There was a rabid kudu attacking the cattle at the corral by the house. So Jay, Sniffel, and I trudged down there, me still half asleep since my body had no idea what time it was, and Jay with a rifle over his shoulder. Sniffel bounced along in his usual, jolly, all-is-well spirit.
The kudu thought it was hiding in a bush, but we could see it perfectly clearly. One whistle from Jay and it looked directly at us. One quick bullet to the head and it collapsed, dead, to the ground. Normally, when we shoot an animal on the farm, it is for food and I still have never gotten used to it. When it is rabid, it’s not so hard; I know we are releasing it from an agonizing death. And when I say we, I mean Jay, while I stand a few feet back, restraining the dog from bravely bringing down the animal by his tiny self.
We tied it to the back of our diesel pick-up truck by its long, twisted horns and hauled it to the vulture restaurant, a self-descriptive place not far down the road.
One cow had already been infected. (Usually, they are bitten as the rabid animal fights to get to the water trough. Rabies lames the throat muscles thereby causing an insatiable thirst which is why the animals seem crazed). She couldn’t stand anymore but to scramble a few steps in any direction. She was drooling at the mouth. She had miscarried. Where the calf should have come out was then only blood. We propped her up with a few small boulders; at least she wouldn’t be on her side. Their bodies shut down faster when they are on their side. We shot her up with the last of our rabies vaccination and hoped for the best. Two mornings later, we found her dead. Overnight, jackals had taken her eyes, udder, and some of her internal organs after ripping open her backside. She, too, was hauled to the restaurant. We scared away many vultures, resting after feeding on the kudu. We laid the cow to rest next to the skin and bones which was a live animal just 48 hours ago. Vultures hovered for yet another day.
I’ve done these things before, they are not uncommon on our Namibian farm. It was simply an abrupt and blunt welcome back and a reminder how far I had traveled from the city life of the past three months in the States.