The sun had long set – the streets of Ubud already virtually in complete darkness in the absence of street lighting. They were lurking in the silent shadows.
I started riding in the center of the road to give as wide a berth as possible. I saw the shining beads of eyes reflecting back at me by the right side of the road, in amongst the black I could see it was white. I heard barking from some distance to the left behind me. Usual. Dogs bark at everything around here. Setting off the white one too, it also started its noisy tirade. It was only a matter of seconds between the barking and the pain in my calf. It must have chased me on my bike from behind in the darkness.
I pulled over at the next warung (roadside stall), maybe some 10 meters or so away, and the next available source of light. The dog had already disappeared back into the shadows. A man was inside. I looked right at him and all I could say was “Anjing menggigit saya” (A dog bit me). “Yang mana?” (Which one?) he asked, his concerned raised. “Yang putih” (The white one), I replied as I pointed off into the darkness where it had happened moments earlier, already an empty scene.
I looked down at the back of my leg in the dim light being cast from the stall, my pants torn, exposing a wound that I didn’t look at in detail – my attention focused on finding my phone to get help. A wound would heal but all I could hear was the words of my doctor in Tokyo, “There has been an outbreak of rabies on Bali island that has yet to be contained.” Scurrying through my bag, hands shaking, it must have taken me three rounds of my bag to find it.
By this time, a small group of women had rushed to the stall, having seen what had just happened. “Kasihan,” they chorused (What a shame). They immediately started fussing about like a concerned groups of Aunts, bickering amongst themselves about the best next course of action. Some said to pour a steady stream of water over the bite to wash it, some said not to touch it. Finally the man at the stall said “Just let her get to the hospital.”
I walked into the 24-hour medical clinic. They looked at me. “Monkey or dog?” the doctor asked. “Dog.” “Did it have a red collar?” “I’m not sure. I couldn’t see, it was too dark.”
The doctor cleansed the wound vigorously, pushing and twisting the cotton ball of antiseptic inside the gash where its teeth had done the worst damage. The pain did not increase – the burning sensation had been constant since it happened and the adrenaline still pumping through my body numbed me. “It was lucky you were wearing long pants,” he said. “Otherwise it would have been much worse.”
The doctor explained I would need to have five post-exposure rabies vaccinations, the recommended course of action according to World Health Organization guidelines. The first one right away, the next one in three days, then in one week, two weeks and finally at one month following the bite.
He opened a cupboard full of rabies vaccinations as if that is what they do all day long, and it probably is I thought, with the amount of tourists who get bitten at the Monkey Forest alone.
As the doctor prepared the shot, he said that approximately 80% of dogs have been vaccinated for rabies in Ubud thanks to a government program where they basically went around the streets rounding them up, giving them the shot, and then releasing them with a red collar, hence the reason why he had questioned me about this in the beginning. Only one positive case of rabies has been reported in central Ubud. A statement perhaps made to allay my fears was followed by “So, the chances that you will survive are higher than someone who is say bitten in other areas of Bali.” Yep. Great bedside manner, doc. As I left, he reminded me not to miss a single shot. “Believe me, I won’t,” I said.
It has now been over two weeks since that night and I have had four of the five rabies shots so far. Below is the progression of the bite in pictures over the first 10 days.