Thursday, July 10, 2014

Outbreak in The Bahamas

It's three weeks ago that I drive to the Bahamas Humane Society to leave old newspapers for lining of dog and puppy cages. I also have with me, gently used clothing for the BHS thrift shop. Instead of exiting quickly, I wait on the short line at the reception desk to buy maintenance products for my two dogs. Ahead of me is a mother and two small children, all holding Shih Tzuu puppies.

Looking around, I notice again, the form sitting flat on the desk. I give little thought to my next action: I take the form, sit down and fill it out. One question on the application is: Will I volunteer to clean cages? I'm quick to tick off: No. With a list of several tasks I'm willing to do, I hand in my completed application. Within minutes, I become a volunteer at the Bahamas Humane Society. At a time when I could benefit from extra funds, I instead, volunteer. Not sure what possesses me to do so, but a little voice tells me: it's a way of giving back for all the blessings in life.

As a BHS volunteer, my current duties include: answering the phone and massaging the back of Sheba, a resident, shepherd-like canine. I am confident I can handle my allotted responsibilities, as soon as I master the intercom system!

On my arrival to work last week, BHS personnel inform me of the possibility of canine distemper, a deadly virus. The disease, which spreads through the air from either direct or indirect contact with an infected animal, affects not only dogs, but other animals, as well. Felines are in the clear, although they can carry their own type of distemper. All BHS employees are thereby put on alert - until further notice.

This week, it becomes official: The Bahamas has an outbreak of Canine Distemper.

When I take a seat at my desk, I'm introduced to Jim, who hails from the U.S. Jim is a specialist in dog aggression and crisis situations, among other tasks. Coincidentally, Jim just arrived to Nassau for his usual volunteer assignment, but managing the outbreak becomes a priority.

I listen to Jim talk on the phone. He explains what's happening and the role of the BHS during the outbreak. I'm suddenly reminded of the movie, Outbreak, in which actor, Dustin Hoffman takes extreme steps to find the host for an airborne virus and prevent it from spreading. Where I sit, Jim is Dustin Hoffman; an unknown dog is the host; and distemper is the disease.

My thoughts become interrupted by the constant ringing of the phone. For the few hours I volunteer, people call with multiple questions about the outbreak. Due to my briefing, I'm able to answer most questions and relieve further panic.

When I arrive home, I call the vet. I make immediate arrangements for my dogs to have their shots updated.


  1. Despite the awful distemper break out, your new job sounds really interesting, Jeralyn, and should bring you lots of good contacts.

  2. Wow, talk about timing. It sounds like the BHS can use your help, especially at this time. And, it is good way to give back.