Monday, February 6, 2012

Island Dogs of Grenada

We’ve seen them at other islands in the Caribbean—the ubiquitous island dogs. They’re as colorful and friendly as the people, living their lives alongside humans but mostly in a world apart. There is a different attitude toward dogs in a world where there is no extra money for dog food or veterinary care--where you might think twice before patting a dog. Life is easy for vegetarians in Grenada. Everywhere we saw chickens, goats, donkeys, even cows, feeding happily on the abundant vegetation. But there’s not a lot of food available for carnivores. Many of the dogs we saw were hungry, but otherwise healthy and sassy. They pranced up the middle of the narrow roads as if they owned them. But a few were clearly starving. Many had mange or infections of some sort. It was very hard to see. I kept telling myself, at least I am not seeing starving people.

There is a veterinary college in the town of St. George's. Ten leashed dogs wearing service dog vests boarded the plane for the island of Grenada with us at Kennedy. They curled politely under the seats with no noise or fuss. One did piddle on the floor in the airport, but a three year old child might have done the same. Many of these dogs had been rescued in Grenada and, now healthy and the proud owners of loving and attentive veterinary students, were returning from their first vacation in the United States.

I’m trying to get in touch with someone at the college to learn what is being done for the dogs. We saw few strays in St. George's. At the Grand Etang Park, a prime tourist attraction, I saw three dogs in crates in the back of a pickup who were being taken from the vicinity. I don’t know what was to be done with them. I felt that the hungry strays were being removed from the eyes of tourists. But in the rural areas, we saw many of them.

I began saving leftovers from our meals for the dogs. It was my little canine UNICEF program. When we spied a hungry dog, Fred would slow the jeep, I’d whistle to get its attention, and toss a tidbit.

We saw this one at Windward on Carriacou when looking at a wooden boat under construction. The rope indicates that he belongs to someone and is valued.

These guys trotting up the hill by the Catholic church in Mayreau seemed to epitomize the independent, cheerful personality of most of the island dogs we met. They accompanied us on our walk over the hill to Salt Whistle Bay. Wish I'd been quicker with the camera to catch this image of self-sufficient comraderie.

This one seemed to be near the close of her days, sleeping on the beach at Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau. Although clearly emaciated, she wasn’t particularly interested in the bread and cheese that I offered her. She did take a small drink from a plastic bag.

This is a very typical island dog look, medium sized, upright ears, short fur, more often than not yellow or light brown. We met him outside a cabin on a hike to the Sulphur Spring near Grenville. I asked the owner his name and was told, “He has no name. I just call him ‘dog.’”

Most of the island dogs were hungry, but otherwise healthy, and quite friendly, though some weren’t. Our newly-met friend, Christina from Germany, was bitten when hiking to a nearby beach. The owner claimed the dog had been vaccinated, but it’s hard to believe that many are. I was a bit anxious snapping this photo as the dog did not seem friendly.

These two fairly healthy characters adorn the steps of a bar outside Grenville.

This is one lucky dog. He is sleek, friendly, wears a collar, and seems to belong to La Sagasse resort. We met him while hiking to a hidden beach described in our guide book. He’d been following a family of British tourists but abandoned them to go back to the secret beach with us. When re returned to La Sagasse, He came along. I think he owns the beach.

This one was a heartbreaker. She was clearly ill and starving. We encountered her while watching some fishermen clean their catch. She seemed invisible to them as she licked the raw guts of the fish from the sand.

If there was one dog that I could have taken home, it would have been this nursing mom. She shyly approached our car at Bathway Beach and wagged her tail when I spoke to her. We had a nice chunk of cheese and some bread to offer. A bigger, male dog, in much better weight, came up and started snatching the bits I tossed to her. I threw small bits to him and then gave her the whole piece of cheese when he was distracted. Can or should her pups live? Should she live? I knew I wasn’t solving anything except a hungry belly for one day.

I’ve started work on a picture book called Island Dog. If I get it published, I intend for it to be on sale at every cruise boat port in the Caribbean. Any proceeds I make will go straight to the dogs—so to speak. Meanwhile, every time I hug my own, well fed, George and Spike, I pretend I am sending a little love to an Island Dog.


  1. Oh how sad....I hugged my Jackie a little tighter and told him how lucky he was! But for a bit, you made their day brighter.

  2. I just found the Grenada SPCA website with information for donating. It looks like they're doing great work,but I'm sure they need all the help they can get. You can donate with a check or money order to GSPCA, P.O. Box 156 St. George's, Grenada, West Indies
    Any of us tourists who have lounged on a Caribbean beach wishing we could help an island dog can actually do so!

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  4. The brown dog with the collar at the La Sagesse Beach does belong to the resort. She's a friendly dog who likes to accompany vacationers on their walks along the beach. She's well cared for but, has gotten quite old. I know her. While it is true there are many dogs in Grenada who are cared for, there are many who are not and we are grateful to the GSPCA for the help they give dogs and cats in trouble that are brought in to them. Many dogs are kept in small home made kennels as "watch dogs" and rarely get to come out. That would be one of them up in the photo with the dog sticking his head out from underneath his kennel. Please do if you are able, to give a little donation to the GSPCA at the address given in the comment above.

  5. We have recently got back from holiday in Grenada and I can honestly say Susan I felt the same way and I could not fully enjoy my holiday watching too many dogs suffer...:( It really got to me by the end of the holiday. However, we met this wonderful stray dog which we called Lilly on the beach where she lived and where our hotel was. She would also come into the hotel yard but people who work at the hotel were not impressed and I saw a cowardly bloke who works in the hotel hit her with a stick in an endeavor to keep her away. That did not quite work because I was feeding her every day and gave her water as she was incredibly underweight. In the end we went to GSPCA and told them we wanted to adopt her and take her with us to the UK and they helped us with all the jabs and micro-chipped her and even helped us find a foster family for her before she is ready to fly out to the UK in September. Lilly is now officially off the beach and in safe hands of a local person who looks after her very well. Like a few people above mentioned GSPCA is doing an amazing jobs for many stray dogs as well as cats in Grenada with no funding from the government apart from donations so if you can donate any little helps. Their gofundme page is:

    and you also follow Lilly's story on Facebook. Her Facebook name is Lilly Grenada Morne Rouge. Many thanks Robert & Marijana Pattinson