Mostly, I like to go to new places when I accept house/pet-sits, (which is my way of being able to travel). So, when my fellow nomadic friend sent me a link to a house-sit on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, asking me if I knew of this particular sit since I had been here before, I dismissed it – it was the same house sit I had done 6 years prior. After immediately saying that I wasn’t interested, I went for a hike, which is a form of meditation for me. I realized that this was a bit of serendipity and that this may be what I was looking for if I could tweak the time line.
Although I had a mixed bag of experiences the first time around, it was a stressful house/pet sit due to one of the owners being a micro-manager, which doesn’t mesh well with my personality. I took it on instead of being able to relax into it and let it be her stuff. I understood why she was the way she was, yet, simultaneously, I was too anxious about doing everything perfectly; I was always worried that I would do something wrong. I had heard all of her complaints about other caretakers and I just didn’t want to be one of those. Now, I probably could care less as my worst job is actually quite
good, just because of who I am. But, this was at the start of my traveling via pet and house-sits and I was overly conscientious. This owner is no longer involved so it was already a different situation. And, now the 4 dogs no longer resided there, the one cat made this a much easier house-sit.
Mind you, the yard is incredibly big, with lots of mowing and daily weeding and trimming required otherwise it is overwhelming. Yet, even that was different, as the partner in this situation is much more laid back and doesn’t require all that was required previously. Anyway, long story short, I took the sit for half of the time requested, which made it much more do-able for me.
I was so looking forward to 3 months on my own, focusing on myself, my creative projects and making this time around a much more relaxed situation for me. And, I had been living in other people’s space for far too long and I needed to be on my own, even if was in someone else’s home. Three days into it, I volunteered to help out a person on the island with a stray dog, who was injured, and needed to be captured and brought to the Humane Society. From there, the understanding was that the dog was going to be cleared for travel and go directly to the continental US. He was being adopted by people who vacationed on Vieques and started this process, but had to go back to the US before they could get the dog. Surprisingly, the dog was captured quickly, and I brought him to the Humane Society to be dropped off. Shockingly, although it shouldn’t have been, the Humane Society refused him, except to clear him for travel. He needed a foster home. I was it. But, it was only for 3 days – no problem. Three days turned into 5 weeks, and that is only because at 4 weeks I realized this could be indefinite and I couldn’t leave a feral dog for the next caretakers, nor did I want a dog for the full-time that I was here.
I have to say, I absolutely love animals, and I loved this dog. The issue was that it was so unexpected, indefinite, and he consumed all of my time. I had to connect with him to get him to trust me, train him and help him feel comfortable to be in a crate in order to travel. It required time and patience at all hours of the day. It distracted me from my original intention of coming to this island, which for the short-term would have been easier. And, due to the situation, I was not able to use the car freely in fear that he would escape when I got the car out of the property. So, I was often trapped. I was on this beautiful island, and I couldn’t go anywhere unless I could manage to get someone to help me – which was a challenge as I didn’t know anyone and neighbors weren’t usually available.
Long story short, I managed to connect and train and I fell in love with this dog. He was then sent to the US, to a family who loves him. I am grateful for the time with him and the opportunity because I had always wanted to work with a rescue agency. I can acknowledge that I possess excellent trainer skills, without being trained myself. I know that I participated in saving this dog’s life, as if we didn’t intervene he would have died due to his injury and infection. I am happy that I was there and that I inadvertently fell into it – it really is a gift to watch an animal transform and learn to trust you.
Yet, I had mixed feeling throughout the whole process. I signed up to volunteer for a day, which became 3 days, and then they bumped him off the flight. And, then the flight was supposed to be the next week, and then everyone disappeared. I made calls, texted, emailed and I received no response. I met someone who inadvertently got into fostering 2 puppies and she had them for 8 months. I knew then I had to speak up and force the issue. I came to Vieques to have a do-over and here I was stuck at the property, and after all the training, and the yard work, I had no motivation for me and my creative projects….the heat and humidity were depleting any energy that I had for the mid-day when the dog actually slept – or passed out due to the heat was more like it. He didn’t do well in the heat either.
So, be careful what you wish for. I wanted to be involved in a rescue, but the timing was not what I had planned. The communications with the Humane Society and those involved were dysfunctional and frustrating. Yet, I had this feral dog that morphed into the sweetest dog in those weeks. A range of emotions ran through me…happy to be doing it and grateful that I could do it, and frustrated that I got stuck doing it and pissed off that the Humane Society is really pretty dysfunctional, albeit with reasons. And, maybe there were cultural differences at play. At the end, I was exhausted as the dog didn’t like to be alone, but refused to come in the house. He would howl and bark at night, and it was difficult to ignore, nor could I sleep through it. Sigh….it was what it was….
So, half my time here has been wrapped in the dog, albeit a beautiful and soulful dog, whom I truly love. Now, I got my life back, with great relief for me and for him. He really needed to be off this island due to the heat and to get medical care that he needed. It is a good thing. I now am feeling stressed to get all that I wanted to do completed in half the amount of time, and still find time to enjoy the beaches and all that this funky little island has to offer. I spent days catching up on the yard work, and almost died of heat stroke. But, for now, I can shift my focus to me, for which I’m grateful.
So, what is the lesson? I am not sure. I know that partly it was about boundaries and speaking up for my own personal self-care. And, that it was okay to put me first, something that I have difficulty doing as I am so aware of other’s needs and my kindness just kicks in, and I give often times at my own expense. Still learning that lesson…that it is okay to have me as my priority even if it means that I can’t be there for someone else. Yet, I couldn’t not do what I did for the dog either.
I was reminded that I could be doing a great thing, and still have my range of emotions, and that it is okay. I didn’t need to be thrilled during the daily happenings, especially during the frustrations that arose from this unexpected situation.
Throughout the ordeal, I was often feeling stressed and anxious. And, with this I felt as though I fell into, but maybe participated in, creating a very similar experience as my first time around energetically. There wasn’t the ease that I had wanted, but the stress and anxiety were there, as it was the first time around. I just wanted 3 months of ease and focusing on myself and that didn’t happen because I stepped up to volunteer, and then my kindness allowed the situation to linger on, way beyond what I had imagined. My do-over wasn’t quite a do-over, the way I had planned.
I’m writing basically so that I’ll let go of it all including reflecting and analyzing what the lessons are for me. They will present themselves, hopefully before another situation presents itself so that I don’t repeat it for the sake of learning those lessons. Time to move forward…
The dog is doing well. I spend time with the cat. And, I still feed the neighborhood strays, so I have plenty of dogs in my life, and chickens, horses and cats, but it is in balance. I am making some progress on the projects and my online course. I find my way to the beaches, and am exploring the island. I’m being gentle with myself with varying degrees of consistency …giving myself the time I need before my next travels, which is to a situation where the focus on others will take priority, just due to the nature of the job.