Asata laughing like the wicked witch of the west, if the wicked witch of the west was good. The van door rolling shut. The click of the padlock on the main gate. And dogs barking. They’re the sounds of the animal shelter.
I sit upstairs, in a little office above the reception building. Every morning ‘the cake man is here’ with a box of baked goods to sell. We chat. And he asks me to go to church with him.
I make notes and pin them to the board. Small scraps of paper with all my hopes and dreams for the shelter. Some may come true, if we can find the money. Adi and Ioane will come and check in with me, complain about the heat, pull books out of the resource cupboard, ask what we should do next.
Our computers are slow, the internet unpredictable. The air-conditioning is broken. Downstairs there is a mess of paperwork. The filing will get done, but the dogs need feeding first. We have broken dogs, learning to walk with one leg in a cast, and dogs with surgical wounds covered in purple antiseptic spray. We have euthanised dogs in the freezer.
Old pop songs play in the clinic, three CDs all day on repeat. Deb will have her hands in a dog’s stomach, pulling out the reproductive bits. Or maybe she’ll be bandaging a bloody paw or sealing the side of a cat with a needle and thread. No gloves, we ran out.
In the kennels, rows of plates are filled with meat dust and rice. For the dogs. What kind of dogs are they? ‘Fiji Special’ - a mix of some kind, but no one knows what.
Cars pull up at the gate, their wheels crunching on the gravel. People climb out clutching cardboard boxes and laundry baskets with little puppy and kitten heads poking out. On plastic garden chairs they wait. Next to the dog chained in the corner with a tumour on its face.
The phone will ring with another complaint. Irava will call out ‘SUPAAA’ and he will back the ambulance out to drive to the next house call.