Meredith, Bucky, Ty and Tora are an American family of four who decided to abandon their conventional life in favor of a simpler, more deliberate life in the South Pacific. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the family these last few weeks. The following is an honest account of what it’s like to love, and lose, a pet in American Samoa. Original post from Chasing Abandon.
Living Away From First World Luxuries
Last month, our 8 month old island rescue pup Todd was hit by a car in front of our house. It was a Friday evening and we were thankfully home, to hear the aftermath and come to his aid.
For some context, the life of a dog is very different here in American Samoa. I certainly couldn’t have understood all the differences before living here. Dogs run free and create a roaming territory, knowing which dogs belong to which area. If they cross over the invisible line to where they are no longer accepted, the neighboring pack will confront the outsider and attack if he/she doesn’t leave.
Having an indoor only dog isn’t really an option if you want your dog to be accepted. Todd started out as a tiny puppy in the neighborhood, and was able to carve out his spot in the pack without too much trouble.
Having come from the US mainland, we didn’t start out with the Samoan approach to dog ownership. Our house has a fenced backyard, but there was no containing Todd. He learned that most fence boards can be pushed out. Rain, ocean spray, and termites have not been kind to our wooden fence. We would fix the fence, then the process would be repeated. If he couldn’t push out then he would dig under, likely laughing at us at the thought of containing an island dog.
It seemed like a happy little dog community at the end of a dead end road. The speed limit is 5 mph and the road is so riddled with potholes it’s difficult to go any faster. Yet people still can drive carelessly, and the energy of Todd’s pack chasing down a truck that night was far too much for Todd to resist joining in.
Todd made it past that first night. We got through the shock, splinted his broken leg, and medicated him thanks to amazing neighbors with dog supplies. Have I mentioned that our island is currently without a vet? The territory vet who was here when we arrived returned to the US mainland a few weeks before Todd’s accident. A replacement won’t be arriving until April.
Thankfully our previous island vet is AMAZING and consulted often with us over the next two weeks. While on the island, she saw hit by car dogs at the clinic everyday, and knew what kind of healing was possible with the limited island resources.
Ultimately, what we originally hoped was swelling in his back turned out to be permanent paralysis. We had to make the terrible decision of euthanizing a big puppy whose body was no longer functioning correctly.
While we are filled with emotions, both sadness and anger, we’re trying to look ahead and create a positive impact from a very unfortunate situation. Our new vet arriving next month will not fix the lack of adequate medical supplies on island, but it will hopefully not leave a handful of critically injured dogs each week having to wait on humane euthanasia options.
A few of us are putting our heads together to make a push for funding/grants towards some larger, necessary items. The vet clinic here works with minimal equipment, and funding is nearly nonexistent. Access to even the most basic supplies is limited.
Help us add a silver lining to our unfortunate experience, and bring about some positive change for animal welfare in American Samoa. Are you able to donate and help? Or spread the word? Coconut Mutts is an established 501 (c) 3 set up to help the animals of American Samoa. There are so many animal welfare details that need to be addressed on the island, but keeping the vet clinic stocked with supplies is critical. Coconut Mutts will use your donations for supplies, and for future programs such as their Fall 2018 spay/neuter campaign.
As for us, everyone is adjusting to the change. Our kids are resilient and no strangers to saying good-bye to a pet. Life marches on so quickly, and they’re swept up in the everyday life that always seems to fly by. They were spared from the decision making, and it’s the doubt of that decision that is the hardest to digest.
There are no veterinary diagnostic tools on island to completely confirm what we suspected was going on under his skin. For two weeks we constantly scanned for any small physical change that indicated healing. It was overwhelming. It’s a blend of guilt and relief those two weeks are over.
Check back with Chasing Abandon to learn more about American Samoa and this amazing family of compassionate adventurers.