For the Love of Dogs

Every other day, somebody sends me a link to an article, study or film about the stray dogs of Bali – and the rampant cases of rabies that continue to threaten the lives of locals and foreigners alike. If the statistics and stories are anything to go by, one might be inclined to think that all Bali dogs are to be feared. How far from the truth that is.

Take Tineke’s dogs: Dewi and Chan chan (Cinta was adopted out and Willy recently died). They are perfectly lovely, playful and friendly hounds. I lived in their midst for a week, growing attached to them all.

Mona Lisa, Linda’s labrador, is a gem: She greets me nearly every morning I arrive at the yoga studio; rolling on the ground, pleading for a tummy-rub, happily offering her backside for every bit of patting she can get.

And then, there’s the ubiquitous Hamish, technically owned by Ibu Cat – but the guardian angel and self-appointed canine protector of many. Hamish is known to make the daily rounds of Cat’s neighbors’ homes and gardens; he’ll pop into Jen’s house, then meander over to Heather’s next door. He’s just checking in, most likely, but a welcome and much-loved visitor nonetheless.

I remember the first time I met Hamish, at Cat’s house. He sniffed about, but mostly stayed in the background. Later on, when I was at Jen’s, and he was more familiar with me, he settled by my side as easily as he did with Jen.  Since then, I’ve rarely seen him.

Then, yesterday, after returning from a day in Denpasar with Alexsandra and Wayan, I rested and set out to see Kadek. I was feeling out of sorts – perhaps as a result of the neuro consult I’d had earlier that day; or perhaps due to a slight anxiety about my imminent (painful) healing massage. The iPod piped soothing music into my ears as I walked to the main road, rendering me somewhat oblivious to my surroundings.

Imagine my surprise when I felt something nudge my hand, looked down and found Hamish looking up at me – as if to say: I think you need a friend right now, don’t you? I patted his head and thanked him for arriving at just the right time: His sudden presence was like manna from heaven. He tottered along by my side or just up ahead as we rounded the corner, turning around to spot me every few steps.

Hamish accompanied me part of the way down that long first block, scaling a high mound of earth with an offering – a piss in the ground. He wavered, then looked up at me as if to ask, do you mind if I head back home now? Patting his head, I pointed back up the hill, off you go Hamish, back to Cat’s now. With one last turn, he sniffed the way back home.

Now this is puppy love, Balinese-style: A healing power that transcends common (canine) experience.

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