The Trials and Tribulations of an Island Pet Mom

Written by: Riselle Celestina

 

I’m one of those animal loving island people that, had I a truck load of cash and no husband, my house would be filled to the brim with all the strays I could possibly adopt.

Although I was born and raised in the Caribbean, the sight of a suffering or neglected animal on the side of the road is still something I cannot get used to. Thankfully, my husband is the same way and he and I have adopted most of our bunch straight from the streets and have mastered what I like to call the “Pull Up-Grab-Throw in the Car” animal rescue maneuver.

Of course my husband is also the one with the common sense in our family and as much as he would love to adopt more strays too, the fact is – vet bills can be the death of you if you don’t watch it. I obviously don’t live in his world. I live in La-La-Land – a place where animals understand me when I talk to them, where puppies are transported in baby carriages, and where dogs sit at the dinner table. I like my little world and even though my husband rejects my invitations to join me in my insanity, I don’t think I’ll ever want to get out of La La Land. It’s comfy here.

Taking my nephew Onyx for a stroll in his carriage

The most dogs we had at one time was 8 and let me tell you, I felt like I had my own reality TV show: 8 Dogs and Counting. The things you go through when you have so many pets. Neighbors giving you the evil eye when you meet them at the supermarket; dog fights because one bitch thought you’re giving the other a bigger treat than you gave her; sleepless nights because you’d rather your dogs get a good night sleep than you. Oh, motherhood. 

When we get invited over to our friend’s homes who share the same love of animals, I always leave thinking I have the most unruly bunch of dogs and cats ever. I am the pet mom that spoils her kids and lets them get away with anything, while my friends have the best behaved bunch I’ve ever seen.

Miep with her buddy Bob KaBob

Truth is, I cannot bear to discipline them most of the time. I leave that task up to my husband. I think they’ve suffered enough in those first few months or years on the streets and have known enough misery. So whenever my husband is at work, they get to sleep on the couch, jump on the kitchen counter, sleep on the bed, and do as their little hearts desire. And yes, this is why I do not have any decent furniture and I’m constantly stumbling over pet toys everywhere.

Taking a ride in the jeep together

I recall one incident in particular when my husband and I were awoken by yelps of pain at 4 in the morning. The alpha male decided to teach one of the younger ones a lesson and had him by the throat. We flew out of bed in a panic and ran outside to find him dragging the little bugger to a more secluded place to finish him off. My husband went into a rage and threw everything he could find at them – anything to break up the fight. Coconuts went flying, a plastic chair was next. I stood there and watched in horror as one of my poor, defenseless babies was being attacked.

Mr. Alpha finally got the message and let go. He turned to see what the fuss was about only to find my enraged husband running towards him. He knew he was gonna get it, so he took off running. We have a big yard and at 4 in the morning, it was quite a sight to see this big dog running for his life from an angry man in his underwear. That was the first time I suspected that the neighbors might be starting a petition for our immediate eviction from the area. 

I could fill a book with similar stories from my island years with rescue pets. There was the psycho pup that was picked up from the dump and grew up to be a super jealous pup that wanted nothing but to kill off all the other males so that he could be the the only child. We found ourselves building fences to keep the dogs separated and then found ourselves having to make those fences higher when psycho pup found a way to climb over them.

Psycho pup and I

There was the cat that thought my husband’s jewels were quite interesting when he stepped out of the shower and decided to jump and hold onto to them for dear life with her claws. Or the time when I found myself naked in the yard when feeding the kids (they got a little too excited and while jumping on me and one of their paws must have gotten stuck in my pajama bottoms). And who could forget the scared little kitten we found in some bushes some 12 years ago that to this date is too scared to come out of the kitchen cupboard.

Yes, I have stories. Some are hilarious, others are so sad it’s a wonder we still keep adopting strays. Last year was devastating. We lost 4 pets in just 1 year. Cancer. Dog attacks. Whatever the reason, it felt like someone ripped open my chest and stabbed my heart every single time I lost one of my babies. 

Miep the day after we found her by the side of a busy road

I vowed time and time again to not ever adopt another pet but I’m mush when faced with neglected dogs and cats – and there are many here in the Caribbean. I turn into a super bitch whenever yet another non-islander decides to move back to whatever country they come from and decides to dump Fifi at the vet, the shelter, or on the streets just because it would cost too much to take Fifi along. This is not a pair of shoes that you can just return because you don’t like it as much as you thought you would.  

Show them the same respect you would a person. Take care of them and love them. Respect them if loving them is not your thing. Being a pet parent is not for everyone. There are sacrifices that you’re gonna have to make, money you are gonna have to spend, and liming with your friends you’re gonna have to miss out on. At the end of the day though, there is nothing I would rather come home to than the slobbery kisses, happy tails, and leg rubs from my four legged island children. 

Feeding stray kittens

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Riselle Celestina

About Riselle Celestina

Riselle is a happy-go-lucky island girl from Curaçao living the island life on the beautiful yet tiny island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. She has a passion for travel and adventure and not long ago decided to follow her heart wherever it may lead her.

Her days are now spent being a pet-mom to her 6 dogs and 3 cats and a wife to her husband of 4 years, James. Until recently, she was a full time planner and designer at her own event planning company but a sudden revelation in February of 2015 made her put her business on hold and change career paths. New career: unknown. In an attempt to find herself, she decided to take up blogging, which to her is one of the few occupations where you don’t need to wear much, flip flops are always in season, and tattoos are not frowned upon.

Impulsive, a true people person, happy, friendly, always willing to help, and determined are just some of the words that describe her best. Of course she can also be headstrong, bossy, spoiled, slow to forgive, short-tempered, irrational, and at times grumpy, but this can easily be fixed with coffee or wine. Preferably wine.

Travel is her one true passion besides her love of animals. Any time she is not able to travel far, she is content with exploring her little piece of paradise.

You can read more about her travels, island life, and adventures on www.thetravelingislandgirl.com.

CURRENT ROCK OF RESIDENCE: St. Maarten

ISLAND GIRL SINCE: birth

ORIGINALLY HAILS FROM: Curaçao

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11 thoughts on “The Trials and Tribulations of an Island Pet Mom

  1. There needs to be a lot more people like you on the islands! I can not get over the cruelty I saw in Barbados and am still in therapy for it. As for people who leave their animals behind..well, you hold them down, I’ll finish them off!! I have 5 animals, all fly with me and they are my priority in life.
    Thanks for sharing your story, it hugged my heart strings and made me laugh.

  2. I, too, cannot understand the thought process of those who adopt an island dog or cat and then leave them behind when they leave. Once I bring a furball into my life, they are with me til the end. But…

    I’ve tried to adjust my perspective (since the process will continue for as long as their are temporary residents on the islands)…at least for those people who have the decency and respect to return their pets to the animal shelter (rather than dumping them on the side of the road or, worse, just leaving them alone at the rental house…)

    I try and imagine that these dogs and cats had however many good years of love and affection from their temporary owners. Years they may not have otherwise had. And I also imagine that, in some circumstances, those same animals might be miserable wherever they end up. At least if they are returned to the shelter, they will be loved by the caretakers there and stand a chance of finding another, good island home in a climate and environment with which they are familiar…

    I cannot imagine my two short haired island dogs – who go in and out of the house as they please, chase lizards, lie in the sun and generally are quite independent – being cooped up on an apartment or smaller house all day in some cold climate while I would work. Given that my two don’t even enjoy a bit of rain, the idea of them being content in a snowy climate seems far fetched.

    Would I leave them behind if I should choose to leave the island? Nope, not a chance. But I try to see the positives for those animals that are left behind (even if I want to slap the folks who abandon them).

  3. Love this so much! I look forward to seeing what’s in my inbox! Hopefully someday soon I will be an island girl for good. Thanks

  4. I can sooooo relate to this. If I had my way I’d be the crazy dog lady as well! I like to carry a bag of dog treats in my car at all times and throw treats out the window to dogs that look hungry on the roadside. I can’t bear the thought of sad, lonely dogs all over the island….too many to actually do something about! I blogged about a Canadian lady on my island of Jamaica who runs a dog shelter and if I had the funds I’d definitely BE her! In case anyone is interested in reading about the amazing work at the shelter it’s here: http://www.jamaicamyway.com/uncategorized/animal-house-jamaica/

  5. What a great read! And I love you for bringing these critters into your life! I visit the islands a few times a year and have brought home 2 guys (of the canine variety), to Pennsylvania, one in 2013 and the other in August. So we have 4 fur babies that manage to co-exist pretty well. Hope you keep us updated!

  6. I sing from the same hymn sheet. Loved this article. I live in the Bahamas and we have such a huge population of strays. It is sad and disgraceful. If it was up to me, and I could afford it, I would be adopting every stray! So happy to hear of all the good you do for these animals, who had no choice.

  7. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I can relate. I’m a medical student on the island of SVG and I’ve got a small collection of 2 pups and 1 kitten – if it wasn’t for the fact that I am a broke student, I’d probably have about 8-9 like you did! Thank you so much for being an advocate for these babies. People like you are making the world a better place!

    • Oh and for the record – my babies are coming back with me to the US 🙂 ain’t NO WAY I can just abandon them! Don’t understand how people can treat animals ‘like a pair of shoes’, as you said.

  8. I was out of control rescuing dogs. At one point I had 11, 7 of them pups. I am not allowed to bring any more home but that doesn’t stop me from carrying dog food in my car to feed the hungry strays or going to a neighbors house and treating their dog for mange because they don’t care that it’s ill. My heart is broken every day when I see a starving animal, sometimes it’s more than I can handle. So many sick starving dogs on Roatan, it’s not pretty. I do what I can and try to educate others who don’t know how to care for a pet. Thank you for caring.

  9. I completely understand. I almost moved to Curacao two years ago and the biggest challenge was getting my Boxer down and cared for. I can’t imagine not having little faces around when I come home from work each day. I would adopt all the strays as well – we need to buy an island just to turn into a no-kill shelter!

  10. Love this! If I had the chance I would adopt them all. Maybe it’s for the best that I can’t, I have a safety mechanism at home haha. We brought our cat with us from Holland (no way we were leaving her behind!) and she’s a real queen, she is so spoiled. Our house is her territory and we’re her servants, no other pets are coming in… She’s been our only child now for seven years and it’s gonna stay that way…

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