When I wrote my last blog, I was about to board a plane to embark upon a 10 day Caribbean cruise. In spite of issues with our plane, we did make it to Ft. Lauderdale and on board our ship the next day. We had rough seas and missed our first port, but good weather and reasonably smooth sailing after that. At least until we headed north again and into ridiculously cold weather!
Cozumel & Belize
As a veterinarian, I can’t help but notice the local animals when I am visiting a new place. I remember visiting Cozumel on a past cruise. I donated to the local humane society and still use the coffee mug I received in return. There were carriage horses there, and it was quite sad. They were thin and not well cared for. I don’t remember noticing many street dogs, but the horses still haunt me.
Last April my boyfriend and I visited Belize where he received his scuba certification. We donated to their local humane society as well. The facility was quite piecemeal and basic, but I was pleased that there was an ongoing effort to address the needs of the local strays.
And then there is the humane society in Kauai. What a gorgeous place. It is fairly new, open air, and well designed. It is also heavily populated and a high kill facility, which makes me extremely sad. The very first year I visited, I was immediately struck by the number of Airedale mixes peering out at me from the kennels. Airedales and Whippets! The staff explained it like this… The locals love to hunt wild boars on the interior of the island. Apparently Whippets and Airedales are particularly good dogs for rousting out the pigs. The locals take 20-25 dogs on a hunt, and if some don’t come back because they are injured or lost… oh well. That mindset creates a growing population of intact stray animals.
The shelter on Kauai has developed a program where visitors can spend a day with a shelter dog, and guess what? About 50% of the shelter dogs leave the island with their new family. The Hawaiian Islands are a rabies-free state, and getting a dog ON the island is extremely difficult. Getting dogs OFF the island is easy. When I was last there in 2014, I paid for a particular dog to be placed in foster care and to facilitate his adoption. I did my best to find a local or mainland home for him and I was even pursuing charity flights to get him to the mainland. Sadly, the shelter opted to euthanize him because he was timid and didn’t do well in the shelter, and didn’t “show well”. I was devastated. At least I rescued one, as Lucy came home with me in 2011.
The dogs I saw on this recent trip were pretty typical. In Bonaire, we saw several street dogs scrabbling with each other. The males were all intact, and the females were pregnant or had recently whelped and were nursing. While they weren’t well cared for, at least they weren’t horribly thin.
As for horses and livestock on the islands, water is a precious commodity. As such it isn’t “wasted” on too many farm animals. Each island had one or several liveries where tourists could rent horses. One local told us they were mostly Paso Finos or Paso Fino crosses, because the lava rock was so hard it required hard-footed horses. I Googled some of the stables and learned from previous visitors that some took great care of their horses. Others, not-so-much. While on the private island owned by the cruise line, we saw some fellow passengers on a horseback ride. We observed them briefly riding in the ocean. We learned there were 48 people living on this private island, and their job was to take care of the horses that were there exclusively for this cruise line and to meet the other needs of the guests.
Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao
While in Aruba, we learned from a history sign that when horses were brought to the islands, they were muscled overboard by the sailors. The hope was that one or two strong swimmers would lead the rest to the island. Clearly, there were no docks and motorized equipment for nicely lowering horses on to the land! Apparently, horses were raised on Aruba around the 17th and 18th centuries and were an important export for the island. There are 6 artistic blue horses scattered throughout the island to commemorate the contribution of the horse.
We had a great time on the cruise and scuba dived directly from the shore on both Bonaire and Curacao. Bonaire was my first time diving after my somewhat stressful certification. We didn’t have a divemaster lined up because we decided at the last minute to do this. Therefore, we just rented equipment and stayed very close to the place we started. It was a good opportunity for me to get comfortable with the equipment again.
At Curacao, we had a divemaster lined up. He was a 26-year-old Dutchman who had been diving since he was 12 years old. He was not only a master diver but was certified to train diving instructors. On our first dive, we went 58 feet down. My boyfriend knew I was feeling more relaxed when I finally let go of his hand halfway through the first dive! We couldn’t go as deep the second dive as my left ear wouldn’t equalize the pressure. Consequently, we had to stay around 30 feet. We still managed to swim with the sea turtles! Sam, our divemaster, said he noticed a huge change in my comfort level between the first and second dive. Maybe there is hope for me yet?
Lastly, we committed while on our trip to fostering a dog for a week. Meet Billy, whose new daddy will be getting him about the time this blog goes live. Billy is an old dog whose previous owner decided he didn’t want an old dog anymore. He took him to be euthanized, but the animal control officer didn’t have the heart to take the life of this sweet old man. Fortunately, he has a second chance at a great life! I have worked with many troubled and traumatized children and traumatized dogs. I never cease to be amazed at how quickly a dog can blossom when provided love and security. Kids take much longer to learn to trust again. Reach out to your local shelter and be part of the solution to rescue and improve the lives of abused and neglected dogs!