What a Treat, This Bali Street Dog

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ In late January last year my three children came with me to Bali for two weeks. This was to be a special time for us as I was staying on. Our flight landed mid-afternoon and we were out on Jl. Bisma, my new residential address in Ubud, by 5pm and heading towards Casa Luna, our favourite restaurant. However, there was another reason for my urgency. I was impatient to see my darling old Mr. Broni, my absolute first Bali love, and I wanted to introduce my unsuspecting children to him.

What would they think? He wasn’t the most handsome – not now anyway; no doubt in his youth – and he didn’t really take much care of himself; a plunge in the ricefields now and again and that was it. Ibu Arini was the only other person who gave him a meal. But I loved him, with his crooked smile and his open adoration of me. Yes, we had been the “special two” before I left in December 2007.

Would he remember me? Love is fickle, after all. Out of sight, out of mind and on to the next tourist! So to be certain, I wore the right perfume and whistled my signature whistle as we walked towards him. His ears were up, he turned to look in my direction and he started to wag his still-beautiful furry tail. Getting up, albeit slowly, he sauntered towards us, a kind of Frank Sinatra-Elvis Presley swagger. My children were in stitches as he moved in close to me and my packet of Love ‘Em liver treats for dogs. Umm… My perfume could never overpower those tasty morsels!

If I had a dollar (or Rp10,000) for every time someone told me about the “nearly dead” dog on Jl. Bisma, I would be… well, I would have spent it all on more liver treats for Mr. Broni. He loved them.

“How does he eat them?” said my middle and very observant child, Isobella. “He has no teeth.”

Yes, well, none that you could see. He certainly had his back teeth but his front teeth were missing and neither Ibu Arini nor anyone else knew how. A knock by a motorbike, we surmised, but no matter how, he had survived and now sported an Elvis lower lip crooked smile. I loved him, this unique Bali street dog, a mix of a hundred Heinz (Balinese) varieties.

Broni was the topic of my very first article for Instinct. Not long after my children returned home, Ibu Arini told me: “He smells.” He did. He had an ear infection that was causing a potent odour. So I called the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) and met the very handsome Dr. Wira, who agreed Broni needed hospitalisation. With no one else keen to handle my darling, smelly boy, it was up to me to carry him, wrapped in an ever-present sarong, and to sit with him in the back of the BAWA van all the way to the clinic.

That was a Wednesday and on Saturday I would collect Broni, now minus the smelly ear, and bring him back to Ibu Arini’s for some homecare. Early Saturday morning, about the time I was leaving, I received an urgent call from Dr. Ani, the vet in residence, and I was shocked to hear Broni had gone.

“Gone?” “Yes, gone,” repeated Dr. Ani – gone not in the heaven sense but in the Houdini escaped sense. This was inconceivable. Fearing the worst, I called my friend and driver Made Mertiasa and just as we were heading out along Jl. Bisma we saw the BAWA van pull up outside Ibu Arini’s shop. On a hunch they had driven to Broni’s “home” and sure enough that smart Bali dog had found his way back, approximately 9 kilometres, through torrential, drenching rain, to his home on Jl. Bisma. Broni is a Bali street dog, after all.

Now, just over a year later, Mr. Broni has another ear infection. Dr. Wira arrives again and after the initial treatment roadside, we agree to give him antibiotics in his food, knowing his fear of hospitalisation. None of us count on Broni going AWOL for a week. When he does return, the ear infection is worse than ever, but I know it can be fixed; we cleared it up last year and he still loves his food. But no one else is convinced. Everyone else says it’s his time. I’m not really sure what I’m hearing. They want me to catch him and call the vet.

The call is made and we wait, all day we wait, because all the vans are out doing government work. When my favourite vet, Dr. Yogi, arrives late in the afternoon, he agrees with everyone else. It’s Broni’s time. “But we can send him to Denpasar?” I hear myself saying. “No, Ibu,” Dr. Yogi says, “He’s too old; his condition is bad. It’s his time.”

Broni is wagging his tail. He trusts me implicitly. I cover him in a blue sarong and gently stoke his skinny body as Dr. Yogi administers the sedative. He is still wagging his tail. My heart is breaking and the tears are flooding. Slowly Broni lies down and Dr. Yogi gives him the needle that will give him peace. He will never suffer again. I turn and walk back down Jl. Bisma, inconsolable, knowing I will never see my darling Bali boy again.

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