There’s another fight, this time in the pig camp; it is the end of times, the sound of the screams are the elevator music to Hades. Five dogs have broken through from their camp into the pig camp and four have set upon one of the pigs. They’re climbing onto it, biting at its squealing, writhing form as it tries to fight them one by one. I’m frozen in my doorway; I’d been carrying my dinnerplate out to the tap to rinse. I know that there will be a death. My dogs are hysterical and are setting off the two other dog camps, the noise is cacophonic, I am running next to the fence, shouting – a thing unaccustomed, strange in my throat – nooooooostopnofuckfuckfuckRoseheeeeeeynooooo – and here comes Rosemary, as small as me but fearless into the eye of the storm and she is shouting too and I realize she is telling me to go for help, so I run, like a child, for the first time in over thirty years of respectable good manners, crying and yelling, until I find the people living at the old station and I stop to breathe, my every nerve alert, my pulse making my entire body judder and my spoons depleted now, so that I almost don’t manage my slow walk back to my shack, where I can go inside and examine my helplessness with a Personal Inventory and gratitude list, because I’m lost and afraid and feeling worthless, another misguided exercise in finding meaning to life; the right to a gravestone one day, as it were. And I wonder, again, if I would be able to drive a car to a hospital if necessary, hypothetically, of course, because there’s only one car here and Duncan has used it to fetch donations of pet food from Cape Town and we’re isolated until his return tomorrow sometime. Now I stop to listen, my pulse racing and the beginning of the rhythmic stab in my cheek that heralds the onset of a TN pain flare. My vertigo and tinnitus kick in and nausea rises, my instinct is to drop to my bed, the floor, under something. Curl up and hide. My bladder threatens betrayal; I’m back in Johannesburg traffic with danger all around me; hooters screaming over the taxi drivers hysteria, my leg is shaking and I can’t control the clutch, it feels as though the road is sliding from under the car as I hedge into the lanes. Too slow and my foot slips, the car stalls, four converging streams of traffic behind me begin a cacophony of outrage by leaning on their horns, the man in the car alongside is an angry, screaming mouth with crudeness spewing at me. The seat beneath me becomes sodden and I turn the ignition and ohgodpleaseletitstart I go, until the white explosion under my cheek moves to my eye and I’m blinded. I pull into a Rosebank side street and park under a tree, I’ll wait here until rush hour has passed, probably two hours or so. I tilt my seat back and lie, hands on my diaphragm. Breathe. A woman comes from the walled garden, two dalmatians on leashes and tells me to move away with a flick of her hand at my window.
Nobody is hurt in this evening’s fight, they happen almost every day in one or another dog camp and I have seen both Rosemary and Justice suffer grave bites which really should have been surgically treated, but for the costs of any medical treatment not being an option for the Roscan budget at the moment, or in the near future. I myself have been bitten twice and with the realization that I would get badly hurt in due course came the disappointment of knowing that I was not brave enough for any physical contribution to the care of the dogs – I would have to concentrate on raising awareness as my contribution to the upkeep of the facility – and my CPTSD has made living in proximity to the noise and aggression of fifty traumatized animals impossible to manage alongside my other failures: I wanted a hot bath and crisp, clean sheets, a meal of which the ingredients have not been nibbled by mice in a dust-free bowl, and I was ploughing my meager stipend and physical energy into things that steered me off my course to finish my books and to generate a sustainable income; my house wasn’t progressing fast enough and my first campaign had been to no avail due to the actions of the owner of the property on which my fundraising would depend withdrawing his agreement with Roscan after days of internet frustration just to launch the whole thing. Other bad news followed like rifle fire and I was frazzled, instinctively in flight mode, hyper alert with exhaustion, mindful of my feeling of premonition when I had gone out to join the social media fray in photographing the New Blood Moon and found, instead of the glittering festive explosions of light in my friends’ threads, that it had cast a sinister pall on the mountains, and I recalled my shiver, my stern admonition to myself: it’s just winter approaching, don’t be fey.
Back at the pig pen when I finally wobble my way back from the station, there’s peace. Rosemary is matter-of-fact as she examines the angry pig for damage; one of the dogs has lost a tooth and is bleeding badly but will be alright, she tells me. I watch her walk back to the farmhouse, she usually hides her limp, she’s always in pain and after wrestling with those five strong animals she must be suffering. She stoops to pick up a bucket thrown down in the fracas and I see her wince. She needs help, she shouldn’t be doing this, I think, she should be in the city with Duncan, they’re practically newlyweds. He should have her by his side as he strides out to fundraise day after day. They should be having an occasional dinner together, but it’s never an option; there are pails, poles and fencing needed for a new camp, two of the new dogs need a vet visit, a vital part of a water pump has broken, the onslaught is barely manageable and the costs to these grateful and humble people is unseen behind the restraint they must exercise to maintain their dignity and keep going, for theirs is a mitzvah – a sacred duty to rescue the throwaway dogs of societies within their geographical reach, in a world over-burdened with solicitation for empathy and money. Please help them, I want to say, look at what it’s really like!
But I don’t want to put people off, and I’m too up my own arse in self-pity, so I don’t say anything, not even about the fights, and I post my easy daily daump instead, a volley of pretty pictures. Without real words.
And I am gratified to see that, as always, there are so many more likes than when I have told people how I really feel.