Many of the pothounds, and some cats, that have been rescued in Tobago through my NGO, Venus Doggess Of Love, currently live abroad.
Foreigners fell in love with them, adopted and had them flown home, mainly to the US, UK, Europe. These animals live wonderful lives as beloved companions and treasured family members. Many go to "puppy school"; some accompany their owners to work, as the presence of animals is recognised as being therapeutic and beneficial in many offices.
These "Tobago rescues gone foreign" win hearts wherever they go, with some going on to do amazing things like win awards in agility competitions, entertain and educate children in schools and provide companionship for elderly people confined to homes.
Heike Heil, a German who visits Tobago frequently, takes her adopted Tobago rainforest rescue to work at Casa Serena, the geriatric home she owns and operates near Frankfurt. There, Ginger is the most popular staff member.
“Seniors are excited to see Ginger,” Heike says. “They become active around her, motivated to run and go for walks. Alzheimers patients become alert. Ginger brings back memories of childhood, when these seniors had dogs as beloved pets.”
Years ago, when Heike was on a Tobago rainforest tour, an injured, skeletal dog limped up to her. Sadly, many local dogs are dumped in the rainforest by owners who do not want them. This is increasingly so in these "covid times."
Generally skeletal, mangy and/or injured, they wander like ghosts or languish at the roadside, hoping to be fed or, at best, rescued by a passing animal lover. However, to many in the local landscape, they remain invisible or a "blemish" on the marketing image of this "clean, green and serene island paradise."
Saddened by the dog’s state, Heike took her for veterinary treatment. The rest is history. Today Ginger enjoys her role as a companion pet for seniors in Germany.
“They love to give her treats, sleep next to her and touch her,” Heike says. “She is loved.”
Earlier this year, Shannon O’Connell, facility manager at a pet care centre (the Good Dog Spot) in Massachusetts, contacted me via Facebook, eager to adopt a Tobago pup.
She had come to know several of Venus Doggess Of Love’s rescues that had been adopted by coworkers and friends of hers in the Massachusetts dog community. To date over 15 of these beloved Tobago rescues now live and thrive in the New England region.
The phenomenon of someone from abroad reaching out to adopt a "Tobago pup" may seem bizarre to some reading this.
“But they ent have dogs to adopt in they own country?” some may query, not comprehending that feelings of love and compassion are not limited by species or geography.
On October 14, Tanzie, one of a litter of Tobago pups a friend and I had rescued this year, was flown to the US from Trinidad via CAL cargo, to meet her new human, Shannon. It is a match made in heaven.
I asked Shannon what made her want a Tobago pup. Her answer is based on the background she has in dog training and also on what she knows through the Tobago dogs she has met:
“I chose to welcome a Tobago dog into my family because they are loyal, adaptable and highly trainable. They desire nothing more in life than to protect and please their human. They are as smart as a whip and will do anything for you if they know it will make you happy. They excel at any job you want them to perform no matter how big it may be or what obstacles they face, and they learn the job after only being shown once. They are quick to adapt to, and thrive in, any environment or social situation. They’ re willing to be anything and do anything for you if you just give them a chance.
"What more could anyone want in a life companion?”
I look forward to the day, if it ever arrives, when instead of being too often scorned, dumped, neglected, chopped or poisoned, Tobago’s common "street dogs" will be widely recognised, honoured and treated as the national treasures that they are. It is my prayer that the potential of these dogs to be loving family members and therapeutic companions is recognised and developed.
Every human in our society can benefit from the deep healing that animals so naturally provide.