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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.