Adopting a Belizean Rescue Dog Is the Most Rewarding Experience

After 40 years on this earth, I am finally a doggie mom. I know that I’ve wanted a dog for as long as I can remember, but it just never fit into my lifestyle. I never had a dog growing up and in my adulthood, I was always an apartment dweller, which does not provide well for a dog, at least not in my various situations. I love canines and have taken care of several dogs for other pet owners throughout the years, and enjoy petting and giving attention to dogs whenever the opportunities arise.

In my dreams, I always imaged having a purebred German shepherd or golden retriever—a large breed dog. Well, living in Belize, there are too many rescue dogs out there that need happy homes, and getting some kind of pure breed dog was just not in the cards for us, plus a small dog is more fitting for our cozy and humble abode.

Now that we no longer live a “normal American life,” meaning no 40-hour work week, no commuting to work every day, and no being gone each day for 10 to 12 hours, it was time to get a dog. This Belize lifestyle allows for a dog and for us to take care of the animal the way I’ve wanted and imagined. Enter a little female we call Callie.

IMG_0202In choosing this little girl, we did have some specifications, but the top priority was a dog that does not shed (a most unique and difficult characteristic to find in a Belizean rescue dog), which means we have to groom her ourselves, but we are OK with that. We have the time. Callie is what is known in Belize as a potlicker (aka mutt in the States). We don’t know her breeds, but our guess includes or is somewhere between a Yorkshire terrier (or some kind of terrier or two), poodle, Lhasa apso, shih tzu and/or Maltese (all non-shedding breeds). We could be completely wrong on all accounts or some accounts, but really, it does not matter. She is the cutest dog that walked the face of the earth, she is already house trained (yes!), she has a very sweet temperament, and oh, did I mention no dog hair in the house?

I must share her rescue story, of course. A Good Samaritan found her on the Western Highway (between Belize CityIMG_0248 and Belmopan) curled up in a bus stop. She was in heat, had a broken leg, and was worse for the wear. It looked to those who first met her; that she was in the care of no one. This wonderful person picked her up and brought her to the house of the woman he worked for, and Callie spent the next two months mending from a broken leg, which has healed wonderfully (fortunately, it was a clean break). Through the Belmopan Humane Society, her leg was set for healing, she was spayed, and she got all her shots as well as received other medical necessities to get her on the path to being a healthy little girl and ready for adoption.

According to the best guess of the vet who looked after her for the two months before she became our pride and joy dog, she is about a year old, and this does shine through her loads of energy and always wanting to play, play, play, run, run, run, and jump, jump, jump.

IMG_0394How did we find her? Well, with the help of this thing that most people are familiar with—unless they live under rocks—called Facebook. Yes, Facebook for good. A friend spotted her on the Belmopan Humane Society Facebook page, and knew somehow that we might be interested in this sweet girl. This little thing called Facebook tagging was the beginning for Callie. I was tagged one day, and then two days later, we called her ours.

This is a great existence for Callie, and living on the beach is definitely a new game for her, as she was originally “afraid” of the sea. But, after a few days; I showed her that going into the water is easy and fun, and in no time, she decided that she loves swimming and being in the sea. Sometimes, she’ll go in the water and just take a seat.

And she’s made best doggie friends with our next door neighbor dog, Buddy. He is 60 pounds larger than her, C and B another potlicker (some kind of German shepherd, Labrador mix), but when they run the beach and play, you would never know she is just a small, 15 pound dog (gained 5 pounds in three months!).

Callie has changed our lives for the better, and we can’t imagine life without our little, adorable ball of energy. There’s no way to know what her life was like before she entered ours, or even how she sustained a broken leg, but one thing is for sure, she won the adoption jackpot and so did we. Welcome home Callie girl!

Can You Imagine Being Cold in the Tropics? It’s Possible

It has finally happened. I live in the Caribbean, in Belize—it’s wintertime—and I’m cold. Yeah, yeah, I know, those of you in North America are probably giving me some kind of hand gesture and saying, “What?! It’s below freezing here, so I’ll take 73 degrees in January, day or night.”

LongAfter living in Belize (Placencia) for over three years, the winter really is the winter. It’s true what they say about your blood thinning out when you move from a cold climate to a warm one, making 70 degrees feel like 50. Having moved here sight unseen, I didn’t bring with me, originally, much in the way of “winter” clothing. Now, I have to amass more long pants and sleeves. On my most recent visit to the States (last summer), I brought back more jeans and pants, but failed to get jackets and long-sleeved tops. If you come for a visit, bring me “winter” clothes, short of cashmere sweaters or puffer jackets.

Good thing we actually brought a comforter with us; since I’ve used it more often than not since about early November. Though, I remember the days when my blood wasn’t quite on the thin side yet, when even a single sheet was too warm in the winter. Now, sometimes both the comforter and sheet aren’t enough! Good thing I don’t sleep on the beach—the well-known Caribbean breeze makes it even cooler.

Except for my sweetheart, who I live with, I know I’m not crazy. Many locals also say they are cold—those who were born and raised here or who have lived here many more years than my short three. Right now I’m barefoot, but my feet are actually cold to the touch, sitting here inside, though it is sunny outside. I need to put on socks! It is a perfect day for a “brisk” walk. Ha ha. It almost sounds like I’m talking about my hometown of Seattle. Oh, but I’m not.

So here’s my advice. If you are lucky enough to move to Belize full time, don’t throw way, store, or give awaySnow ALL your “winter” apparel. Trust me, it will come in handy if you’re anything like me. Like I said, I’m not crazy, just cold. Old Man Winter does visit Belize during this time of year—Belize it or not.

Hear me out. I’m not complaining (but I’m secretly enjoying this). I will take 73 degrees over anything less. I just want to share with you that the change in lifestyle is not the only thing I’ve adjusted to in the last three years, but also realizing how strange it is to be cold in 70-degree weather, which is normally shorts and sandals time in Seattle. Needless to say; me visiting the Pacific Northwest in the winter is not an option. I believe I would literally freeze. Yes, really.

Zip Lining at Mama Noots: Why Did I Wait So Long?

Yes, I know. Many of you who are Facebook friends of mine already know that my Mama Noots zip lining journey was how I rung in my 40 years of existence several months ago, but, it’s been way too long since posting a blog, so I decided that I must share this Belize experience in words too.

Group PhotoI soared above the Belize jungle on the longest zip line in all of Central America. Don’t you wish you could say that too? This was my second zip lining experience, but this one outscored the one I did in Hawaii by a lot! I’m so ready for a repeat, and it’s quick and easy for us to get to, since it’s located in the Mayflower Bocawina National Park, only about 35 miles from our humble little abode on the Placencia peninsula. Oh, of course, the drive into the park off the main road is an adventure itself, a norm for most paths away from paved roads in this country.

I don’t know if there’s a standard for most courses, but this one offers 12 platforms that include eight zip lines, with a 40-foot rappel thrown in the middle. The rappel was swift and I found myself screaming like girl, but it was over and I was on the ground before I knew it. One of the guides said it was special for my 40th birthday. Uh huh, thanks!

LandingI know what some of you are thinking—you’re afraid of heights, and you would never zip line. You can and will do it, because while in flight from one platform to the next, you’ll be so enamored with the view and experience such a rush and tickle of excitement; that you won’t even think about how high you are. Trust me, by the end of the 2.5-mile venture, you’ll be ready to do it again. And your favorite run will be the longest one, which is 2,300 feet. Yep, almost a half mile!

I know I’ve talked about bugs in past blogs, and it’s common knowledge that we have to share space with them hereSupsension Bridge in Belize. And believe me, it’s definitely no different when you are frolicking in the jungle. So, needless to say, not being prepared with bug spray and not wearing long pants would be a mistake. After we completed our final landing, we headed up the road to play in a waterfall, and I thought it was OK to roll my pants up to my knees without applying bug juice. Well, the next day I had bites the size of plums on my legs, and right up to where my pants were rolled. I think there are special jungle bugs out there and they were waiting just for me.

I have to share an interesting fact about the guides at Mama Noots (who, by the way, are hilarious with jokes from go). They train by completing the entire course blindfolded. This is how they are so quick and accurate with the equipment. They connect and disconnect the harnesses so lightning fast that you can hard hardly believe your eyes. They are experts and make you feel very comfortable, especially with the jokes.

The moral of the story: Come visit me and let’s go zip lining. You know you want to. Kill two birds with one stone and mark both visiting Belize and zip lining off your bucket list.

My First Belize Fishing Experience Was a Success

I must first start off by saying that not only was my first fishing experience in Belize a success, but my first time ever fishing was a success. That’s right, before moving to Belize, I had never fished before, so I was a newbie fisherwoman. Now, I have my own fishing story to tell, and after living here for close to three years, I waited too long to try my hand at the sport that defined this area of Belize.

Since we don’t typically do “tourist” activities, we wait for friends to visit from the States, and then take advantage of new things to do. I got my opportunity to fish when a friend from Seattle came to visit, and fishing was the only thing on his Belize bucket list.

CayeSo we headed out early in the a.m. on a friend’s boat with a few other buddies who live in Placencia. The trip began with getting the bait fish (and the start of many hours in the hot, unforgiving sun). After throwing some nets off of one of the many cayes in the Caribbean and amassing the bait fish, called sprat (and no this was not my job), we finally got settled somewhere on the sea to catch dinner. Here fishy, fishy. Here fishy, fishy.

First, I must mention that when we headed out on this trip, I brought my book to read, as I wasn’t actually planning to fish. We had five fishermen on board, four with poles, and one with a hand line, which means there is no pole or reel involved. Hand line is what it sounds like, just the fishing line with weights and bait at the bottom. This is the typical way most Belizeans fish.

As soon as we stopped the engine and dropped the anchor, the hand line fisherman caught his first fish within five minutes,Grunt and me and then he says to me, “Aren’t you going to fish?” I looked at him and said, “Well, let me see what this hand line fishing is all about,” since he had a second hand line on the boat. I baited up my hand line (which is great fun too, with live bait) and dropped it over the side of the boat. Within about 20 minutes, I caught my first fish! I was so excited that I was shaking like leaf while pulling up the line. And remember, there is no fishing reel, so it’s hand over hand over hand until you bring up the line. It is a bit tiring on the hands, but every time you get a bite or hook a fish, you can feel it much more because the line is resting on your hand and index finger. It is a tried-and-true way of fishing, just ask every local fisherman in Belize.

TriggerMy FIRST fish was a grunt fish, called so because it grunts at you, which is interesting. I actually caught about seven fish, though only three were keepers. Others were too small or trigger fish, which I caught two of these heavy fighters. The trigger fish is not a keeper because it is very hard to clean with so many bones to work through, and it is a pretty fish that you often spy while snorkeling. Obviously the trigger fish preferred hanging out where we were fishing, since I caught two and others on the boat caught a total of six. Unfortunately for the last trigger fish caught (not by me), we had to keep it since the hook was too difficult to remove (their mouths are very small with big, ugly teeth) and it succumbed to the air. Though, we ate it a few hours later in fish tacos, and it was amazing! Watch out trigger fish, I just might be gunning for you next time.

Other fish I caught after the grunt—and by this time was getting used to the hand line and now prefer it to a “modern” fishing pole—included a black margate, a strawberry grouper, and of course the trigger fish. The little ones … I didn’t even ask, since they weren’t going to be on my dinner plate that night.

As part of my little fishing story, I have to add the fact that my man didn’t catch a single fish until toward the end of our time on the water, and every time I started hauling up my hand line he said, “She better not catch another fish.” I think jealousy is what we call that, but I was happy when he finally did catch his one fish, a Spanish mackerel. We had all different flavors of fish to indulge for dinner that night, and needless to say, I have the fishing bug. I now have my own hand line and am ready to catch my next fish (plural).

Being an American Sports Fan in Belize

Since Americans seem to be flocking to Belize, especially down here in the south (Placencia Peninsula), being an American sports fan in Belize is not hard, except for the inability to actually attend games. Now let’s talk about what Belizeans call American seahawksfootball, but here, we’ll call it football. Though considered a third-word country, Belize, at least in Placencia, has cable TV, HDTV, and the Internet with the convenience of some websites to watch any team play each week, whatever your flavor: Seattle, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, etc. And when it comes to NFL playoffs, most, if not all establishments with TVs have playoff football games on.

With people from all over the United States here, it’s not difficult to find out who your “football enemies” are when football season rolls around, and you find out who your “football friends” are too. And let’s not forget the many folks who have to pick a playoff Trophyteam to root for, especially when it comes down to just the two teams standing: the Super Bowl! I admit that I missed out on the excitement of being in Seattle when the unreal and overwhelming exhilaration overtook the city of Seattle before, during, and after the Seahawks brought home their first ever Vince Lombardi. But it was nice to have so many people here rooting for Seattle and for me, being a true fan who bleeds blue and green, so 12ing in Belize was not so bad.

Being an American sports fan in Belize is more than possible, but not just for football fans. We see baseball, basketball, and even hockey (there are a lot of Canadians here too). Some cable channels show a whole list of other sports as well, if so desired. Though many people do come here to get away from these things, if you are a true sports fan with a TV or access to a TV, you can still get your sports itch taken care of, and enjoy life on the Caribbean at the same time. If you are an American sports fan in Belize, no problem.

Thanksgiving in Belize

Unless you from someplace such as south Florida, living in Belize during Thanksgiving is vastly different than living in the States, especially for a Seattleite. There are no freezing temperatures and no snow, sleet, or ice to be seen in Belize, and temperatures are somewhere in the upper 70s to mid-80s. Not that the warmer weather is a problem. Though, after over two years living here, 78 degrees Fahrenheit actually feels cold.Turkey

Because there many American expats here, it’s not hard to find the traditional food that one might miss, such as turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day. Many restaurants owned by fellow Americans and even Canadians cater to their American customers and provide the traditional holiday food.

But for us, talking about Thanksgiving specifically, we don’t necessarily miss the traditional food, because we don’t eat turkey, and I actually don’t like most of the other traditional Thanksgiving food (stuffing, gravy, yams, cranberries, and pumpkin pie). But what we do miss is the old tradition of spending the day with family and friends back home.

nflOne thing that does not change around here though is football on Thanksgiving Day. Since we are not as third world as other countries in Central America, we get our American football, and that is a great thing for us sports fans in Belize. We even have Canadian friends who love our football as much as we do.

Thanks to modern technology and modern technology making its way to Belize, we stay in touch with family and friends, and I was able to see my parents on the holiday via Skype. No, it’s not the same as being together in person, but it is much better than just a voice on the other end of the phone.

So, though our Thanksgiving Day was like most other days here in the tropics, save for football on at 11:30 a.m., it did actually feel like a holiday, as did the rest of the “holiday” weekend. You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the American out of the girl (even if she doesn’t eat turkey).

My Fish Stalker

It may sound strange, but I have a fish stalker. Yes, you are reading that right.

P1000749Where we live, we have a pool, but it has been down recently for a new paint job, so I turn to the sea to do my water workout. The sea in front of where we live has a lot of sea grass, and if you don’t already know, you do not want to walk in or on the sea grass because of the unknown species that wander and swim within it. I try to get into water that is chest deep, but because the sea grass is creeping closer and closer to the shore, this is getting more difficult. But there is one spot where there is enough sand between two bunches of sea grass and the water is chest deep.

I’m in this seemingly perfect spot, checking out my surrounding with my mask and snorkel, and as I’m doing a 360-degree perimeter check, I all of the sudden see this little fish, maybe 8 inches in length floating right in front of me staring me down. I joke you not, he is watching me. I saw other fish of course, but they are swimming around paying me no mind, but this particular fish is looking right at me. He is not swimming around with any fish friends or even looking at anything but me.

We are facing off and I back up a little toward the shore, then he moves toward me. I back up more and he continues coming toward me, and again and again. He is literally pushing me out of the water. After getting out of the water, I return two more times, and he is there again staring me down and doing his best to get rid me. Needless to say, I don’t get much of my water exercise done, because this is just plain creepy.

Two days later, I go at it again, but this time I stay away from the sand area between the sea grass patches, because maybe that is theP1000750 fish’s space, since it is where we first met. I do some laps and then while I’m in somewhat shallow water I peek under the water with my mask and snorkel, and what do you know? That same fish is there again, staring at me, and he is pretty close to me like before. It is then that I officially name him my fish stalker. I get out of the water and reenter in a different area, continue with exercises, peek under the water, and there he is again just looking at me and only me. I kick at him and try to grab at him and he does not move until I practically touch him. Then he swims away, but returns.

Is he my fish stalker or does he just like the mask and snorkel look? I tried to figure out what kind of fish he is, so I could find out if this is normal behavior for this fish species, but to no end, I don’t know what kind of fish he is, except that he a stalking fish.

Please, we must finish work on the pool soon, so I can swim and exercise without looking over my shoulder for my fish stalker. I know that if I return to the sea he will be there again, and I will be forced to name him, and I think “Sonny the Stalker” is appropriate.

Belize Rainy Season: Rain, Thunder, and Lighting is the Norm

Growing up and living in the Northwest and Seattle, I’m accustomed to rain. It’s part of life for any Seattleite. But if I thought I was used to the rain, the rain in the tropics of Belize is in another category. One second the sun is shining, the next you better take cover from the torrential downpour, and many times there’s not much time between the two.

P1000436In the tropics, the rainy season runs from about June to October, which is in line with hurricane season, so rain here is common during those five months. OK, I’m from Seattle and used to seeing rain for more than five months out of the year. The difference? Well, thunder and lightning is not common in Seattle, but here in Belize, rain, thunder, and lightning usually all play together.

Living on the sea side of the road, it is easy to see rain coming (if it’s during the day of course). We look out at the Caribbean and see the rain coming by reading the dark and nasty clouds. We have even gotten good at knowing when we have an hour to take cover or just a few minutes. It is actually pretty cool to watch the weather unfold in front of our eyes by living on beach and sea.

I’m especially reminded that I’m in the tropics and not in Washington anymore when I’m sound asleep and am jolted right out of bed by thunder and lightning or just rain, but really hard and loud rain. Since tin rooftops are the norm here, when it rains hard, you can’t miss it!

Sometimes the thunder rolls, just like Garth Brooks sings about. It rolls and rolls and rolls. And this is after the lightning wakes me up because it is so close, it lights up the room. Between the thunder, lightning, and rain, there is a recipe for lack of sleep.

Oh, but I’m not saying that Belize’s variety of rain is all bad. It is part of life in the tropics and part of this widely new and different experience. There is a positive side to the rain. Usually when the rain comes, it brings with it lower temperatures, such as 80 degrees, and that’s the “sunny” side of this story. Sometimes I even need a sheet AND a blanket to keep me warm at night. Life in the tropics: torrential downpours with cool 80 degrees.

Still Living in Belize and Very Settled In

Well, it’s been over a year since my last blog in “Living in Belize.” Last, we just moved out of the Garifuna village of Seine Bight to the northern community on the Placencia Peninsula of Maya Beach as a temporary one-month stay. We then left to Seattle for just 10 days and returned to stay in Placencia, also referred to by all locals as the “The Village.” Here, we stayed for just six days, before we moved in next door to where we are now settled. We will be here for an extended period of time with no end date.

We now live in the community called Surfside, which is just about 1.5 miles north of Seine Bight and about 2 miles south of Maya Beach. In a word, to compare this area with Seine Bight, the first word that comes to mind is “quiet.” The most noise we now experience is road traffic, birds, other natural critter sounds, and the occasional woodpecker.

Buddy and PepperWhile staying at our friend and neighbor’s house next door before moving into our current home, we were lucky enough as dog lovers to have their two dogs there with us, Pepper and Buddy. And they were our daily entertainment and drama during the few months that we lived there. Since then, Pepper has passed, which was almost like losing our own pet, but Buddy is right next door and feels as close as having our own dog, since we often take him on his daily beach walks.

Now in our new place that we cleaned, painted (inside), and made our own, we are very settled into ourP1010973 life in Belize. We keep this property looking good, as it is own home. We also look forward to when the property owners come for visits and vacations from Seattle to their Belize home.

We are now permanent residents of Belize, which makes life much easier, especially not having to make the monthly trip across the lagoon to get a stamp in our passports. We also finally have a vehicle that our friends sold to us for a very, very good price. Though the little green truck, which is a Nissan, keeps on running, many would call it a Belizean vehicle. It has character. The hood is held closed by two bungee cords, and you must add water to the engine before driving it off the property, each time, or else. Not to mention, you never know how fast you are driving, as the speedometer never goes much beyond 15 miles per hour. Though, you don’t have to drive fast down here. When you live down here on the peninsula, anything with an engine and two or four wheels that gets you from Point A to Point B, one way or another, is all you need. And we are lucky to have the motorized wheels.

With a permanent place to live, good neighbors, and in an area that makes us happy to be living, we are very settled into our life in Belize. Stay tuned for more “Living in Belize” blogs.

Moving on from Seine Bight

The next chapter in our Belize adventure has begun, as the first one has closed.  We have moved out of the house in Seine Bight Village, where we stayed for our first eight months in Belize. We can’t say that we will miss living in Seine Bight, but it was quite an experience to take with us for the rest of our lives.

Let me go over the things that we won’t miss: packs of dogs barking at all hours and for any length of time, children crying at almost every moment, crazy people yelling nonsense and profanity, music blasting from all directions and at very late hours (not to mention hearing the same songs repeatedly), and our favorite—burning garbage (especially plastic).

We also will no longer be the “victims” of Seine Bight celebrations. Celebrations like wakes and fundraisers are not bad things, but it will be nice to not be in the nucleus of these events. The most recent event was a fundraiser for the younger kids’ school. It is wonderful that they have these events for the school, because we all know they need it, but the last one was literally right next to us. The fundraiser was not without very large speakers and subwoofers. It was loud and every child in Seine Bight was right in our laps. I did not realize there were so many kids in that village. Did I forget to mention that they had a dance contest for the kids at this fundraiser, and the song that they danced to was about tequila? Yep, that’s Belize for you. Ha ha.

We will no longer be scolded for letting people have the coconuts, and let’s not forget: We won’t have to deal with any more mango-tree drama. What a relief. All the issues we had to deal with were just part of living in Seine Bight, but I wouldn’t take back the experience for anything. It was a unique time in our lives, and I don’t believe that many others from Seattle will have it exactly like us (except for our dear friend Brad).

Now and for the next month we are living in Maya Beach, a quiet, less developed community four miles north of Seine Bight. And wow, what a difference. There is none of the previously mentioned issues. The only issues here are part of life in the tropics. Being on the lagoon side of the road with the canal, the mosquitoes are relentless, especially now during the raining season. When we are outside, we have to be ultra aware of mosquito action.

We have also seen our first scorpions since moving to Belize. The first two we saw were actually here in this apartment. We remedied the situations without being stung, so we are still scorpion virgins. Knock on wood. I don’t think there are many, if any around Seine Bight, since it’s more developed with so many people, dogs, and action. It seems the scorpions like it here in the quiet and surrounded by jungle.

We have some very loud frogs here in Maya Beach, but other than that and a scorpion or two, it’s a lovely new chapter in our adventure in Belize.