AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Sara Maynard and I try to make the lives of animals better.
I never liked the term “animal activist.”
I’m the first Trinidadian in our family. My dad was from England and my mum grew up in India. My parents met in England. My dad came out here to open the Government Printery years and years and years ago. He loved Trinidad and decided to stay.
I have a daughter, Shivani, and my husband Douglas Agostini has a son, Jude, and a daughter, Jodi. We always say we have three children. I’m 54 and Jude is going to be 50 soon. There’s a 23-year gap between Douglas and me. But sometimes I feel I’m the adult. Men take
a lot longer to age. He’s literally the kindest person I’ve ever met. I’m very lucky. From the minute we met, he became my daughter’s father.
I was born in the west, so I guess I’m from there. I lived in Trinidad until I was six and then from six to 16 I lived in England. My parents separated and my mum moved to England. I came back to Trinidad to work with my dad, who was then part of a printing company, CPPP Ltd.
My dad said I had two choices of career: I could do printing or I could do printing. I told him I would do printing.
I know Trinis say I’m a white girl, but I’ve never ever considered myself white. I’m Anglo-Indian. And that’s how I’ve always seen myself. I’ve always felt I’m a Trinidadian whose parents are mixed, Anglo and Indian.
Going to England wasn’t good. I never felt it was my home. Where I lived was quite a conservative area and I got called “Paki” and the usual (racist slurs). But it would be unfair to say it was a terrible place. It wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad. When I came back to Trinidad at 16, I never left again.
I am healthy to a certain extent. But I can go off the deep end. Douglas always says he doesn’t know how I haven’t exploded.
I’m fat because I eat a lot, not because of any metabolism issue! I don’t make excuses. I’m a big woman who should probably eat a lot better, but that’s life. I do like a lot of unhealthy things.
My dad liked to party. I could leave him on the dance floor.
I’m not a great morning person. I’m more of a three-o’clock-in-the-morning person.
I wasn’t raised in a faith. My dad was an atheist. My mum became Born Again, but that fizzled out. I believe there’s a higher power, but it’s not what we think it is. I didn’t grow up in a religious background, so I don’t have huge issues. If you want to follow a faith, follow it. If you derive strength from faith, that’s a good thing. Just don’t shove your beliefs down my throat and we’re fine.
I’m a very unhealthy person. I love potato crisps. I love tea. I love probably everything that’s terrible for you. But I don’t like chocolate and ice cream, which is weird.
I always loved animals. I never got to have one growing up in England, which was hard for me. When I came to Trinidad for holidays, my dad always had two or three dogs he’d adopted from the TTSPCA.
I used to work in Fernandes Compound and I’d do that Lady Young Road trip every day. And there would always be an animal dumped at the side of the road. A box of kittens or something.
I would get to the factory and tell Dad I had to turn around and go to the vet clinic ’cause I found this dog. It got so bad, he built me a kennel at the factory and told me, “Put them in there. You can take them to the vet on your lunch hour!”
I have seven dogs, one foster puppy and a blind cat. Jane came in as Plain Jane at TTSPCA. I’ve got Ivan the Terrible, he’s short and very aggressive but we love him. Lucy the puppy drinks liquid food. Scotty I adopted from TSPCA. I found Sebastian in Scotia Bank car park. Jenny turned up on the street outside my house, so she’s Jenny from the Block. Lottie looks like a womble. The cat Jan is a little strange.
I was invited by the council of the TT Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to come on board. And then in 2019, myself, Sita, Susan Shim, Susan Morgan, we became the new council of TTSPCA, just before covid. That’s when you want to start: no stress at all! We took over, had the covid battle. It’s been a difficult few years.
We have been struggling to keep TTSPCA afloat. It has shown us how generous Trinidadians are. Without help from the public, there is no way TTSPCA could be open now. They just came out to adopt, to volunteer, to donate. Incredible donations! We are open because of their donations, because we don’t get government help. Now and again, we receive sums of money to do infrastructural work, but we really run TTSPCA on donations and very, very small charges.
In working towards animal welfare, I think it is our duty to end suffering. If that means euthanasia, so be it. The worst thing for anything is suffering. Why should you have suffering when there’s an easier alternative for people and for animals?
It is simply not the case that “animal people” care only for animals. During covid, we were providing food for pets owned by people who were out of work due to layoffs. Their food cupboards were empty. We started putting together food hampers, baby items, clothing. One lady called the shelter thinking it was for homeless people. She was sleeping in her car. We rallied and paid her rent for six months to get her back on her feet.
The best thing about working for animal welfare is seeing them leave a shelter or a foster or clinic and go to a loving home. Seeing an animal transformed from maybe skeletal with no hair, shy, to this bouncy, healthy, happy cat or dog! And going somewhere you know they’re going to be looked after! That’s what we’re in it for.
The worst thing about working for animal welfare is cruelty. And feeling you are unable to change the situation for an animal, given your limited resources and the limited powers of enforcement.
A big fancy house is not necessarily the best home for an animal. Look for a caring individual who may not be able to afford chow but they’ll make up a rice cook every evening and they’ll love that animal. As compared to keeping it in a fancy kennel in a yard with big walls by itself. The first animal will be a companion. The second one will just be a yard dog. I don’t look at the house. I look at the individual.
A Trini is a warm, fun-loving person, generous of spirit. And always willing to share whatever little they have. A Trini is a welcoming individual.
To me, Trinidad and Tobago means a sense of purpose. It’s given me a sense of belonging and purpose. I could do welfare work in any country, but doing it here, with little to no resources and dealing with our daily struggles, I think I make a bigger difference to animals here than I would anywhere else.
Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com