Trigger warning: This is a love story. It even has one of these cheesy happy ends. Therefore, to all those of you looking for some sad news, drama, or despair: keep on reading. As that is how it all began. After all, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”, as John Lennon sang in “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” in 1980. Surely, he had other plans than dying later that very year.

Paint it black

At the beginning of 2021, I was looking for a way out. No, not out of life, not even out of Statia, but out of a toxic working situation. General negativity set the tone to start off the day. It progressed into more targeted bitching to culminate in unpaid overtime that almost everybody drowned in alcohol.

I was in desperate need of some positive vibes and a different purpose in my life – however small it may be – to counterbalance this disaster. I turned my focus inwards and figured I find peace in nature; I get energy from meaningful relationships; I like to spread joy. So obviously, I went to the local animal shelter for salvation.

And then along comes Smokey

There she was, sitting in the sun and looking right into my soul: Smokey. I walked her, I cuddled her and I happily noticed she was one of the only ones out of the bundle of eight dogs waiting patiently until the bowl with her food was set on the ground. Then, I learnt that she was a pitbull mix. I left the shelter to tell Yoeri all about her.

From then on, we volunteered at the shelter every other day off work. After my blue bead helped us to get out of the miserable working situation, turbulent, interesting, and also challenging times began. But no matter the ups and downs, one afternoon per week, we would be there to deeply connect and enjoy the love and happiness our four-legged friends were giving so freely.

Where is the love

Recently, I read about research stating health benefits for humans from petting dogs. Nancy Gee, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, collected evidence showing how levels of the stress hormone cortisol in humans drop after only 5 to 20 minutes spent interacting with dogs, even if it’s not their own pet. Additionally, they could see an increase in oxytocin, a bonding hormone making us feel good. Naturally, we were hooked. However, it wasn‘t the right time for us to adopt a dog.

Strangely enough, some people kept asking, how we could go to an animal shelter. After all, it would be so difficult to leave the animals behind. What do they think about how difficult it was for those animals to be mistreated and left alone in the first place? It is a little bit like saying, I never want to fall in love because it is too painful to break up. In any case, our visits made the dogs happy, too. They fully enjoyed the time and attention they were getting. This alone was well worth any difficulty on our side.

Can’t help falling in love

One day, we came to pick up the four dogs from one of the runs for a play date at our house. In the huge garden, they could run and play and explore their surroundings with all their senses. Strangely enough, was Smokey not in the run with the others. Overnight, she got multiple deep wounds over her body. None of the volunteers could explain what had happened to her as all the other dogs were fine. Even though Smokey is a peaceful character, she isn‘t taking shit from any other dog.

Usually, she would “call” us over to her run to be petted. That day, she didn‘t even manage to lift her head in the solitary night kennel where she was supposed to recover. It was so hard to leave her behind and spent a fun day with the rest of the dog at our home. When we dropped off the happy bundle at the end of the day, Smokey was standing at the gate. She wasn‘t making any sound. She didn‘t even move. She just looked into our eyes.

We took her home with the plan of fostering her until she was healed. By then, she had wiggled her way into our hearts completely. For some months, we still tried to get our families or close friends interested in adopting her. It had to be somebody special for our cutiful girl.


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Read more about our wonderful Smokey underneath this „Take a minute in Statia“

Crazy little thing called love

I love walking but didn‘t often take the time to do so. With Smokey, I started to discover new parts of the island. We went on photo expeditions all over the place. In the beginning, she listened perfectly. Later on, her stubbornness took over. No idea where that is coming from. In any case, she felt strong and secure enough to run after chickens, goats, and sheep. Now, she would even take on the cows, but she walks on the leash. Only when walking on Zeelandia, she can run freely (The Quill from Zeelandia Beach).

After I went through a mentally challenging period, I told a friend and fellow Smokey-lover: “I am not sure anymore who rescued whom.” She is part of our clan now and we stick together. In the end, there is never the right time to start a family. “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”  Turns out the line isn`t originally from John Lennon. At least, it was already published in various news articles in the 1950ies. I guess that‘s life and I hope nobody is claiming she or he invented it. Let‘s roll with it and enjoy!

Just another love song? Make it your own

Last words: So, go to your local animal shelter, please. They need all the volunteers they can get. Be aware, if you ever take one of the animals home with you, it might be the beginning of another love story.

Keep in mind rescue animals might need some extra time and attention to make them feel secure. Just recently, Smokey started to play with toys. Many older rescue dogs don‘t know how to play or maybe interact properly. We trust Smokey with any human interactions, but other dogs are not her thing. Or so we thought. Just now she has discovered a boy, she likes. She is waiting at his fence for him to come to sniff and play. We think he is a rescue dog, too. Hopefully, we can strengthen their bond as rescue animals need tender love and care to grow to their full potential.

At St. Eustatius Animal Welfare Foundation, there is a happy bunch of dogs ready to be adopted. Take a look at them here.

The adoption fee of $70 includes deworming, two vaccinations, a microchip, and spay/neuter. For dogs going to Europe, there is another $20 for a rabies shot.
Provide a forever home for two dogs for only $100 (plus rabies).
You must have a securely fenced yard.
Contact: SEAWF via +599 318-1102 (phone or Whatsapp) or
In certain cases, there is support for off-island adoptions, including travel to Europe or North America (discretion of SEAWF).

This story is based on my Dutch column published by Dossier Koninkrijksrelaties

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