Big Fat Brown Dog

The big fat brown dog is a long time resident of the neighborhood. She lives a  couple of blocks away from my house in a communal setting–a number of closely grouped dwellings where people are likely related to one another by blood. She seems well liked and cared for there, and can often be seen sitting in the midst of the group.

Every day, Big Fat Brown Dog (BFBD) makes a slow, leisurely tour of the neighborhood. She is a fairly old dog, as one can see by the worn patches on her elbows and haunches, and she has learned the wisdom of the street through the years. Look both ways before crossing. Trust no one at first sight. Visit the most reliable garbage cans.

Therefore, BFDB was very careful when she first started to come around to my house. She would pass the gate no further than to check out the garbage can, and would turn and move on if I approached her.

So I would talk to her each time that I saw her, and began to toss her a treat on each visit. Before too very long, she was coming to the porch to accept the treat from my hand. The next step was to actually enter the house, which she finally gathered the nerve to do.

Now, she will enter any time she finds the door unlocked, either to ask for a treat or just to flop down for a nap. She has deemed it a “safe” abode.

The BFBD does not like to play. She usually doesn’t much like to be petted, although she will allow my wife to pick fleas and ticks out of her fur as long as she will. For a big, fat dog, she moves with amazing stealth and silence, such that one will often find her sleeping on the floor, her entry having gone unnoticed. She will usually show up at the house first thing in the morning, then again in the afternoon, and once at night.

She is a calm, non-troublesome, peace loving dog. She does not steal or destroy or rampage. And we appreciate that.

She is still with us, and I never really worry about her. She has a lot of friends, is well known throughout the neighborhood, and is much too careful, too big and too heavy to be stolen. It seems, for her, an unusually good life, as the lives of Bali dogs go. Something to be said for being big, fat, old, and careful!

Sparky

Sparky was the closest we have been to having our own dog in Bali. One day the people up the street from our house brought home a puppy. They seemed to refer to him by several names, none of which sounded suitable to me, so I began to call him Sparky. My next door neighbor called him Lucky. Sparky didn’t mind one way or another. What is in a name, he was once heard to utter. That which we call a dog, by any other name, would still be a dog. Sparky was philosophic like that.

Curiously, my neighbor and I both imagined regular dialogs with Sparky. To my neighbor, he spoke of quantum physics, multiple universes and other such matters. To me, he spoke of religious views, the meaning of life, and other more practical matters such as which foods he liked best and what could be done around the house to make him most comfortable.

Since Sparky’s owners were rarely at home, except at night or on Sundays, Sparky spent most of his time in our around my house. He loved to play and wrestle with me, and he loved to be quiet and cuddle with my wife. It may even be that he was in love with her, for which, of course, he cannot be faulted.

Sparky’s main enemy was the harmless dragonfly. Were one of these to enter the house, he would pursue it tirelessly, leaping in the air, launching himself from higher positions such as the sofa, and ultimately, the dragonfly, God rest his soul, would tire before Sparky. Neither did he like cockroaches, which he would also pursue to their bitter end.

Sparky was a loving, playful, kind-hearted little dog, and sharp as a tack. He loved to learn and perform all the little tricks humans are so fond of–like sit, lie down, come, fetch, and so on. I imagined him chuckling to himself at our simple-minded pleasure.

On other hand, Sparky could perform tricks of his own that could not be explained in human terms. He was able, for instance, to appear and disappear. You would put him outside when you were about to leave the house, only to find him inside the house when you returned. My neighbor said that he once walked Sparky to the gate, watched him head up the street, and when he reentered the house, there was Sparky (or rather Lucky, in his world), sitting on the front room floor, an expression on his face that said quite distinctly, So, what’s your problem? Close you mouth before a bug flies in.

And, yes, he had a naughty streak. An impressively deep naughty streak. He was well known around the neighborhood as a sandal stealer, for instance. No one ever found out where he took these sandals. Was he acting as an agent for a shop somewhere? But his thievery was not confined to footwear. He also made off with the better part of my neighbors tools, including an electric drill. He ate not one, but two of my wife’s exercise mats. And when my neighbor, finally frustrated beyond humor, locked him outside the front gate, Sparky/Lucky chewed a hole in the bottom of the gate, entered the driveway, and ate the welcome mat by the front door. The message was clear. You shall not lock the dog outside the gate!

Well, he was with us for about a year. And then one morning he did not show up at the house. When he had still not showed up by evening, I walked up to his owner’s house.

“Where’s Sparky?”

“Hilang,” I was told. Lost.

“Lost? How? He never leaves this street.”

“Yeah. Don’t know. Pasti dicuri”. Stolen.

“Stolen? By who? How do you know?”

“Nggak tahu.” Don’t know. “Mungkin dimakan.”

“Eaten?”

Eaten.

Oh my God.

Simply gone, just that quick. No one every really knew where or how or why.

Like A Comet
Blazing ‘Cross The Evening Sky
Gone Too Soon

Like A Rainbow
Fading In The Twinkling Of An Eye
Gone Too Soon

Shiny And Sparkly
And Splendidly Bright
Here One Day
Gone One Night

Like The Loss Of Sunlight
On A Cloudy Afternoon
Gone Too Soon

Like A Castle
Built Upon A Sandy Beach
Gone Too Soon

Like A Perfect Flower
That Is Just Beyond Your Reach
Gone Too Soon

Born To Amuse, To Inspire, To Delight
Here One Day
Gone One Night

Like A Sunset
Dying With The Rising Of The Moon
Gone Too Soon

Gone Too Soon ….

[lyrics, Gone too Soon, Michael Jackson]

 

 

Big Dog

Every time I think of Big Dog, it makes my heart ache.

This was a very BIG dog for Bali, like a mix between a Labrador and a Mastiff. He was a gangly, clumsy, bull-in-a-China shop sort of dog who had not an enemy in the world, as far as he was concerned, even among other dogs, who often tend to be territorial. Sometimes, this or that dog, generally about half or less Big Dog’s size, would run out barking and snapping at him, and he would just glance at them as if they were crazy.

Big Dog had an owner who lived a couple blocks from our house, and he actually did have a name. The name, however – a Balinese word – never did fit on my tongue in such a way that it would stay there, so he became and remained Big Dog to us.

Every day, Big Dog would make two or three circuits of the neighborhood, visiting people along the way, exploring the rice fields, looking for unattended sandals that might want stealing and eating. He would come to our house several times to ask for some food, or simply take a quick nap, and if the gate was closed, he would simply jump over the gate, most often knocking it off its track in the process. We soon learned to just leave the gate open.

He was surely one of the friendliest dogs I have ever encountered. He tended to scare some folks, just because of his size, and because he would gallop up to anyone he saw with the intention of making a new friend.

When we moved away from the  Biaung area, I hated to leave  Big Dog, but, as I said, he did have an owner who did appear to care for him, in the sense that he was well fed and always returned to his house at nighttime, like a child who had been out playing all day, but knew he was to return home before dark.

Several times, we drove back to the old neighborhood just to see if he was around.

A couple years later, we happened to run in to an old friend who lives in Biaung. We asked, of course, after Big Dog.

Big Dog, she told us, had been found dead in the road outside her house. It appeared that he had been beaten to death with some sort of club. His skull had been crushed.

I have no doubt in my mind that Big Dog had happily walked right up to his assailant, thinking that he had found a new friend. What had he done to deserve this violent death? Who knows. I cannot imagine him offending anyone, except for some sick person who was already offended by dogs.

And so, you see, it hurts to even think about it.

RIP, Big Dog. We love you.

Moby

Moby was a dog with “issues”.

He just had that don’t touch me look about him. And, in fact, he did not like to be touched.

Little by little, Moby made his way past our front gate and into the yard, at first to receive treats tossed from a distance, then creeping a bit closer each day. Still, one did not want to reach out and touch him, unless he wanted to get his hand bit.

Then, one day when my wife was sitting on the porch chair, Moby climbed up the step and calmly sat down on her feet. She was afraid to move–happy, on the one hand, that Moby had suddenly and inexplicably decided to cozy up to her; and unsure, on the other, whether he might just as suddenly decide to bite her.

But that day proved to be a turning point. Moby made his way inside the house and made a special friend of our son, with who he would sit and watch TV. Sasha was the only person whom Moby would allow to pet him.

Moby had a number of health problems, however. At one point he had some kind of stomach problem, for which he went to the doctor. At another, he had a skin problem (quite common with dogs here in Bali). Moby went to the doctor again.

Finally, Moby went to the doctor, and never came back.

Fat Dog

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Far Dog was the first to show up at our new house in Biaung, along with his sister, who disappeared within days and never got a chance to be given a name. He was a fat, solid little puppy–thus, the name., Fat Dog.

Fat Dog was loosely associated with a family that lived about a block away from our house. And I do mean “loosely”. When he wasn’t running around the neighborhood or through the bordering rice fields, he would spend much of his time in our house, and then go home to spend the night with his “grandmother”. What became of his mother, I do not know, but gramma was always at her house, lying in the road outside the front gate. She didn’t like people, and she didn’t much like Fat Dog, either.

Fat Dog was a delightful, friendly little guy, but he also had a fairly deep “naughty” streak. He had, for instance, a particular fondness for shoe leather or rubber, and was responsible for the disappearance of not a few sandals and flip-flops. If one was lucky, one would see his shoe somewhere on the roadside and be able to retrieve it, or what was left of it.

He loved to run in the rice fields, especially when it had been raining, and on one occasion, burst joyfully into the house after just such an excursion, dashed into the master bedroom and leapt atop the clean white bedsheets, proceeding to dash about in circles so as not to miss a single spot with his mud-caked paws.

This was not Fat Dog’s most endearing day.

He loved our son, and would spend a cozy hour on his lap as he watched a TV show. Fat Dog was at his best while asleep.

Like White Dog, Fat Dog had a bad habit, which ultimately led to his demise. He liked to chase chickens. Well, okay, sometimes he actually caught the chickens, and, one day, actually brought one to our house. Perhaps he was trying to repay our kindness for the food he had received from us. Perhaps he was merely thinking of himself and thought we would cook the ragged thing and serve it up with a side of mashed potatoes.

In any case, the farmers did not appreciate Fat Dog’s sport. As the story around the neighborhood went, Fat Dog, chicken in his mouth, was beat to death by one of the farmers.

He was still just a young dog, full of spice and vinegar, not yet fully grown.

RIP, Fat Dog.

White Dog and Jakey

I place Jakey and White Dog together in this first post on dogs I have known because that’s the way they were, almost always side by side. They ate together, slept together, roamed together, almost like husband and wife, although White Dog would have nothing to do with Jakey along “romantic” lines. Perhaps, in her mind, Jakey was more like a brother, although this was  not always Jakey’s take on the relationship and he would have to be sharply reminded of his place with a warning growl or snap of the teeth.

Jakey actually had a secure owner, and a loving owner at that, and so was more domesticated than most dogs in Bali. He had originally belonged to a French woman who lived in our housing complex, but when she left Bali, she gave Jakey to the elder son of the complex owners, who grew to love Jakey dearly. He would often take Jakey, as a passenger on his motorbike, to the beach for a swim, and Jakey so loved these excursions that he would hop on to anyone’s motorbike, including mine, in the conviction that he was about to go to the beach. It could often be difficult to convince him otherwise and that he must “dismount”. Everyone was about to go to the beach, Jakey thought–and why not? What better amusement could people possibly want?

White Dog was another matter. No one in the complex knew where she had come from. She just showed up one day and decided that this was where she would live. The opinion of the people living there was irrelevant. She simply planted herself in its environs and set up camp. No one knew her name, if she had ever had one. Nor did they bother to give her a name. She was just there. My wife and I began to refer to her as “that white dog”, which, by and by got shortened to White Dog, and soon she was known throughout the complex as White Dog.

White Dog sort of surveyed the situation and its opportunities over time and ultimately decided that she belonged not only in the complex at large,  but more specifically in our house. She ate at our house, she slept in our house, and if locked out, as might occasionally happen were we go spend the night somewhere else, she would cry and throw herself against the door and tear at the wood with her front paws until someone showed up to comfort her and offer an alternate place to stay.

White Dog was moody, a little bit cranky. Unlike Jakey, she was not particularly friendly with strangers (whether human or canine). No doubt she had learned the value of caution in whatever travels she had experienced on the road before landing in our complex. This is common for dogs here in Bali who are only loosely associated with a home base or a particular pack. They learn that prudence is the best form of self-preservation.

The day came, some months after her occupation of the complex, when White Dog found herself “in the family way”. Immediately, she decided that our house would be the best place for a litter of puppies. In response to her decision, we did everything we could think of to dissuade her. One dog is a welcome guest. A herd of dogs would be a disaster. Every time White Dog entered the house, she would search for what seemed a convenient spot for birthing–under our son’s bed, for instance, in the closet, in the bathroom. Again an again we shooed her outside, explaining that she must follow the conventions of a normal Bali dog. Again and again she reentered, began preparations. At last, one evening, after a short walk to the market, we found her in one of the kitchen floor cupboards, feeding six new puppies at her teats.  In short, and as usual, she had gotten her way.

Ah well. As often happens with events that seem unwanted, we soon accepted the reality, and actually enjoyed raising the little brood of pups. Each was given a name, and fed, and followed around with newspapers and napkins.

And it became White Dog’s conviction, conveniently enough for her, that these were not her children, but ours. She would feed them, of course, when given no choice, but then would soon pursue her own interests and activities, which was pretty much in keeping with her cranky, “me first” character. She found other abodes in which to pass the night, lest she be inflicted too often with these noisome little critters who had, as she believed, nothing to do with her. Not my business, not my problem, she was often heard to mutter.

I don’t know what ultimately became of Jakey. After we moved to faraway Biaung, we would sometimes visit the old complex upon passing through Sanur, and Jakey would run out to climb up on the floor of the motorbike. And then, perhaps two years on, he was simply no longer.

As for White Dog? Well, White Dog had a certain sort of hobby that won her fewer and fewer friends over time. She liked the chase motorbikes. I don’t think she ever intended to bite anyone. She was just maintaining the peace and quiet in her environment. But many people did not appreciate her pursuit. One morning, the complex owner later told me, White Dog had been found dead. She had been poisoned. The left over evidence was still at her side. And it was his guess that an irritated biker and done the deed.

Such has been the common fate of the dogs I have known. Death by accident. Death by intention. Sudden disappearance. Jakey and White Dog had provided an introduction to the life of dogs in Bali–joyful, free, difficult, sad. I treasure each relationship, knowing that it could end just as suddenly as it began–something which may well be life’s most useful lesson for relationships in general.