Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

Back to the Beginning – Whaddyadoallday? the Book

Yesterday, April 18th, was the 15th anniversary of the day we arrived in Anguilla to live permanently. We landed at the dock with three cats, carry-on bags and four checked bags weighing 70lbs a piece. (Do you remember when you could check that much? It pissed me off at first when the airlines limited me to 50lbs instead, but my aging muscles now thank the airlines for saving me from my own folly.) Everything else we owned was in a 40ft container enroute somewhere across America.

Amazing how times flies. It has been an interesting journey to be sure. Over the years I made attempts at writing the story in book form. Even submitted it to agents once but without success. It has been written and rewritten a billion times. Somehow ‘posting’ a book is so much scarier than posting a blog. Yesterday,  though, I finally pulled the trigger. Whaddyadoallday? Top Ten Questions People Ask When You Live on a Desert Island is now available as a kindle ebook on Amazon.



Of Goats and Men

So far our small, house call, veterinary practice here on the island has been only a bit different than we envisioned. We thought we would be busy doing primarily routine wellness exams, etc. In reality, however, we have been involved in a disproportionate number of complicated medical cases: unusual cancers, involved metabolic diseases, and major surgeries (performed in the local clinic or across the channel in St. Martin). It is all more of a logistical challenge given the limitations of our mobile, business model. But it is still the standard companion animal medicine we are familiar with so we’ve successfully worked things out on a case by case basis. The other night, though, the call came in that really tested our limits.

At 7PM the phone rang. It was hard for me to understand the caller, but it became apparent that he was calling because he had a goat that was having trouble delivering her kid. He tried to contact other people before us (I have no idea whom), and someone ( I have NO IDEA who) had suggested he contact Pelican Mobile PetCare. I tried to explain to him that I was a city vet. I have exactly ZERO experience with barnyard animals. So he put a woman on the phone to implore me to at least come to see if there was something I could do to help the poor animal. How do you say no to that?

Michael wasn’t home, but I managed to reach him and told him where to meet me by the side of the road….literally by the side of the road. After traipsing through the bush in the dark using my cell phone as a flashlight, we were led to the poor, pathetic, bleating, distressed goat. It turns out she had quite possibly been in labor for nearly 24 hours with the front feet of the kid visible since early that morning. After that many hours, that baby was not coming out in the normal and natural fashion in spite of our noble attempts to the contrary. The kid was likely already dead. (I could feel his teeth and he wasn’t trying to bite me.) And the mother would die too without intervention. She needed a caesarian section, but we are not equipped for that level of surgery. I have instruments and suture materials, but what I have is only really suitable for lacerations, biopsies, small lump removals, that sort of thing. Not sterile, major, abdominal surgery. We tried to explain this to the owner. Who would normally do this for him? Who would have done it two years ago when we were not available? It seemed that nobody else could help.

That’s how we found ourselves doing a goat c-section on a small table on the guy’s back porch under flashlights. We could have given a lecture on how NOT to do things. Local anesthetic only. Intestines spread out on disposable medical pads. Neighbors coming to watch and trying to video tape something that we most certainly did not want documented for posterity sake. It was a circus. When Michael finally pulled out the baby it sounded like a wine cork popping, but damn if he wasn’t still alive. And huge. The minute he was delivered it was impossible to imagine how he could have possibly ever been inside his mother in the first place. But that was only half of the process. We needed to get finished and close up. Unfortunately, the sutures we had were the equivalent of using 4-pound test fishing line to catch a marlin. We could only hope for the best. We rinsed everything with sterile fluids and bathed it all with intravenous antibiotics and put it all back into place. At one point, the mother became weak and barely responsive, so I instructed someone to mix some sugar and water and pour it into her mouth to treat likely hypoglycemia. Damn if she didn’t come around, too.

We tried to impress upon the owner that the mother and the baby needed to be strictly confined….a clearly foreign concept for a free range goat herder. We tried to set him up for the very real possibility that one or both of them would not survive the night. But at least they were alive when we left them. And they were alive the next morning when this picture was taken. (Seriously, I do not know farm animals, but doesn’t he look proportionally large compared to his full grown mother? Yes that is the porch were we performed the surgery, but at least mom was “confined” – i.e. tied to that little chair.)goat

We go to take mom’s stitches out today. We’ll see if someone is grateful enough to pay us something for our hard work and dedication or if this time saving lives has to be its own and only reward.


I Feel Like I Just Won the Lottery

Yup, nothing like a financial windfall to snap me out of my blogging dry spell. You might remember how excited I was when the price of gas here in Anguilla nearly dropped below $5/gallon. I just check that was almost exactly ONE YEAR AGO ( http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=697 )

Well, then the price just stuck there. No movement here even in January when we were tortured by headline stories about gas prices in Michigan dropping to 47 CENTS/gallon. 47 CENTS! Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not moving to Michigan just to get cheap gas but that was a painful comparison to our ridiculous prices especially when you consider that lower gas prices SHOULD lower the price of EVERYTHING that requires shipping and even more especially when you are using gas to ship your gas across the ocean.

But, no. Our prices here languished to the point that we even quit aggravating our gas station cashiers with our constant admonitions about the lack of movement on prices and our questions of when something was going to change. They would nod and look annoyed or maybe say something about the company ‘virtually’ stockpiling gas at a set price to guard against fluctuations. Blah, blah, blah. It all fell on deaf ears.

So, imagine my surprise last week when I went to buy gas and saw this at the pump:

gas pump 16

Hallelujah. Be still my heart. Under $5! It’s a miracle. So much so, in fact, that the other woman pumping gas beside me didn’t seem at all surprised that I would take a picture of the gas pump. Who knows where we will go from here.

Sadly, probably back up again but I am trying not to think about that because maybe, without my noticing, other things have gotten cheaper too. After all, I checked my electric bill this week, too. We were paying $0.43/kwh and we are now paying only $0.22/kwh. I don’t want to know what they pay in Michigan, but a 50% drop in the price of electricity is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

So what will I do with all this extra disposable income? I guess I could be responsible and ‘stockpile’ it for when the prices fly back up again. Or I could go to Sand Bar restaurant and drink their awesome frozen rum punches. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

rum punch

Just Don’t Call Me Late for Dinner

When I graduated from veterinary school I was Dr. Molek. At least on paper. But I never really went by Doctor. That was due to a combination of the laid back California lifestyle and Michael (whose clients always called him Mike). So I became just Georgia with a stethoscope. Not even Georgia with a white coat and a stethoscope. I never wore a white coat, either. Sometimes pearls, often times heels, but never a white coat. I’ll always remember running into a New England born and raised classmate of mine and ‘business attire’ came up in the conversation. She was so happy to be at a meeting where she could dress casually. And I said, ‘this is how I dress at work’. And she said, ‘not in jeans and stuff, right?’ Long story short she actually asked me, ‘how do your clients know to believe what you say if you aren’t wearing a white coat?’ And my response was, ‘I’d like to think they believe what I say because I make sense when I say it.’

Anyway, never really Dr. Molek. And all those years in California certainly never Dr. Paul. Michael was old fashioned enough to want me to change my name when we got married but didn’t want to confuse people by having two Drs. Paul practicing within 50 miles of each other. So I was, on paper, both Mrs. Paul and Dr. Molek. Even after we moved down here, my dual life continued so long as we rented our house during high season and traveled back to California where I’d return to veterinary medicine for a few months at a time. Mrs. Paul in Anguilla. Dr. Molek in California.

Now that I am finally working as a veterinarian in Anguilla, I have, at long last, completely morphed into one, single being. Remember, though, that this is an island that is fond of nicknames (SEE http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=156) and unusual monikers though inexplicably the post office and the bank cannot or will not make the casual or legal connection between Mike Paul and Michael Paul being one and the same. Anyway it made me laugh when one of my very first clients asked me what she should call me. (Georgia, of course.) But apparently she and another client, a good friend of hers, had been debating the point and had settled on Mrs. Pelican (for Pelican Mobile PetCare). Worked for me.

Then the other day, in my professional capacity, I left a business card with an office receptionist so that she could call me back when she had the answer/document I had requested. Shortly thereafter my phone rang. The number was not entered into my caller ID but it quickly became clear that this particular individual was calling me back….as she started stuttering over how to address me on the phone with a hodgepodge of names and titles: Partially my fault since the business cards lists both my name and Michael’s name, and Georgia might register as George with a cursory glance. Then you can throw in the common confusion over whether Paul is the first name or the last name along with the added question in a Commonwealth country of whether or not a veterinarian is a Mr. or Ms. Or a Doctor. (By the way, a quick Wikipedia search reveals that just in March of this year the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the UK finally voted to permit its members to use the title “Doctor”.)

We muddled through the phone call, and when I arrived to pick up the document I offered that I didn’t tend to stand on formality and that she should feel free to call me Georgia. I then suggested that since we would likely be crossing each other’s paths again in the future, it might be good for me to know her name. Her response? Miss Johnson.* Classic.

(Names have been changed to protect someone.)

Election Day 2015

Today is Election Day in Anguilla. Wooo Hooo.

In the past 15 years I’ve only voted in three U.S. Presidential elections and in those by absentee ballot from a land far away. In fact, it’s hard to remember, but I think California encouraged mail-in voting even before I left the state. That means that it has possibly been decades since I had the very personal, tactile experience of walking into a physical polling place and placing my mark on an actual ballot.

Thanks to my recently conferred citizenship status, I can now vote here in Anguilla. Elections here only happen every 5 years so it was just luck that I would get the opportunity so soon. These are exciting times, indeed.

Unfortunately, I made my first mistake at 5A this morning. I was awake. I could have gotten up and been at the polling place when it opened at 6A. But I fell prey to my small island mentality. I thought to myself, how long of a line could there ever be? There aren’t that many people here, and there’s only one office to fill. Only one box to check. No complicated referendums to ponder. So I had my coffee and answered some emails and drove over at 7:45A. Wow. Cars and people everywhere. Given the number of people standing in the street talking, I thought “hmm, maybe it’s a social thing. Maybe all these people are done voting and just hanging out.” But as I drove slowly past the school and looked in to the buildings, I saw a long line of folks. So I just kept on driving and came back home while doing some math in my head.

OK, so my district is one of the larger ones with about 1700 voters. The polls are open for 13 hours. If spaced out evenly, that’s 130 voters per hour all day long. Huh. About two every minute. Huh. And then I remembered reading the ‘how to vote’ section of the elections.ai website. It refers repeatedly to The Presiding Officer. Not to ‘an official’ or ‘a polling agent’ or anything that implies that there may be more than one. Huh. Uh oh, Scooby Doo.

I made my second attempt at 10:15A. Turns out that they break up the alphabet into three different lines. Luckily I was aware that the powers that be INSISTED that my legal name in Anguilla be my maiden name followed by my married name, no hyphen. Otherwise I would have stood in the N-Z line. As it was, there were about 30 people ahead of me in my line. Unluckily, it turns out that one person enters the room at a time and completes the entire process (state name, mark roll, get instructions, walk behind booth, mark ballot, ink finger, drop ballot in box, exit). So about 65 minutes later I was done. Could have been worse, no doubt. Apparently people were camped out at 5A this morning waiting for the polls to open (dodged a bullet there).

In the States I would have a little sticker declaring “I Voted”. Here I have the time-honored inked finger to guarantee that I do not vote twice.


Time to celebrate both democracy in action and getting to be a part of it!

However, in Anguilla in accordance with section 69 (1) of the Elections Act, on Election Day no intoxicating liquor shall be sold, offered for sale, or given away at any time between the opening and closing of the polls (6am to 7pm) at an licenced premises in Anguilla….liable on summary conviction to a fine of $4,000 or to imprisonment for six (6) months.

That’s only at licenced premises, though, so I can still drink at home while I wait for the live election results to start showing up on line….inked fingers crossed for a positive outcome.



Gas Could Break the $5.00 Mark!

Ok, before you get all panicked and jump in your car to run down to your nearest gas station to fill up your SUV, keep reading.

I don’t mean that the price of gas might go ABOVE $5.00.

I mean that the price of gas in Anguilla might actually drop BELOW $5.00.

I was out running errands this morning and here’s what I found:

cheap cheap cheap


Ok, so this could be a bit confusing. I see that now.  This is a gas pump on a British island that for all I know dispenses Imperial gallons based on a display panel written in Spanish that could conceivably be showing the precio / galon in Eastern Caribbean dollars. You will have to trust me, then, that the price is actually in U.S. dollars.

So yes, even in this day and age, with oil prices being what they are, I am still paying $5.164 (coz $5.16 would be too little) US for a gallon of gas. However, we were paying $6.98 something for FOREVER. And then last fall it fell down to maybe $5.64 something. And here we are now perched expectantly on the cusp of paying less than $5.00 / galon.

Heck I drove the entire length of island just to celebrate. That’s about 12 miles, but on principle I drove it really slowly!



To Life

In my last post I alluded to some 18 yards of upholstery fabric. That has now taken on a new life. And I’ll get you a photo but first let me run a different tangent.

Many, many, many, many, many years ago (OK, 30) I met Michael when I was a brand new, baby vet, just graduated and looking for my first job. He said that he couldn’t hire me but that I could live with him if I wanted; and the rest, as they say, is history. I didn’t want to seem like a total pushover, though. So after we packed up my things and drove all the way across country to California I did hold out for a total of 10 days sleeping on a college friend’s couch before moving into Michael’s apartment. So I wasn’t actually living with him when I went off to my first day as a bona fide medical professional. That morning, when I walked out to my car I found a note on the windshield. It said, “Happy First Day Saving Lives”. (Awwww.)

Now, I am going to share a closely guarded professional secret with you. Promise you won’t tell. When I was a student in veterinary school, someone told us that medicine is a pretty good odds racket. Animals tend to get better…..and get this….in spite of us. The statistic that was quoted was somewhere in the range of 80-85% of our patients get better even if we do the wrong thing. That’s just the way Mother Nature works. On the other hand, sadly somewhere around 5% will not – even if I am the brilliant veterinary equivalent of Linus Pauling or Michael DeBakey.

That means that I truly make a difference in only about 10-15% of the cases I see. All cynicism aside, the take home message here was not to comfort us in the knowledge that we could just rest on our laurels and count on the odds to get us through but rather that because we could not know which of the cases were which that we had to give every single one of them our very best in order to guarantee that we were taking every opportunity and making every effort to impact the ones that we could. And I have never forgotten that advice not even after these long 30 intervening years. Do I always do everything absolutely right? Not likely. But I sure as hell do try.

And it hasn’t surprised me at all that people out here on this little rock will go to the lengths that they will in order to provide health and well-being for their pets. It surprised me more when the one person told me that I needed to remember where I was practicing. I corrected him immediately. My job, the only way I know how to do it, is to tell my clients what I understand and believe to be the very best course of action to take for their pets’ problems. IF that is not an option, THEN my job is to work with them to find an option that is suitable and to support them in their decisions. But my job is not to offer less from the start.

Might this particular dog or that particular cat get better with a different approach? You betcha. In fact it probably will. I already told you that. But if it doesn’t, if it’s one of the ones that doesn’t, and I haven’t offered my best, then I’m the one that has to live with that. That’s why I end up researching everything from new anti-seborrheal products to cancer treatments, having CTScans run, and battling to bring horribly uncontrolled, hyperthyroid cats back from the edge of the abyss. And that’s why a couple of weeks ago I found myself on a client’s back porch resuscitating an incredibly weak, one pound kitten. The poor little thing desperately wanted to eat but could hardly lift her head. She passed out and her heart stopped beating at least three times. Was she in the 80% or the 15%? I’ll never know. But I do know she wasn’t in the 5% because I vaccinated her on Saturday.

Thanks to her family for literally nursing her back to life. Her name is Ashes but as is the way here in Anguilla, I gave her a nickname. To me she will always be the Phoenix. And I am glad that I could be there with/for her. Because of all of the things “thatIdoallday”, it really is nice to be able to practice medicine again.

So as promised here are the new slipcovers. (all the green and the bar stools are the new bits.) Aren’t they pretty?


But here’s little Ashes, the Phoenix. She’s pretty darn cute, too.


Happy Gazillionth Day Saving Lives.



I’ve been, as always, very busy doing who knows what: taking care of the ocean front while Michael is off on a multi-city speaking tour, making a go of island veterinary medicine, preparing to cut up 18 yards of upholstery fabric to re-slipcover an aging couch. The usual stuff. But for the last couple of days I’ve been feeling out of sorts. That anxious, unsettled feeling of not having everything quite under control. Of being just a bit off balance.

Then this morning, in a rare cosmic convergence (like say a super moon, solar eclipse and the vernal equinox all happening on the same day), I was compelled to quickly fire off this blog. I was flipping through the internet like we used to flip through the television channels, when I realized that today is the equinox. I say realized because without the change of seasons here the date of the equinox routinely goes unnoticed. But there it was in the headlines.

And that made me remember the old days of celebrating the equinox – not by dancing naked around a henge somewhere but at least by balancing eggs. On occasion I would even take a dozen eggs to the office and we’d all balance an egg just because we could, because you can at the equinox. You can balance an egg. I’m sure you can look it up (there is that internet thing)…something about magnetic poles, the balance of the earth on its axis or voodoo magic. No matter. Today you can balance an egg.

Apparently, the writers for Netflix’s popular series, House of Cards, may not know that. Just last week I was binge watching the latest season and in one episode the subject actually came up. Claire Underwood, as First Lady, is tasked with picking out the special eggs for the annual Easter egg roll on the white house lawn. Frank, the President, ends up with one of the eggs and ponders the laws of physics that make it impossible to balance an egg. HA! I thought. Says you! There it was, presumably Spring, and the leader of the free world couldn’t even balance an egg. Poser.

So, in honor of the equinox, here’s a photo of three little eggs out for a morning ‘stand’. (They are sweating not because they were overexerting their little selves to stay upright but just because it was cold in the fridge but warm on the veranda and well…I hadn’t had my breakfast yet…..:-) )

Happy Spring. Here’s to a little more balance in life.

Equinox Eggs 2


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. 🙁


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!