Volunteering at Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA)
Luckily I had had my rabies booster before I came away so I could volunteer with the dogs. On my first day I met Jenn who was coordinating the work; she took me round 2 of the shelters they had near Ubud. One was an old house being used to house all the dog mummies and their puppies. The puppies were so cute, I could have stayed all day and played with them but they needed our help in another shelter.
This second shelter had a small building and was a piece of land they were renting. It was a huge outside space with shelter, and the dogs were just running around in small packs, loving life it seemed. These dogs had been rescued from Mount Agung as there was now no people living up there, and so even the stray dogs were going to starve. All of the dogs came to greet us at the gate like mad, all very different and all sorts of characters. One dog called Donkey however hid under the bed in the sheltered area. He was being bullied by one of the dogs and seemed scared. We spent some time encouraging him to come out but to no avail. The dogs needed to be checked against lists and photographed and then we needed to start teaching them to walk on a lead etc, as they would be put up for adoption. These were both rather hilarious processes. Firstly, trying to identify them against lists without photos with descriptions such as black dog with white front; when we had about 6 black dogs with mixtures of white on them! The lead walking training was also a funny experience, most of them just stopped dead when put on a ead as they had no idea what was going on. With some encouragement though we got them moving and they started being more at ease with it, it was obviously however that this would take time.
The next day I went out to Menanga, which was to be my base each day as few other volunteers seemed to want to venture into the yellow zone of the volcano. I went with my mask at the ready but the ash seemed to have calmed down and it was so hot that it wasn’t feasible to be wearing a mask! The mask also scared the dogs, so back into the bag that went. In true Suzie style I managed to do something silly within minutes of arriving. This shelter was for the dogs of the evacuees, who were staying in camps down the road. This meant they weren’t able to be mixed as most of them were territorial and had been used to being alone and living as a pet; and so had to be kept in cages and exercised by us. Now in Bali, due to the fact that most dogs roam their land, dog walking doesn’t exist, and so we had to teach the ladies working at the shelter how to do this and why. When I arrived the shelter had not long opened and so it was still an alien thing to the ladies, who seemed to think that the dog walking was only to let them go to the toilet. On top of this they wouldn’t walk the larger dogs, of which there was 2, as they were scared. So the first thing I did was to take one of the 2 large dogs out; a large black Labrador called..Blacky – how original! He was very excited to be out and I put a lead onto his existing collar and off we went. We exited the gate and he immediately jumped up, pulled back on this collar and slid out of it; it was too big! As he had clearly not been walked on this lead, no one was yet to find out and I hadn’t noticed that he had a stretchy collar on, which would not normally be placed on a large strong dog. He ran off up the small road looking back at me as I called him, and then running away – clearly I had unwillingly entered a game of catch! I called to the ladies to grab another collar, they just stood and looked at me and as I ran up the road after him, they came to the gate to stand and watch. I got to the main road where there were some small shops still open and Blacky was stopping by each to have a sniff. I called to people to grab him but again they just watched, and even started laughing. What a sight this must have been for them, a small blonde woman running up the road shouting Blacky, whilst this tear-away dog ran circles round me! I eventually caught hold of him, looped the lead around his neck and walked him back to the shelter; I think we had enough exercise for one walk. I then took the next large dog out, a German Shepherd cross, huge black dog called Dola. And I couldn’t make this up, the same thing happened again, this time though his collar broke and he ran off. Luckily he was a lot less athletic than Blacky and I caught him straight away. So we established that the collaring system so far was not working. When we got back I showed the ladies how placid he was. The vet told me that his owner had warned them that he previously bit him and so they were even more scared of him than Blacky. I couldn’t see signs of him being aggressive and so decided to handle him as much as possible each day to ensure he felt comfortable and then on the days I wasn't there, he may have a chance of being walked. BAWA relies on volunteers to walk the dogs most of the time, but due to the risk factor of working so close to an active, erupting volcano, they couldn’t advertise for volunteers, they had to just utilize the ones that got in touch privately like me, of which there were very few.
I continued to make friends with all the dogs. I also got to meet the adolescent puppies who were in rabies quarantine, although I didn’t actually know this until after I had handled them; it seems that language barriers can sometimes get in the way. They were 8 medium size puppies, all the same age and size, who had been exposed to a rabid dog. Janice, the founder of BAWA had agreed to keep them in quarantine for 8 weeks to avoid them being put down. None of them had shown any signs of rabies and they were happy and joyful characters. I looked forward to playtime with them every day, letting them run around in their enclosed pen was good fun, although one of them was particularly fond of trying to chew me.
When I had first arrived there had been a small black orphaned puppy who was so scared of everything that he would try to bite you rather than let you touch her. I started handling her in a towel so she could get used to the touch, and taking her everywhere with me. The beautiful part of being involved in helping animals this way was seeing the positive change in them, and by the end of my few weeks she was wagging her tail, barking and exited to have a cuddle and play. We named her Cinta, which means love in Bahasan (the language of Indonesia), and one of the vets Gung De adopted her; she got her forever home!
I met the IFAW team near the end of my stay, they were supporting BAWA with their emergency relief team and came to see what they could do. We walked the dogs together and covered things that they could supply that would help, it was comforting to know that BAWA had the support it deserved. Later that day a man and his small son brought along a puppy that they said had ingested some shampoo whilst washing him. They disappeared off and didn’t seem to want the puppy back, which raised questions about what had really happened. The vet Gung De gave her some charcoal to try and absorb the toxins or make her throw up but the pup was already fitting. He managed to get an IV in her tiny arm and we called for the ambulance. She seemed to be beyond help, she was now unconscious, but after a while she began stirring and vomited, which was a positive sign. The ambulance arrived, we told her we had named her Hope, and they took her to the nearest clinic. Sadly she also tested positive for Distemper and so was euthanized. A sad day for BAWA, but not the first unfortunately, with so many strays and unvaccinated dogs, these illnesses are a mounting problem.
I loved my time with BAWA, if you are able to support them at all, please do here at: