Truth be told, I've never been a big animal lover - especially not of dogs. I just thought them way too much work, and easily I'd turn a blind eye to strays - unless they crossed the path of my vehicle, in which case, I would press gas just for the cheap laugh of seeing them scamper.
Right after mosquitoes, I considered mongrel dogs Jamaica's next plague. Everywhere you look, you see one, mangy and mawga and looking two sleepless nights away from rabies.
And then I met Tammy Browne, the not-so-crazy dog lady.
The woman in her house has 78 dogs. You read right: 78 mongrel dogs. In fact, Tammy's backyard and living room and bedroom are home to also 15 cats, two chickens and five other birds. And each is a rescued animal. An outcast from a Jamaican home that decided that animal had outlived its useful life.
Tammy names, feeds and bathes and dresses wounds and nourishes back to health and hugs and plays with every single animal every single day. And she does it without a penny of government subvention. Tammy's home has become the Montego Bay Animal Haven. She has dedicated her life to saving ill-treated animal outcasts on the western end of the island.
From Ocho Rios to Negril, Tammy drives around looking for stray animals, trying to capture them and take them home to her animal sanctuary. Those she can't catch, she puts out a regular feeding station just so they won't suffer the cruelty of starvation. Captured animals are weak and wounded, often with deep, infected gashes imposed by humans who think them a nuisance.
When Roger Clarke made the suggestion that he would be issuing passports to cows, the howls of laughter could be heard far and wide. Tammy has taken it one step further. Some of her dogs have got visas. Animal activism isn't big in Jamaica, but Tammy has been able to get dogs adopted into countries where puppies are treated as well as people. Once-starving strays Tammy puts on a plane and sends them to lives of luxury and love.
The Montego Bay Animal Haven is financed totally by donations - and 90 per cent of those donations come from overseas. We can and must do better. We created the problem. Tammy needs help. Jamaica's mongrel plague is self-imposed. We keep dogs as security, not as pets, and when they have puppies, it is very customary for us to let them roam.
spayed or neutered
We can do something to make Tammy's job easier. Let's begin to actively get dogs spayed or neutered. A free clinic is happening in Negril on December 11. Get as many dogs there as you can. Seek out Montego Bay Animal Haven on Facebook. Tammy needs old newspapers and dog food and a whole host of things I'm sure we can help with. Reach out to her.
Today, I celebrate Tammy. I thank her for having the big heart (and strong stomach) she does. Because of her, I see strays differently. I'm not quite ready to adopt a dog just yet. But I understand better that the strays are victims of Jamaican neglect.