Deep in the heartland of Africa’s untouched wild plains, shrouded by the picturesque swirls of myriad colors that paint the grand tableau of life, nestled right in the brittle crook of Armageddon’s armpit, begins our tale. One of wild thrill and unimaginable imagination. One of African Wild Dogs and…well, the terrible and wildly inaccurate translations I’ve chosen to provide on their behalf.
Our subject? A fierce, noble creature, one that, upon initial sight, made my chest fill with an overwhelming zephyr of adventure. I named him ‘Beethoven’ – sleek as a well-composed symphony, lean and powerful with a veritable mosaic of tawny yellow, black, and white splotches giving him a rather jaunty appearance. It was almost as if he was about to leap into a wild Charleston at any given moment, but instead of elaborate footwork, he was more into elaborate chase-work.
Crouching stealthily in a custom-built blind sculpted to resemble a comically oversized termite mound, I observed Beethoven, his family, and their comings and goings over two days. To round out the orchestrated symphony, every intriguing character of this soprano of the savannah received a name. From Violin, Beethoven’s loyal mate, to Tuba, a rather rotund family member who had a peculiar fascination with chasing his tail.
Our first day dawned with the sweet serenade of a pair of flirtatious weaver birds. Beethoven, animated by the symphony of the savannah, led his pack out for their morning hunt. An unsuspecting Thompson Gazelle, henceforth known as 'Grace' – for her astoundingly graceful prance – grazed blissfully unaware of the impending crescendo. The pursuit was Beethoven's solos, a cacophony of coordinated strategy, keen-eyed focus and breathtaking speed.To the untrained ear, it was chaos, but to Beethoven and his orchestra, it was music – harmonious, wild, and free.
"Good day for a chase, eh Beethoven?" Grace might’ve quipped, had she the capability for witticisms, reinventing her fancy prance into a frantic gallop.
"Indeed, Grace. Let’s make this sing!" Beethoven would have retorted, launching forward with the pulsating zeal of a seasoned maestro.
In the convivial company of Beethoven’s pack, flanked by the Symphony of the Savannah, there were moments that transcended the boundaries of the ordinary, veering into poignant hilarity. When dusk descended and the pack circled a kill, it was as if they were participating in a grand banquet. Tuba, our rotund tuba, graciously offered up the choicest cuts to Violin and Beethoven, their incisors glinting with an almost comedic Godfather-esque air.
"Mom, Dad," Tuba would have said, grimacing at the raw meat. "You know I can hardly stand the sight of blood. Here, you have it."
Over the whirlwind days following, Beethoven's orchestrated symphony resonated far and wide across the plains, reverberating against the heartbeat of the land. It was a harmony of chaos and order, love and survival, life and death. Crouched in my comedic termite mound, armed with nothing but binoculars and the absurdity of imagination, I was nothing more than a detached observer, left to marvel at the wild, untamed concert of life and it’s wildly eccentric characters.