Sunday, March 7, 2010
Once in a while, I'll get up in the morning and think "I don't have much to write about in my blog today," so I'll take a walk. That usually does it. The slogan here is "Expect the Unexpected," and that's what usually happens.
Saturday morning I decided to walk out to the new enclosure where the two tame caracals, Zinzi and Tammy, live, so Pickles (of course) and I set off down the airstrip in that general direction.
Have you ever just known someone is behind you? I did, and I turned around. Sauntering up behind us was Klippie the giraffe. She often does this on my walks, just follows for awhile, waiting for a good neck and face massage from me, so I wasn't alarmed, even though it IS a bit startling to find a 2,000 pound, 15-foot tall creature stalking me soundlessly.
I called her name and approached her, reached up to pet her, and then turned around and got on with the walk. She followed--a bit closer than she usually does. I sped up a little; so did she. Then Pickles and I went around a bend in the dirt road and lost sight of her. Then I heard it: ba da DUM, ba da DUM, ba da DUM. Thundering hooves behind me, coming up fast!
"Pickles! Hide!" I screamed, and we both jumped behind a big bush. Klippie game galloping up behind us, kicking up dirt and barely missing the bush. Then she stopped and stared at me.
We talked and I asked her in not-so-polite terms just what she was doing. She sauntered off, her game finished for the time being. Pickles and I set off again.
Two minutes later: ba da DUM, ba da DUM! Here she came again. "Dive, Pickles, Dive!" and we ended up behind a small tree--full with thorns, of course.
What was going on? She continued to pace in front of us, not allowing us back on the road. She pretended not to be looking at us, but she was definitely holding us hostage. After a few minutes of more questions and exclamations from me, I picked up Pickles--all 15 pounds of her--and backed away and finally found our way back to the road.
Klippie followed at an even pace. I walked backwards up the road in order to keep an eye on her this time, glancing over my shoulder to look for snakes-that-look-like-sticks and sticks-that-look-like-snakes.
Twice more Klippie ran at us, and twice more we had to hide behind bushes or trees. Bit by bit I headed toward the lion enclosures in hopes that the smell of lion would keep her away. Then I heard voices and we made a break for it, running headlong through the bushes, Pickles pressed to my chest, both of us hoping I would find help before Klippie ran us over.
I came crashing out of the bushes right into the middle of the morning tour group--guests, volunteers, and the guide Etosha who were stopped outside Sher Khan's enclosure, enjoying their morning snack of biscuits and tea in the civilized British way.
Everyone stopped to stare at this crazy girl and dog emerging from the bush, scratched, gasping for breath, and calling for help.
"Etosha!" I called. "Klippie's trying to kill us!"
With perfect timing, Klippie came barreling out of the trees at full speed and skidded to a halt when she saw all the people. And did the guests try to help me? Of course not--they were clicking their cameras as fast as they could. But Etosha waved me over to hide behind him and said, "It might be Pickles. Klippie doesn't like small dogs."
That stopped me. It hadn't occurred to me that it might be Pickles that the giraffe was trying to kill. I handed Pickles to Etosha, walked back to Klippie and put out both arms as I do to indicate wanting to cuddle. Klippie happily dropped her head down and nuzzled her soft hairy lips on my forehead--friends again.
With lions on one side and a deranged and jealous (?) giraffe on the other, Pickles was--yes--in a pickle, so we got a ride halfway home on the tour truck.
Even though it's funny to me now, I think I was more worried about that giraffe than I've ever been with a lion or cheetah. And every once in a while something like this happens that reminds me how powerful these creatures are, and no matter how tame they seem, they still have the ability to squash out my life without even meaning to.
As the dog and I crossed the bridge toward the lapa, I turned and looked back. There was Klippie, emerging from behind one of the guest houses, just nibbling gently on the camelthorn trees.
I thought, "Okay, if I were eaten by a lion or attacked by a leopard, that would be one thing. People would 'ooh' and 'ahh' over my death. Who knows? It might even be good for the sales of my book about Harnas. But to be trampled by a giraffe? That just lacks dignity. That is the stuff of black humor and puns. No--that maniac giraffe cannot be the end of me."