It was Saturday afternoon. Hot, but we cooled off with a dip in the pool. We read a bit, then laid down for a nap, minds relaxed because it was Saturday – we knew we didn’t have to get up for work, no farm staff until Monday.
Yet, our eyes weren’t closed long, when I felt Jay climb out of bed. I didn’t concern myself at first, sometimes he gets ideas and gets up, and it was a quick thing – he’s one of those people who can get up in a flash. I’m one of those who has to flop around for ten minutes then force my eyes open and drag myself out. I began this process when I realized he wasn’t coming back. Something was up. I had managed to roll over, not yet gotten my eyes open, when a gun shot rang out.
And with that, I was on my feet.
A random shot in the afternoon usually means one of two things: rabid kudu at the gate or baboon in the garden. In the case of a kudu, it’s meant to kill. For baboons, it’s meant to scare away. This afternoon, I knew it was for baboons because they’d been after our fruit trees for a while now.
A rainy season that doesn’t rain is hard on everyone, for many reasons, but at least we humans still manage to eat. The wildlife, after the long dry season, depends on rain – no rain means no food and no food means visiting the humans, even if they have to dodge a bullet on the way.
But that’s usually all it is, a bullet. Singular. So, I got dressed, but not in any particular hurry. Not until I heard Jay’s voice, “Sniiiffffeeeelllll!”, followed by our little dog’s incessant barking disappearing into the distance, and then another gun shot.
And then the stomach dropped.
Our doofy little dog, Sniffel, rarely deems something worthy of barking at. He’s a pretty live-and-let-live kind of guy. But something in his terrier brain snaps when he hears a gun shot. He must, under any circumstance, be a part of the hunt. He doesn’t know what the prey is, he doesn’t know where it is, but no matter, he’s off at top speed to find it. Which is exactly what he did on this Saturday afternoon.
There were two things wrong with this. One: baboons can be dangerous if provoked, say by doofy little barking dogs. They are big, strong, and have some serious teeth. Two: one baboon might not take on a doofy little dog, but a whole troop might just tear it apart. Especially if they’re all hungry. And as Sniffel ran after the one baboon that took off up the hill, Jay watched as it stopped, turned around, and ran back in the direction of the dog, with its whole troop behind him.
I ran in the direction of the barking, both dog and baboon – out the front gate, toward the main road. I couldn’t see Jay or Sniff, but a second later he fired a third shot and cloud of smoke rose from half way up the hill. What it meant, I didn’t know, but then all was quiet.
I think I would’ve kept running, oblivious to the whizzing bullets or hungry, pissed off baboons, but then Jay popped out of the brush, rifle in one hand, little dog in the other. Sniff was panting wildly, tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth, enormous grin on his face. He was obviously very proud of himself.
Jay spilled the whole story once down from the hill, explaining how Sniffel hadn’t originally followed him outside, he must’ve slipped through the gate after the first shot. All he saw was a bolt of white tearing up the hill and he couldn’t stop it. And we had both been afraid that we’d lost our dog.
The drought continues, as does the battle with the baboons. There is a degree of sympathy for hungry wildlife, but wildlife that can eat your dog is not something to welcome onto the yard.
We wonder what the rest of the year will be like, when the chance of rain disappears for another six months and the animals still haven’t eaten. All we can do is now though is watch the sky and keep the gun nearby.