Stories of a traveling Beagle
– Great! My people left the door of the caravan wide open only by putting a cushion blocking the doorway.
As the temperature reached almost 40° C in the daytime, they tried to catch any tiny breeze they could into the caravan.
– A cushion is no obstacle for me, but normally I try to obey the rule to stay in the caravan, if my people want me to. Not now though, there are too many tempting smells out there. My people are fast asleep, exhausted from the Namibian afternoon heat. It’s about nine o’clock in the evening. I’m sure, I can sneak out, without them noticing what I’m up to. Wow, freedom to explore the wilderness on my own!
My stomach was tickling from excitement and anxiety by the thought. I pushed the cushion aside to take a liberating leap into a new adventure. My people had parked the caravan at the utter most edge of the Halali campground only separated by a fence from the bush and wildlife of Etosha National Park.
– Halali – the usual call before hunting. That’s my world as a thoroughbred Beagle, in which the hunting heart pounds eagerly! I thought excitedly.
Pets were not allowed in the park, but good for me, my people had listened to a Namibian in the previous camp at the Caprivi Strip, that it wouldn’t be a problem. He had taken his sausage dog with him into Etosha in his overland truck numerous times, when he was touring with clients. I’d have to stay in the caravan, of course, he said.
- Well, surely it wouldn’t be a problem, if I’d have some fun during the night? Nobody would see me, I thought. Hmmmm, all those smells of grilled meat at the slowly dimming fires of the campers. Oh, here is a bone and there, another one, heaven!
Slowly I made my way over the whole place following my nose to the tasty left overs of the camper’s dinners. I felt bliss.
Fully satisfied gourmet-wise, I went over to discover the animal spoors (tracks). Here a spoor of a rabbit, there a mouse and then …
– What’s that! A strange looking black-white animal with short swift moving legs, dark gloomy eyes with a curious look and a short wet nose, a little bigger than myself. It moves so fast, that I can barely follow it. Eish! It goes into a camper’s kitchen and makes a terrible noise trying to find food between the clattering pots and pans!
Of course it didn’t take long for the campers to wake up with all that noise. They got all upset and shouted for the ranger in duty, to remove the intruder. They called the animal a ratel (honey badger).
- A strange name for a weird animal, if you ask me!
Then, the ranger saw me. I didn’t think much at the beginning, as I considered him only being interested in the honey badger. But no! He called for support on his phone and soon four other rangers showed up. I realized, that they wanted to catch me and they were all armed with big rifles!
– Why me, I hadn’t done anything in that kitchen! Go for that stupid honey badger, guys! He made the mess out there!
Obviously there was nothing to negotiate about with these guys and so I fled to our caravan as fast as my legs could carry me. I started to howl and growl. I normally never bark, so Marcelle was alerted in an instant. She rose in a flash to wrap a towel around her body and dived under the caravan to fetch me. Only then, did she realize the five rangers staring unbelievably at her backside. Oops!
- You are not allowed to take a dog into the park! We have to shoot your dog!, shouted one of the rangers, frowning and looking at Marcelle with piercing angry eyes.
I lifted my ears and looked paralyzed from fear up to Marcelle.
- What! They want to shoot me? Why?!
Marcelle went as pale as can be. She put me swiftly behind her in the caravan and blocked the entrance with her body. The rangers must have been quite embarrassed to be so many against one little woman wrapped in her bath towel.
– I’m so sorry, we didn’t know. The lady at the gate let us in with the dog, without mentioning anything.
She tried to calm the furious rangers, but one thoroughly enjoyed his power and stood wide legged with his hands on his rifle and went on:
- We have to shoot him! He’s had contact with wild animals and can carry viruses.
Marcelle’s brain was working hard, how to get out of this nightmare without getting me shot.
– He has all the necessary injections against rabies and other probable illnesses like the dogs of your rangers, which you keep at your camp, she added desperately.
- We have to shoot him anyway!, responded the same ranger insistently.
I sat shivering in the caravan, divided by the fear of these big angry men in green uniforms and the urge to protect my people. Even George had woken up, but he considered it better to stay in the caravan as a woman might have a better approach to crises like this confronted with five armed men aggressively loaded by testosterone. So, I stayed beside him just around the corner of the fridge in the caravan next to the bed, so they couldn’t see me.
All of a sudden I heard how Marcelle get her confident voice back.
- He is an honoured Swiss Rescue dog, who has recovered injured people in the rubble after earthquakes all over the world for many years. Look, he has his own Red Cross Passport. Here see! You can’t shoot him. He is allowed to enter anywhere and everywhere!
She waved my Swiss (animal) passport in front of their faces, which is indeed red although with a white cross (and not the other way round). The scam seemed to work as the rangers changed their attitude in an instant. They talked to each other in a language I didn’t understand and then a bigger guy with a more friendly voice explained, that we still would have to pay a fine, as we did not have the necessary permit. We would have to leave the park the next morning. Marcelle agreed without showing too much her relief that her little lie had worked out well and promised to get out the following morning.
I felt quiet sorry that I’d followed my instincts to explore the surroundings and had caused trouble to Marcelle and George. They though felt extremely bad for me having put me into a hugely dangerous situation, which had threatened my life. For me it was rather exciting, although a bit scary at the end. I’d love to do a course to be a real ranger’s dog and to be like these proud guys on the ranger’s off-road vehicles. They may go everywhere and save their people from being charged by wild animals by using their extremely sensitive nose. I have also a very sensitive nose. Maybe a bit more tuned into braaivlies (barbecue) than on wild animals. But I’m sure, I could still learn!