Two very tanned men passed me on the beach today, along with about a dozen Bali dogs. Each had perhaps four dogs on a cluster leash, and both were surrounded by free-running, collared dogs. Many looked mangled and scarred, but all were filled with joy to the brim: running around in the sand, goofing. If dogs could smile, all of these most certainly did. People photographed them as they went, and the whole bunch got much attention from beachgoers. What a life. And what a job for the dog walkers.
Here on Bali, dogs are everywhere. Red, white, brown-speckled. Often with big ears and short hair. It seems as if every house has a dog, and then there are houseless dogs, too. A dog may belong to a house, but it is not owned by anyone. Nobody may pay it any attention, and certainly not take it to the vet. Some dogs get food and attention, others just share a home with people, alerting to danger and strangers in exchange for safety and a territory to call their own.
The dogs weave in and out of houses, between people on the pavement, and between cars and scooters on the street. Vehicles watch out for the dogs and politely honk or stop to let the dog get out of the way. The dogs are everywhere, and part of society just as people are.
The Balinese dogs have, according to ancestry genetics, been around for a long time. Some claim that the Balinese dogs were among the first to form connections with humans. As a breed they are said to be older than dingoes, and related to not only dingoes but also akita and chow-chow, other old Asian breeds.
The Bali street dog seems to be on its way to becoming a recognized breed, just like the Kintamani dog already is (the other Balinese breed, from mountain villages). It is a race against change, as expats bring their own dogs into Bali since the pet import ban was lifted a few years ago. The Bali street dog may become an official breed at the same time as it becomes harder to find on the street and one must resort to a breeder for a purebred dog.
I am curious of the development of the Bali street dog’s character, if it becomes a recognized breed. Today any dog you meet on the street on Bali is most likely not used to being touched – and it might bite. And one must earn its trust for it to obey at all. It also barks at anything strange and unexpected. Will these traits, today so inherent for the survival and function of this dog as part of society, survive? Or will they be “developed” by breeders?
(Canggu, Bali, Indonesia; August 2018)