Thursday, May 21, 2009

Asleep on the shore of the meat slop ocean

Through a tear in the flywire door I watched Asata sleep. Leaning back in an old chair, arms crossed over her chest. All around her, on every inch of bench top and floor, were neat rows of metal dishes. Filled to high tide with meat dust and rice. Clouds of flies hung low over this meat slop ocean. I watched Asata sleep, in her faded t-shirt and trousers, her mud caked rubber boots. As though my eyelids were camera shutters I blinked to save this image in my head. And I wished I could buy her a yacht to sail across the meat slop ocean.

Doctor Deb

Dr Deb is a real doctor. She doesn’t just get called that because she’s a cavalagi who works at the shelter. I know because I see her at work. We eat lunch together on the operating table and dry our dishes beside syringe jars and surgical instruments. I made her a name tag to pin to her scrub top. It says Dr Deb. Some people think she’s too young to be a vet. Maybe I should make her a bigger name tag.

Remember you can turn on the oven

Remember you can turn on the oven.
There is hot water.
The door will open,
If you slide the lock with a knife.

The clock does work,
It just doesn’t keep the time.
The bin is collected,
Three days each week,
But the truck only comes once.

There are no set days for the bottle men,
But you’ll hear them calling when they come.

Sure you can walk barefoot in the lawn bowls club,
You just won’t get through the door in thongs.
This shelter knows how important animal welfare education is,
We just can’t afford to spend any money on it.

The government of this country means well,
It’s trying to build democracy -
Before it has been elected.

Remember you can turn on the oven.
Even if the grill shudders and falls,
The gas will light.

Behind the clinic door

I turn the handle slowly and push the clinic door with my shoulder. The door opens inwards, just a crack, and my knee goes in first to stop any of the patients escaping. The rest of me follows and tries not to get in the way of the real work that happens here. I feel small.

You may now vacate the room

How many Fijians does it take to build a table? We found out when the board asked us to shift our things to clear a space for their meetings. By Friday.

Seven of us stood staring at the table pieces on the floor of my new office. Me, Adi, Irava, Supa, Joji, Solo, Asata. Me, my local counterpart, our administrator slash shelter mother, ambulance driver and the kennel hands. All removed from our daily tasks to ready this room for the board. For their monthly meetings.

We hauled furniture and storage boxes from the front room to the back room, shifted junk into the side room, scrubbed the walls, repainted them. Hung new curtains, nailed a whiteboard to the wall. And then we stood and stared at the table pieces. Where were the legs? There was much shifting and rotating of each piece, a life-size game of Tetris as we propped the pieces beside one another and turned them over. I wish I had taken pictures.

Then we realised there were no legs, the table sides and tops were the same. The pieces could make half a table which could be secured to the wall.

At the board meeting we gave our reports, me and Deb and Joseph the vet nurse. The board thanked us. Nothing was said for a moment and then the President said ‘you may now vacate the room’. As I looked around at my old office, now exclusively for the board’s use, I thought to myself ‘I already have’.

Add one scoop of formula to 60ml of luke warm water. Stir until dissolved.

A pile of puppies sleeping in the corner, a layer of newspaper on the floor. Tins of formula on the table and puddles of wee on the tiles. Welcome to my office. Step over the board on your way in, it’s a piece of my build-it-yourself table but we couldn’t figure out where it fit. Now it keeps the puppies in. 13 of them.

Watch your head there, we’ve tied the computer cables up high so they can’t be chewed. Mind you don’t slip on that... We’re not quite sure why they have diahorrea, or why it smells bloody. They might be dairy intolerant so we’re trying soy formula instead. I’ll just grab some toilet roll to pick that up. Sigh. Looks like we’ll need to mop again.

This white one here is our baby Vuaka. Needs another bath.That little black one is the abandoned half-Rottweiler we’re fostering and in the bathroom over there are eight pups that were surrendered to the shelter in a pink laundry basket last week. Oh and just for this afternoon we have three heelers. Two blue, one red. They bite. Don’t worry about that noise, they’ll get tired of crying eventually. They’ll stop scratching at the door and curl up on one another to sleep. On my feet. Hush. Yes, I know, but I already fed you. Look how fat your belly is.

Little baby pig dog

As you squirm in my grasp, wriggle across my chest, nuzzle into my armpit, I remember why I came here. I came here to help, and when I hold you I feel like I can. You need me to feed you and change your blankets. You need me to hold you and keep you warm. You need me to be your eyes until they open. And I will do it gladly.

Aka found little baby pig dog in a hollowed palm tree outside our house. He was curled up in the dirt by himself, the only puppy of our neighbour’s dog, just one week old. His mother came looking for him but wasn’t sure what to do with him. We put him in our bathtub. Now ‘Vuaka’ little baby pig dog is our foster child. He lives in a laundry basket filled with old towels and blankets. We feed him baby formula from a bottle. I love him.