Turquoise water. Blue skies. Puffy white clouds. A gentle breeze in the air. The sun on my face. My toes in the sand. Hardly a soul around. And nothing to do but sit and soak it all in. Who wouldn’t call this paradise?
Yep, that’s my idea of utopia. I recently spent some time there, otherwise known as the caribbean, for a very special occasion which I’ll share with you more in a later post. But while I was there, I wanted to visit the local animal shelter and see if there was anything I could do to help them during my stay.
From the moment we landed and made the drive to our hotel, it was obvious there were a lot of homeless dogs. We asked around and learned that while some of these dogs do belong to the locals, most are strays. Roaming the streets, they spend their days foraging for food. If they do have a home, most are tied up to a tree and thrown scraps of food.
We made a run to the local grocery store to stock up on drinks and snack items, encountering several stray dogs in the parking lot. Not ones to walk away, we added milk bones to our grocery list. Four dogs eagerly came over wanting some of what we had. One fellow in particular seemed very young and quite friendly.
We stopped by the next day to look for the dogs and quickly realized they know when is the best time to beg (after work) and sleep (during the work day). We found our friendly fellow again and became fast friends. He trusted us enough to eat from our hands, allowed us to pet him and even tried to play with us. We left him to go explore the island for the day, but we couldn’t stop thinking about him. On our way back to the hotel for the night, we found him again to feed him dinner and vowed we’d be back to help him.
The following day we took a drive to the animal shelter where we met a wonderful director and her staff. They showed us around and introduced us to the animals, mostly dogs. We were impressed with what we saw and liked the idea that 2 dogs were often boarded together so they always had a playmate and companion. There were a couple of fenced in areas so dogs who got along could run and play. We told the director about the dog we befriended and she felt fairly certain he didn’t belong to anyone. She recommended a vet we could take him to and find out if he was microchipped.
We took her suggestion and since he wasn’t microchipped, we decided to have him vaccinated, tested for heartworm (negative) and treated for fleas and worms. She gave us the rundown on what it would take to get him to the states where we hoped we could help him find a forever home. While it was possible, we weren’t able to make it happen with the little time we had before we flew back home. After his checkup, we took Rusty, a name we gave him based on the color of his coat, back to the grocery store. Not really sure what to do next, we knew we’d back in the morning to feed him breakfast.
It was too early (all the locals were at work), so we stopped by later in they day. Rusty heard me before he saw me, responding to my “pup pup pup” calls by barking and dancing. We picked him up and put him in the car. He’d learned from his first car ride to the vet it was best to lay down on the seat so he wouldn’t fall down every time the car turned a corner. He made it a point to put his front paws on my leg and if they shifted off during the bumpy ride, he repositioned them. Clearly, he knew we were good people. Since the local shelter had room for him, we felt bringing him in was the best thing we could do for him.
Rusty made friends with another fellow named Mellow, also about 12 months old. They share a kennel together and chase each other all day long. Rusty is a little thin, so after he puts on some weight, he will be scheduled to be neutered. Saying goodbye was hard for us, he barked and jumped up on the fence as we walked away. While taking him home with us wasn’t an option this time, I know the next time I visit the islands, I will plan in advance so I can fly a dog or two back with me and help them find homes here in the states.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the caribbean, the time I spent with Rusty is something I will never forget. I’ve been volunteering at a local animal shelter for almost 5 years. Never have I felt the difference I made in an animal’s life the way I did with Rusty. I felt like I hardly made a difference during my brief stay on the island, but somehow I believe I made the world of a difference to this one dog. And that’s good enough for me.