Paws for a Moment by Bonny Corbeil

Bonny with her furry friends.

The recent changes on St. John have created a fond longing by many for “the good old days” experienced around the early 1980s.

However, “the good old days” was not a positive time for the many feral cat and dog animal populations on St. John. In fact, it was a time of major crisis and suffering for most “island” cats and dogs.

This was evident every time one visited the dumpsters. Of course, these became the logical place for animals to feed. Many of the 20 to 30 cats seen at almost every dumpster were starved and diseased.

Packs of homeless, wild dogs also ran through our town. These packs would roam the streets looking for food. Since dogs are pack animals, many joined together for survival purposes. Of course, breeding continued at an alarming rate. These four to five dog packs would approach people’s homes and attack house dogs, goats and sheep, and even terrorize children.

Telephone calls were made to warn fellow neighbors of these packs. It was not uncommon to hear about dogs being shot on sight. This wild dog and feral cat population quickly became a major “people problem.”

Something had to be done and these were serious problems in need of solving. There was no veterinarian on St. John, no money and only a small group of “grass roots” animal advocates working together to help address crisis problems as they arose.

Responding to sick and hurt animals, trapping animals for spaying and neutering (to somehow get the overpopulation issue controlled!); and of course, finding homes for the many homeless animals were immediate tasks that had to be addressed. Numerous community members, throughout these years, demonstrated “selfless service” in action and gave endlessly of their time and energy, all because of their love and dedication in alleviating the suffering of animals. It has been rumored that a number of resident animal advocates left island simply because of burn-out due to these overwhelming needs.

Our island has made incredible strides forward since that time. It has been a “process” of dedication, hard work, trial and error, commitment and growth.

Few feral cats are seen at dumpsters these days. Instead, you will see feral cat feeding stations at the sides of our roads. The animals living and feeding here have been spayed or neutered and checked by veterinarians for diseases. Local neighborhood volunteers ensure that these “orphan cats” get food and water daily. Many of these animals have become friendly and wait every day for their food, water and more importantly interactions with humans. It is amazing to watch the power that simple kindness has on these unfortunate animals!

The Animal Care Center provides food to feed these animals and medicine to heal them, because of you and your generosity. There are fewer unwanted animals today. Many have been adopted to good homes. Thankfully, there are no longer packs of wild dogs or dumpsters full of starving, diseased cats. Today, there is the ACC organization which works closely with our on-island vets when there are animal problems.

Our St. John community should be very proud of its accomplishments in animal care, by remembering what things were like in the past, and what has been accomplished because of caring individuals. It is this caring that has gotten our ACC organization where it is today. Sometimes it is important to stand back remembering and acknowledging the positive changes in a community.

Let’s all “paws, for a moment” and be thankful for the good that has been done for animals by so many good people on St. John throughout the past 25 years.

Our annual fundraiser WAGAPOOLOZA will be held on May 6 in the late afternoon at the Winston Wells Ball Field in Cruz Bay. ACC Fundraising Chair Suzanne Kirk is organizing this important event. Mark your calendar for a “fun-filled dog-gone good” family day!

Bill “Chilly Billy” Dove, an ACC Board Member and marketing expert, has come up with a great new motto for our ACC. You will soon see “Help Us Care” attached to our logo. This is to remind us all that our ACC can only continue its good work successfully with help and caring from “us” as a community.

Got a comment, question, suggested topic? E-mail, ACC Education Chair.

“Help Us Care.”