Caring and Sharing Lessons in Life

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ A year in a child’s life seems an eternity, but a year for me flies by in a wink of a kitten’s eye. It was a little over a year ago that Putu started coming to BAWA – the Bali Animal Welfare Association – with me to learn English. Putu wanted to learn English and I wanted to be at BAWA each Sunday, so we, and my second student, another Putu, agreed to spend two to three hours at BAWA at Lodtunduh each Sunday and we would all be happy.

To start with, we would sit down and write up all the questions we wanted answered by the end of the morning. How many puppies at the clinic today? How many kittens? What colours are they? These and other simple questions.

And then at the end of the morning we would talk about other bits of information that we had learned about kittens and puppies. “Does a puppy wag its tail when it’s happy or sad?” “Does a kitten wag its tail when it’s happy?” “What does a kitten do when it’s ‘con – ten – ted’?”

Well, this all worked very well to start with. We would arrive around 9 o’clock and while we were writing up our questions, the smaller number of Sunday staff at BAWA would be working at double pace to do the job of the usual number of staff who work the regular Monday-Saturday week.

It didn’t take us very long before we too were helping out with getting the breakfasts to all the howling puppies and meowing kittens and then washing up the dishes, changing the newspaper in the cages and all number of jobs that go with the day-to-day life in an animal welfare clinic.

Neither of the Putus complained. Not verbally or with their presence. They kept joining me each Sunday at BAWA, but as the initial purpose of coming to the clinic was to learn English, I needed to try to incorporate English into the morning. I found the only uninterrupted time was on the 20-minute car trip to and from BAWA.

On the way to the clinic we would play an “I spy” game and on the way home we would discuss what we most enjoyed about the morning. Not much of an English lesson, would you say?

So when Putu’s mother, Ibu Made, told me about Putu’s end-of-year English exam results, I was more than delighted and wanted to celebrate her achievement by telling you a bit about her.

Putu and her family live in a small house attached to the side of a picture gallery that never seems to sell any paintings. They share their three-roomed home, which is devoid of all modern conveniences (no TV), with some young men who also work as carvers with Putu’s father. They are all from Singaraja and it was the chance of more work that had Putu’s father bring his young family to the Ubud area.

It was Ibu Made I met first when out walking one morning. Kidang, a very skinny whippet-looking dog, had not long strayed into their tiny home and the first time I saw her I was horrified at the “bag of bones” that stood in front of me. Ibu Made told me she had “turned up” on their front doorstep and even though they had been feeding her, she wasn’t getting any fatter. Not much more than plain rice was all they could afford to feed Kidang, but even with only that she seemed happy to stay with them.

Kidang is not a cuddly dog. She is not a dog who shows much emotion and I’ve never seen her wag her tail, but she is there, each time I walk by, sitting on the side lane that leads past Putu’s house. She now has her own bowls: one for water and one for the dog biscuits, which she prefers mixed with plain rice that Putu puts out for her each morning.

Made, Putu’s little brother, started school in July last year around the same time as there was a Yoga Moves group staying at Honeymoon Guesthouse and when the group leader approached me to suggest a charity they could help out, I asked them if they would consider paying for Putu and Made’s schooling for a year. They generously agreed and I contacted Helen Flavel, who has the Helen Flavel Foundation in Singaraja, and asked her advice how to go about it. It wasn’t difficult. Ibu Made gave me the school fee receipts and the Yoga Moves group paid for them.

One year later and approximately 50 Sundays spent at BAWA, I have come to admire the discipline that Putu has in arriving at my place each week on the back of her mother’s motorbike. I know she looks forward to coming to BAWA. She enjoys meeting up with Lily, my friend Sarah’s daughter, who is a year older than Putu and who is learning Bahasa. At the end of the morning, they love sitting with the puppies on their laps and giggling as they watch the antics of these beautiful Bali puppies.

Putu is a quiet achiever because with that small amount of extra English each week, she has achieved the highest grade in her class, with a 9.5 result.

Please join me in celebrating Putu’s achievement and perhaps you too would consider volunteering at BAWA or donating much-needed items, such as collars and leads, towels, kitten and puppy dry food and money to fund the care of the Bali dogs and cats at BAWA.

Visit the BAWA website at or phone +62 361 981490.

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