Polly had been concerned until the scales showed an extra 200 pounds. She patted the coarse hide and added another handful of hay to the tough.
Kifaru let out a snort and continued to chew absently while Polly checked out the rest of her vital signs.
“Is she ready?” Adam’s voice shot over from the other side of the examination room and ended in a round of sniffles.
Polly gave the small rhino another pat before the veterinarian stood. Her knees popped and the small of her back flared. She rubbed absently at the spot through her khaki shirt and rubber glove. She heard Adam take a few steps forward and then sniff and let out a small sneeze.
Polly gave him a tired smile and nodded.
“Would it have been that bad?”
“If our main attraction was too sick for the opening?!” Adam scoffed and wiped his nose again.
“She’s not an attraction,” Polly said, folding her arms.
Adam winced, sneezed and nodded. “I know, I know.” He waved his clipboard apologetically. “Damn allergies get to me you know?”
Polly relaxed her shoulders and managed a smile. “They have medication for that.”
“I’d be drowsy all day,” Adam countered with another sniffle. “It’s not bad when I’m outside. In here…” he sneezed as he waved at the enclosed room and its air thick with hay, pollen and dander.
In the hanging quiet, Kifaru let out a small, almost mournful little cry.
“Ready?” Polly asked the animal rhetorically.
She walked over to the small doorway that led outside, unclasped the latch and heaved it open. Warm rays of sunlight, the scent of grass and the quiet murmurs of a distant crowd gurgled like a stream.
Kifaru trundled forward tentatively at first. She let out another call. Through the small opening a deeper rumble sounded. The flakes of hay on the ground jumped with heavy steps.
The little rhino quickened to a trot and lumbered through the doorway.
Polly squatted down to peer after the animal.
The small gray body had closed in on her mother. The larger rhino seemed to glare at the opening for a moment. Then she gathered her calf and together they made their way down the sloping green of their enclosure.
“Where are they heading?” asked Adam.
“Towards the viewing area actually.”
“Maybe,” Polly said, standing and letting the doorway close once more. “They’ll go where they want to.”
“I know, but it would really help if they were at least visible to our visitors.”
Polly shook her head and stripped off her gloves. “You should explain it to them. Perhaps they’ll be more accommodating if they understood your budget concerns.”
“Polly.” Adam’s reddened eyes glared at her and her dry humor.
She raised her shed gloves in defeat. “I’m just glad she’s healthy and with her mom. Everything else…” Polly shrugged.
“Everything else keeps us employed,” countered Adam.
“Well, how about this.” Polly patted his shoulder and guided them out of the examination room. “You worry about people coming through the gates and I’ll worry about the animals they’re coming to see.”
Adam scrubbed at his nose and inhaled a fresh breath as they walked down the back corridor along the edge of the enclosure. He shook his head.
“I think that deal’s a little lopsided.”
Polly laughed and shrugged. She pulled another tissue from her pocket and handed it over.