They were the first animals you connected with. Their enclosure was your safe haven. As you sit down under the usual tree, pull your knees up to your chest, you feel their absence more than ever.
One day earlier.
You see it in her eyes. They’re half open. It’s like she’s looking at you through a fog. “You can do this Jesse, I’m here. Hold on, please hold on.” You whisper in a strained calm voice. Not Jesse. Not Jesse. “Blankets. Her temperature is dropping. Run.” The veterinarian nods to you. Up, out the door to the tiny clinic, past familiar faces that turn with questions on their lips. Faster. Heads turning. People yelling. Sheep in your way.
Jesse needs a blanket. She needs it now. You get to the kitchen and bang around until you find what you’re searching for. One of your roomies is there; “what’s going on? Are you okay? What’s going on?!” You breathe heavily, but manage to words before you’re out the door again “Jesse, dying”.
“I’m here. The blankets” You stumble in the door. The vet shows you how and where to rub the caracal. You do as told. “Good. We need to take her temperature again.” A short nod is all you have the energy to respond. It’s hard running in 40 degrees celsius. You grab her neckskin and hold tight. With your other hand you pet her. Another of Harnas Wildlife Foundation’s volunteer’s joins you. She speaks soothingly with Jesse. It’s too late. There’s nothing to be done. The last hope is the big clinic in Gobabis, an hour away. The veterinarian and someone from the staff is taking her.
They ask you to get Bonnie as well. He’s (yes, they named him Bonnie). You hurry back to the Caracal enclosure. “Bonnie” you call. He doesn’t usually come to you, or anyone for that matter, but this time he does. You take a deep breath, and lift him. My god he’s heavy. He protests and scratches you, but it doesn’t matter. Jesse got worse in only a few hours. He might too.
They drive away. You stand at the gate, hugging yourself, watching the car until you can’t see it anymore. It will be a shitty night.
Two days after sitting alone in their enclosure: You’re alone again. This time on the animal graveyard. You have a shovel in your hand. A lump in your troat.
You only knew them for five weeks. It’s amazing how quickly one becomes attatched. You start digging. It’s hard work. However, there’s something special about doing it yourself. No machines. It takes time. The sun is burning your neck. Three others join you.
Silently you finish it. Afterwards you head out and collect stones and wood. You find paint and make a cross. The funeral will be held the day after.
Most of the volunteers have gathered at the grave when you arrive. You sigh, this is not Europe, someone actually have to bring a shovel. You turn and walk go get two. When you return, the caracal is brought as well. It’s put in the grave and the coordinator with us says a few words. Then he looks up and asks if anyone else have something to say. No one says anything. The coordinator shrugs and someone closes up the grave. Everyone puts stones on it. Then people leave.
You stay until most of the others have left. A slight smile plays on your lips, my god, the time when Jesse almost ate your toes. You sigh and take one last look at the grave.
I’m gonna miss you, Jesse.
P.S. Bonnie is alive, although he is still sick.
P.P.S. I’m going into the bush from Monday until Friday, to experience “the real untouched Africa” – so no updates for a while. I’ll write when I’m back though, and tell you everything 🙂