By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times
UBUD ~ Dr. Gunnar Yogi was a stellar student at school but it was his eldest brother who chose veterinary science as his career path and enrolled him at Udayana University in Bali. The dogs and cats of Bali would like to thank Dr. Yogi’s brother.
In Australia, vet science is one of the hardest courses to get into, accepting only students with the top grades. It’s the same in Bali. It’s a demanding course that takes five years. Five years, that is, if you’re able to study straight through, but eight years if you, like Dr. Yogi, have to work a full-time job to pay for your course before you can enroll.
That’s unlike in Australia, and in other Western countries, where students are able to access the Higher Education Contribution Scheme and repay the government later, once they are earning a good wage, and not a cent before.
* * * * *
“You must be back before July 15,” my dear friend Wayan demanded. I could not miss the grandest cremation to be held in Ubud on that day. So I flew back into Bali on July 14.
Wayan was right. Prior to leaving three weeks earlier, I had been watching the towers being built but nothing prepared me for the sights on my return or the spectacle of the events of July 15, 2008.
The day’s events will go down in Ubud’s history but I will remember that day as the day I first met Dr. Yogi. Jl. Bisma is my home these days and I love that I am called by name by my new friends, and by some other names, apparently, because I have quite a following of dogs due to the delicious “liver treats” that I carry for the four-legged population of Ubud.
One of my favorite dogs on Jl. Bisma, Putih (funny – that one of the most common names in the English-speaking countries for dogs and cats is Blackie – male or female) was a good-looking male dog that often came seeking the liver treats. He had problems with his skin. His owners had left for overseas prior to my departure and he was spending more and more time away from his new carers. His skin problem had been treated by staff at the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) and treatment was prescribed and given to the people looking after him to administer.
* * * * *
On returning home after the cremation, I was horrified to see the state of this once-beautiful dog. His sleek white fur had patches of red, raw gaping wounds and he was so thin he could barely stand up. Putih usually sat on the steps outside Apel laundry and prior to my leaving I had left a bag of dog biscuits but he had gone off his food, the staff later told me, and had eaten very little.
The voice at BAWA’s emergency number was new to me but, nonetheless, was quick to respond. When the vet van arrived, Putih was lying on the steps and I was sitting beside him feeding him his favorite liver treats, which he could normally knock back a handful at a time but now, only after three tiny pieces, had stopped eating. He was shivering. This usually feisty dog did not move as Dr. Yogi approached.
Dr. Yogi introduced himself and shook my hand. Without any words I knew I was in the company of a gentleman. I sat with tears dripping down my face as Dr. Yogi gently let Putih slip from the pain of this life.
What do we do to change these horrible problems? I asked Dr Yogi, and like everyone I know that works for BAWA, his answer was the same – education, and a great deal of hard work by everyone in the community, not just the dedicated few.
Dr. Yogi completed his degree at Udayana University eight years ago. His career began with a year working at the Yudisthira Foundation and then a further four years working for the renowned Bali vet Dr. Listriani, before coming to work for BAWA. He is a talented vet and, like all the other vets at BAWA, an expert in sterilizing both male and female dogs – not his words but those of Dr. Eileen and Dr. Chris, Australian vets who work for Vets Without Borders and who come to Bali a couple of times each year to help with further training in areas other than sterilizing dogs. It was Dr. Chris that said this is the area where Bali vets train overseas vets.
But Dr. Yogi’s main job is the emergency van. He is one of the vets who will be on hand when a dog, or any other animal, is in need of a vet. Holding one of my favorite puppies, Gympi, Dr. Yogi spoke with me last Sunday. This sweet black-and-white puppy has a broken front leg that due to nerve damage will never mend. A decision has yet to be made for Gympi but, in the meantime, she is in good hands.
Dr. Yogi is also at BAWA each Sunday afternoon when I bring my two students for their English lessons and where they volunteer – to cuddle the puppies and kittens. His English is perfect, which makes it very easy for tourists, should they need to ring the emergency service that BAWA offers.
So from me, my sincere thanks to Dr. Yogi’s eldest brother and, of course, to Dr Yogi! And please join me in celebrating Bali’s own dogs, those treasures right here on this beautiful island. And please consider how you can help these marginalized animals – have a look at www.bawabali.com.