Lonely Planet Writer

The tropical island where you can play with rescue puppies on the beach

As if a trip to a tropical island in the Caribbean wasn’t exciting enough, animal lovers on one stunning island can now frolic with rescue puppies on the beach.

Tourists Amanda and Karissa helping at Potcake Place. Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue
Tourists Amanda and Karissa helping at Potcake Place. Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue

Dog rescue charity Potcake Place is found on Providenciales, part of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and it aims to reduce the number of homeless potcake dogs on the island. Socialising is a big part of readying them to live in families, and this is where tourists come in by taking the dogs out on trips as well as volunteering to help out at the charity’s headquarters in the Grace Bay area. It sounds amazing because while sun, sea and cocktails might be the staples of any tropical holiday, puppy cuddles make any day even better.

Tank the puppy waiting for his forever home at Potcake Place: Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue
Tank the puppy waiting for his forever home at Potcake Place: Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue

Potcakes are a mixed-breed dog found all over the Caribbean, and are deemed to be smart, loyal and affectionate. They grow to between 40 and 55lb on average, and got their name as they have traditionally existed on the scrapings of the potcake rice mixture pot that islanders have fed to them. There have been too many strays in recent years though, and attempts have been made to curb their numbers. The dogs are rescued from around the islands of the Turks and Caicos. Litters of puppies as well as individual pups are regularly found by tourists while they are out exploring, or locals find them in their backyards or while working on construction sites.

Volunteer Melissa taking potcake dog Kirby home to Canada. Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue
Volunteer Melissa taking potcake dog Kirby home to Canada. Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue

Potcake Place doesn’t have a shelter for the dogs it rescues, so its staff take care of them until a permanent home can be found. With a steady stream of puppies needing socialisation, they invite holidaymakers to come by and take a puppy out to the beach to give it some individual attention and help make it adoption-ready. The extra help is vital as the organisation is staffed by volunteers and relies on donations to carry out its work. Naturally enough, this arrangement can also result in tourists falling in love with one of the dogs and going on to adopt it. The other role that holidaymakers can play is applying to be a courier, which involves overseeing the delivery of either a puppy or an older dog while it is transported by air to its new parents. A large proportion of the dogs actually go to new homes abroad, so the couriers play an essential role in completing the adoption process.

Two of the adorable potcake puppies rescued from the streets. Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue
Two of the adorable potcake puppies rescued from the streets. Image: Potcake Place K-9 Rescue

Prior to adoption, the charity works with vets to ensure that the puppies get their vaccinations, wormers and other treatments, and arrange health certificates for travel. If an adoption goes ahead, they organise booking the dog on the plane and accompanying them with the help of tourist couriers to meet their new families at the airport. The charity aims to to have given the dogs experience in family situations in advance, which is where tourists play a vital role. By taking them out and giving them some love and individual attention. it helps the dogs to gain confidence in humans and learn how to interact. It’s a win-win situation really because many holidaymakers miss their own pets while away, and playing with a potcake dog can help to fill that void.

For further information, please see Potcake Place.