Turks and Caicos Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - TCSPCA - animal welfare

Foster & Adoption: Happy Tales

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A Potcake Tale

It's 9:00 a.m. on a cold February morning in Wisconsin, and I'm at my job trying to concentrate on work. My mind, however, is thousands of miles away. More accurately, it's at 30,000 feet somewhere over Miami, Florida on American Airlines flight 464.

In addition to the human passengers who are headed to the United States from the Turks and Caicos Islands in the British West Indies, there is a small package on this particular flight which is meant for me. It's got four legs, a tail, and pleading brown eyes topped with funny pointed ears. It's a potcake.

"Potcake" is the name affectionately given by the Bahamian people to the stray dogs that inhabit islands throughout the Caribbean. Most people believe the name originated from the caked remains of a favorite Bahamian dish known as "peas and rice," a staple of the islanders' diet. The bottom of the cooking pots would become caked with a starchy combination that was fed to the local stray dogs. Hence the name," potcake."

I am a rather nervous new owner of an abandoned potcake puppy.

My potcake tale started during a wonderful week's vacation on the beautiful island of Providenciales. Provo, as it is known by locals, is part of the Turks and Caicos islands in the British West Indies. My husband and I travel to the Caribbean each winter accompanied by his mother and sister. This was our first visit to Turks and Caicos. We were thrilled with our lovely beachfront villa, the snorkeling right at our back door, the beautiful azure blue waters in and around Turtle Cove and the glorious weather.

On our way to dinner one evening, we were amazed to see three small puppies emerge from the side of a darkened dirt road and scamper hopefully into the headlights of our rental car. The pups seemed to be waiting for us, overjoyed that we had finally arrived. Our first reaction was to keep driving, but this was quickly replaced with the instinctive notion that these tiny pups didn't belong on the side of the road. Where was their mother and littermates?

We decided to stop, and the pups suddenly realized we were strangers. They shied away, scrambling back into the brush. After coaxing them out again, they were quickly embraced by four eager dog lovers. Each puppy was starving, exhausted and full of sores.

A woman living nearby assured us that she hadn't seen the puppies before and that the "little potcakes" had probably been abandoned. She suggested we contact a local veterinarian named Peggy Perkins " She'll know what to do with them," the woman assured us. Since there was no mother dog in the area and all three puppies were female, we suspected they had been left earlier in the day.

That evening, we gave the potcakes a thorough flea bath and combing. After ravenously devouring a meal of canned food, they huddled together for comfort inside a water cooler turned into a makeshift kennel and slept through the night.

The next morning we were greeted by three renewed bundles of puppy energy. They were eager for food and affection, which we had in abundance. As their distinct personalities started to emerge, we began to bond with them and the need to find someone who would care for them began to take on greater urgency. Our days on the island were numbered.

We decided to locate veterinarian Peggy (name), who devotedly runs one of the animal clinics on Provo and who is all too familiar with the abandoned animal population. Her canine patients range from lowly potcakes to pampered purebreds. Peggy has rescued many abandoned and abused dogs to find them new, loving homes.

Stray and feral dog populations throughout the Caribbean have reached astounding numbers. Though many islands have some type of local animal shelter or animal welfare organization, most are not equipped to handle the multi-faceted problem of rampant animal overpopulation. As a result, many island dogs and cats suffer greatly from starvation, disease, predation and - worst of all --- abuse at the hands of humans who have learned to regard them as pests.

To its credit, the Turks and Caicos government has recognized the need to proactively control the animal population for the health and safety of its people. They further recognize that animal welfare and population control programs are good for economic health as tourism expands on Provo and neighboring islands.

Though their history is long and painful, potcakes have developed strong instincts in their struggle to survive. They have become hardy and intelligent, adapting quickly to new situations, eating garbage and begging for handouts from any kind looking stranger. There are never enough homes for them all, however, and Peggy was unable to help our three little charges. We had to find another way and time was running short.

That's when we contacted Susan Blehr, the resourceful and dynamic program director for the Turks and Caicos SPCA. Lucky potcakes who are fortunate enough to cross Susan’s path often end up with loving new homes. Remarkably, she has placed dogs in the U.S., Canada and in other countries. Thanks to her efforts and those of a host of dedicated volunteers, many potcakes with slim chances for survival now live happily with their adopted human families.

The TCSPCA (Turks & Caicos Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was founded in 1998. It's goal is to create a climate where all dogs throughout the Turks & Caicos Islands are owned, cared for and controlled. This is an ambitious undertaking considering that the number of domestic and stray dogs on Providenciales alone number in the thousands.

We met Susan and volunteer Jay late one afternoon after contacting them about the three abandoned puppies in our care. They came to see the potcakes to help determine their fate. We hold onto the hope that "our" puppies are somehow quite special, and that their chances for a future are bright. Jay and Susan tells us the pups are really good looking, as far as potcakes go. You should see some of them, they are in terrible shape. You’ve done a terrific job with these."

Then they deliver the bad news. "We just don't know anyone who can take them. All of us have taken so many ourselves. We'll do what we can for these, but it's very difficult. There just aren't enough homes for them all." They ask us for care for the puppies until the end of the week to buy time to locate permanent or foster homes. That's when Susan raises the question, "Are you sure you can't take them home with you? Not even just one?"

In our travels throughout the Caribbean, the thought never occurred to us that we might actually bring home a dog. As longtime supporters of animal welfare, it's something we had fantasized about but never thought we'd actually do. We tried all week to convince ourselves to take "just one," but encountered psychological and cultural barriers. "There are plenty of homeless dogs back home. Traveling is so stressful. Getting through U.S. Customs will be a nightmare. What if the puppy cries through the entire flight?" And so on.

Susan and her husband Robert came to collect the puppies the Saturday of our departure. We decided it best to leave without them and pressed Susan for assurances that she'd do everything possible to find them homes. It was hard to see three little potcake faces drive away in the back of a truck that morning, but we were satisfied that they were in the best possible hands.

Within weeks, all three pups found new homes thanks to the tireless efforts of Susan Blehr and the network of TCSPCA volunteers. One of the potcakes, the largest of the three, was adopted by a couple from Miami, Florida and flew to her new home in a private plane! Another was adopted by a couple from Calgary in Alberta, Canada. The last one, the littlest potcake, flew home to Madison, Wisconsin via flights to Miami, Orlando and Milwaukee. Volunteers were recruited for each leg of the journey to help the puppy find her way back home into our hearts.

Now the longer journey begins. I wonder what the years with my potcake will bring. I think of the thousands of less fortunate dogs and cats who still struggle to survive on Provo and throughout the Caribbean. I see their suffering when I look into my little dog's eyes and will always think what might have been if it weren't for Susan Blehr and the countless others who devote their lives to protecting the potcakes of this world. God bless them.

Hi, my name is Caicos

It's been a couple of months now and I am finding life in Canada very different than Provo, but very exciting too! I arrived here with my new Mom and Dad to weather I have never seen before! I was in shock. -13C is what my Mommy told me. I saw my first snow and at first I did not like it very much... my toes have never been so cold!!. I have a big sister her name is Ellie. She is my best friend. We spend all our time together playing and sleeping. She is so much fun. I am getting big now. Daddy calls me his little piddle monster? I think it has something to do with me peeing in the house??... I am trying, honest.

I get to go for walks in the park and now that the weather is nicer, I spend my days with my Sister in the yard. I took my first trip a couple of week ago. Mommy and Daddy took Ellie and me to a place call Great Falls, Montana. I had alot of fun. I got to stay in my first hotel!.... Yes! They allow dogs in the rooms!!.

I think about my other sister’s and hope that they are having as much fun as me. I am so grateful to my first mom, Susan for taking care of me and finding me a wonderful family.

I have two cats too!! They are funny. I growl at them and bark but they don't seem to want to play too much.

Woof Caicos


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Walker is now considered one of the most stunning Potcakes in the TCI, but sadly on a avery hot day one July on the Grace Bay Beach, poor Walker could not walk anymore. He had collapsed and was gasping for air as his body succumbed to the final stages of heartworm disease and severe mange. Some caring tourists called the TCSPCA, and a team of volunteers with the help of the tourists placed Walker on a stretcher and raced him to the TCSPCA clinic. His hope of survival was slim, but after professional care from Dr. Rich and the staff at Pampered Paws, Walker made a slw and full recovery. His story has a fairytale ending. He was adoped by a wonderful couple who had recently said goodbye to their older Potcakes and their surviving Potcake was in desperate need of a friend. Walker now enjoys walking along the beach in Long Bay where he is happy, healthy and loved by his owners.

Email us at tcspca@tciway.tc / Call us on 649-941-8846 (office) / 649-231-3052(mobile)

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