The next morning was Tuesday, October 24, 2005. We awoke before daybreak, anxious to have a good look-see and get at it. We could hardly wait for sunrise so that we could take a good look around.
We were amazed that we had so little damage. Nothing that could not be easily fixed. The gate leading into our back patio had been torn from its’ hinges and was lying on the patio. The cactus garden in front of the cabana was in shreds. One of the plywood covers upstairs had been literally pulled out of the wall. These are secured with screws into anchors imbedded into the concrete block walls. It must have been some force. Luckily, it was wedged between the house and the low wall that surrounds the second floor. The top of one of the two water tanks on top of the house was gone. It was nowhere to be seen. The tops of these screw into the tank so the wind must have found a hold on it and literally unscrewed it. Then it became a giant Frisbee!
The worst though was just the mess. Most of our house looked like it had been sandblasted….which it probably was! The whole house and back patio walls were coated with little pieces of fiber from the straw-roofed houses near us. It took hours and hours of scrubbing with little brushes to get it off since it was imbedded in every nook and cranny of the cement. We considered ourselves very, very lucky. It was on this day that we decided we would not leave the island again for a hurricane. Unless, of course, we are predicted to get hit head on by a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm. Otherwise, we will seal ourselves in and just stay put. This house is built very strongly and we now are pretty secure that we will be safe from most storms in it.
Our two cats were glad to see us! And we them. We left them on their own to weather it out as best they could. They are actually island cats that have adopted us and the safety of our back yard. It doesn’t hurt that they get a meal of cat food everyday! We don’t feed them very much at a time though. We want them to always be a little hungry so that they continue to remember how to fend for themselves. Three months earlier, during Hurricane Emily, we brought them into the house with us for safe keeping. This time, we could not do that. But they are good island cats and found someplace safe to stay. I should mention something about the island dogs here.
Those of you who have been here know that there is an ongoing problem with the dog population. People here do not believe in spay and neuter. Also, it is an expensive operation and people need to spend their money on food for themselves, not on animals. There is also this pet mentality here. Except for miniature white poodles, pit bulls and a few assorted types, people do not have pets as we know them. We have also seen first hand what happens to that adorable little island puppy when it starts to grow up and become a dog. It is literally chased away from the home it knew until it, too, becomes another wild island dog. Animals are left to fend for themselves. Most of these dogs, even the ones born in the wild, are harmless. They will not approach you or allow you to get too close to them. They are more of a nuisance than a threat.
Fending for themselves mostly means scavenging in garbage, part of the reason why this island is so strewn with garbage. It also means that they are free to breed, and breed, and breed. Most bitches become pregnant at their first heat and continue producing puppies until the day they die. There are some people on the island working to change all of this but it is a tremendous uphill battle. There used to be a free spay/neuter clinic held every year. Vets from the USA would come down for a week and do surgery after surgery for free. Not many people would bring in their pets though. There is also this mentality about emasculating your dog if you have it neutered. Mostly they worked on the strays that were friendly enough to allow themselves to be picked up and taken to the clinic. The local vet on the island, after many years of service, has now left for greener pastures. He is missed.
At any rate, something happened to most of the wild dogs during the hurricane. Maybe it was three days of howling winds, maybe it was three days of not being able to eat, maybe it was three days of being scared out of their minds, but once the hurricane was over they became aggressive. If you got near one, you were certain to be greeted with snarls and sometimes snapping jaws. Some of them have even taken to chasing cars and motor scooters, a deadly game here because people will try to hit them. Dog fights were numerous and frequent. Now, as I write this seven months later, the problem has abated. I think most of the dogs that were showing aggression were killed. I don’t know by whom, but I do know that most of them are gone. The dogs that formed packs are gone also. It was the packs that concerned me.
As B cleaned out the now smelly and totally hot refrigerator, he was delighted to find that the 2 kilos of shrimp in the bottom drawer of the freezer were still frozen! That’s a little over 4 pounds. We get them fresh from our neighbor who is a shrimper and then we freeze them. So we poured 4 bottles of beer into a pot and sat down to a lunch of beer-boiled shrimp. (we have a gas stove so were fine in that regard) We literally gorged ourselves. We could eat no more and there was still a ton of them left in the pot. No way we could eat 4 pounds of shrimp. And we could not keep them with no refrigeration. So we piled them high and precariously onto a plastic plate and I went next door to our favorite neighbors with them. They were delighted, to say the least, to receive this feast. And she did not have to cook anything!
Later that afternoon, after we had cleaned up the majority of the mess, we decided to take a walk down to P’ house and see what the story was there.