How an Old Dog Can Learn Some Really Neat Tricks

Call me stupid! Go ahead – because sticks and stones… But I can tell you I am learning. I am learning daily and that is better than stagnating at this time in my life and just assuming I know it all because I’ve attained this… umm, age.

So The Doorman is my perfect case in point. He is the dog whose voice I’d struggled to find when writing about him in a previous column, but it’s a voice I hear loud and clearly now. He is a gem, my treasure. He has a personality as large as any big bloke and is gentle to boot. Well, with one exception – he’s not big on sharing his food. And whilst he doesn’t fight, he will let any interloper know that he means business, with a low, guttural growl that has his intensions very well understood.

The Doorman, so named after that personable dog in Markus Zusak’s book The Messenger, and because he sits in front of my door has only just found his voice. He has been my satpam (security guard) for the past four months now and has done the job admirably with just his formidable looks; but now he barks. I am not too delighted about that because he barks in the middle of the night – at shadows. Cat shadows possibly. But I live on site at the boutique Honeymoon Guesthouse, actually the Second Honeymoon Guesthouse, and I’m sure guests don’t want to be woken in the dead of the Ubud night with his barking. I certainly don’t. Rushing around in my nightie is a sight preferably missed by the faint-hearted.

But I am delighted he’s come out of his shell. He still reminds me so much of The Doorman – the dog in the book. The protagonist, Ed Kennedy, is utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, as I am to my new friend. He’s actually good company because he listens keenly and, like my children – one in particular – does exactly what he wants anyway.

However, back to my mistakes – there have been many in the past couple of weeks, let alone my life, but let’s just focus on these couple of weeks.

The Doorman loves to play in the black sand that is waiting to be made into cement for a new building not far from where I am situated, and coupled with a night of Ubud downfalls or heavy morning dew his beautiful white fur becomes black and muddy and then my immaculate marble terrace becomes far from immaculate.

Lesson Number One: The Doorman doesn’t like water. No, he’s not rabid – he’s just a dog who has never been bathed and when I approached him, after the frolic in the black sand, with a tub filled with warm water, doggie shampoo and a sponge, he said: “Have you gone nuts?” and left without even so much as a backward glance. You may or may not believe this but by mid-afternoon he returned totally, sparkling white – this smart Bali dog had taken himself off to the canal and done the very Balinese thing of bathing in the flowing water. He forgave me and we don’t mention the bath thing anymore.

Lesson Number Two came less than a week later when Dr Eko and his team from BAWA – Bali Animal Welfare Association – turned up to vaccinate my favourite dogs on Jl Bisma against rabies. Of course, heading up that list was The Doorman, with Mr Dogi, darling little Beri and the other two that live close by, Miss Mogi and the latest addition, a Kintamani puppy, Pogi, all lined up for the shots.

The Doorman stood back and watched as each dog was vaccinated and then tagged with an orange collar. Finally it was his turn. He took one look at me and bolted. No worries, I informed Dr Eko and team, because I know he’ll be at my place. We all wandered down Jl Bisma like brown’s cows and there, sure enough, was The Doorman sitting under my terrace table. I tried my sweetest voice as I sidled up beside him. Further under the table he went and I followed. We struggled and he “mouthed” my arm and left. My heart was broken – shattered, actually. Why didn’t he trust me?

That was over two weeks ago now and it took a full week for him to even slightly forgive me. Food helped, of course, but the sight of my trusty sarong would send him flying, jowls flapping, straight across the bent backs of the ricefield workers. These beautifully soft sarongs no longer represent a snugly but a means of capture, and he is most definitely first and foremost a Bali Street dog. So here is the one dog-love of my life who has yet to be vaccinated against rabies and no possible idea how I am going to do it. Lesson in progress here.

But the biggest mistake I made was only a few days ago, and this one came as a complete shock. One of my fingers got caught in the crossfire of a tiny puppy’s razor-sharp tooth. I was feeding a group of five and as I have not yet been vaccinated against rabies, I now need to line up for the series of five vaccinations. Why must I learn from my own mistakes?

One thing is for sure, though: my personal safety is not in question. The Doorman was sound asleep in front of my door as I arrived home late last night.

“Great job, Doorman,” I said as I stepped over his sleeping body, “I could have been raped and strangled by now and you wouldn’t have noticed a thing.”

“Sure I would have,” he winks as I close my door. “Smart-mouthed Bali dog!” I mumble as I fall into bed secure in the knowledge I have the island’s best satpam.

Filed under: Instinct

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