"What's a potcake?" I've been asked many times since adopting Boca (okay, foster failing). According to Wikipedia:
The potcake dog is a mixed-breed dog type from the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas. Its name comes from the congealed rice and pea mixture that local residents traditionally fed dogs. Although appearance varies, potcake dogs generally have smooth coats, cocked ears, and long faces.According to me, a potcake is a sweet, loyal and gentle companion that is eternally grateful for being rescued from starvation, disease and danger on the streets, and welcomed into a home. Boca's temperament is wonderfully mellow and affectionate, and according to most of the people that I've connected with on a Facebook group I founded, Potcake Passion, this is not unusual. Potcakes are reportedly easy to get along with, sociable and happy. This article from Victoria Stilwell's blog explains how village dogs in Central America can set an example for the modern domesticated dog, and I think there is definitely something to it.
Some people criticize the importation of dogs from other countries into the U.S., and ask why we aren't rescuing local dogs instead. For me, compassion has no geography. The rescue group that sponsored Boca's trip to Colorado is the same group I adopted Ruby from. Colorado Animal Welfare League runs a mobile spay-neuter operation that travels to rural areas of the state as well as bringing in dogs in need from other states and The Bahamas. They work directly with The Humane Society of Grand Bahamas, where Boca lived for about a year after being a stray in Freeport. Below is my interview with shelter director, Tip Burrows:
|On a recent visit to Colorado, reconnecting with former shelter dog Polly|
(photo credit Tip Burrows)
How did you first get involved in animal rescue in The Bahamas?
By rescuing my first potcake as a tiny bush puppy in 1993! I started volunteering on a regular basis in 1999 with the HSGB which led to a full time job in 2003.
Can you describe the particular plight of the potcakes in The Bahamas?
Potcakes are still viewed as nuisances and pests by too many Bahamians. While education initiatives are under way, and slowly beginning to have an impact, there is still a high level of neglect and disdain for potcakes.
Why is it important for the dogs to be transported off of the islands for adoption?
There are not enough suitable homes for potcakes on most Bahamian islands. Suitable being a secure fenced yard and shade and shelter in the yard and a minimum of care and attention. HSGB's local adoption rate is between 7 and 10% of our annual intake of over 1400 dogs and puppies.
What do you remember about Boca's (aka Lydia's) rescue and her time at HSGB?
Boca was seemingly living on the streets and had been brought to our attention by a concerned resident as she was very skinny. We were able to catch her and quickly realized she had recently had puppies. We searched and searched for her babies and finally Boca herself led us to them. She had found an extremely secure place for them in a wooded area, in a hollowed out indentation beneath a tree where she could get to them but the pups couldn't get out.
Boca was a most attentive mama dog and was also very accepting of us handling her and her puppies. She obviously had been someone's pet at one time. Sadly, her six puppies did not survive despite Boca's and our best efforts. Boca was an easy dog to keep - she got along well with all other dogs and was very friendly to staff and visitors.
How does the recent regulation of international importation of dogs affect potcake rescue and adoption?
It will make it much harder in that we will now be required to obtain import permits which could take several weeks, and the vaccination requirements are much more rigorous including vaccinating for some things we never see such as corona virus and leptospirosis. It also will mean we cannot send litters of puppies to rescue until they are six months old. It will be a real hardship to keep puppies that long (space and fund-wise), not to mention that fewer rescues will take older puppies. Private adoptions will be exempt, but our Operation Puppylift wherein we send sometimes dozens of dogs and puppies to various rescues, will be greatly affected, as it will be much harder and more costly and complicated to comply with these regulations.
What can one person do to help the potcakes?
Adopt. Foster. Donate. Volunteer. Share stories and pleas on social media. There are so many ways even one person can make a tangible difference!
I will close with this video portraying one of the HSGB's large "puppylift" operations getting potcakes off of the island to rescues and adoptive homes in the States. Having picked Boca up from the airport this May and been kept in the loop about all of the stages of her journey, I know what a well-coordinated labor of love this is, and I thank Tip from HSGB and Lisa from CAWL for bringing her into my life. I will never forget Boca's scared little shape huddled in her airline crate, and the immediate trust she put in me. I don't pretend there were not countless dogs right here in my backyard that needed homes, but Boca needed us, and we needed her.
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