We’re on vacation in Turks and Caicos, a series of islands in the Caribbean. I’m lounging at the beach house, reading a book in the hot, delicious sun, when my daughter comes sprinting up the sand.
“Come quick!” she screams.
Her mother is nowhere in sight. The two of them had left just 10 minutes earlier on a hike, and now here’s my 6-year-old, alone, panicked, out of breath, her eyes as big as plates.
“Is mom ok?” I ask, alert and nervous suddenly. My heart begins to throb.
“Just hurry!” Emmeline shouts, beckoning me to follow.
A million things skitter around my brain, bouncing from neuron to neuron: My wife is hurt, she needs help, somebody has died. Jesus, has my wife died? I’ve never been so scared. My daughter is no help. She’s out of breath and panicked. I follow her immediately.
We race along the sand, find the hiking path and there’s my wife, just around a corner, kneeling besides a cardboard box. Her face is a mask of anguish.
She shakes her head. I approach slowly, peering into the box.
Inside are 13 of the cutest dogs I have ever seen.
“Some of them were in the box and some of them were just a few feet from it,” my wife says, “We tried to round them all up, but one got away.”
Someone must have dropped them off just minutes before my wife and daughter found them — mutts abandoned on a beach path in a cardboard box, left to bake in the sun.
It just so happens that the day before, while out running errands and messing around the island, my wife had discovered a shelter for these dogs of the islands. Called Potcakes because locals used to feed them the caked remains of the baking pots, the dogs have developed over generations into their own breed of wild canines. Someone’s domesticated Potcake must have had this litter and then the cruel people dropped them on the beach after being weened. They were lucky. According to the shelter, some dogs are tied up in plastic bags and thrown from cars. Who would do this? We had no answers. Our hearts broke for this wild bunch of flea- and-tick-pocked dogs.
“Can we keep one?” Emme asked.
We weren’t planning on a dog. Not soon anyway. Dana and Emme wanted one, but I was hesitant, as I didn’t want to deal with the equivalent of a newborn. Not now, I kept saying. Not now.
On the way to the shelter, this box of puppies on my lap, I knew we would bring one home. It would be impossible not to. We could not deny them a second chance at life.
The shelter is called Potcake Place. It is a miracle of an institution run by a devoted woman and the staff of a local veterinary office. They provide medical care for any dogs brought in and then foster them out to locals until a permanent home can be found for the dogs.
One of those homes is now ours.
Zorro arrived last night after a vacationing family agreed to courier him, along with a littermate, to Denver. Our friends went to meet them and bring them both home — one for us, and one for them.
Thanks to the amazing foster family on the island, Zorro is pretty much potty trained and has even learned a few tricks — how to sit, for instance, and how to shake hands (sort of). At about 10 weeks or so, we’re chalking this up as a win.
While waiting for Zorro to arrive these past few weeks, we’ve been doing a ton of reading about raising puppies and watching a million YouTube videos to get the timing of training just right. We think we have everything we need, and Zorro is quickly finding his way into our family.
Three of his littermates have died since the day we found the box. The others, like Zorro, are making their ways to new families. We’re excited to have a new member of the family and feel happy and proud to have helped save so many animals. Zorro has been given a second chance, it seems like, and we don’t want to mess him up.
Your must-have tips for bringing home a new canine member of the family are much appreciated! I’ll provide updates every now and then to let you know how he’s doing. Until then, thanks for any advice!
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!