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May 22, 2013

Dogs and Cats of Jamaica

Mrs. Big Nate and I just recently returned from our vacation in Jamaica. It was our second time there and as before we had a lovely time and enjoyed the people and culture.

We always take excursions off the hotel property in order to experience some the “real world” and get a taste of what life is actually like for Jamaica’s people. Along with that we also get to see what life is like for the country’s dogs and cats.

In addition to Jamaica, our Caribbean travels have taken us to Mexico and the Dominican Republic. In all three countries, with the limited exposure we have had outside the walls of our secure resort, it appeared most dogs and cats are left to their own devices for survival.

The dogs especially always look the same. Dirty, skinny and sad. They’re all about the same medium size, mutt mix. They all seemed to walk around very slowly, their heads hung low with a rather sad look about them.

 In Mexico there were lots of them, we saw the mongrels roaming about pretty much wherever we went. In the Dominican there were not as many and we were glad to see vet clinics here and there in the populated areas. And in Jamaica it appeared as if most of the dogs we saw were owned by someone. They were always in a yard or driveway. But it didn't matter which country we were in, they all looked the same.

We talked to one of our Jamaican guides and asked him about how they felt about dogs in his country. He said most people in the rural areas or smaller towns had a dog as they were considered good for protection of their property but they were rarely allowed indoors and were never thought of as members of the family. He said his dog didn't even really have a name but he made sure he “threw out feed” for the dog when he thought of it. I wanted to ask more questions but refrained as I’m sure I wouldn't have liked the answers. I wanted to ask how he acquired his dog. Did he take him to the vet? Did he get him neutered? But for these folks, I’m sure they have little money to spend on such things.

When we visited Negril, we came across a street mongrel whose back leg was broken and hanging uselessly and he hobbled around on his three remaining good legs. One of his front legs had a large, open sore on it as well adding to his misfortune. A fellow tourist fed him some potato chips which didn't seem to be to his liking so I had to assume that he wasn't starving. Still it was a sad scene and many of the Canadian, American and European tourists felt bad at seeing this dog in such a poor condition.

We came across a few cats too but only on the resort itself. One night we saw a mother cat with her two kittens wandering around the outdoor entertainment area. They were skittish and ran off when anyone tried to approach them. Another night we came across two more cats and they actually allowed us to pet them. One day on the beach Mrs. Nate must have spent 30 minutes straight petting a skinny, black cat that came to sit in the shade with us. We had nothing to offer these cats for food but again they did not seem to be completely starving.

We always feel bad for all these animals living the way they do and wished we had the resources to help out the ones that we cross paths with. I get the feeling that most of these animals aren't abused in any way, they’re just simply left to survive on their own. Right here in Calgary, I’m sure there are many, many dogs that suffer even worse fates being owned by cruel, abhorrent people. Dogs kept outside all day no matter the weather, neglected and separated from their “families”.  At least in Jamaica, the dogs are free to roam about as they please, aren't kept in filthy dog runs and never have to suffer extreme cold temperatures. At least this is what I tell myself while visiting these countries.

I can’t help but think of all the domestic animals around the world that are doing the best they can with the hand they have been dealt in this life. There are so many and it’s an overwhelming thought.