You may have heard us mention our Belizean potlicker on occasion. These dogs are so amazing we wanted to dedicate a post in their honour. If you've ever been to Belize or Mexico or any Caribbean island for that matter, you've no doubt encountered one of these furry old souls.
You may be thinking, yes, they're cute but what makes these dogs so special? If you haven't guessed by now, a potlicker or potcake as they're known in some locales are stray island/beach dogs. They drift through life lazing in the sun and begging for scraps from local tourists. Strikes a twinge of jealousy, doesn't it? Don't get too excited, these guys have a rough go trying to survive myriad challenges to their health and survival.
If they don't get sick from tick fever (very common in tropical destinations) or some other nasty communicable canine disease, they often suffer serious injury or even death from fighting with other street dogs over territory and food. We've witnessed this sad occurrence more than once. Your heart just sinks when you hear a voice from the crowd that gathers to try and stop the fight call out, "It's dead." So sad. If that isn't enough, these poor beasts also have to avoid government ordered eradication programs. Yes, that's right, municipalities will order the eradication of stray dogs in these countries by way of strychnine poisoning. The absolute worst, most inhumane way to die. We recently read of a sweep going on in a few small Belizean villages without public notice. They take this sneaky approach to prevent irresponsible pet owners from tying their pets up for the duration of the program only to let them roam loose again after. So very very sad for these animals.
Despite or perhaps because of all the challenges they face, these dogs are typically well balanced, happy and eager to please. Although very gentle, they have an instinctive nature to protect their property and family. The most loyal pet we've ever had. When we returned to Canada in the summer of 2012, our potlicker could not travel with us due to extreme temperatures in cargo so he remained in San Pedro with our nanny and her family for a few months until transport could be arranged. During this time, she reported that he did nothing but mope and look up and down the street for the kids. While he waited, he survived a hurricane AND an eradication. I'm telling you, these dogs do not have it easy. (Thankfully it wasn't until a few years later that he had a relapse of the tick fever which almost killed him as a young puppy.) We couldn't have been more relieved than the moment he was cleared as healthy by Agriculture Canada and released to the arms of his lovesick family. It was a glorious moment when we opened his crate in a cold cargo warehouse at Pearson International Airport and met him with a million hugs. Believe it or not, I'm convinced that potlickers know just how lucky they are and actually behave as though they are grateful. I've seen it. They're truly amazing pets.
How Can I help these guys out?
The best way to help is to adopt your own potlicker! The awesome volunteers at SAGA and most other local shelters across Latin America and the Caribbean are happy to help guide the process. We even had a volunteer fly to the international airport on the mainland with Marcos and get him checked in for his long flight home. Huge shoutout to these guys and all the time they put in to help the animals, volunteers rock!
Obviously not everyone can adopt a pet on a whim and trust us, we don't want you to! Adding a new member to the family is a huge commitment and if you're not sure you're ready for that then please don't make any hasty decisions. It never ends well. What you can do is register to volunteer for any of these shelters. They can always use extra help with managing web pages, social media accounts, paperwork etc. which can all be done remotely. If you plan on taking a trip to any of these areas you should definitely let them know. There's always a need for extra hands to walk, feed and just love on these guys.
If you're not ready to become a pet parent and you don't have any plans to visit the tropics anytime soon, then the best way to help out is by donating. Shelters are almost always run by overworked volunteers who give way too much of themselves because there's always one more dog or kitten that needs help and these folks with giant hearts just can't walk away. Our preferred shelter just because we have a personal connection (they've helped us and our awesome guy so much) is SAGA on Ambergris Caye in Belize. You can check out their good work and donate here: http://sagahumanesociety.org
Thanks from us and our potlicker Marcos!