Potcake rescues dogs on
the Turks and Caicos Islands
Dedicated volunteers arrange international adoptions for island stray dogs
By Michael Walsh
Whoever declares that love at first sight doesn’t exist has never witnessed the purity of a puppy or looked deep into a puppy’s eyes. If they did, their lives would change considerably.
Elizabeth Parker, Paw Prints in the Sand
I have always been a huge proponent of using shelters to find “forever homes” when deciding to make a puppy part of one’s family.
Did you know that puppies are available for adoption from the Turks and Caicos Islands? They are called “potcakes” – a local term derived from food left over at the bottom of a cooking pot that is shaped into patties and fed to island pets.
At this point, you might be wondering where the Turks and Caicos Islands are located. They comprise an archipelago of 40 islands and cays in the Bahama island chain north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the largest of which is Providenciales.
Within this tropical paradise that comprises aquamarine waters in turquoise shades so vivid that it takes one’s breath away another story emerges: the island’s stray dog population.
For the past 17 years a group of dedicated volunteers, under the direction of Jane Parker-Rauw, manage Potcake Place, a facility that fosters and relocates potcake puppies from the island to the mainland (mainly the US and Canada).
The existence of Potcake Place begs the question: how large is the stray dog population on the island? Recent estimates put the number of strays at 5,000 – that’s within a 37 square mile island. To put things in perspective, 100 male and 100 female dogs can produce up to 1,000 puppies per year. Government action has included trapping (and euthanizing) stray dogs in “problem areas”.
Fortunately, Jane Parker-Rauw become cognizant of this problem and decided to become part of the solution. As such, Potcake Place was founded and still, to this day, receives and relocates puppies.
Staffed entirely by volunteers and funded donations, Potcake Place offers a second chance to puppies that would otherwise live out their lives scrounging for food and living in the island’s dense underbrush.
On a steamy hot August afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet Lynn Robinson at their facility located in a busy shopping area. Opening the front door, one is greeted with eager yelps of puppies amongst the throng of visitors that could not resist coming inside to share the dynamics of happy puppies playing in their air-conditioned environment. Most visitors are “just looking”; however, some are intent on going home with a potcake.
Those visitors “in the know” are aware that the puppies can be “borrowed” for a few hours during the day. Interacting with people and being exposed to different environments is an important part of their socialization process. Visitors are given a shoulder bag and a puppy and allowed to spend time on the beach, or simply taken for a car ride to another residence. As one who has done this, several times, I can attest it’s a rewarding experience for both the puppy and the volunteer walker.
Adoption involves a rigorous screening process to, in part, identify those adopting solely on impulse. “We tend to dissuade people from adopting”, Lynn stated. She added, “We make no guarantees about health or behavioural issues that might occur in the future”.
‘We couldn’t do this without our dedicated group of volunteers. Some live on island, others are visitors donating their time. Collectively, they all share one thing: a passion for making the world a better place, one potcake at a time.’
Nevertheless, Potcake Place finds forever homes, off island, to approximately 500 puppies per year. The adoption process involves a discussion with the prospective owners, a telephone call to their veterinarian and a bit of research (using Google Maps) to verify the puppy’s new environment.
Following approval, there are two methods of shipping the puppies. The first option involves the new owner using a cabin airline bag and paying the additional fee of carrying it onboard the aircraft. The second option uses volunteer couriers – visitors returning to the mainland. These volunteers are met by the new owners at their arrival airport.
Fortunately, the island is rabies-free, minimizing the requirements for the puppies to enter the US. Canada; however, still requires a valid proof of rabies vaccination.
“We couldn’t do this without our dedicated group of volunteers”, Lynn added. “Some live on the island, others are visitors donating their time. Collectively, they all share one thing: a passion for making the world a better place, one potcake at a time.”
I would like to thank Lynn Robinson for taking the time, during her busy day, to assist in discussing this article.
Images: Michael Walsh
Read also: other articles by Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh is a long-time Westmount resident. He enjoys walking with the family’s Saint Bernard while photographing the beauty and hidden history of Westmount through his blog at Westmount Overlooked.