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Friday, August 31, 2012

Wanted: Intrepid Dog Walker

Need four times daily dog walks for Molly & Moya.  Dogs must be walked independently otherwise, they fight with each other.  Walks occur in wild game reserve.  Dog walker must be fearless and prepared.  Regularly sightings include elephants, buffalo, giraffes, lions, and leopards.  Must not let dogs be attacked or eaten by any predators.

Sign me up?

At C.A.R.E. we have 2 dogs, Moya and Molly.  Moya lives in the Mountain Lodge with the volunteers, regularly snuggling up with someone each night, while Molly lives with Rita down in the Milk Kitchen.  In the days following Piet’s attack, I had A LOT of dog-walking shifts and consequently got to know Moya & Molly very well.  My arm hurt too much to be down at my side for long though, and especially hurt to swing so this translated to holding the dog lead in my left hand while my right either rested on top of my head or grasped my shirt collar, both positions uncomfortable and/or annoying. 
Moya with the 5.5 week old orphaned "Tank"

I had been scorned one time during these walks for wandering too far out of the C.A.R.E. gates (i.e. the end of the long driveway and down the road).  In fact, the day I had been “caught” I was at a much shorter distance than I had frequently traversed…  My motivation had been body movement and exercise to replace some of my injury-induced sedentary behavior.  I was getting really restless and yearned for long mind-clearing walks.  About 1 week after my many long dog walks, I was rewarded with quite a frightening, yet extraordinary, sight: 3 male elephants foraging about 600 ft from me.  Amazing!  

2 elephants in our backyard mere feet away!  Thankfully we
have full chained barriers around the house for safeguarding
I was a safe distance from the elephants, thankfully, when I spotted them.  I stopped dead in my tracks, checked my distance (about 8 times), then sat down on the gravel path with Moya.  It is not uncommon that an eager photo-snapping tourist is chased and potentially wounded or killed due to stampeding elephants in the quest for a ‘closer look.’  Sheer awe and wonder at these beautiful beasts left me only with thoughts soaking in their marvel.

The next day Moya & I only covered half of our normal walking distance before being halted.  Suddenly, and much closer than the elephants (<300ft?), 2 giraffes were staring back at me.  Their perfectly still response encouraged a few backwards steps until bumping into a large sitting rock, which I promptly assumed.  Thankfully, giraffes do not pose the same life-endangerment threat as close proximity to elephants does.  After a few minutes of sitting and being amazed, a third giraffe appeared, camouflaged aptly between sparse trees.  I sat quietly and motionless as the largest giraffe ogled me.  The other 2 crossed the driveway; I snapped mental image after mental image.  Utterly astonishing.

Unfortunately, during these dog walks, I had neglected one crucial piece of information: I am living in a wild game nature reserve.  Specifically, the guarded gates to Grietjie Nature Reserve state, “You are entering Big 5 territory” and have daily postings of animal spotting including lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, etc…   A few weeks ago the baboons were alarm calling for a less frequently seen threat (i.e. unidentifiable call), and the lodge next door, Mfubu, found quite a few big cat tracks.  Lions? Leopards? Cheetah?

About a week later our Director heard more alarm calls in the middle of the night, and walked down to the Olifants River beach/bank after sunrise to look around.  He found a wide drag mark that started just below C.A.R.E. and went off into the trees.  Just shy of poking his head into the bushes, he could see the outline of a dead animal.  Later a handful of us walked down the beach together to inspect the kill; a bushbuck was found dead under a tree, entrails half ejected.  Upon closer examination, it was discerned to be a leopard kill.  Mere days later while down the hill collecting firewood (with others) for a Saturday night barbecue I could hear the huffing and panting of lions at very close proximity.

Holy cow, why on earth do I need to take long walks outside when big cats are killing on my doorstep??!  Walking around here is equivocal to strolling around Kruger National Park… maybe not such a brilliant idea.  Since the bushbuck discovery and the lion’s roars, I have withdrawn my desires for long walks in favor of multiple strolls over the same short path.  I’m satisfied.  Actually, I’m a little bit scared, too.

Molly & Me

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.
Mark Twain

An excerpt from No Picnic on Mount Kenya by Felice Benuzzi
“I was just dipping a piece of dry biscuit into the river to allow it to swell and give me a real mouthful when the bamboo thicket parted.  Walking in our direction was a wonderful, solitary bull elephant.  I say ‘wonderful’ because my first reaction was not fear, but genuine, deep admiration.  No other creature could represent in such a perfect way the strength, dignity, gravity and majesty of creation.”

1 comment:

  1. Dont become Lion Fodder (pooh) TOTGA !!! Although it may never happen there is always a chance I could steal a hug and I would prefer that be a hug of a warm breathing TOTGA !