Now It’s Personal

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ The dog in the film Gran Torino, owned by Clint Eastwood’s character, is gorgeous and caused me no end of stress through the first part, worrying that something diabolical would happen to it. I seethed silently at my friend who had invited me that I wanted to “leave now.”

But I stayed and the dog was fine and the film was one of the best and most thought-provoking I’ve ever seen. I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it but I can tell you this: it was personal, and how Eastwood’s character dealt with bullies terrorizing his new friends will stay with me forever.

There are some real myths on this island of Bali. The one that drives me completely nuts whenever I hear it, from visitors or long-time international residents, is that the Balinese don’t really care for their domestic animals “the way we do in the West.”

I guess if you think of “care” in terms of “precious Penelope poodle sitting on a silk cushion” as really, really caring, then I would agree that Balinese people are not the same as some people in the West. But you can count me in that group of “non-carers.” I have never been one for the pampered pooch or spoilt children.

So when I rang an Australian acquaintance last week to tell her the horrors of the previous two days – dog poisonings in two villages, Sebali and Payogan, near to where she lives, and her answer was, “Oh, yes, people do this from time to time when the dogs chase their motorbikes,” I was in total shock. This is acceptable behavior?

Here’s how the week’s events unfolded. After being tormented and stressed having to research last week’s article about the killing of Bali Street dogs by meatballs laced with strychnine, I was looking forward to a kinder week.

On Wednesday evening a call came through from a person I was unable to hear. The text that followed read:

“Ibu Elizabeth, I am Evo. Gori has disappeared and my other dog has been poisoned by someone. I am very sad.”

Gori is a dog Evo adopted from the Bali Animal Welfare Clinic (BAWA) last year for his children (both are pictured). I rang him immediately and his voice was shaky and he was distressed – as were all the people in his village, he told me. “Everyone is sad,” he said, “They don’t know who did this or why?” I had no idea, and why Sebali? But I have my suspicions.

Evo needed to look for Gori, but where? This added to his stress and sadness. I told him I would contact BAWA and see if they could help. All this grief and concern from a person who “doesn’t care for his dog like we do in the West.”

On Friday morning I wanted to take some food to my farming friends. Ibu Ketut Wali’s Bahasa Indonesia leaves her completely when she is stressed. So as she spoke rapidly to Made, my driver, in Balinese, I could only get snippets of what she was saying. It was pretty obvious, though, that another of her dogs was no longer with them.

Putih, the mother of Nonong, who was poisoned five weeks ago, and mother to Made’s two beautiful puppies, Rosa and Rosi, was poisoned the day before, on Thursday, when she and Pak Nyoman Danu were out voting. Five other dogs in the street were also poisoned. How can this happen?

After Nonong’s death, Ibu Ketut said she was too scared to have another dog. What if they kept poisoning them? she asked us. You think Ibu Ketut doesn’t “care”? The dogs on the little farming plot don’t sleep inside but they are Ibu Ketut and Pak Nyoman’s companion animals and they keep Made, their intellectually handicapped son, safe when they have to leave him alone to go to the market or, like last Thursday, to vote. Well, that was what we thought. Now there is one dog left. Is this the work of sane people?

Fear and apathy will allow these people – I can’t believe we call them people – to get away with these appalling crimes. They are cowards who should be brought to justice or made to swallow the same poison they throw to the dogs of these Balinese.

BAWA have advised they are mounting a campaign to catch those who throw poison without restraint or fear of punishment anywhere they please. BAWA needs every single person who has ever owned and loved a companion animal to stand up and be heard. Please help BAWA in this campaign to stop the slaughter of innocent, loved animals. Be very aware that the dog you think is not owned quite often is – and loved.

The very clever way that Clint Eastwood caught the bullies in Gran Torino was mind-blowing. My fear, and that voiced by my friends, Maree and Brett, here on holidays with their three beautiful little girls, is that a child could easily pick up the poison, too. Is this what is needed before people realize that this is NOT acceptable behavior and that the perpetrators of these crimes, the criminals, belong in jail?

God help me if I ever become so desensitized by it all that I too accept this disgusting killing of innocent dogs or turn the other way in order that my day is not disturbed.

Please call the police or BAWA at 0361 977 217 or 0361 981490 if you have any information that can lead to these people being caught.

Footnote: Gori returned home visibly shaken 24 hours later. Evo and his family are overjoyed but now have her chained up for fear of another poisoning attempt. Why should these good people live with this fear?

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One Response to “Now It’s Personal”

  1. John Daniel Says:

    Dear Sir,

    Elizabeth Henzell has written another ‘Instinct’ column about rabies in Bali(April 17) that is offensive, irrational and dangerous: Offensive because of how she defines ex-pats caring for their pets as having ‘precious Penelope poodle sitting on a silk cushion.’ If there is a difference in the way ex-pats and Balinese care for their dogs it might be that ex-pats keep their pets confined and under control. Ms Henzell seems to love Balinese dogs and their owners, and no doubt she does great community work helping to care for lost dogs, but this does not give her the right to ridicule other dogs and their owners.

    Her column is irrational because in arguing against bait poisoning, she gives us an account of Balinese families losing their dogs that in itself provides the solution. Apparently Ibu Ketut’s dogs don’t sleep inside. Why not? Evo and his family now have their dog ‘chained up’ to protect it. Why not before?

    Her column is dangerous because the important point about a rabies’ declared area is that dogs cannot be allowed to run free and strays must be impounded. This is going to mean a sea change in the way Balinese treat their dogs. I agree that using baits is a cruel and risky method of putting dogs down, but perhaps the situation is so out of control and resources so limited that other methods are impractical. The huge dog population in Bali and the traditional attitudes that allow them to run free mean that the rabies’ situation is in danger of exploding in a way that will seriously harm tourism. If my children were still young I would not let them play on Bali’s beaches amongst the still large numbers of stray and loose dogs. One scratch or small bite would mean a lengthy standard regime of 5 vaccinations or the risk of an unimaginably horrible death.

    Offensive and irrational opinions like Henzell’s are extremely dangerous.

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