Four years ago Irma Lengkong Mikkonen would take Bobo, her basset hound, with her when she picked up her sons from boarding school every weekend. Later on, Irma and Bobo explored the cities and countryside of Great Britain together. Last summer, Bobo also joined Irma in Europe, visiting dog-friendly cities like Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels.
“I’ve been travelling with my boys since they were babies. But once they got older, travelling with them became less frequent as they became busier with friends and now, university life. Enter: travels with Bobo! He became my travel companion more and more,” said Irma, reflecting on her trips with Bobo and what they meant for her. She came to the realisation that a pet can become a good travel companion, but it also became a reminder of how pets have always been an integral part of European society from a long time ago.
For Irma, basset hounds have a unique character. Extremely manja (needy), they long for constant attention and affection, they want to cuddle all the time. They are very lazy: they like to sleep twenty times a day, and yet they love the outdoors, and as hounds they are very curious: they sniff everything! Travelling with Bobo, Irma came to realise that pets like Bobo can bring out basic humanity we tend to forget from time to time, not only in her, but also in the people around her. “It’s interesting, for example, in a busy city such as Paris: if you walk on your own, nobody notices you, nobody cares. Everybody minds their own business. When you travel with a dog, especially as cute as Bobo, strangers look at you, smile, and sometimes even talk to you,” she said, laughing.
Irma was so excited about her discovery she decided to write a book about it. To make the book more visual she decided to ask one of her favourite painters, the renowned Hanafi to create some paintings of Bobo. “I have been collecting Hanafi’s artwork since his exhibition at Koi twenty years ago. I love his work, particularly his abstract style and his experimentation with colours. I thought describing Bobo onto canvas with these artistic features would be exciting,” Irma explained. Along with the book launch, an exhibition of Hanafi’s paintings will be exhibited at the Grand Kemang Hotel until 3 February. Some of the net proceeds from the sale of the books will be donated to Jakarta Animal Aid Network.
Animals indeed do remind us of the importance of our humanity. While Bobo’s story is one of friendship and affection, not all animals have been as fortunate as Bobo. Maple and her children were found in a garden hiding in holes in the ground. Her thighs were torn, and the tail was broken, because someone hit it with a machete. Lady Rose, an old dog that used to live in a parking lot, was hit in a traffic accident. She broke her leg, but no one took her to a vet for treatment, so her hind legs became crooked. She gave birth many times, but most of her children didn’t survive. Lady Rose died because of old age. Mona was an unwanted dog that was left in an empty house. She was impregnated by another stray dog. People in the neighbourhood asked Garda Satwa Indonesia to pick Mona up as no one took care of her. Mona’s son was rescued and eventually adopted, but Mona died due to illness. Nina the Pug was found on a sidewalk, unable to walk. Her thighs had been struck by a sharp object and stab wounds could also be seen. Sate skewers were even found in the throat. Luckily she was rescued. After recovering, Nina was adopted. Bruno was abused by his owner since childhood. The owner often beat him hard using a rolled newspaper hard, or threw him around. Finally Bruno was rescued, and now adopted. His life has changed now.
The albino orangutan Alba was held captive by a local resident of Tanggirang Village, Kapuas Hulu District, Kapuas Regency, Central Kalimantan, when she was rescued by a team from the Central Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation’s Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre on 29 April, 2017. Alba was around five years old at the time, weighed 8.3 kg and exhibiting wild behaviour. After spending time in quarantine to get her to adapt to a more varied and more nutritious diet of fruits and milk, and gain weight, she was transferred to Socialization Complex 7 to spend time with other female orangutans. Now six years old and weighs 27.9 kg, she is now adapting well in her new forest home, the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, alongside her best friend Kika.
Romeo’s early years were spent in a zoo in Taiwan, where he was the main attraction. Caged in an area with limited space, Romeo was unable to move freely or do anything without being watched. When he was six years old, Romeo was repatriated back to Indonesia and transferred to BOS Foundation where his first years were spent at Wanariset and then later at Samboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Unfortunately when Romeo arrived there in 1993, he tested positive for hepatitis B, a contagious virus transmittable among both humans and orangutans. Back then for orangutans tested positive for hepatitis B had to be isolated from the others. This meant Romeo could not join Forest School.
Recently, advancements in medical science has determined that the strand of hepatitis B that Romeo has, has actually been found to build up the natural immune system in orangutans and poses no threat to their survival. This meant he could socialise with other orangutans and maybe even have the chance to one day be released. Concerned as to whether Romeo can develop the life skills required to survive in the wild, the foundation designed a program especially for him. On 7 June 2018 Romeo was released into their pre-release Island 5, one of seven man made islands in Samboja Lestari built to help orangutans adapt to independent life. Romeo still has far to go, but for now at least we can be happy to know that Romeo is out of a cage and living in freedom on his island.
The stories of Alba, Romeo, Citra, Maple Maple and her puppies, Lady Rose and her puppies, Mona and her pup, Nina the Pug and Bruno will be told through the sculptural works of Sumbul Pranov in a charity exhibition entitled Life Worth Living, held at the Plaza Indonesia from 13 to 17 February. An auction of some of the pieces will be held on opening day. Proceeds of the auction and exhibition are to benefit the programs of the Garda Satwa Indonesia Foundation and Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.
Animals like Bobo, Alba and other furry friends remind us of our humanity. When they inspire artists to create artworks, the art pieces in turn monumentalise our humanity.