Howling for Milk of Human Kindness

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ My mother had been very ill since August 1982, when I was working at Ansett Airlines of Australia. In early December of that year I received a call from my sister to say our mother was back in hospital. I waited until my lunch break, then drove like Valentino Rossi to get to the hospital to see her, then drove, in the same manner, to get back to work on time.

I spent the next four days doing exactly this.

On the fourth day my sister, who is 11 years older than me and was a nurse, rang to tell me she was taking our mother home. “But she’s not better,” I said. “No, she isn’t, and she won’t be getting better. Our mother is dying,” my sister replied in her usual no-beating-about-the-bush style.

That night I sat with my mother. She had lapsed into a coma and died at 3 o’clock the following morning. It was a Friday night, I remember, because I didn’t need to be at work the next morning.

Why didn’t I take compassionate leave before she passed away? It was available – but I didn’t know about it and no one told me.

There is a point to this sharing of sadness and it is this: if you don’t ask, you will never know. If I had asked, I would have been able to spend time with my mother during her last days.

But as they say in Indonesian: “Nasi sudah menjadi bubur” (rice has turned into porridge – equivalent of “no use crying over spilled milk”). I have passed this on to work colleagues since and many have been grateful.

Passing on useful bits of information is something we women do best. New mothers are always glad of information that makes caring for the baby easier. My sister-in-law used to say, “Hey, here’s a tip” and would then tell me about some new product on the market or a traditional remedy handed down from her mother’s mother that helped with colic. Networking of a kind.

But the most important information I have these days for people in Bali is about BAWA – Bali Animal Welfare Association – and the wonderful service they offer to Bali’s own dogs and cats.

If I hadn’t known about BAWA the day Isobella, my daughter, and I were walking along Jl. Raya Ubud and met up with a wizened old man asking for money to feed his little puppy, we may not have taken the action we did.

The tiny, fluffy puppy was anything but starving and so very cute. Isobella took her immediately and I asked the man what he required. His reply: Rp300,000 (US$26). For puppy food? Well, he suggested, we could have her if we wanted. Impossible. We were flying back to Australia in a week. But I did know a woman who was setting up a foundation for puppies such as this.

However, at that very moment, Edo, my favorite “son-in-law” (standing joke – I told him I would be his mother-in-law no matter who he marries), pulled up on his flash motorbike and I said, “Do you want a puppy?” Without a second thought, he said “Really” (Read: “Yes”).

So Putih became Edo’s puppy. Putih because she’s white – and beautiful. She is spoilt, and it shows. She lives in Edo’s family compound with the rest of his family and one other dog (there was another that has since died of old age – not of neglect or an accident) and lots of pigs, chicken and one cow. She has her own bed on the front porch of Edo’s room and has her meals morning and evening and is bathed regularly and has been sterilized and immunized. She is a healthy, happy Bali dog – and smart enough to know that she goes on the bike with Edo when he’s not wearing his helmet. That means he’s going to the local shops or to help with preparations for a ceremony or to a friend’s place close by. But when he wears his helmet, he’s coming into Ubud or going on a longer trip. Putih doesn’t bother to hop on the bike then.

Where do you get beautiful Bali puppies and kittens? How do you care for them? What are the numbers you can ring if you see a dog or cat in need of veterinary care? And here’s one for those of you who can’t have dogs or cats because you don’t live here: where can you make a donation?

BAWA is the answer to all the above. The phone number is +62 361 981 490 and the website is While there, please sign the petition and join me in celebrating Bali’s own dogs and cats.

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