Heather’s Tale Tells the Real Bali Dog Story

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa” is the latest book I am savouring. Savouring isn’t actually the truth. The truth is I am the slowest reader ever and due to always eating breakfast or drinking coffee while I read and having the attention span of a two-year-old – that is I am easily distracted by my surroundings, the dogs and cats and their antics – so it takes me weeks to finish a book that my friends would devour in a day or two. But this book is so much fun I’m happy not to finish it quickly.

“‘What do men want from women?’ my grandmother asked me one day apropos of nothing at all as we waited to be served at the off-sales counter of the Crown and Anchor….” started chapter 11. “Without waiting for an answer she said in a loud voice, ‘Sex.’ Satisfied with the look she had created on my late adolescent features, she continued:

“‘And what do women want from men?’ I shook my head.

“‘A good dancer,’ was the grandmother’s reply.”

I happen to agree with this grandmother but there is something else I would love to add. I would love a good dancer who loves Bali’s dogs and cats and wasn’t so young he could be my son! I have one already.

Anyway the competition is too steep. Let me introduce Heather.

“Any dog adopted here on Bali is a rescue,” was Heather’s opening line when I went to her house to meet her little Bali dog, Elle.

I had met Heather a couple of weeks earlier at the Pet Shop on Jl Raya in Ubud just as I was vocalising my displeasure about a photo of a pretty pricey little bundle of white fluff for sale to my daughter, Isobella.

“Please explain,” I replied, trying very hard not to flatten my vowels in a tone reminiscent of one rather ordinary Australian woman who made her way to the capital on a nasty, racist ticket.

Heather had assured me that she owned a Bali dog and was all for the adoption of Bali dogs but here she was giving me something else to think about.

After arriving in Bali nearly three years ago Heather chose to stay, like many overseas visitors who fall in love with Bali for one reason or another. Then a year or so after her arrival she decided to adopt a dog, a Bali dog. Why a Bali dog when clearly she could have purchased an expensive imported breed of dog? Her reason was simple. She was adopting a dog just as much for the dog’s sake as her own, because she knew there were so many dogs needing homes. It was an act of kindness, her way of giving back to Bali.

In the year and a half since Elle came to stay, Heather has gained more joy from her ordinary, average-sized Bali dog than she ever expected.  Though I am sure the old adage “You only get back what you put in” may have something to do with it. This Australian Dingo look-alike is truly loved and well trained. There is no treat unless she sits and it is taken gently from Heather’s hand. She sits and comes on command, so hopefully there would be no racing in front of moving vehicles if she were out on the street. However, that’s not an issue as Elle’s yard is fenced and the only time she is allowed out is when she rides pillion passenger with Heather on her motorbike.

This was another decision Heather made with clearly a good amount of forethought. Elle has her own personal seatbelt, the ubiquitous sarong that is wrapped around her middle and Heather’s back. She was trained to ride the bike, Heather told me, because she had no other means of transport, and knowing that she wanted to take Elle out, this was the only option. They are definitely a gorgeous sight – this statuesque Californian and her beautiful Bali dog.

But what of Heather’s opening comment? You see, Heather has a friend who purchased an imported dog – a Pit Bull Terrier – a few months back. These dogs have a dreadful reputation and to leave it for someone inadequately able to care for this puppy could cause no end of problems. The friend didn’t actively go seeking to buy this puppy. The situation presented itself and she needed to make a decision. She bought the puppy, who is now Elle’s best friend.  I have thought long and hard about this since speaking with Heather and I wonder what I would do in the same situation. Would I have bought the puppy or left it to this game of Russian Roulette played here in Bali with imported breeds?

There are 600,000 Bali street dogs – probably less since the senseless culling that has been taking place but will achieve nothing in the long run. Is it supply and demand that creates the sale of imported breeds and, therefore, should the government of Indonesia do something about it – or is it just too easy to leave it up to foundations like the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) and Bali Adoption Rehab Centre (BARC), from where Elle was adopted, to pick up the pieces caused by the lack of interest in a dog without a pedigree?

And if you are a Good Samaritan please ring BAWA at 0361-977217 or visit their website, www.bawabali.com, and make a donation and help make life better for all here on Bali.

Filed under: Instinct

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