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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.