I am frequently asked, by folk from the UK and here in Barbados, as to the well-being of my dog.
I write this post with a heavy heart, because I do not know where she is and this is a fact that breaks my heart. If you don’t yet know who my dog is, this is her story.
It was a stormy afternoon on Tuesday 15th October, and freak storms had been battering the island for a few days. From the safe confines of my homemade office I watched as the storm relocated the garden furniture into the pool whilst I, appearing calm and collected from behind my laptop, feverishly googled a list of local hurricane shelters.
Hurricane shelters are split into two categories: those for category one hurricanes and those for category two. Concise labeling, that’s as maybe, but with no information as to what the categories mean in terms of the chances of survival. If we are all most likely going to die, maybe I’ll just camp out here and save my bus fare. At least my untimely demise will come in under budget.
The pictures that accompanied the list of hurricane shelters at the very least helped pad out the website (works for my blog!) but ultimately they were of little use. One picture was a fairly generic beach picture. In another, a man walked next to a car through a flood. One had a chap hanging off a boat (call me a cautious kitty but I am pretty sure that in times of flooding staying on the boat is your best bet) and the last picture I am pretty convinced was somewhere in India. Undeterred and potentially in need of a port in a storm, I closed in on Roland Edwards Primary school, based in St.Peter. I chose it as it accommodated the least number of persons (just 35), and let’s face it, the papers are going to go to the big shelters to report from and I don’t want the last photographic evidence of my existence to be one of my skirt wrapped around my face, wailing like a banshee and listing my regrets.
My immersion in finding a hurricane shelter was only broken when I heard Dan yell out to me, ‘Hey there’s a dog running around outside our house’. I lifted my head. Someone telling me a dog is loose is the equivalent of telling a five year old it’s Christmas. Because a lost dog is going to need a home!
I ran outside, my hands crammed with biscuits: fortunately for me, the one thing you can’t teach a dog is never to take sweets from strangers. At first, confused and frightened by the storm, she would only approach me briefly then run away, but within half an hour or so of waiting in the pouring rain, the biscuits now just a gelatinous paste in my hands, she finally came over and settled down next to me.
Pupstar, named so because she was only just shy of her puppy years and already a star, looked to be a Doberman Ridgeback cross and a sizeable beast to boot. Her coat was a bright chestnut and four huge large paws were awaiting her body to grow into them. She had beautiful brown eyes, filled with only kindness and hope and quite possibly the most beautiful dog I have ever seen.
Our landlady (Joan), an avid animal lover, immediately fell in love with her and whilst we all loudly protested to passers by that she wasn’t our dog, our silent glances to each other suggested we felt otherwise. We lived everyday like it would be our last with Pupstar, never knowing when she might be claimed and we were never to know how short lived it would be.
Pupstar soon became part of our family. Joan would cook her fresh chicken every day and we would feed her on home cooked treats in the evening. In the end I swapped out my wine for a week to buy her a huge bag of dry dog food and tins of Pedigree Chum. Anyone who knows me will now realise just how much I loved this dog. Never before have I been so proud of a purchase. Never before have I given up wine.
We made a leash for her out of old rope, allowing us to walk her (albeit reluctantly) around the neighbourhood to see if anyone asked as to why we were walking their dog. But no one did. As we walked, people complimented her and congratulated us on such a handsome dog, and as I nodded in agreement, I realised that I too now believed her to be our dog.
My fondest memory has to be when I arrived back at the house one day to hear Joan talking to someone in the garden. Not one to miss out on getting to know new faces I pressed my nose up to the fence, only to see Joan cutting down bananas with Pupstar. They didn’t hear me come in and watching her walk around so devotedly with Joan, was the most heartwarming sight. The dog that definitely wasn’t ours, was now definitely ours.
Pupstar had now two homes; Joan’s friend Maureen (who lives across the road) during the day whilst we were out, and ours in the evening. So much now a part of the family, Pupstar began to follow us everywhere. Trips to the beach had to be executed with military precision to avoid her following us onto the main roads and involved much hiding in the long grass until she gave up looking. However, you soon learn that hiding 3 yards in a bush from something whose sense of smell could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, is fairly pointless and mostly we had to resort to driving the 300 yards to the beach. One morning, as Joan left in her car for work, I could hear a yelling from outside, ‘No! Go home!’ I looked out the window to see Joan frantically driving round the block with Pupstar chasing after her. All that was missing was the Benny Hill music. It took 3 round trips to lose her…She was fast and relentless.
The days passed by and Pupstar was now the star in our newly formed Barbadian family, even sleeping in Joan’s house at night. Barbados was, however, less settled than us, and three weeks later the storms came back for more.
On the last night of the storms, Joan remembers Pupstar, although panicked, pining to go out. So around midnight, she took her downstairs to go let her outside. Pupstar was never to return.
It is now 2 weeks on since we last saw her. We have driven round looking for her, spent many a day and night calling for her, only to be met with silence. She came in with the storms and left with them.
The house is a quieter place and a significant part of our lives is missing. In the kitchen, a half eaten bag of food lies in the corner, a symbol of hope that she may one day return.
From up on the hill behind the house, we sometimes hear a lone dog barking, but there has been no sighting of her to this day.
Pupstar brought us together as a family, and made us realise what was important. She is a huge part of our journey here and wherever our little ghost dog is now, we will never forget her.