One of my favorite days on the reserve so far has been tagging along with the men on their mission to tag one of Joe's female impalas and move her to another camp within his farm. She had jumped the fence during a fright from a storm, and now they needed to get her back, as the cold was about to set in and she was terribly frail. I showed up with Lara, the little beagle pup I was sitting, and we all had coffee while the boys contemplated strategy. Joe got the syringes ready, loaded up the dart gun, and made his plan. "It takes eight minutes once the dart hits her, we have to move fast" he said, eyes squinting with a stern calm.
After about thirty minutes of slowly preparing, everything moved in warp speed. Joe shot her through the bathroom window, we roared towards him with the truck, swooping him up, all eyes on the target and where she bolted off to. "There she is!" shouted one of the guys, "don't lose her!" and we sped over the bumpy road through the bush on her trail. "Six minutes." Joe said calmly, but you could feel the tension filling up every inch of the cab we were sitting in. We had her in sight, and saw her start to wobble as she tried to walk. "Seven minutes..." She was frozen now, her gaze in our direction as our eyes darted back and forth between her and the clock. I was amazed that right at eight minutes, she fell. And not two milliseconds later, Lara and I were alone in the cab, watching the boys dash out to grab her. They picked her up and carefully walked back as fast as they could, laying her down in the back of the truck, one stayed in the back cradling the impala while we sped off once again to make it to the other camp. "We have only a few minutes to get her there before she starts to come to, and she's very fragile right now", Joe explained. Along the way, we heard a yell from the back, "She's going into shock!", we saw her convulsing, and time seemed to go in slow motion. We made it to the camp, the truck was not even stopped before Joe popped out and began to assess his girl and administer aid to her. My heart was pounding! Was she going to be ok? We were racing against the clock, both for the dart to wear off, and for her own little body to hold out long enough for Joe to help her. He gave her several shots, and her body started to recover, her piercing eyes started to open, groggy but alright. It seemed we were in the clear. Little by little, she showed more signs of life, I stroked her to say it's okay, and her big brown eyes shone into mine; I was overwhelmed with appreciation that I got to feel the magnificence of this being.
There are so many people out there who pay to come to Africa and kill. I am lucky to be on the side of those whose aim is to protect and care for such beautiful creatures. When you see and feel these animals close up, you absorb a piece of them into your soul, and you are never the same. I may have given up some of the creature comforts in life to move to Africa, but what I receive here is beyond what any fancy new app or hot new happy hour can ever give, and I am grateful.