I came back to Grenada alone. Well, except for the contents of the XL dog crates that arrived with me. It had been some years since I had left the island “for good” as a bright-eyed, third year veterinary student, off to start my clinical year in Texas. I left with a large, black, hairy beast whose plane ticket off the island cost more than mine. I came back to the island with that same beast in tow, along with a slightly smaller and decidedly less hairy friend I’d found to accompany him. My “boys” and I arrived back at Maurice Bishop Airport mid-month, tired from a long day of travel, and anxious for the next stage of the journey. For me, that meant the nearest bar serving cold beer. For them, that meant somewhere to pee. But first, an obstacle: Customs.
I had come prepared. I am a veterinarian after all, and this was not my first international trip with a dog. I had all of their papers and health certificates from puppyhood to present. The Grenadian dog still had his Grenadian papers – he was coming home. Nevertheless, I dreaded this interaction, especially the inevitable question of “how much” were the dogs worth to me.
Most of you dog lovers would probably say, They’re priceless! Though unfortunately, this may not be the wisest thing to say to the folks that work at Customs, as they are seldom dog lovers, but frequently lovers of American dollars. I produced the papers and stated that for all intents and purposes, they had no value to anyone but me, being neutered, mixed-breed dogs. No dice. Three hundred dollars later, the dogs got their pee, and I got my beer.
Dogs have a strange place in society on my rock. They are respected, feared, hated, and loved to varying degrees. They are most commonly found as untrained, yet highly effective, guard dogs. The bigger the dog, the more valuable they’re rated as a burglar deterrent. The three hundred dollar charge was therefore based on the size of the animals I brought with me. As a point of interest, this charge fluctuates enormously. You could get away with a twenty dollar fee for the importation of a house-cat, but dogs will usually be quite a bit more.
In my first term as a veterinary student in Grenada, a few of us volunteered at the GSPCA on Saturday mornings. This was an experience in itself, as we didn’t have cars at that time so the trip involved hailing a local bus. Affectionately called “Rasta buses”, they do actually run specific routes, but no two look alike. They are commonly 16 person vans and besides the rectangular sticker on the upper left corner of the windshield stating the areas they serve, they could just as easily be private vehicles. Some common ground does exist – they often have some sage statement stickered on the rear window. This can range from “Jah bless” to “Haters gonna hate” to the more perplexing “White explosion”. The other thing they have in common is the absolute refusal to believe in a maximum number of occupants, or that any driving law could possibly apply to them.
Within that first term of volunteering, I fell in love. He was a 6 month old pothound that resembled a fawn or perhaps a Chihuahua on stilts. Skeeter was my first dog that wasn’t a family dog. He was all mine. A few words on the definition of “pothound”. This is a recognized description of a dog breed in Grenada. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything you might smoke. Instead, it can be said that a pothound is the animal that comes running when you start banging pots together in the hopes of getting a meal. The other, perhaps more accurate, definition is an animal derived from mixing all the dog breeds in a melting pot. They are generally 35-50 lbs., short haired, and usually brown. They can also be black, white, tri-coloured, brindle, etc. Skeeter most closely resembles a shrunken Pharaoh hound. Of the three dogs that are in the family at the moment, he is the most frequently remarked upon, although this might be because he now lives in Canada and looks unlike most of the dogs there.
When I moved from the residence to an apartment, my landlords had 5 dogs. All pothounds that presented a formidable front to any strangers that ventured up the road to the house. They roamed loose, coming home for meals and to catch up on sleep. Otherwise, they had their own lives: no collars, no fence, no problem. I did manage to convince my landlady to have the one and only bitch spayed to prevent any more unwanted litters, but the boys remained intact and were free to go about their business. Skeeter was equal parts delighted with the pack and fearful of it. He was definitely the most timid of the bunch (as well as the most ridiculous looking!).
I am happy to have moved on from those days; two canine greeters are easier to handle compared to having six bowl you over daily. I couldn’t imagine living on the island without a dog; they’ve been my hiking partners, swim buddies, and home alarm system/personal protectors all in one.
Dogs can be found in a lot of households in Grenada, and as the years have gone on, I have noticed more of them being collared, more being walked on leashes, and more behind fences rather than roaming free. There are still pothounds to be seen merrily trotting by, but it does seem that in the south at least, dog owners are taking ownership of their canines.