It’s been three years since I’ve been on this little rock in this big Caribbean Sea. I’ve found myself pinching my arm out of disbelief that I’m actually back. I didn’t know if I’d be able to come back after Peace Corps, but here I am. It’s morning, sitting on Leslie’s deck as 3 pound Stella (a Canadian transplant chihuahua that Jade carried home with her from living abroad) sits on my lap and co-observes the 85 degree shaded wind rustling bamboo trees and collected bohemian wind chimes from bouts of travel around the world. Governor, one of five bottle baby-puppies Les and I took neonatal care of five years ago, basks in the rising sun. Bouganvillea-bonsai hybrids add color depth to the vista of tangerine, coral and turquoise colored houses and a cobalt-ombre sea at rest. Barking dogs speak with vocalizing chickens and I smell the faint scent of salt and coconut. Jade and her mama laugh in the kitchen while eating papaya, Nescafe and toast. It’s as if I never left, yet it feels new-in a way.
The last time I was on St. Vincent, literally my last step on the mainland, was on a dock in Calliaqua. We (somehow!) arranged for 6 island mutts to come home with us-Isla, Roo, Wolf, Sandy, Yuki & Birthday Cake…the last 5 being foster failures because we never thought we’d be that crazy. But we were/are/will be. It was midnight and our less-than-sober skipper had arrived four hours late to the port with not the slightest apology. Ahh, one of my last experiences of “island time”. My life packed in two bags, we loaded them and the five crates onto the 40′ vessel. Birthday Cake, Yuki’s puppy, was only 2 months and as the runt, was small enough to fit into a soft carrier that I’d be bringing on board the plane with me. As we set off on our overnight journey through the Grenadines, along channels and a full moon nestled into stars of stars, I felt sad but relieved. Relieved to be returning home and reuniting with familiarity and the missed comforts of America. Yet my heart had been opened and broken without being properly healed-I felt, and still do to this day, a rawness and vulnerability to sadness when thinking of this place. So much beauty from the bird’s eye view juxtaposed with so much tragedy on the ground. To leave on that little boat with my life and dogs and boyfriend felt selfish, like I was giving up too soon, but I had to go. Not only was my service up, but I needed a break and breath. Or two or three…
A lot has happened since leaving St. Vincent. The VSPCA has had it’s successes and challenges but continues to make progress-one animal and person at a time. It can be stressful and overwhelming for the handful of committed volunteer board members to plan, execute and carry on regular spay-neuter clinics, but it’s so worth it. The mobile van is looking fine and partnerships between organizations seem to be ripe for growth. Challenges can look like a very successful spay/neuter day of 70 surgeries by one government vet in Owia one day, and then driving home to see a van (like a bus and is the primary mode of transporting up to 21 passengers at one time) swerve to intentionally hit a dog on the street. Bandades-approaches to problems can only do so much. It’s time to increase proactive measures to systemically shifting the culture toward a more compassionate and empathetic place. This will begin with the children.
My primary reason for being on this trip is not only to assist vets at clinics, but to assist in developing a strategy to work closer with the Ministry of Education to get character education and humane education lessons into primary schools… SO much more challenging than drafting a few empathy-based curriculums on responsible pet guardianship and the value of spay/neuter. Things down here take time and seem to, at times, be unnecessarily complicated. But that’s another blog post :) Things are happening, but gosh darn is it heart-breaking to see the overall state of the animals down here. Truth.
I met a hubs/wife team in Mustique who do feral cat spay/neuter when I was in the Peace Corps back in 2012. They’re lovely and have been doing it for years for the small, privately owned, celebrity/royal-infused island. We talked about the still-relatively-infant VSPCA and potentially hosting clinics on the mainland later down the road. Well, we are at that place in the road and we have 3 DVMs and 1 RVT here, as I type, assisting a government vet with as many surgeries as can be done this week. It’s the first go, so there’s lots of learning to do, but future visiting vet programs will smooth out over time. World Vets is also coming to SVG in October-such progress! The demand is beyond high and the need is so great.
Stay tuned for updates.