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.