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A Hunter With 9 Dogs
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Year-end Message 2008

A Hunter With Nine Dogs

© by Forest Ang .........The brown bitch ran......dogs are man best friends.........

The Date : Early December, 2003

The Scene: Some where in the heart of Borneo along a tributary of Batang Rejang, Sarawak, Malaysia.

It was a clear morning. The night before was raining dogs and cats. The bright daylight at 6 o’clock in the morning in that part of the remote interior was something that I can’t find in my state Penang. It was like 8 o’clock in Penang.

I put up a night in one of the many long houses found along the river. To avoid the congested bathroom at the long house, I decided to take my bath in the river like the native did.

I was walking down from the long house towards the river with my towel hanging on my shoulder and my toiletries on one hand. I had to walk on the slippery silted wooden verandah connecting all the way down to the edge of the river.

A slippery cut tree trunk stairs joined to the river bank below. Like a trapeze artist, I need to balance myself and to keep my footing steady on the descent to the river. I heard a shooing from behind as I stepped closer to the river. I turned around and saw a brown dog looking fearful of an old lady behind. With a stick in her hand, the old Iban lady waved the stick and makes some cursing in the Iban language on the dog.

As I came toward the river, I got a better panorama view of the river. An old man and a small boy were waiting on a small boat. A black spotted dog was waggling his tail at the bow of the boat in anticipation of the shooing of the lady or perhaps the brown bitch. Three more dogs were quietly sitting in the boat, waggling their tails occasionally. They were all waiting.

The brown bitch with tail down came down from behind. She looked up at me for pity and continued on her footing down the narrow slippery stairs. I was down at the bottom of the narrow slippery stairs while the bitch was on the top. The small boy leaped out of the boat and run towards my direction.

The brown bitch hopped down and leaped onto the river bank. The old man called out to the brown bitch. The old lady shooing. The small boy chasing after the brown bitch. I was standing at the edge of the river wondering about the commotion.

The old man kept calling as if calling his daughter home. The old lady kept shooing as if chasing her unwanted daughter. And the boy chasing the brown bitch up and down the small river bank.

The brown bitch ran, darting away from the hands of the boy with fear – tail down like an escaping hyena. The brown bitch jumped onto another boat and curled up at the bottom of the docked boat. The boy quickly grabbed on the bitch and had her lifted out of the boat into the old man's boat. The small boy got on to the boat too. The old man spoke a word or two and bit farewell with the old lady. The lady murmuring before turning her way up the wooden steps.

With a long pole each, the old man in front and the small boy behind pushed their way out of the river bank. Slowly the small boat headed upstream with the gashing flow of the river.

The five dogs were now standing in front of the boat looking forward to the calm water ahead or perhaps to the hunting trip. The chirping birds and the fainting laughter of the small boy and old man could be heard as it meandered into the corner.

This close kin relationship of man and dogs were a scene that I kept encountering during my trip along the Rejang River. Dogs are an important part of hunting outing. With the use of rifles, the Ibans no longer depend on the dogs for hunting. However, licenses for rifles are difficult to obtain and thus the traditional hunting continue to this day.

On my journey home, on a ride down on a long boat, I could see a dog standing majestically at a bow of a coming boat. As the boat approaches ours, I could see more dogs. I started to count as the boat whizzed upstream. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and NINE! This time a hunter with 9 dogs!

How did he get his nine dogs into the boat? Your guess!


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All photographs by Forest Ang unless mentioned.
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