chaotic unpredictable and unstable variations, answerable on multiple levels. It’s no wonder many of them look tired and burned out.
Freedom for human and canine now comes at a cost with a price hike that’s fast becoming a mountain too high to climb.
Evidence actually proves that the ancient canine whose evolution spawned the Island isolated Bali dog was a wanderer, a true born roamer. Their area spanned a huge mega Asia land mass.
There is absolutely no doubt at all that the Bali dog is a consummate canine when it comes to evolutionary adaptation. Their ability to live in foreign lands is well documented and their ability in shifting from rural to urban is observable and documented.
It must never be forgotten that this ability for wide ranging adaptation is directly related to those ancient wanderers whose genetic blueprint still courses through modern day Bali dogs. Without those genetic tracers, Bali dogs most certainly would not be the unique and colourful characters of today. Instinctively still attempting to do, just what they were born, to do.
May you continue to live long and roam free.