For hours, the animals come in wave after wave, with whatever lull in owner drop-offs being neatly filled with Harris' contributions: freshly netted street dogs.
In the early afternoon, the motos stop dropping off owners with animals in tow, and the strays that normally crowd the street have thinned, some because they're already been captured, and many more because they've seen one of their brethren carted away. The air is sultry and close; the mood becomes almost dozy. The veterinary workers stand up straight and stretch for the first time on hours, feeling the blue scrub shirt adhere wetly with perspiration to their backs. Now is the time to have a drink of the ubiquitous orange Bimbo, sit down and relax and even joke and laugh a little bit.
The most tense part of the winding down of the mobile clinic day is the final disposition of the patients. There always seems to be one or two whose owners left them for 4-5+ hours, and we have no way of contacting him or her. Even more upsetting is the stray dogs: after laboring over an animal for some time, it feels very wrong that there is nothing to do but return them to the street. One captured stray, a barrel-chested male with massive, horny paws, whose broad, square muzzle and black and tan coloring hinted at a Rottweiler ancestor, caught the eye of one of the regional police officers. He took a shine to the benign monster, and after the dog was neutered, brought him home to his new life as a house and guard dog.
Most are not that lucky, however. After the anesthesia has mostly worn off, they are returned to the busy streets. Hot tears stung my eyes as I saw them gingerly walk away, my heart in my throat when they encounter the busy street. Successfully navigating the crossing, they are lost in the traffic and the crowd. I send a silent prayer after them, hoping that they too will find the satisfaction of a meal, the warmth of a kind touch, the comfort of a home.
Written by Linda Schwefel; photos courtesy of veterinarians Judith Bechtum and Catherine Davidson