Recognizing Acts of Kindness at Christmas-time on Dominica, the Nature Island

This bouquet of beautiful anthurium lilies from Trafalgar in Dominica's lush Roseau Valley. They symbolize my gratitude to those who have bestowed acts of kindness upon me!

This bouquet of beautiful anthurium lilies was harvested at Trafalgar in Dominica’s lush Roseau Valley. They symbolize my gratitude to those who have bestowed acts of kindness upon me!

As Christmas 2014 draws near, it’s an opportune time to express gratitude to some people and institutions that have been kind to me in recent times on the Nature Island. T’is the season of peace and goodwill, after all!

When I think of it, there is so much to be thankful for, as I  did note in my Thanksgiving post this past October.

Admittedly, I am somewhat saddened by the absence of my lovely kitty Tia-pet, who departed this earth in May 2014. One of my last fond memories would have been one year ago, when Tia snuggled up under the Christmas tree. I subsequently submitted a photo of this serene scene to Dominica News Online  and they posted it over the Christmas 2013 holiday!  You can see that pretty pic of the Yule-tide pussy cat here.

When Tia passed away, it was my friend Nancy Osler, Managing Director at Springfield who helped me to lay him to rest. He’s buried in a beautiful setting on that property at the edge of the rainforest and I am certain that my little pet is at peace there.  I thank Nancy profusely for all the help she gave me on that very sad day.  I will never forget her acts of kindness during my time of grief.  As well, I owe a debt of gratitude to hiking pod partner Liz Madisetti. She was willing to look after Tia (if he had survived) so that I could spend some time in Canada.  Although that did not become necessary, she is always ready to lend a hand without hesitation!

No Christmas tree this year, but the poinsettia adds to the spirit of the season.  They do grow on Dominica.  This one was lovingly tended at Green Mountain Flowers near Giraudel by proprietor Daryl Phillip.

No Christmas tree this year, but this poinsettia adds to the spirit of the season. This one was lovingly tended at Green Mountain Flowers near Giraudel by proprietor Daryl Phillip.

When my eyes  became severely inflamed from unknown allergies for several months this year, optometrist Dr. Debra Williams of Island Vision Inc. monitored my condition very closely.  She was very attentive to my overall health condition and with professional concern, checked my eyes on numerous occasions – sometimes three times a week until there was improvement.  But not only that, she is still watching the progress of my eyes –  willingly, freely and with an open heart.  I am profoundly grateful!

I had had some difficulties with my little car, and while some attempts had been made to fix it, the source of the problem was not located.  Although it was pronounced fit to drive, I became very upset en route to an appointment  for a manicure and pedicure when I heard a new “strange” noise.  I was distressed because I was about to drive across the island’s mountainous interior  later that week to spend some time on the east coast  at lovely Beau Rive. It was a Saturday afternoon and I really did not know what to do! When I entered The Glam Day Spa in Roseau, I was on the verge of tears.  All of the staff showed great concern, and when coaxed, I did tell them about my car woes.  They were so gentle with me, and showed such compassion.  Even those who were not attending to me came over to commiserate and  empathize with my situation.  The staff at The Glam certainly put me into a better frame of mind in that healing environment.  However, I was still a little rattled when I left (I now had to deal with the car!).  I did make it home, but when I arrived, I looked in  my purse and thought that I was missing some money, but wasn’t sure. It wasn’t a huge amount, and I figured I must have overspent at the market in the morning…or something.  About an hour later, I received a call from Venetta, the receptionist at The Glam.  She asked me if I was missing any money.  I exclaimed, “Yes!” and immediately volunteered the amount.  She then said she had found that sum on the floor just after I left and wondered if it had fallen out of my purse.  The staff held it for me and I collected it the following Monday.  Of course, it was already destined for car repairs!

When I arrived at Beau Rive a few days later, I still did not feel confident about the latest round of repairs on the car.  I did express this to Mark Steele, proprietor at Beau Rive Boutique Hotel.  He willingly drove my car up his steep driveway and was always on-call, if anything should happen while I traveled around (nothing did!). During my stay I was treated exceptionally well by him and his staff, with much kindness, generosity and consideration.  I am very grateful for the blissful time that I had at that lovely locale.

With car troubles still simmering after that excursion, I went to  Julius, a well-established mechanic in my neighbourhood with a reputation for honesty and good work.  He assessed the problems and informed me about what needed to be done (or  not done) in order for the car to run more smoothly.  When I offered to pay for his time, he graciously declined!  Of course I will return to him for the actual repairs.  This positive experience was completely contrary to what I had endured at a larger  specialized establishment.  I guess their loss is Julie’s gain (and mine too)!

If you’ve ever waited a long time for an important package by”snail mail,” then perhaps you’ll empathize with me. It took one of mine that I had sent from Canada in June four months to reach Dominica!  And that is not the first time.  Unfortunately, items invariably get sent to the Dominican Republic, and there can be long delays before the package finally arrives on the Nature Island.  I feared that the workers in the Parcel Post Section of the General Post Office in Roseau would get tired of seeing my face.  However, they have always been extremely pleasant and have gone out of their way to assist me in tracking delayed or missing packages.  Most of all, they have encouraged me to “keep the faith,” and in doing so, everything has turned out well every time!

Even though I don’t have a pet at the moment, I do help to take care of a couple of dogs that are attached to a business in my area. When I became worried about the state of the young female on the premises, one of my wonderful veterinarians, Dr. Nausima Paul offered to come with me and examine this canine.  She proffered her professional opinion to the owners. (I had informed them about my concerns and had volunteered to bring the vet for a consultation at my expense).  After Dr. Paul was finished with the examination, I drove her back to her clinic.  As she stepped out of the vehicle, I extended my hand with cash in it to pay her – and she declined! I was surprised, as she had willingly come along with me despite her own discomfort from injuries sustained in a recent accident.  She and her husband Dr. Ronnie George took constant care of Tia-pet during the last couple of years of his life.  I am further grateful for their compassionate and caring attention up to  Tia’s death, as he was an exceptionally long-lived cat.

I would be remiss if I did not express extreme gratitude to Mrs. Cecily Lees, my lawyer in Dominica.  She is also one of my first friends on Dominica and she has assisted me in numerous ways, both personally and professionally over the years.  While her  legal specialty is real estate at Safe Haven Real Estate  , she has always “been there” for me and I appreciate everything she has done for me from the bottom of my heart!

This lovely winter solstice sunset was taken at Zam Zam Cafe in Citronier, a mile south of Roseau.

This lovely winter solstice sunset was taken at the fabulous Mexican-inspired  Zam Zam Cafe in Citronier,just south of Roseau.

Finally, I extend sincere thanks to you, dear reader for taking the time to read this post, and for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales. This year, the site reached over 50,000 visits and  now has about 100 ‘followers’.  Stay tuned for more adventures and experiences in the New Year!

If you can spot the Green Flash of the sunset on this Winter Solstice Eve, then I hope you will have lots of luck in the New Year!

If you can spot the Green Flash of the sunset on this Winter Solstice Eve, then I hope you will have lots of luck in the New Year!

This plate of homemade cookies is intended for Santa. From the bottom of the plate, clockwise: Chocolate Chip Bar; Fruit Hermits; Oatmeal Shortcakes; Gingerbread; Chocolate-Coconut Brownies.  All recipes of Canadian origin!

This plate of homemade goodies is intended for Santa. From the bottom of the plate, clockwise: Chocolate Chip Bar; Fruit Hermits; Oatmeal Shortcake; Gingerbread; Chocolate-Coconut Brownies. All recipes are of Canadian origin!

I am heading to Paris just after Christmas to attend the formal wedding celebrations of French friends that I met on Dominica: Carole Bogdanovscky and Gildas Lefevre.   I am certain to have some wonderful adventures in the City of Light and will be writing about them on the Canary Gal blog upon my return.

In the mean time, may the peace of this magical season be upon you.  Merry Christmas! And may the New Year be filled with kindness, compassion, love and goodwill, wherever you live on the planet!

The Incredible Life of Tia-pet, the Dominican Wonder-Cat

Tia-pet (1998-2014) was a lovely and lively Caribbean short hair domestic cat. Photo taken by (Aunty) Jenny Spencer in August 2011.

Tia-pet (1998-2014) was a lovely and lively Caribbean short-haired domestic cat. Photo taken by ‘Aunty’ Jenny Spencer in August 2011.

I am not aware of many cats that have lived out all nine lives on Dominica, but I can assure you that my dear little Tia-pet was

Tia was tiny when he found his first parents in a residential area north of Roseau early in 1998.

Tia was tiny when he’ found’ his first pet parents (Lorraine and Steven) in a residential area north of Roseau early in 1998. Photo by S or L Ricketts.

one of a select few felines in this category.  At the age of 16+ human years, he  departed this earth en route to “cat heaven.”  Since  my furry friend passed away at home on May 3, 2014, I feel as if I have the lost the greatest gift I ever received on

Aunty Susan Weeks painted this image of Tia in 2011 . it was based on a photo I had taken of him at play in 2010.

‘Aunty’ Susan Weeks painted this likeness of Tia in 2011 . It was based on a photo I had taken of him at play in 2010.

Dominica.  But I am oh so thankful for all the time we had together; his constant companionship amounted to another enduring and exceptional experience on the Nature Island!

When I made the final decision to move to Dominica, I first settled

at Springfield Plantation in August 1998.  There, I met a British/Dominican couple who had found a little kitten where they lived for some time before moving to the mountainous site to work on the property.  Although  a male, they had named him Tia when he was very tiny.  Lo and behold, they came to me after I had not been there for more than a month and informed me that they would be returning to the U.K.  As they could not take their animals with them, they asked me if I would be interested in adopting the young cat.  As I  was moving in to their little house, I found myself in the horns of a dilemma.  I reluctantly agreed, although I was not really interested, due to allergies and other plans. I figured he would just wander away to another home if I showed no interest. Well, you can see that never came to pass. I resisted and Tia persisted.  He would cry and cry until I let him in and as a very determined little critter, he simply wormed his way into my heart.

I always referred to Tia as being the 'King of the Kiity-Cats' on Dominica.  He sure had a regal look to me!

I always referred to Tia as being the ‘King of the Kitty-Cats’ on Dominica. He sure had a regal look to me!

Perhaps one of the strangest things, and the biggest blessing for me, was that I was NOT allergic to him.  For a while, I thought I had lost that allergy, but then I have proved that I still have it over the years with different cats both here and abroad. Go figure!

TTia as also known as Garfield after  a period of too much canned milk and kibble.  he was put on a strict diet by the vet!

Tia was also known as Garfield after a period of too much canned milk and kibble in his younger years. He was put on a strict diet by the vet!

Tia was a frisky critter and liked to jump from the counter to the fridge-top in his younger days.

Tia was a frisky critter and liked to jump from the counter to the fridge-top in his younger days. But even as he got older, he was always full of fun!

By the time I moved from Springfield, we were firm friends.  I could go on about his adventures and close calls, but suffice it to say that  Tia was one tough kitty.  He was never a cuddly, jump-on-your lap cat.  Instead, he delighted in very rough play.  I and others who dared came away with scratches, superficial bites and sore arms from playing with that cat for hours at a time.  And if he was hungry, or wanted in or out, it was hard to ignore that powerful yowl.

Tia loved to hunt - real critters or toy ones.  He was playful pussycat!

Tia loved to hunt – live animals or toy ones. He was a playful pussy cat!

Of course he was spoiled, but the pleasure was all mine.  He reciprocated with gifts from field forays: lizards, mice and little birds.  Sometimes there were other souvenirs from his outings: a number of vets treated Tia for cat bite abscesses .  Sometimes they were so large they had to be surgically removed.  Although Tia had been neutered when he was young, he remained a territorial type.  At all times of day and night ,I would hear the unforgettable piercing screams of two cats at war. Neighbours would sometimes tell me that my cat was giving their cat “blows.”  But then came the day when Tia could no longer hold his own and his opponent seemed to have the advantage.

When he was 12  years old, I decided it would be in his best interest to become an indoor cat, as he was starting to lose those feline battles.  The vet was worried that he would not adapt well, but Tia took it all in stride.  He still had access to protected porches and balconies and was able to content himself by hanging out in those locations with a view.  And of course, he would always still  play with anyone who dared!

While there were signs of slowing down which became increasingly obvious this past winter when he turned 16, he still jumped up on the porch balcony to check out the birds by day and the bats by night.  But one evening, I  let him out on the porch  alone while I did something else inside for a few minutes.  When I went to check on him, I could not find him.  I took a flashlight, looked down two flights below to the ground – and there he was – still moving.  I ran down, scooped him up and called Tia’s last vets, husband and wife team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul in extreme panic.  Fortunate for me, they had just finished their clinic and were on their way home, which is nearby.  They came right away and examined him.  There did not seem to be any obvious or serious injury, except for some sore muscles.  Without access to x-ray or ultra-sound, there was no way to know anything further.  However, from that point in late February, Tia rapidly declined, although he did hang on for some time.

This is the last photo of Tia, taken on February 27, 2014.  By then, he had already fallen off of the back porch and had to be helped onto the bed - but his spirit was still strong.

This is the last photo of Tia, taken on February 27, 2014. By then, he had already fallen off of the back porch and had to be helped onto the bed – but his spirit was still strong.

Those wonderful vets continued to check on him – frequently. They also  received a number of calls from Tia’s scared mummy as his behaviour changed and he seemed not himself over those last couple of months.  It was hard to watch him fail, but that rough cat definitely had the heart of lion, and I was sure to tell him so.  He did not seem to be in pain until the very last day.  I sensed that the end was near and stayed right beside him for many hours.  I am so thankful that I was there when he looked at me wide-eyed and then took his last breath.  I assured him that I loved him, and then he left for that great mouse-hunting field in the sky – “cat heaven” as my mother referred to that celestial abode when I was a little girl.

This whole sad event would have been much more devastating  had it not been for the calm and reassuring counsel of my Canadian friend Nancy from Springfield.  We spoke many times on Tia’s last day on earth.  After he departed, she kindly offered to bury him at Springfield the next morning.  I was  comforted by her generosity, as that beautiful mountain location means so much to me.  Tia had gone full circle and his remains now rest at the place where we first became a family.

It was sunny and lovely on Sunday May 3, 2014.  Nancy drove a distance to collect me so we could take Tia’s body for burial.  She allowed me to sob and cry and unleash my grief while she alone  prepared the ground with pick-axe and shovel.  I offered to help her, but she refused.  I was impressed with her strength and grateful that I could mourn freely.  Fortunately, it was a quiet day and no one else was on the property.  When Tia was placed in the earth by Nancy, we said a final good-bye and she tucked his toys all around him.  I placed some rosemary for remembrance over his towel-shrouded body.  Then we covered him with the damp  heavy clay earth, small stones and  finally larger ones.  I placed a bouquet of white  anthurium lilies and  we put some pretty potted  flowers on top of the grave.

Tia's final resting place at Springfield is in a peaceful spot surrounded by fruit trees.

Tia’s final resting place at Springfield is in a peaceful spot surrounded by fruit trees.

Tia's grave site has spectacular views at Springfield.

Tia’s grave site has spectacular views at Springfield.

Although I was extremely sad, I was content with the knowledge that he was at rest at one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I will miss him for as long as live, but I am extremely thankful to have had endless pleasure from the companionship of a little boy cat named Tia.  “Thank you for being in my life . I love you – forever and ever.”

THANK YOUs

As I think back over the 16 years that Tia was in my life, I am quite amazed at the number of people who have helped me with his care.  I am indebted to all of you and I thank

Neigbour Kristelle was Tia's best friend for many years.  After all, they were the same age!  She ehlped to take care of him many times for me.

Neighbour Kristelle was Tia’s best friend for years. After all, they were the same age! She helped to take care of him many times.

you for what you have done so that Tia could have the best quality of life possible for a cat.  God bless you!

Friends, neighbours and cat lovers:

Special thanks to Vernon Gordon and family, my former neighbours who looked after Tia often between 2004-11.  Their willing assistance and wonderful cat care enabled me to travel all over Dominica for my writing assignments, spend time in other Caribbean countries as well as  summers in Canada and leave quickly when my mother died.

Also to Ursula Joseph, my faithful  helper for 14+ years who was always there for Tia and even rescued him from a couple of scary situations (which gave her a fright).

Nancy Osler at Springfield helped me through the most difficult process of Tia’s imminent death, his burial at Springfield and the painful hours afterwards by being there for me and allowing me to freely grieve.

Liz Madisetti was on stand-by to take care of Tia this forthcoming summer, even though his health was failing.  She was completely willing  to pet sit, despite the uncertain circumstances.

Other caring pet-sitters over the years (also known as Tia’s ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles”) included: Eddie Shillingford, Tessia Butler, Dr. Patricia Rodney, Whitney Sommers, Malcolm, John, Peter, Dr. Caryl Lockhart, Susan and Alden Weeks, Jenny Spencer, Ben Tapley. (If I have forgotten anyone else, I’ll be sure to list you and soon as I remember!)

Veterinarians played a critical role in ensuring Tia’s good  health and well-being over his long cat life, and I have the utmost of respect and admiration for their compassionate work with all animals:

Dr. John Toussaint, Dr. J. Collin McIntyre, Dr. Caryl Lockhart, Dr. Reginald Thomas, Dr. Nausima Paul and Dr. Ronnie George were always available when Tia had an illness or an injury or was in need of a check-up.  I especially appreciate the many times that Dr. Reggie Thomas came to the house to examine Tia as  he became a senior cat.

Husband and wife veterinary team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul attend to Florence, beloved pet of Mark Steele at Beau Rive.    These wonderful vets can be contacted at their clinic (767) 440-8387 or by mobile at 277-4811/275-4935.

Husband and wife veterinary team Dr. Ronnie George and Dr. Nausima Paul attend to Florence, beloved pet of Mark Steele at Beau Rive. These wonderful vets can be contacted at their clinic (767) 440-8387 or by mobile at 277-4811/275-4935.

Finally, I am forever grateful to Dr. Nausima Paul and her husband Dr. Ronnie George who provided phenomenal geriatric and end-stage care.  They were basically on-call for the last two months of Tia’s life. Their support, guidance and interventions enabled me to better  understand this phase  and allow Tia to make a smoother transition to the hereafter.

To Tia’s first pet parents, Lorraine and Steven Ricketts: If you ever come upon this blog post, know that you gave me the greatest gift of my life in Dominica.  Heartfelt thanks.

Rest in peace, dear Tia-pet.

Footnote:  In June 2014, Lorraine, Tia’s first pet mummy contacted me out-of-the-blue by email and enquired about me and the little cat.  We had lost touch for several years and I had to give her the sad news of his passing straight away.  However, it was lovely to reconnect with her and to have shared the special gift of Tia-pet, the Dominican Wonder Cat!