Written by: Ashleigh Frialde
Anyone who knows me knows that my pets are a HUGE part of my life. I brag about them to anyone who will listen. My Instagram is 95% photos of my babies. I have rescued three little strays on the island over the course of the time I’ve been here. My friends/family back home love to say that I’m running an animal shelter as well as attending medical school because I keep adding to the collection. Let’s be real – if I wasn’t leaving in 3 months, I’d probably have a lot more.
My first one, a little girl named Mango, used to live at my first apartment complex when I got to the island. She was somewhat of a burden to others at the complex because she wasn’t fixed at the time and would attract all the male dogs when she was in heat. She was unwanted and abused by many people, which I was NOT okay with, and I fell in love with her and became her protector of sorts. Eventually, I moved into a house so she would feel safer and have her own home.
My second pup, an older male named Remi, used to belong to a previous student who, for some reason, decided to abandon him at the school when she left the island. He became incredibly malnourished and was getting beaten by security guards and was looked at in disgust by pedestrians. He slept under cars during the day and wandered the streets for a safe place at night. I had often bought him food when I was on campus but it never occurred to me to bring him home. One day, he had gotten into a dog fight and half his ear was ripped off and became infected. That was the last straw for me, so I talked it over with my boyfriend and decided to take him home and get him cleaned up. My original plan was to get him fixed up and then find him a good home, but his sweet and gentle nature won me over within the first week.
The third in my crew is a little kitten named Chiqui. My boyfriend and I were coming home from school after exams one afternoon and I saw this little kitten run into the ditch, shaking and scared, about the size of my foot. I made my boyfriend pull over and I started playing with the kitten for a few minutes. I could feel his ribcage and he was infested with ticks so I knew he didn’t belong to someone. I quickly scooped him into my arms, got in the car, and told my boyfriend to drive. He looked at me wide-eyed, looked at the little helpless baby, and didn’t say a word.
In a million years, I’d never guess that I’d be living on an island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea with three fur-babies. Mango is the princess of the house and demands attention from whoever will give it to her. Remi is the biggest baby who will jump up and give me hugs whenever I come outside. Chiqui is a little mischievous baby who follows me around the house and wants to see EVERYthing I am doing. Yesterday, Mango and Remi were barking at a cow that was on the other side of our fence, and they kept trying to scare her away. I’d call them away from the fence and they would come play with me but would still side-eye the cow and run back and forth. The cow didn’t pay them any attention and it was just funny how much energy the dogs were putting into it. Just another day on the rock, right?
Chiqui recently discovered how to jump out of our kitchen window and explore the outdoors – he hasn’t really been outside since we rescued him and I guess now that he’s older, he wants to be outside again and explore. Diego (my boyfriend) and I were looking everywhere for him one night and we saw the motion light outside flash on and we went out there and Chiqui was innocently looking back at us as he started slowly climbing the fence to escape the yard. There is never a dull moment in my house, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I’m set to leave the island at the end of April, and my life is going to drastically change by moving to Chicago for the second part of my medical school career. I truly don’t think I would have been able to make it through the island portion of my medical schooling without my babies. Dealing with the stresses of being a medical student and living in an unfamiliar place is so much easier when you have three adorable animals to come home to after a long day of classes. They even cuddle with me while I’m studying which makes it much more enjoyable. I’m trying to savor these little moments with my sweet babies before we leave the island (yes, they’re coming with me!). Even though I’ve gone through some challenges and some of the hardest days of my life here, I will NEVER forget all that I experienced in my time as an island girl and how blessed I consider myself to have found my animal family on this rock.