Snowbirds, this is the season many of you from U.S.A., Canada & other nations will be coming to Belize & many other destinations in the Caribbean to escape the long cold months of freezing weather. You will soon be spending your days enjoying long walks on the beach, relaxing in a hammock, trying out local restaurants or learning about the culture, history, and language of the area you are visiting. Well, like many other snowbirds have found out, you no doubt will also run into a four-legged friend you will come to know and love but have no idea of how to help them.
Most of you snowbirds usually come from a culture where animals are considered part of your family & are loved and well cared for. However you will come to know that in Belize & many other Central American & Caribbean destination locals have different cultural perceptions about how animals are treated and cared for & for some snowbirds & other travelers this could be heart- breaking & frustrating especially after the season is over & they start packing their swimsuits & stuff and head back home.
Here’s the bad news, these loving dogs or cats remain on the streets to starve, die of thirst, or be inhumanely killed as is this real story of the stray dog Blacky from the streets of Caye Caulker.
A true life story of Blacky
Blacky roamed the streets of Caye Caulker for years. On many occasions he was fed and cared for by a few kind snowbirds during their stay in this lovely destination. Blacky was in heaven! He got regular dinners, love and attention he deserved and even sleeped inside the snowbirds' rental. Life was good for Blacky especially during this last beautiful winter when he was older & felt he finally had found his forever home. Then spring came and one day, the snowbirds Blacky had come to know and love didn’t show up with his dinner. He waited for days and days but they were gone, headed back to their other home. Blacky’s heart was broken but he had no choice but to go back to his daily battle for survival, fighting for scraps of garbage, looking for water in scorching heat, and avoiding being beaten or killed.
On the way home, the snowbird woman who had cared for Blacky thought of Blacky and asked her husband, “Will Blacky be all right?” “Well, sure, honey! He’s a street dog and can take care of himself. He was fine before we got there, right?” Her husband said. “Besides, what were we supposed to do with him? Bring him home?” The woman thought her husband was probably right so she didn’t answer but then remembered how Blacky looked when they first found him–so skinny his ribs stuck out and his coat so rough and nearly half-gone in some places and so very grateful for the attention. She sighed and wished there was more she could do.
For those of you Snowbirds who really want to help here are a few steps on how you can.
First, let’s get back to Blacky. Back on the streets after his snowbird family left, he started to lose hope that he would ever live in safety and comfort, with plenty of food and water, and began to succumb to the ravages of the street. But then his owner found him and tied him up in the yard, did not feed him and left him there to die. Luckily a good samaritan saw his condition one day & took him off the chain that was already embedded in his skin along with the padlock. But Blackie did not care he was happy he was free again & had hope that his snowbird family was looking for him.
He took to lying on the beach, hidden under homes where it was cool and barely left this spot to find food after a while, slowly losing his strength. Then one day, he thought he heard his name called over and over, “Blacky? Here, boy!” Was he dreaming? He struggled to stand up and had just enough energy to walk out from under the house. He saw a woman coming. Could it be? Was it my family? He mustered enough energy to wag his tail. It wasn’t his snowbird family but another woman who gently spoke to him & petted him. The woman gave him fresh water and food & got help to remove the chain & padlock. She then took him to her home while he was still asleep. When Blacky woke up he was so happy he almost couldn’t eat or drink. The woman talked to him so kindly and after he ate and drank she had a bed for him. He cried with joy when she washed his sores & injury and cleaned the ticks from his ears. She held him tight and said, “You’re safe now, Blacky. You’re going to a new home where you’ll never be hungry or scared again.” This loving samaritan contacted PAW Cat Sanctuary & Humane Society of Caye Caulker who arranged for Blacky's adoption. As soon as Blacky was strong enough to get his shots and was healthy enough to travel, Blacky went to a loving family in the U.S.A. where he still lives, happily ever after.
Blacky...Safe at Last!
HERE IS A LINK TO BLACKYS' STORY: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150368188479078.371748.71049854077&type=3
Okay, take a minute to wipe away your tears. Now, get busy and start taking notes.
Here’s what you can do to help a newly found four-legged friend:
1. If you can – adopt and bring your special dog or cat home with you. It is easier than you think. All s/he needs is to be vaccinated & get a travel health certificate & of course by healthy enough to travel. If you are in Caye Caulker & not sure, contact PAW cat sanctuary at 501-624-7076, Caye Caulker Humane Society or any local vet (check local directory for listings) or a local animal group of the city you are in. Here are some links:
Belmopan Humane Society:http://www.belmopanhumanesociety.com/
Placencia Humane Society:http://www.placencia-pets.org/
Saga Humane Society:http://sagahumanesociety.org/
Belize Humane Society:http://www.belizehumanesociety.org/about_us.php
2. If you can’t adopt the dog, then promote him to your network of friends and family. PAW or the Caye Caulker Humane Society or any other groups in the area you are in also may have suggestions to help you help your snowbird dog or cat.
3. If you don’t want to keep the stray, then make a donation for him/her to be spayed, neutered and vaccinated – or make arrangements for PAW, Caye Caulker Humane Society or one of the local animal organizations in the area you are in to put you in contact for details – it cost so little. You would be helping because no puppies/kittens would be born in to a life of suffering.
4. Your travel dollars have clout. Raise awareness with hotels, resorts, timeshares, airlines and any travel providers that you use. Also, share this information with fellow snowbirds. By educating the travel industry and fellow travelers, you can make a difference one animal at a time.
5. Be kind and notice if there is a fresh water source on those hot days – if not, put some out and keep it clean. It is OK to put food out as well.
6. Donate your old towels and blankets to PAW Cat Sanctuary or to Caye Caulker Humane Society if you are in Caye Caulker or to the local animal shelters in the area you are in.
Before you head to the area you will be visiting ask for a list of needed items and bring them with you from home—medicines, used collars & leashes, old kennels, bags of food.
7. Contact someone at PAW Cat Sanctuary, Caye Caulker Humane Society, the police or the village Council if you are in Caye Caulker, immediately if you see an animal in distress or being abused. If you can, take him to a local vet (check the phone directory for listing) or again call the organizations listed above. Be prepared. Here is the phone number for a local vet in Belize 223-3781. Post this number with your other emergency numbers.
8. Volunteer with PAWS spay & neuter program or other shelters in areas where you are located or donate toward these & other worthy programs.
9. Promote spay/neuter programs and ensure that dogs or cats you see around your rental home are sterilized – there are low cost and even free options available – you will ensure that animals have a healthier life. Again contact organizations listed above.
10. Contact PAW Cat Sanctuary or Caye Caulker Humane Society or other local rescue group to see if they need a dog escort to your destination. It won’t cost you anything – it is easier than sending a dog by cargo and it will make a difference in that one dog or cat's life.
11. Do not assume that if you leave money and/or food with a caretaker that it will get to the animal. It probably won’t. And please don’t tie your snowbird animal to the fence or the gate of an animal shelter when you leave in the hopes that it will be taken care of.
12. Please share this information & phone number/links with your fellow snowbirds and share your snowbird dog or cat story here on the forum. Your kindness and caring efforts deserve a shout-out!
Not so hard, right? Helping that special dog or cat will not only change their lives but also yours.
Written by PAW Cat Sanctuary & Humane Society of Caye Caulkerwww.pawanimalsanctuarybelize.com