A Gentle, Attendant Soul

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ The voice of a dog should be easy, right? Writers do it all the time with great effect. And a Bali street dog should be a breeze, right? Aren’t they all loud, unfriendly and ready to bite at the heels of every unsuspecting tourist? Even those “tourists” that have lived here for nine years, I’m told. Well, I’m really struggling with the voice of my new friend. He possesses none of the above attributes.

This is going to be easy, I had thought. Such an interesting-looking dog that I would have no trouble finding his voice, perhaps a bit gruff and definitely with a smart mouth and strong personality. But the more times I met up with him, the more I realised that I didn’t know anything about him. I detected a certain sadness in his eyes that worried me; so I can only tell you what I know about him and not at all what I thought I could dream up.

Let me introduce him: The Doorman.

I gave him the name because that’s what he does. He sits at the door of my friend and fellow animal lover Ibu Arini’s little warung at the beginning of Jl. Bisma here in Ubud. He camps there each evening after her two dogs, Mr Doggi and Jl. Bisma’s sweetest little girl dog, Berri, are locked in for the night and he is there first thing in the morning when I pass on my morning walk. He sometimes joins me for part of the way. He’s good company.

Then, during the day, he hangs around with the other dogs but often prefers to lie across the road from Ibu Arini’s warung. Sometimes he just appears on my terrace and will sit at the door until the staff shoo him away.

The name was not my creation – it is the name of the dog in Markus Zusak’s latest book, The Messenger, and like his namesake, our Jl. Bisma’s The Doorman, is a quiet dog, not given to outbursts of any sort. He has such a gentle nature that when he arrived unannounced, it was as if he’d been here all along – just unnoticed.

Who is this Bali street dog and where has he come from? He could pass for a Bullmastiff – the square jaw, the strong shoulders and sturdy legs. If he were brought into a dog pound in Australia, he would definitely be registered as a “Mastiff cross.”

His scars from his past he wears like the martial arts fighter who goes about the world saving people using his skills in self-defence but never to provoke or for self-gain. And The Doorman doesn’t chase my cats, which is a good thing, or he would definitely be hurried along! His fur doesn’t look flash but there is no offensive odour, like the odour our dear old Mr Broni had which heralded his appearance long before you saw him.

The Doorman’s arrival seemed to coincide with Broni’s departure. Broni was the darling old Bali dog I wrote about in my first ever Instinct column. He was the funniest-looking dog with his crooked smile and no lower-front teeth. This lack of teeth caused his lip to droop. No one knew how Broni got his Elvis look, but you would probably get full marks if you registered your guess as an untimely meeting with one of the many speeding motorbikes in and around Ubud.

The Doorman, however, doesn’t look anything like Broni, whose death caused me such sorrow, but he has a definite likeness of character. A quietness that assures you if he were human, he would be someone you’d want as a friend. It’s almost as if The Doorman has come to fill the void left by Broni.

He reminds me of a line from one of the many songs I could sing to you from memory – if you needed any glass shattered – from the film Funny Girl. I loved this movie about the not-so-beautiful Fanny Brice, but whose fabulous voice and sense of humour made her a star. It’s before she gets the top billing in the Ziegfeld Follies. She sings: “You think beautiful girls will stay in style forever! I should say not! Any minute now, they’re gonna to be out and then it’s gonna be my turn!” I hum this line over and over – but now with new words: “You think foreign breeds are going to be in fashion forever? I should say NOT. Any minute now, people will recognise the beauty that is the Bali dog.”

So little by little I’m learning about this dog. He is quietly assured and very polite and never fights over food. He doesn’t have to move on: we like him living in Jl. Bisma as he gives the street back some of it personality that was lost when Broni died…

Now there was a dog with a voice…

Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
and I love you so.

BAWA – Bali Animal Welfare Association – vets have been sterilising dogs on Jl. Hanuman every week for the past month. If you see the van and the vets when you are there, please stop and give a donation. Every rupiah helps. Or call please BAWA – 0361 981 490 – and volunteer. I could have done with some help last Sunday.

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