Open Your Heart

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ “Just make your plans,” Inez said. Inez, my good friend who had talked me through a health issue in 2006, was instrumental in my decision to come to Bali for two months in 2007. Listen, she said, get everything organised and the other details will fall into place.

The “other” details were my home and my beloved four-legged family.

My youngest daughter, Margaux, had joined her two older siblings and moved to Brisbane to study at the University of Queensland, 100 kilometres from our home on the Sunshine Coast. They were all studying degrees that allowed very little time to come home – as well as, that is, to fit in a healthy social life with their friends in Brisbane – which left me suffering the empty nest syndrome and spending more and more time working to fill the gap and hating every drop in temperature as winter loomed. (No smart comments from colder-climate dwellers.)

So my arrangements were made to come to the 2007 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in October and stay until December, but who would live in my house and take care of my FIVE – two dogs, Layla and Hugo, and three cats, Tomcat, Peanut – don’t ask a teenager for the logic in giving a name like that – and Koki. Yes, five animals and until recently we had also had three beautiful red chickens.

In fact, there has never been a time in my children’s lives that we have not had at least two or three dogs or cats as part of our family. I mentioned in a previous column that Mclean, Isobella and Margaux were all taught to crawl by the smartest old cat, named Sirikit. Sirikit amused herself by sitting just out of the baby’s reach and moving each time the baby got close. Inevitably the baby squirmed off the “bunny rug” and rolled on his or her back and, just like a turtle, be caught arms and legs flailing and wailing for attention. Sirikit would promptly return to the soft rug and recline for five peaceful minutes until I came to the baby’s rescue.

Bentu was another member of our family, a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, and he was the only security we ever needed. All security alarms and sensory lights were turned off when Bentu was fully grown, which saved us a bucket-load of money on electricity bills. However, had the truth been known, and as often is the case with dogs who are not trained to be guard dogs, Bentu would have sooner hidden behind me than be the brave lion hunter he was supposedly born to be. But his bark was so fierce that any potential intruder would have turned on his heels and tried the next suburb in preference to a meeting with the owner of such a ferocious bark! Come to think of it, we should have been charging protection fees to all our neighbours within a two-kilometre radius.

Such wonderful memories and, I believe, no better way to have raised my three wonderful children and for them to have learned compassion and responsibility. Every single one of the multitude of four-legged family members has brought something to our lives and our lives would have been the less if we hadn’t had them.

Back in 2007, the dilemma I faced was if I would ever be able to spend an extended amount of time away from our home due to our four-legged family members still there. It was not an easy decision but just as Inez said, the rest did fall into place and Sandra, a friend, stepped up to the plate and moved in for what she thought would be a two-month house sitting “holiday.” Eighteen months later and Sandra is still there with the troops and I am still in Bali.

Please humour me and read on because the above brings me to my long-winded point of this week’s column. I read an article in The Weekend Australian in February, in the This Life column. People write in and add something to the title. A mother of two boys wrote in and called it “This (Dogged) Life.”

She told the story about her youngest son, who had wanted a dog since we was five. “He waged a relentless campaign,” she wrote. Every birthday and Christmas he would ask for a dog. Where would she find the time to look after a dog? was always her reply. Finally she agreed to a turtle and went with her son to the pet shop and of course came home with a puppy.

This mother says: “The biggest surprise has been the effect of the puppy on me. I vastly underestimated the degree to which my heart could accommodate this tiny thing. Her health, wellbeing and happiness are as much my concern as theirs. She is one extra thing to worry about but it’s a different kind of worry. I know she’ll never grow up to ride fast motorbikes or do drugs.”

Lastly she writes: “Thank goodness I weakened. Sometimes when you think with your heart, you do make the right decision. Isn’t that what a heart is for?”

Please give a thought to all the little puppies and kittens at the Bali Animal Welfare Association ( needing your help. Adopt one or three today and if you need to go away, I promise you something will come up. My Sandra is living proof.

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