I’ve tackled some grueling tasks in my life that should have made dealing with Caribbean animal import permits a breeze. My college degree is in Russian literature. War and Peace is like an appetizer for me. I develop resort websites for a living, as in I sit and write dork language that involves a lot of symbols you only get to use while holding down the shift key. These are solitary pursuits, solitary accomplishments. I used to pride myself at not needing help, at just getting it done. If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. But nothing, NOTHING compares to bringing a cat from the Bahamas to Saint Lucia.
Let me give you some exposition.
Some kind soul conveyed a tiny, day-old kitten to Abaco’s only veterinary clinic. “A dog killed the mother and the rest of the litter,” the kind soul said. So the vet carried this tiny kitten around in her cleavage while she worked because it was too helpless to be left alone, even on the comforts of a towel-covered heating pad.
I, after some coercion from the ladies I lunched with (all of whom were members of The Friends of Abaco Animals Society), went and saw this tiny, miraculous kitten and instantly fell in love.
“Her name is Miss Kitty,” the vet said.
Fast forward two years. The kitten is now a cat and her name is Trenton (she needed something tougher) and her favorite spot to sleep is right on my chest where cleavage should be but it’s mostly just sternum.
“We’re leaving the Bahamas,” my boyfriend said one day. My initial elation at the prospect of going back to Saint Lucia was soon dampened as I started to muddle through the paperwork, the lists, the vaccinations, the blood tests, and all of the officious government stamps required to bring one little cat across the Caribbean. I can do this, I thought, but after what must have been my 100th call to various agriculture departments, and learning that blood titers is not pronounced ‘titters’ as I’d been saying, I burst into tears and realized that I couldn’t do this alone.
This essay already has a few platitudes so I might as well add another and say, It really does take a village.
Trenton stayed and was loved and cared for by a friend for four months after we left (to give time for the blood titer, not titter, tests to come back). The vet, her first human mother, worked tirelessly with us on her paperwork from afar and another friend picked up her official health certificate from Nassau. A women working at the agricultural offices in Saint Lucia finally got sick of hearing the phone at the next desk over, an empty one, constantly ringing for days on end and picked up. I was on the other end.
When American Airlines said that Trenton couldn’t travel in the cabin with us, InterCaribbean Airways said otherwise. A man named Clifford at InterCaribbean’s reservation office hand-crafted an itinerary, one no one had ever flown before (because it went from the Bahamas, to Turks & Caicos, to the Dominican Republic, to Tortola, and then to Dominica before finally landing in Saint Lucia – all in one day) and called us before the trip to make sure that Trenton was all ready to travel.
The crew fawned over our cute cat, saved us the exit seats, and made sure we had extra water for her. Upon landing in St. Lucia, the very same woman who answered my call from her missing colleague’s desk was there to hustle us through Customs and make sure all went smoothly.
Among the many I sent thank you notes to after we settled back into the rhythms of Saint Lucia, I sent a special one to InterCaribbean Airways. Unexpectedly, they wrote back:
It is very refreshing to hear from you and to hear of your story. It’s a wonderful story as we have adopted a pet-friendly stance for some time with our pet-friendly fees, we know our furry friends are a part of the family and need to be able to travel with their parents. We will certainly share the below with Clifford. It was a long journey of segments but we’re glad that you enjoyed a preview of your next Caribbean visit along the way at several islands.
Thank you sincerely for taking the time to write to us and sharing this experience. If you give us permission, we would love to insert a picture of Trenton into our social media space and share the story of ‘Trenton The Island-Hopping Cat.’
Sincerely a great thank you from our team, this is the kind of story that makes us believe all is possible.
THE CEO OF INTERCARIBBEAN AIRWAYS!!!
(The exclamation points are all mine.)
Trenton had her five minutes of Facebook fame and we all got a kick out of it, but I also learned something else. I learned that the entire Caribbean is a village. And now, as I’m wading through import permit information for pets from Saint Lucia to Turks & Caicos (see why here), this island-hopping cat’s mom isn’t ashamed to ask for help anymore.