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Island Life: The Search for 'Bomber'

A Shaggy Dog Story: The Ransom of a Red-Haired 'Bomber'. Bali Update Editor's Saga of a Reunion With His Best Friend.

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The Balinese policeman, vexed at the idea of having to deal with another emotional foreigner, was relieved to discover I spoke "passable" Bahasa Indonesia. He listened intently as, between gasps and sobs, I explained that I had lost someone who I was frantic to have returned to me. In the time-honored traditions of Sgt. Joe Friday, the hard-working officer scribbled in his note pad detail after detail: Last seen jumping over the back wall . . . red hair that was both curly and long . . . heavy breather . . . bathes only once week . . . pronounced nose . . . known to frequent the homes of unattached females in the neighborhood . . . and marked by a distinguishing tattoo on his left ear.

"Yes officer, that's right, I know I said he tends to drool,"
I confirmed, amazed that the policeman found that fact noteworthy.

It was not until the officer asked the name and occupation of the "missing party" that the prevailing calm at the local police station suddenly came badly apart.


The question hardly seem relevant, given the circumstances. Making my annoyance obvious to the overworked policeman who gave allowance for my highly emotional state, he moved on to the next question: "The missing party’s name?" To ensure accuracy and emphasis, I spelled out his name, " B-O-M-B-E-R : Bomber von Haus Ton."

The shocked policeman checked his facts by asking, ”BOMBER?” My pointed affirmation caused the cop to hurriedly excuse himself, eager to confer with his superior in the adjoining office.

Now, that's more like it, I thought. At last a little action, assuring myself that a little self-assertion in a time of crisis universally gets the public sector back up and moving.

My momentary ťlan, however, quickly evaporated as a group of officers wearing flack jackets descended, demanding more information on my report of a red-haired mad bomber, last seen jumping the fence at my house the previous night.

Make a mental note: Do not delay further those plans for an advanced course in Indonesian language. There are times, such as these, which demonstrate my command on the language needs some work.

Fortunately, a modicum of normality returned, when my shaking hands produced the official canine registration for my missing 40 kilogram red dog, also known as - Bomber von Haus Ton.

The Police Bomb Squad's relief at discovering Bali's peaceful situation remained intact, quickly changed to indignation as they unceremoniously deposited me on the front steps reminding me that lost dogs - even those with the name of "Bomber" - don’t qualify for all-points bulletins on the island of Bali.

Undeterred and determined to find my missing dog, I embarked on other tacks to ensure his return.

In addition to advertisements in the local press, we placed posters at street side stalls within a 4 mile radius, including pictures of Bomber and offering a generous reward for information leading to his return.

The local Banjar Pacalang or community vigilante corps were also advised of Bomber's disappearance and their assistance enlisted.

Disguised as a unrepentant carnivore, I visited the several RW (pronounced ‘air-way’) stalls hidden on Denpasar’s back streets where dog meat is discreetly served to home-sick migrants from North Sumatra and North Sulawesi who consider dog meat a local delicacy. Wearing a fedora and, to complete my disguise as a member of the dog-devouring fraternity, manipulating a tooth-pick as I spoke, I showed the proprietors of the RW Shop a picture of Bomber. Stealing myself for the grim possibility that they would confirm the photo's subject as today’s blue-plate special, they assured that there was a stated preference for black dogs and, anyway, the dog in my picture looked the size of a small pony.

Definitely not their plate of pooch.

Heartened that no news was good news, I made a full moon visit to a small village near Goa Gajah to consult with a well-respected Balinese Balian or holy-man. A waiting room full of supplicants supported his reputation of a man of visions - literally able to suggest cures for illness and help find lost items. Eventually, I was received into his prayer room where he accepted my offerings and placed them on the altar. After reverently listening to my dog gone story, he chanted, burned incense and prayed before,quite amazingly, drawing a precise map of my neighborhood, suggesting Bomber's route of escape and how he had adopted an unsuspecting diner at a local road side food stand. Best of all, the Balian confirmed this particular man's best friend continued to live.

On the fourth day, with hope almost at an end, I received a call that a man had seen Bomber earlier that day when a man had tried to sell him the dog. Exactly as described by the Balian, the man had been "selected" by Bomber as he sat having a meal of rice and vegetable on the side of a local road. Without invitation, Bomber occupied the bench next to the man and finished the unsuspecting man's meal. Determined to be compensated, he literally took the dog in tow, attempting to sell it at various homes and business places in the area.

The man said he also knew where Bomber was eventually sold: a large handicraft shop not more than 2 kilometers from home.

Already after sunset, we rushed to the address to discover Bomber firmly in charge of his new residence. Dinner had been good, both his and his new family's which he devoured without much adieu. Amazed at the speed at which his dinner had disappeared and concerned that the animal may still be hungry, the shopkeeper hid his children in their locked bedrooms on the second floor and sought his own protection behind a tall gate with the dog chained in the driveway.

Would he sell me back my dog? Certainly, at a loss, if need be.

Would I, in turn, guarantee his family's safety in the event the dog became hungry and went looking for another meal? Yes, Sir, I'd do my best.

Money was exchanged through the gate as the man pointed to the dog, urging me to keep his chain for added security and lose no time in taking "Bomber" home with me.

Four days after his initial disappearance, Bomber was back home with those who, despite his many shortcomings, loved him dearly. The next day, following a bath and a good meal, his triumphant return was marked with tradiitonal prayers and offerings of hand made palm leaf canangsari's, mountains of colorful cakes, satays and carved fruits prepared by neighbor ladies who insisted on offering traditional Balinese thanksgiving prayers to mark Bomber's safe return.

Yes, thank God, our friend was back home.

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