Sunday, February 7, 2010

Army of One

As mentioned previously, I recently added a dog to my home. Choosing the breed of dog, among other things, took a lot of thought and planning. Having a dog in Jakarta (in my mind) can be somewhat unfair to the canine. Dogs can't really run freely, it is hard to take them for a walk unless you live in a complex. Humans can barely walk down the street without risking death. Parks or open areas are more of a concept than reality in Jakarta. It is often very hot, not good for the health of certain dogs. All of these factors made me decide on a Beagle. It is a medium sized dog who is adaptable to climate and will be healthy with moderate exercise. I've seen people have dogs such as golden labs who live in a small confined area or a husky living in the tropical heat. To me, this makes about as much sense as having a pet dolphin living in your backyard swimming pool.
The biggest implication of having a dog in Indonesia is the Muslim factor. Dogs are considered to be dirty and dangerous animals who are to be avoided at all cost in the Muslim religion. If any part of a dog touches a Muslim's body, they are supposed to immediately wash themselves thoroughly. Generations of this belief (and cautionary tales) have also led to many Indonesian Muslims believing that dogs are extremely dangerous animals who will attack and bite without provocation. The term anjing galak (vicious dog) is often the first thing that many Muslims say when a dog is present. Actually, calling somebody an anjing is a very big insult in Indonesia. The only worse insult (to the best of my knowledge) is to call someone a pig.

The irony of this is that Jakarta street dogs are the most docile creatures you've ever seen. They seem to care less if you approach them. They never really bark or show any signs of aggression. Most of their lives are spent quietly foraging through garbage bins. Where I come from, a wild dog is a VERY dangerous (often rabid) animal who is not to be approached under any circumstances.

The other thing I find odd is the diligence that Muslims show when it comes to not having contact with dogs. Like any other religion, some rules are adhered to more than others. I've known people who will openly break Muslim laws such as drinking alcohol, never praying, having pre-marital relations or showing a lot of skin in public. These same people will NEVER touch a dog or eat pork. I always envision these people dying and facing Muslim judgement day (very similar to the Catholic version) at the gates of heaven. The angel would be there checking the sins of one's life. The record would show that they never prayed, lied to others, stole and cheated, often took mind altering substances, cheated on their partners but never once touched a dog or ate even a single morsel of pig. Would that get them into heaven?
The only time I never get much attention in public is when I have my dog with me. People will point and shout "eeee anjing", cross the street to avoid contact and generally panic. I went jogging earlier this week and decided to take my puppy along for the first time. I had him on a leash and kept him very close to me when we passed by people. We came across a trio of very muscular Indonesian military guys who were jogging towards us in the opposite direction. They were wearing camouflage pants and tight shirts that highlighted their physique. They looked like guys you would not want to mess with. As we got close to crossing paths, 2 of them saw the dog, jumped and did a ballerina like tippy toe dance to avoid the dog. After I stopped laughing, I wondered what was going through their minds. Anybody who has ever seen a Beagle before would never describe them as scary. Did they think that this friendly cute looking dog was going to break his leash and mercilessly rip their faces apart for no reason? I honestly have no idea. The same person would not even blink if a gigantic rat ran in front of them.

The upside of this mindset is that no uninvited guest will ever come inside your house if there is a dog present. This is good as some simple minded people think that if you are an expat that you must be a millionaire and have a house filled with riches. I sometimes have to put the dog in his cage when certain friends or family members of my girl come over. They will stand outside and wait until the dog is securely in his cage. Then they will sheepishly enter and make sure to stay clear of the cage. I sometimes lose my patience after a couple of hours and tell them that they have to accept that this is the dog's house too and that it isn't fair to lock him in a cage all day long. Some agree and sit with their legs up on the couch and scream if the dog gets too close. Others leave and never come back.

You could fortify your house with razor wire on the gate and guards holding rifles but it wouldn't come close to invoking the kind of fear that a dog would. Hopefully, nobody will catch on to how harmless my puppy really is. Be careful, he might slobber on you a little or chew your shoe. In the meantime, I feel much more secure knowing I have my army of one on my side at all times.


  1. Its really strange how brain works. I have no problem with dogs but eating pork is definitely not on my agenda. I know its really good. I've tried it before..accidentally of course. I was starving after finishing my paper and my roommate offered me her pizza. I ate two slices without even knowing it has pork in it till the next day i read the box. Was it good? Yes! Wanna try it again? Hell no :)
    One day, we went to a Polish restaurant in SF. I couldnt finish my salad because my man ate pierogi and kotlet schabowy. I just stared at him and my tummy felt funny. Of course they have pork, its Polish restaurant after all! The next morning, he made a pork omelet for me. I ate it happily because i didnt know its pork. He didnt tell me.
    Its in my head still dunno which part. Probably, i got this because i grew up in a moslem community in this country. Interestingly, it didnt work with praying, drinking, hijab etc. Ah, it works once. When i lived in Mecca, KSA. Another story about it later ;)

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