Today was a bad day. I should have known when we woke up and it was pouring. Although, we arrived right in the middle of the rainy season, we’ve mostly experienced brief downpours followed quickly by brilliant blue skies and white puffy clouds. But, today was different. It was a dark, gloomy, unrelenting deluge.
Allie woke up with a sore throat and slight fever so, she stayed home. Fletcher went to school by himself….and, we were running late.
Most mornings, I love the drive to school. There is so much activity. The shops are starting to open. People are on their motor bikes carrying everything from live chickens to plastic toys, piled implausibly over their heads or, sticking out in every direction –defying any law of the road or physics. I’ve often seen whole families on one bike — the mother driving, a young child holding on behind and a toddler asleep in front with its head resting on her mother’s shoulder. The rice fields are glistening in the sun, dotted with workers in their conical rice hats. And, the animals are hunting for scraps of food from people in the shops or in the piles of garbage that collect in empty spaces everywhere.
But this day was different. It was quiet on the street because of the rain and everything looked sad and empty. We were about half way to school when a small black dog darted out into the street chased by a large Golden Retriever right on its heels. It’s very unusual to see a Golden Retriever in Bali. They are rare. Most of the dogs here have a specific look — dirty, often mangy, and hardened. And, although, most of the dogs look like they were assembled with spare parts, many of them are friendly and actually have owners or, at least, are fed by the same people regularly. Most appear happy and well adjusted — trotting around with their tails and heads up proudly, approaching other dogs with interest and curiosity or sleeping on the side or even, in the middle of the road, while cars stop to go around them. They also have an innate sense for avoiding vehicles. I think this is a gene that has been passed down for generations of Balinese dogs –allowing them to remain unscathed while darting among cars, trucks and motorbikes or choosing to bed down on the roadside.
This particular morning when the two dogs ran out into the road, I felt my stomach leap into my mouth and I was filled with an intense feeling of dread. Indra and I were both chanting “no, no, no” with increasing urgency –while thankfully, Fletcher was in the backseat with the IPad. It was one occasion when I was grateful for the IPad and it’s power to pull Fletcher into another world. At that moment, I wished I was in another world. The black dog had just stepped onto the road when we saw the truck – it was cresting a hill and not able to see the dogs that had run blindly out into the street and it was traveling at a rate that would have made it impossible to stop in time. So, Indra and I watched in horror as the black dog cleared it’s path, just barely missing the wheels of the truck. But the Golden wasn’t so lucky. I will spare you the details but, mercifully, it was quick and painless for the dog –but, not for the witnesses in the car.
My first reaction was to get mad. “Where are the owners of that dog? Why did they let him out, to run into the street? Those people should know better! They better learn from this and not ever let their dogs out in the future!” As I got going with my rant, Indra looked at me and said “it’s sad” with a touch of resignation in his voice. He was right, it was sad. He knew no matter how angry I got, it wasn’t going to change the fact that here, in Bali, dogs have very different lives. They aren’t kept penned up in yards or houses – they’re free to roam and explore and make new acquaintances. They don’t wear fabulous outfits or get carried around in purses, eat organic kibble or get treated for cancer with chemo. They’re not accessories. I would doubt that even one prescription has been written here for doggie prozac. Instead, they live active, vibrant and intense lives but, sometimes they make a bad decision and run out into traffic.
I hope tomorrow is a better day.