Bark To the Future
As a global pandemic ravages the lives of billions and with no quick end in sight there is growing rage about the unfathomable instability it has brought.
Bali has been slammed back to a time that few remember. When life was ‘simpler slower less unpredictable.’ Given where the island was headed pre pandemic, gridlocked traffic, hedonistic tourist hordes and general degradation of life sustaining resources, there are many who would say that such a disruption is a good thing. But this time is most definitely not that time. For sure there are subsistence areas on Bali where supporting oneself and community at a minimal level is and has always been a reality. But for millions right here and right now that ‘lifestyle’ is not a choice, it’s the intolerable and only reality.
What does this brutal retraction mean for Bali dogs? The indigenous island canine is semi feral. Their connection to humans has always been symbiotic, a mutually beneficial relationship. This union isn’t even thought about, it just simply is and has always simply been. But like any simple relationship, complexity and harmonious balance is the daily background hard work that is the world of unseen. Bali and her people are most certainly not simple and their balance on the forces of unseen and unknown complexities are most painfully tested at this time.
What affects Bali people will undoubtedly influence Bali dogs. No matter how resourceful Bali dogs have proven to be, they are still reliant on a food source that accompanies community life. Scraps and ceremonial leftovers have sustained their survival. They are genetically designed to survive on very little. But the breakdown in balanced community existence resulting from the effect(s) this pandemic has and continues to inflict will push the canine/human relationship to places it has never been. The consequences will be unseen to most, they have much more to worry about than a lowly insignificant dog.
Bali dogs are unencumbered from the ‘seen’ burdens that weigh heavily upon their human companions. However, they are sentient beings with feelings emotions and memories and even though superficially it may appear that the quietening on their environment may be to their advantage the reality could be opposite and disturbing.
Everything about this time is unfamiliar and unknown and it can only be hoped that the ancient Bali people Bali dog relationship can endure. Even if they don’t consciously know it, they are reliant on each other.
One without the other is not whole.
A Year in The Life Of
There are billions of us dog worshipping humans who connect more with a lowly canine than with our own species. Its not that surprising to us that trusting a dog far outweighs believing that our human compatriots have anything, but their best interests hidden behind a multitude of faces and manufactured guises. That is most certainly not to say that dogs do not have their priorities on full show, that is the ‘beauty’ bestowed in their nature. You really do get what you see. For those of us who have in their professional lives ‘worked’ with humans, a certain cynicism inevitably creeps in and a trained eye in human nature leaves one with no doubt that we cannot be trusted. That is not to say that all of humanity is self-serving but as history has shown and this pandemic has proved we are genetically hard wired to survive and if needs be, screw the rest.
Street dogs are a whole other level of canine. Their ability to be nimble, resourceful, alert, and tenacious in daily survival is unmatched. Bali dogs are not like any other dog, they are dogs that have adapted to Island conditions and the expectations of Bali people. They have exceptionally long memories, and their reading of human behaviour and intentions has been honed over thousands of years of selective breeding.
But they do live for now because that really is all there is. They are most certainly sentient and their advantage over us lowly humans is that they probably do not actually know that. They are just dogs, doing what dogs do, just being.
If they are fortunate, they will bond with a human and/or a family of humans. The actual lucky ones are the humans who have gained a being that will protect their cross-species family to the death. A being that will give comfort, companionship, and affection without even thinking about it.
This pandemic has shone a very bright spotlight on and into the nature of humans. It is highly unlikely that Bali dogs are aware of any change, as it is also beyond expectation that the rest of nature is aware of humanity tearing itself apart. Nature and Bali dogs just do what they do. It is plainly and evidently clear that their actions are vastly purer in collective terms than the selfish gene that is the weakness and flaw in us.
I have no doubt when we reconnect with the Bali dogs that we have journeyed with that they will recognise us. Not from a visual field but from an energetic memory imprint that we humans have little respect or understanding of.
Anthropomorphising anything is an arrogant human perspective. Othering anything else than human and imbuing it/they with human characterisations is the height of human hubris and ownership. Understanding Bali dogs also requires an acceptance of how Bali people see their Bali dogs. And for most foreigners the concept that Bali people and Bali dogs are a whole of Island life is virtually impossible.
In a year that has been like no other we would so much rather be like and with ‘our’ Bali dogs.
They are truly Hindus in furry form.
In the human realm what matters is completely individualistic. What matters more/most is still an individual viewpoint. However, the more and most damaging consequences of our actions can also be confronted and agreed upon from a collective judgment and agreement.
‘Do no harm,’ seems such a naïve and foolish statement to make, especially in these times of torturous upheaval and mind-bending instability. The legacy and history of human destruction is being recorded in real time. We are breaking it up and apart as we are going.
Bali dogs will never be most dominant on this planet and no one in their objective mind would posit that it would be nirvana. With a world full of carnivorous, wilful, cavorting canines rampaging across the globe the probability for destruction would be quite high. But it would come nowhere near to what humans have done. The Dinosaurs were huge, with enormous footprints, were around and dominant for 165 million years, yet achieved nothing close to the damage we have unleashed in our 6 million years. While humans continue to rule over what has become our collective ruin, nothing else has a chance to match our ‘intelligence.’ No other sentience will arise while humans continue to rape, pillage, and plunder a life force we all depend upon.
What matters most because nothing matters more is remarkably simple. The survival of nature and the billions of other inhabitants on this planet.
Many have quite justifiably given up on species human and who could really be blamed for such a viewpoint. When it comes to continued destruction, given our self-serving nature, it is nearly impossible to argue against the reality of what we have done and what we are still very capable of doing.
There are billions of humans attempting to make life ‘better.’ Better for themselves and other beings by behaving in ways that do no harm or as little harm as possible. Unfortunately, the war on each other has spilled over, directly onto and into every other life form.
There is much to learn from the toughness and resilience of dogs. Be they Balinese, Indian, Australian and all other indigenous canines, their connection to a bigger greater meaning and purpose is legendary and proven. They have not lost their way, its instinctual for them to maintain balance for survival. We have systematically squeezed and removed their ability to sustain a way of life that was beneficial to all.
In the reality we are all living through now, what matters most when nothing appears to matter?
In these times of torturous upheaval and mind-bending instability, continuing to do harm is naïve, foolish, and selfish. It is continuing a one-way, narrow minded path to global destruction.
We may not be able to save ourselves, even with our big brains. We are not to be trusted. Our survival, on the trajectory we refuse to change, will accelerate species extinction.
Now more than ever before.
Give me the company of Bali dogs.
Give me the company of humans who live in the company of Bali dogs.
Give me the ability to think like a Bali dog.
For many reasons, this disruptive event with its unfathomable consequences has brought the human species to its quaking knees.
The level of physical and psychological suffering for Bali and her inhabitants will most probably never be fully known. On an Island that lives by strict ancient cultural rituals ceremonies and norms, stigma, shame, fear and loss of face, are non-negotiable realities.
The consequences of this sudden shocking change and eruptive stoppage to what was a full-on frenetic tourist driven economy has been so much worse than any Volcanic burp. No matter what future normal will look like, for those on Bali, life will never be the same.
For those of us who cannot be on Bali for one reason and many others, it is a very painful torn reality. If Bali opens the door and allows you into her house, you will have a home forever. You will become intertwined in her family; she will protect and nurture your soul and feed your spirit. She will never forget your kindness; she will repay you with mutual respect. Watching, waiting, worrying from afar, concerned for those you know and love, while longing for belonging, is quite an ‘exquisite’ pain.
There are absolutely no doubts that Bali dogs are suffering from the fallout and unfortunately their sentience will not provide immunity against the emotional reality. They are innocent in this human made disaster but there is no escape. The pain of not being with those amazing canines who have shelter, food, warmth, care, safety and love, is for now outweighed by the pleasure of one small light in a global period of darkness.
If a Bali dog chomps metaphorically into your heart and Bali bites deep within your soul, there can never be total disconnection.
A semi-feral animal lives predominantly in a feral state but has some contact and experience with humans.
‘I do not have any worries regarding how they will survive because Bali dogs will always find a way to do it. But the ones that cannot be controlled; virus, disease and overpopulation are really impacting the whole system. A major concern is a future resurgence of the terrifying Rabies virus.’ Agra Utari
Bali dogs are semi-feral, their food source comes from human leftovers. Whether they forage for scraps or are directly offered food they have been interconnected with humans since whenever. By collective design and mindset, the relationship with their island humans is well documented and is proven to be symbiotic in nature.
In a COVID reality, Bali dogs who permanently reside in rural areas and village settings appear to be little if any affected. Their daily existence appears to be running to normal Banjar routines, rituals and ceremonies. The main change has been an influx of family members who have lost their jobs in tourism and those returning from docked cruise ships. Of course, this human increase will affect availability of food offered but can also increase scrap availability. Their urban compatriots may not fare so well, especially if the virus continues to shut down the island regarding incoming international tourists.
Over the past 20ish years foreign tourist numbers have exploded exponentially on an island that was ill-equipped to sustain the year by year increase. The Bali Street (Urban) Dog is a true street fighter/survivor but even their genetic tenacity could not withstand the tsunami of tourist footfall. They were driven out, poisoned and retreated to back alleys, family compounds and open space beach areas. Their numbers decreased drastically. The madness of money easily ruled over meaningless mutt.
International, local and individual dedicated street feeders have consistently topped up food that was unavailable to those dogs left roaming an ever-encroaching urban concrete jungle. Their efforts in most cases kept the population stable and prevented an inevitable total collapse and in effect an eradication of the Island dog in those areas.
With the shuttering of a tropical island hot spot and the drying up of donation funding to organizations and individuals it is inevitable that Bali dog numbers will increase. Their breeding cycle is biannually, and each bitch can deliver 4-6 pups. With sterilization programmes curtailed or cancelled the explosion of canine population could be impressive, to say the least. If COVID world continues as is for another 12 months the increase in Bali dog numbers could go a long way to replenishing what was killed off before during and after the Rabies virus incursion.
With an unimaginable reduction in all manner of traffic on usually year-round teeming roads and byways it is inevitable that Bali dogs will begin to wander out and test before feeling free to use the space and do what street dogs do. Roam and forage. Reports worldwide show animals taking up the space left by mass human social distancing.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may end up being a gift for the re-population and natural free roaming instinctive/lifestyle for the Bali Indigenous Street/Urban Dog. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) if extended by months or years thereby horrifically exacerbating the already economic and emotional torment could very well herald not only the collapse of a unique ancient human way of life but put the already endangered Bali street dog firmly in the cross hairs. Add the planets most ancient and long-lasting virus (Rabies) to the mix and you have an unthinkable disaster that would make the Rabies fear on Bali 2010 look like a picnic.
There are endless amounts of questions in this fast changing COVID world reality that is throwing any sense of human normality out of control. In a very real sense, we are all semi-feral. Contact with and dependency on each and all others is unavoidable for survival.
History will tell the latest story of the Bali dog journey in a COVID world. Bali Street Dog and Bali Rural Dog are genetically one and the same. For now, both are at the fate of a virus that is using human to human vectoring to spread its disease.
It is hoped that the ancient bond between human and canine can withstand its greatest test. A global pandemic that is driving connection between all beings further and further apart.
Distant Daze in COVID Normal
Harboured in a microscopic message, with an accompanying blunt abrupt blunderbuss method of delivery, COVID-19 really is the 21st century gift that just keeps on giving. No matter the position you take, it has undeniably brought us all to a shock inducing crunching reality. The normal life we all had, is finished. We are all in natures waiting room.
Liminal. 1. Relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2. Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
For those of the canine comfort persuasion, now more than ever having a furry around can be of immense satisfaction. At a point in our evolutionary filthy lives, when we are encouraged to stay away from our disdainful mucus swapping fellow species, having a dog around is a soothing balm, a prescribed poultice of pooch.
For the shitload of us humans who have found ourselves separated, by circumstance or choice, from our best friends, our discombobulated psyche is left splattering around like a hot Coronavirus in all manner of protective mask wear.
The Bali dogs that we have shared our lives with are fine fed and beautifully cared for. They are fortunate in the environment they are currently in. Their canine reality is akin to the innocence naivety and illusion afforded human children before awareness kicks in and the reality of life begins its inexorable march. It is that other bestowed gift before real befalls their bipedal elders.
When we will be with our canine compatriots is literally a very liquid question, its like nailing water to a wall. The answer now firmly sits within the human realm and we all now most certainly know how unpredictable that reality is.
Living in the moment is the gift that Bali dogs and children attempt to teach. Being in the moment in the age of COVID is not something that comes easy to a race that threw off natures rules and slammed repeatedly through one unlawful wall after another.
So, until the moment we are reunited with our Bali dogs, we will remember and relive the moments already gone and wait in the space between, looking forward to what will be.
We wish the same for all who are in Liminal.
Growing with Bali dogs
Before her feet touched earth, she was reaching, connecting with fur.
Her time with three Bali dogs began as an inquisitive baby. A period where she learned limits boundaries and those especially important canine/ human rules, Bali style. Their connection has endured and as the dogs have aged, she has moved into a childhood that is being shaped and influenced by an interdependent relationship. Their symbiotic union has been naturally fostered by the environment she lives in and gently guided by older humans.
Bali dogs are genetically designed to be community members, to fit in with the rhythm and flow of Balinese life. Fine tuning has been going on for thousands of years, an unconscious coupling of human and canine, their conjoined survival was/is dependent on collective safety. Bali dogs free roaming instinct/tendency has always been predicated upon a no aggression, swift punishment rule.
Their designated duties became a bloodline intelligence. Alert on any incoming threats, guard against any intruder type, clean up/control waste, companion/protector for family, play source for children.
The relationship of dogs and children is not unique, it is an incredibly important stage in childhood development. It is universally accepted that in most child/dog unions, a more empathetic human adult has emerged.
It is hoped that what three dogs and one child will gain from their ongoing relationship will simply be nothing more than what it is.
An opportunity to positively grow from their experience, in their ongoing ancient and historically unique Balinese way.
Sitting where I am. I am safe. For now.
Bali dogs and all other animals have forever been blamed abused and punished by humans. Bats are wearing the brunt in the latest round of finger pointing. For now, as a Bali dog I am free from revenge for something I did not make happen.
As a lung eating, organ attacking, blood thickening virus with pandemic capability, has stopped the planets apex predator in its arrogant bipedal shuffle the nightmare has emerged into reality. How does it feel to be solely responsible? I suspect you will not admit to anything.
I have observed the uncaring stance that humans have taken when it comes to our welfare. So, it comes as no surprise that a microscopic organism is seeking you out. How does it feel to have emotions that induce stress and suffering?
Make no mistake, it is not a hoax, not 5G, not Bill Gates. You have created the conditions for its arrival. You have overshot the runway. You are hurtling and flaming through crash barriers, moving at warp speed over tipping points and careening down a cliff face. You are taking us all with you.
A definite physical/emotional global displacement is happening to you. Even those of you who felt secure, who belonged somewhere, are disjointed and distressed. You have been gut kicked into reality. This is what change is all about. Constant.
Of course, you will deny and arrive at all manner of theory. Tends to happen when mortality is threatened. But no guru is going to guide you through some shamanistic ritualistic trance while opening your chakras to multidimensional fields of enlightenment. No awakening in spiritual realms where smiling fawning space elves giggle and dance and present you with some cosmic treasure map marking this or that location where you will find yourself.
The great equalizer has arrived. Will you change, take responsibility and awaken to what your actions have created? I doubt.
For now, I will sit in my village by my lake under my volcano.
For now, I will be what I am. A simple Bali dog, doing no harm.
Watching, wondering and regretting, that you are not.
Factoring in the indisputable fact that tourism is the lifeblood that keeps Bali in an economic full grown bloom of exponential growth, the reality that even though transmission rates appear to be low, Covid-19 most surely will, if borders continue to be closed, throw the Island into a mass internal sell off of all manner of consumables.
Dijual (on sale) signs are already popping up and all manner of gleaming machines and high-tech toys are being laid out for those who love nothing more than picking apart a desperate selling starting price. Times are very ripe for a bartering bonanza, a buyer’s spree that for now appears to be severely slanted toward a purchaser’s delight.
No one knows how long this pandemic will last and how economically severe and damaging it will be for Balinese. Like all other nations the risk to Indonesia is very real, how it all settles as the first wave washes over is most certainly unpredictable. This is a good time to be worthless.
Bali dogs are worthless in monetary terms. Probably for the first time in their dogged history they are relatively safe. While foreign canine breeds are in danger of being dumped, sold or mistakenly suspected of harbouring a lung eating virus, the lowly lokal dog has become even more unseen. The greatest danger they or more likely their offspring will face, is the reality of life returning to ‘normal’ absent the survival training and practice that is required when facing down the mass movement of machines and humans so visually synonymous with modern Bali.
For now, Bali has not descended into lawlessness or unrest. For now, widespread deaths have not been recorded and it appears the Island has dodged the magnitude of suffering that has crippled other countries. The COVID-19 curve will never be forgotten. But long-term mass internal unemployment on an Island dependent on outside visitors to fire up its insatiable economy has an unavoidable predictability of causing starvation.
The danger for the indigenous Bali dog, in such a lengthy scenario, is the reality that they have historically been regarded as a ready and available source of protein. The dog meat trade has been severely curtailed due to shame employed as a tactic. But in this novel paradigm all bets are bendable or completely off, especially when/if a survive at all cost reality becomes unavoidable.
It is hoped that humanity will survive COVID-19 and learn whatever lessons are required to bring about a more balanced and nuanced approach to how we handle and approach all beings. Unfortunately, human nature has a long predictable history of erasing hope and replacing it with the reality that we are hell bent on continuing to build on and feed our destructive urges. BALIDOG-20 has only two ways to go. Existence will get better or worsen.
As COVID-19 continues reshaping human behaviour it can only be hoped that the value of Bali dogs will remain low to non-existent. Their survival is dependent on human behaviour.
Unfortunately, we are not to be trusted, especially when hunger trumps decency.
When human survival is predictably replaced with a replication of desperation, nothing is safe.
A very long-lasting lingering memory of having spent time in a full-blown Rabies virus outbreak, is how fear of an ‘invisible enemy’ manifests itself within the human population. When you learn to observe what a microscopic pathogen is capable of, its impersonal objective aim to survive and thrive, respect becomes an addition to fear. Terror is only a short sneeze cough or bite away.
A viral outbreak/epidemic/pandemic has an observational physical manifestation with very visible impacts. But under that grosser reality resides a more subtle emotional level.
Zoonotic pathogens that jump/leap from animal to human are particularly scary. But given our baseless and arrogant belief that we are better or separate from what inhabits that other world we tend not to think about the consequences until the threat directly confronts us. It is in this psychological realm where real long-lasting damage and hopefully reflective learning is done. The dead are dead, but will the living learn from the shock experience and commit to adaptation and heed the message to change, in order to survive.
When Rabies impacted Bali, the island was totally unprepared. Prevention is better than cure, is of course wonderful in hindsight. The result unfortunately, given our historical reality of national and global reactive forces/measures to crisis response, has continuously led us to wage war from a defensive position. Bali was certainly not alone in how it responded. It was to witness that their human population had no immunity against a deadly viral bloom that was successfully using their own indigenous canine as its transportation vector. What lessons the small Island would learn, given their economic dependence on tourism and unique version of Hinduism dictating their daily existence, is still unfolding 10 years on.
Bali dogs were blamed for bringing a harbinger of death onto Bali and they suffered horribly from an outbreak that was not their fault. Their physical/emotional wellbeing and survival was decimated and the refusal to acknowledge their sentience was intolerably sad. Predictably we must use othering to blame for and cover our own shortcomings.
Ten years later and another Zoonosis is spreading terror in the minds of humans. Suspicion and mistrust of each other and hypervigilance is now our constant reality. We are isolated physically and mentally, with literally nowhere to go.
Undoubtedly Bali dogs will suffer on an Island in lockdown. Freedom of movement will not feed their dependence on us for most of their nutrition. They cannot be blamed for this Pandemic, although I am sure many would like nothing better. This falls completely in the collective human lap.
Herd immunity, 70-80% population vaccination, has always been a standard by which a species can reach resistance against the spread of a contagious disease, usually in the form of a deadly threat. This was what saved more dog and human lives on Bali.
After a decade ‘studying’ the Bali dog and the relationship it has with its environment we can confidently say that humans have not made their existence better. Their gross environment, air water landmass, has been depleted and squeezed. Their ability to free roam, as is their innate nature/instinct, has been curtailed massively. Their ability to reach herd immunity against their most deadly threat is impossible when faced with the globes most lethal virus.
Nothing to date has been successful in resisting the most virulent destructive virus known to nature. Herd immunity has not saved many/any species from us. We have been waging an ongoing war, systematically exterminating everything around us, with no regard for the simple reality of interdependence.
We have lived by a banal, selfish, self-serving, and infantile insecure logic of ‘kill or be killed.’
A virus is a virus is a virus….
Not a thing compares to us.