Most visitors to Bali have seen the dogs that roam the street scavenging for food, many of which look diseased, feral and frightening. But the story of these dogs, the Bali heritage dogs, their incredible history and significance is one that will make you look differently at these intelligent and rare dogs. This is the story of how I learnt about the Bali heritage dogs and the incredible work of some truly special people to save them.
Some of you reading this who know me, may already know the story of my Zoey, who I found behind the temple at my house. He was a desperately sick pup, and I realised after a few days of feeding him that he couldn’t stand up or walk, and was only able to drag himself around by his front paws. Once I had seen this forlorn creature, and his still hopeful eyes, I couldn’t leave him there to eventually die. Despite being in an inexplicably appalling condition, I vowed to save him, and over several long months of care and many vet visits, I nursed him back to health. I questioned many times whether it was worth it, and whether he would make it, and given his appearance, I’m still shocked at how well he recovered. This is what Zoey looked like when I first found him and also what he looked like just two weeks later - his back legs were still not working – it took about 5 weeks before he could walk properly.
It took time but eventually Zoey started walking, getting strong and healthy. Now he’s a 18kg dopey but loyal and loveable dog, who likes spending his days barking at frangipani flowers for no good reason and moving the rocks around in the garden. He is fiercely loyal to his pack, and I know he would fight to the death to protect us. He knows this is his job, and it hearkens back to his important history as village and farm guard dog. Because of Zoey, I started learning about the Bali heritage dog.
The Bali heritage dog and Kintamani have been proven to be the oldest dogs known to mankind. Their DNA is a combination of Australian Dingo, Chinese Chow-Chow and the Akita from Japan. Genetically this dog is unique and needs protecting. It is also a much stronger breed of dog than the domestic dogs that Westerners are used to, able to survive in much harsher conditions and fend for themselves. Many Balinese believe that the Bali heritage dogs are able to detect spirit presences, and perhaps their barking at seemingly nothing is proof of this.
But as countries develop and need more land for progress, animals like the Bali dogs have had to learn to adapt. So instead of roaming and foraging in the jungle or rice fields as they would have done before, they are now doing this in the streets of Bali. It also forces them to defend their ‘territory’ amongst humans, and combined with flea, tick and worm infestations, they can quickly change from proud heritage dog, to snarling, scabby and scary.
Most of the time though, all they need is a good bath, skin treatment and worming tablet and in no time you’ve got a beautiful and healthy dog. Add to that a vaccination for dog diseases and sterilisation, and suddenly the scrawny street dog becomes a much-loved member of the household, just like my Zoey.
Unfortunately it’s not possible to take in all the stray dogs, as gorgeous as they are - just look at these furry faces!
And vaccinations, health care and sterilisations for these dogs costs money. So the Bali dogs need some help. While in Bali, I have been lucky enough to meet a woman called Lola Webber. Lola has become a dear friend and I greatly admire the work she does. Lola works for a charity called Change For Animals Foundation and their work impacts animals globally, including supporting the Bali Dog.
Launched in 2012, Change For Animals Foundation (CFAF) is committed to improving the lives of animals throughout the world by delivering collaborative campaigns and promoting a compassionate attitude towards all animals. By operating without expensive overheads, CFAF commits all funds directly towards ending animal suffering. We believe the fastest way to do this is through working in partnership with other groups, pooling resources and combining expertise, so that our shared goals are reached more quickly and efficiently than if we operated in isolation. To this end, we have co-founded international alliances to tackle some of the most pressing animal welfare issues around the world.
Lola can remember joining her first animal protection group at the age of 6, holding cake sales and washing cars to raise money. Her work involves education, planning and raising awareness as well as animal rescues. Change for Animals Foundation has recently partnered with Jakarta Animal Aid Network, Animal Friends Jogja, Humane Society International, Four Paws and Animals Asia to form the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition. Their combined passion and work has brought about swift change in the wider views of dog meat consumption in Indonesia, although sadly it has taken far longer to get to this point to the detriment of so many beautiful Bali dog souls. The aim is to have the barbaric dog meat trade completely banned within Indonesia, preserving the health and heritage of these incredible dogs that embody the very essence of Bali and its magical spirit world.
If you can spare a few minutes to read more about the campaign, sign the petition and be a part of change, Zoey and all his little Bali Dog friends say woof…which is Bahasa dog for thanks!