Friday, May 11, 2012

Dogs in Borneo

When dogs rule the world - wait, they already do, just look around – they might look like dogs in Borneo, where they roam free at will, trotting along the dusty streets and alley ways, sniffing out a morsel of food or nosing another dog before moving on. They don’t seem to bother people and people don’t seem to bother them, just a contented culture of flowing beings, as far as I could tell.
     When I hit the hot, humid jungles of Borneo’s mountains in March, I felt lost and alone without my dog, since most of my life I had hiked with a dog or two, making hiking twice the adventure while reigning in their antics on the move as well as my own.  But in Borneo, where the forests are dense and dark, I felt out of my element, just a little. I wished I had a dog to talk to when the evening sun set and eerie noises of the night closed in upon me.

An excerpt from Afoot in the Midnight Sun

     Dogs were thought to have evolved about 15 thousand years ago, though some DNA comparisons with other species and archaeological evidence suggests dogs may have diverged from wolves as much as 100 thousand years ago. Their origin is thought to be in East Asia. Around 12 thousand years ago the first humans crossing the Bering Land Bridge to settle North America likely did it with dogs. For the Athabascan Indians of Alaska, the dog was their only domesticated animal. They were nomads too. It’s not clear if humans directly caused the domestication of dogs from wolves, or if dogs originated on their own by following humans around. Also, dogs were thought to proliferate once humans began settling down and growing crops. However dogs originated, it’s clear that they quickly became entrenched in the population as humans spread around the globe.
     It makes perfect sense for me to travel with my two dogs. They’re much faster and more willing to come with me than any human friend I have. And I have few friends who could endure this journey, but my dogs easily can. They provide the companionship that modern humans can’t. When I get the urge to turn to someone to tell them what I’m thinking, at least I have Jimmy and Will there to take their place. Throughout the day, my dogs’ antics provide some comic relief on a trek that pushes me to my limits. A few times when I’m hurting and miserable, Will picks up a stick and flings it into the air like it has a life of its own, so he can chase after it. The dogs make me laugh out on the vast reaches of taiga and tundra where otherwise I probably wouldn’t.

Pack of dogs in Ba'kelalan on Borneo

Hiking in the Borneo jungle

Last rice field before the jungle, near gunung Murud