Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

February, 2015:

Evolution

When Michael and I first moved to Anguilla there were certain things that dominated the landscape here. I mean besides the beaches. Thirty-three beaches is a lot of beaches, sure; but there’s a lot more land to Anguilla than just the coast. So driving from beach to beach still means traveling over long stretches of bumpy, meandering, inland roads. Back in the day, you would find lots and lots of broken down, rusting cars, lots and lots of sheep and goats, and lots and lots of dogs. Nowadays, there are less abandoned cars and less sheep and goats, but there are still a lot of dogs. Historically, visitors and newcomers looked past the cars and were notoriously enamored of the sheep and goats; but it’s the dogs that have always tugged at people’s heartstrings.

There is no doubt that a dog’s life on this island hasn’t always been the best. Nutrition and medical care were not optimal. Diseases like tick fever and heartworm were/are common. And the life expectancy of an island dog without preventive medicine and treatment was relatively short. Dogs were used to guard property and were often chained to trees to serve that purpose. A lot of Anguillians are afraid of dogs and probably with good reason. Anguillian dogs weren’t particularly happy. Or at least they never looked happy.

In fact, you’ve probably heard the adjective “hangdog”. Google defines it as having a dejected or guilty appearance; shamefaced. That’s exactly how dogs in Anguilla used to look: tails and ears and head and well just about everything just hanging down. We rarely saw a dog trotting down the street with its ears erect and tail wagging looking for fun. But I’m happy to report that this has changed. Nowadays dogs do look much happier and healthier on this island.

They look different physically, too. Back in the day everyone talked about Anguillian Long Dogs – as if that was a breed much like the ever-popular Coconut Retriever, a cutesy description of just about any dog born in the Caribbean. Long Dogs in the U.S. are actually mixed breed dogs of the Greyhound/Saluki variety – meaning they have really, really long legs. This makes Anguillian Long Dogs ironic since they are long in body but particularly short on legs – the joke always being that the Queen of England must have visited once and her beloved Corgis must have sown their royal seed on the island thus giving birth (excuse the pun) to the local breed.

It occurred to me the other day, however, that you hardly ever see Long Dogs anymore. Still plenty of dogs but bigger dogs, shaggy dogs, different dogs entirely. So I set out to find one. They are apparently as elusive as the night crane. I finally encountered one, but he was a skittish chap darting into the bush whenever I approached so it was like trying to capture an image of Big Foot. Hence this grainy, out of focus photo but you can see that his forward-facing friend it a smidge taller than he is.

elusive long dog

Sadly I never saw him or any other long dogs again in my search and had just about given up hope when I received a call from a new client to vaccinate her young dog. Imagine my delight when little “Marley” turned out NOT to be the expected yellow Labrador but rather a real, live, bonafide, Anguillian Long Dog. Yes, they still exist! AND THAT, my friends, is not a hangdog expression!! That is a very, happy, little puppy. Bless his little wee heart.

Marley the Long Dog

FOOTNOTE: As an aside, my wordpress dashboard pointed out to me that this is my 101st blog post. I’m thinking someone should have baked me a cake after that last one. 🙁

Whales!!!

The best laid plans, seriously.

Michael left today for a two week lecturing circuit. I got some minor chores out of the way and had just settled down to do some writing: for this blog in fact and a couple of other articles. Rather than setting up at my desk with a view of the hibiscus plant and the hummingbird feeder, I elected to sit in the living room facing the Caribbean Sea. We’re just coming into whale season, after all. So you just never know.  In fact, I had just mentioned to Michael that I wanted to remember to bake some breakfast treats (muffins, coffee cake, that sort of thing) to freeze just in case our friends to the east happen to call us out at 6A for another spotting this year. I don’t want anyone having to leave their post in search of croissants lest they miss any major whale antics. (see Thar she blows! http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=562 for that story.)

Anyway, Michael called from the airport in St. Maarten just to say goodbye. So I wasn’t staring at my computer screen. I was actually looking at the sea talking to him and said, “Crap, I think that’s a whale. Gotta go. I’ll call you back.” (I might have said, “I love you, bye” but I can’t say for sure.)

But I was right. There was a whale. Pretty far off towards St. Martin, but that’s still less than 5 miles maximum distance. So I got the binoculars and settled in to watch. A splash. A roll. not much. And then he breeched at least 28 times (once I started counting). I did call Michael back. And emailed frequently because it was by far the best whale sighting I have had here in Anguilla. Tail slapping galore. Breeching. Spouting. I kept thinking there had to be more than one whale out there, but I could never definitively confirm that. Never saw a tail here and a spout too far away to be attached to the tail. Never saw double of anything.

With one camera at the shop and one with a dead battery, I tried to take pictures with my phone; but that was not really working. So mostly I just watched. For 45 minutes based on the time stamps on my emails. Heck, even the osprey made an appearance flying directly through my line of binocular sight as if to say, “Hey, I’m here, too. What about me?”

Eventually, a couple of power boats must have gotten the word that there was a whale out there because they both showed up in the area. Miraculously, the whale disappeared. Pretty sly for a creature without natural predators. So I figured he’d taken a nice deep breath and was long gone. After a while the boats gave up and left. And I packed up to move back inside to get back to work.  But I took one last look over my shoulder. That’s when I realized that the whale was not, in fact, small just because it was 4 miles away, it was small because it was a baby. That became rather obvious when it’s mother shot out of the water! She was enormous! And beautiful! And far more acrobatic than her little student! She came almost completely out of the water when she breeched. She spun around in the air. She displaced mountains of water.

It was awesome and awe-inspiring….Just the two of them side by side practicing breeches and tail slaps and fluke presentations. I sure hope this was just a taste of what will turn out to be a stellar whale watching season because there are certainly worse reasons to throw your to do list right out the window!