While hungry eyes that could not speak / said even little doggies have got to eat

Brigid and I are rarely alone.

My biggest song had the line: Every time I look around and indeed, every time I look around there are eyes. Four.

Four lit­tle hope­ful or lov­ing eyes. Two peer up from a sausage shaped crea­ture just above ground lev­el (that’s Chip­py — named after the dachs­hund my par­ents gave me for my 7th birth­day — he last­ed 15 years, until Christ­mas 1977 — that was a ter­ri­bly tear­ful fam­i­ly day as we opened gifts from ‘Chip­py’ that had been under the tree before he was euthanised with har­row­ing back pains) and the oth­er two some 30cm or so high­er, from Star, our Bali street dog who, at almost 6, is almost cer­tain­ly like­ly to be the last sur­vivor of her six sib­lings, giv­en the hor­ren­dous life dogs are giv­en on that island — ignored, tor­tured, beat­en, poi­soned and diseased.

These eyes are always with either myself or with Brigid when we are home. When we are away they sit at the top win­dow impa­tient­ly watch­ing the soi until we return, refus­ing, as far as we can tell, to eat or drink until we walk back in. The return is rit­u­al­is­ti­cal­ly cel­e­brat­ed by a feast of bis­cuits, mixed with wild yelp­ing and leaping.

They love us. Many dogs feel the same way about their fam­i­ly and there is an odd­ness about the way such inter­species love can be so pro­found and unconditional.

We love them too. These dogs, are, after all, smug­gled trea­sure, and at some cost.

In 2009 when we decid­ed we want­ed out of Bali, or at least made the move that we had in prin­ci­pal decid­ed on a year or so ear­li­er, our options were nar­rowed by these four eyes. Nei­ther Brigid nor me could bring our­selves to leave the mutts behind.

The prob­lem was that most coun­tries — at least the ones we con­sid­ered — were not open to dogs (or any oth­er ani­mals) from Indone­sia. There was the fact that Indone­sian mutts, even the vast major­i­ty of those who live with car­ing humans, are not vac­ci­nat­ed or giv­en the reg­u­lar treat­ments that dogs in many oth­er nations get.

That ours were was nei­ther here nor there — as Indone­sian dogs they were per­sona (or canine‑a) non-gratis in all but about six places meun­less we want­ed to put them in a cage for six months at mas­sive cost.

That restric­tion was fur­ther com­pli­cat­ed by the rabies epi­dem­ic that has rav­aged Bali for some four years now (offi­cial­ly since the end of 2008 but as any res­i­dent will tell you, for much longer) which has, once again, offi­cial­ly, killed some 114 peo­ple (once again unof­fi­cial­ly nobody know exact­ly but it’s like­ly much high­er), a num­ber that is sad­ly only going to grow as any attempts to tack­le the prob­lem are stymied by endem­ic cor­rup­tion and incom­pe­tence as is the Bali way.

One of the attempts to com­bat rabies, was quite bizarrely, to ban all ani­mal imports and exports from Bali. Imports I can vague­ly get (but sure­ly treat­ed cleared ani­mals would be ok — although that’s com­pli­cat­ed by the fact that a piece of paper in Indone­sia is only as good as your last bribe 1). Export­ing, espe­cial­ly to the places in the world where rabies exists, is hard­er to jus­ti­fy ban­ning, assum­ing the hounds have been ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed and are healthy (ours always have been and we have the book­lets to prove it, although the one that came with the dachs­hund from the pet shop we dis­cov­ered was forged to save mon­ey and she almost died).

We were aware that we could pos­si­bly find a home for Chip­py but the Bali dog was going be a prob­lem. Even the Bali­nese who we knew to have tak­en Bali dogs before as pup­pies dis­card­ed them when they were no longer cute. Star, too, is nervy and lack­ing in the sort of con­fi­dence it would take to re-bond with a fam­i­ly after being poked and teased inces­sant­ly by the local kids as a pup­py and kicked by our staff when we were not around. She cow­ers and is ter­ri­fied of strangers.

So, yes, we were lim­it­ed by all these. Once they were out of Bali we had far few­er prob­lems as Java and Jakar­ta, with a sim­ple quar­an­tine and the right papers would let them go to any accept­ing coun­try. These coun­tries includ­ed much of Asia and the USA, but not Sin­ga­pore or Aus­trala­sia which had the strict con­trols as above. New Zealand is, very under­stand­ably, para­noid about these things.

As a New Zealan­der, I don’t mind that at all.

A trip to Bangkok while we were mus­ing all this over solved the issue. I could live in the roy­al city as could Brigid. And so could the dogs — if we could get them out of Bali.

Talk­ing it through with peo­ple who knew how it was done put us touch with the right guy.

As with every­thing in Indone­sia, mon­ey is the key. Sim­ply put, to get the dogs out of Bali, large bribes had to be paid.

Thus one morn­ing in Octo­ber 2009 the two dogs, in their new cages, were hand­ed over to the two guys who were going to take them to Jakar­ta via Java’s noto­ri­ous­ly bad jalans. Most­ly the thir­ty-hour trek would be just bor­ing. How­ev­er, on the boat to Java, from Gili­manuk in Bali, the girls were in real dan­ger. If they were found they would be sum­mar­i­ly killed, either by strych­nine, a bul­let each or sim­ply being tossed over the side of the boat. To get around this they guards and offi­cials on the boat were heav­i­ly bribed but even then there was a dan­ger the guys would sim­ply take the mon­ey and kill them regardless.

Our guy assured us that our ‘fees’ were heavy enough to get the dogs across. And heavy they were. The costs of get­ting the dogs out of Indone­sia were about five times the human cost.

Once in Jakar­ta, giv­en that we had all the cor­rect health papers (and we were sure our dogs were fine) they would be put on a plane. The last hur­dle was the quar­an­tine. The Thai gov­ern­ment did­n’t require this but Indone­sia insists that dogs sit in a quar­an­tine for sev­er­al days. This is not as easy as it sounds as there seems to be both a death rate and, we were led to believe, a false death rate where­by the dogs would be sold and the own­ers told they had died 2. Chip­py was more at risk than Star was.

To get around this our guy paid for sur­ro­gate dogs to go into the quar­an­tine before ours left Bali. On arrival, the cer­tifi­cates were pro­vid­ed and the dogs tak­en to the air­port where they were hand­ed to Brigid (I had gone on ahead to BKK to ready the house).

In Indone­sia, peo­ple who are sup­posed to go to jail do sim­i­lar things.

It was Haj time and the ter­mi­nal was packed full of the devout going off to wan­der around an old rock in the desert. Into that wan­ders Brigid with two howl­ing dogs, hap­py to see mum. Dogs are pro­found­ly unclean — haram — and the pil­grims, I am told, scat­tered. The guy from the air­line took the dogs, send­ing them down the belt to be loaded, and then furi­ous­ly washed his hands.

Three hours lat­er I was in Bangkok, at the always intense­ly crowd­ed Suvarn­ab­hu­mi air­port wait­ing. Inside Brigid and Bel­la were also wait­ing, this time at the over­sized bag­gage counter, where two dogs arrived on the large ele­va­tor from below. They howled. The whole air­port could hear them howling.

Brigid went to the cus­toms counter to pay the import fee (just a few dol­lars — legit this time) but the dog guy was miss­ing. At smoko. The fish guy was there but could not help. Out­side the howls of the two mutts, des­per­ate to get out of the cages with free­dom and a lov­ing hand so very close, were rat­tling and echo­ing across the four lev­els of the air­port. Every­one at arrivals was look­ing around search­ing for the reason.

I stood behind a pil­lar, ready to leap out and grasp the dogs and my fam­i­ly as they came through, which, a few min­utes after the dog guy returned, they did.

So yes, we smug­gled, greas­ing the way with dol­lars as we did so, and I guess that makes us as com­plic­it as the oth­ers who cross that eth­i­cal bound­ary but I’m gonna plead our dogs’ lives, espe­cial­ly the much loved Bali dog who would have been home­less and short­ly dead  — or din­ner.…

2014 edit: Lit­tle Chip­py passed away in Bangkok, much loved, on May 25, 2014. Her ash­es will be scat­tered on Sanur Beach in Bali, a place she loved.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. you can nev­er be total­ly sure that the doc­tor or archi­tect you use in Bali has actu­al­ly been to the ter­tiary insti­tute named on that cer­tifi­cate proud­ly dis­played on his or her office or surgery wall
  2. this hap­pened in Bali too to peo­ple we knew, when the car­ing vet said their pedi­gree dogs had died. They dis­cov­ered the truth after insist­ing on see­ing the bod­ies and a junior staffer, igno­rant of his boss’ fraud, showed them oth­er dogs


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Adri­an Jones
January 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

Great arti­cle Simon,we would walk over hot coals for our lit­tle Staffy Lola.
So much troulbe in the world but most peo­ple just love their dogs

January 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm

You’re a good man, Simon Grigg.

Joe W
January 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Mar­vel­lous sto­ry. Chip­py’s a cutie, but that Star is one hand­some dev­il. Live long and pros­per doggies.

January 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I’ve told her, Joe. She’s beaming!

May 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm

We have 2. A long-haired JRT we’ve had from a beanie baby, and a JRT cross res­cued from death row in Ire­land. Both ful­ly loved up fam­i­ly mem­bers. Thanks for the sto­ry. I am so sor­ry about your lit­tle one.

May 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm
– In reply to: Frith

Thank you Frith. It means a lot.

May 28, 2014 at 10:48 am

Con­do­lences for Chip­py. Still mourn­ing my Maisie a year later.

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