A Happy Twist in a Doggy Tail

instinct.jpgBy Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ “If people knew better, they’d do better!” So said by my good friend Matt when I was lamenting how tough it is for animal welfare associations here in Bali.

Initially I agreed with this quote but it is too simplistic and whilst education is the definitely the key to so many problems, gosh, dare I say it, some people who do know better, frankly, Scarlett, just don’t give a toss.

“We are so different,” the mother of a young friend said to me one day when they had joined me on my early morning walk.

“In what way?” I enquired. There was the obvious one. She’s extremely beautiful and not just for her age. But I knew she wasn’t referring to the physical.

“Well,” she said “you only seem to see the dogs whereas I see the beauty around us.”

I truly wanted to choke back my words. I saw the beauty, too. But the dogs? Honestly, Blind Freddy would have trouble not seeing them. And, in fact, due to Bali dogs I have made friends with people I would not normally have had the opportunity to meet and I am better for it.

Pak Nyoman Danu and Ibu Ketut Wali have a little farming plot at Payogan. They don’t live there but arrive each morning at 5:30 and work until the sunset before making their way home. They are not young and one of their two children, Made, is intellectually handicapped. He is 34 years old and joins them each day to work on their farm. They receive 50 percent of what they sell. The other half goes to the landowner.

Nonong is a tiny little black and white dog. She doesn’t look the type who could strike terror into the hearts of grown men or even those who might fancy themselves as something akin to a dog whisperer. But she did – and thank dog heaven she did – because she got her own way and for that I am over-the-moon glad.

Her story started about four months ago while I was walking through Payogan. I noticed two very skinny dogs so I asked the man in the yard who owned them. He said his brother.

Returning the next day with a bag of rice, a few extras and a bag of dog food, I meet the neighbors but no sight of the farmer. A week later I meet Pak Nyoman’s daughter. She explained her father had been in hospital for two weeks and that they had been helping as best they could by taking it in turns to come to the farm. Unfortunately they hadn’t been taking a great deal of care with the feeding of the dogs, puppies really, because they weren’t much older than 10 months and both female.

Pak Nyoman and Ibu Ketut returned to their farm after his three-week illness to find not only their two skinny puppies but that their older female dog now had two beautiful little puppies.

“Good grief” was all I could think when I first saw these gorgeous little bundles of joy. Two skinny dogs and now a mother dog with two newborn puppies.

I rang Christian at the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), who organized for one of their team to check up on the mother dog, her puppies and the others.

The mother dog and her puppies were well and they would sterilize her once the puppies had stopped feeding. The other two dogs, however, were in no condition to be sterilized.

Pak Nyoman agreed his recent illness had made life even tougher and that caring for so many dogs was difficult. So Dr Wira and his team decided to take the two skinny dogs back to the clinic to stabilize them before the operation and then to adopt them out.

It doesn’t really take much to keep healthy dogs. Food is a big help – as well as clean water, love and attention. The little dogs were strong enough inside a week to be sterilized and in no time than it takes for a happy puppy to wag its tail, the more confident one of the two was adopted out.

Nonong was not man’s best friend. She is pretty, in my view, but baring her teeth at any man, woman or dog that crossed within a meter of her seemed reason enough to believe she wasn’t interested in making any long-term friendships.

The staff at BAWA agreed she may be better with the older dogs waiting for adoption, in the larger area where she could roam. She would not socialize with any of them, choosing to wait until they had all fed before she would slink over to eat quickly and then hop back to her corner of the yard or to her tiny bed in the back of the undercover area. It was pitiful.

What to do? It was miserable to see her this way. And for the first time in my life, here was a dog that couldn’t be won over with the amazing liver treats.

Janice Girardi, co-founder of BAWA, suggested that perhaps it would be better to send her back to the farm. Wise beyond her years, this lady. Everyone had tried so hard to win her affection but she was not responsive. So home she went – but to what?

The sight that greeted me at that little farm at Payogan a week after Nonong had returned was exactly what will always reinforce my view of the Bali dog. They are smart.

Nonong is home. Pak Nyoman and Ibu Ketut are all she wanted, and a little food. I know she will get both. Don’t you just love happy endings?

So join me once again in celebrating Bali’s own dogs, those treasures right here in our own backyard. And immunize and sterilize and let them have a wonderfully long and healthy life alongside you.

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