We spent some time on an island in the Raja Ampat region of Indonesia recently, primarily so that Karen could do some serious diving in the strong currents and see some breath-taking scenery and marine life.
The island is sparsely populated, as is the resort, but there are some dogs who stroll around and don’t really belong to anybody.
A bit like the dogs Karen & Lisa see in Dahab, street dogs that occasionally attach themselves to a person or an address, but remain, strictly speaking, owner-less.
I considered calling them ‘free-range’ dogs, but then remembered something that we were told in Vietnam. Although they are being phased out, there are still some eating houses in Vietnam, clearly indicated, where you can get dogs. Repulsed yet curious, we asked our guide how and where the dogs were obtained. He smiled broadly.
‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Don’t worry, they are free-range.’
Our utterly horrified expressions puzzled him.
So, not free range, although obviously these dogs on the island range freely. Maybe self-determined? No, that imports a whole philosophical discussion about free will.
How about autonomous?
So here are the 2 autonomous dogs we saw most frequently. (click to enlarge)
They don’t have names, at least not ones given to them by humans, but they are great pals and spend a lot of time together. Occasionally you’ll find one of them sleeping on your porch, and somehow that makes you feel special, chosen.
Early one morning I heard some growling and barking, went to look and saw the 2 of them behind our cottage, in-between the trees, looking up. I followed their gaze and saw a cuscus scuttling along the branches, casting anxious looks at the 2 excited dogs. I’d never seen one of these marsupials in the wild (or, come to think of it, anywhere else) and quickly fetched my camera.
The dogs were very animated and even tried to climb the trees. Eventually the little animal managed to jump from branch to branch, tree to tree and the dogs lost sight of it – or perhaps they merely got bored.
We sometimes talk to people here in England who express their dismay at seeing autonomous dogs during their vacations abroad, especially in deprived areas. But frequently these dogs are ok, they may not live to be 12 or 15, like some of our pets, but many of them live full and carefree lives.
Obviously we do not want to see any animals suffer, but we should be careful with any conclusions we draw when we see dogs or cats somewhere on a beach, or even in a city (I’ve written before about the autonomous dogs we saw in Santiago; see here: https://coggesblogges.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/chile-dogs/)