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The Royal Bahamian Potcake is an invaluable dog

 

The Potcake has been in The Bahamas for centuries. It has genetically evolved into the resilient champion that it is today. Most parasites and diseases that pedigree dogs would succumb to if they were not vaccinated and not properly cared for would not usually impact the Potcake.

This genetically unique mixed breed dog, makes up the majority of the country’s population of stray dogs. There are approximately 15 thousand strays in New Providence and approximately 15 thousand in the “Family Islands” collectively (Bahamas Humane Society, 2014). These stray Potcakes are considered to be a nuisance to neighbourhoods and communities as they turn over garbage in search of food, carry parasites on their skin that can transfer to domestic pets, have litters of puppies twice a year, and bark relentlessly at night. Domiciled on the streets, the beaches and in the bushes, they sometimes travel in packs and are most vulnerable to motorists. Some become loyal companions to the homeless.

The founders and employees of the country’s first and only Humane Society, plus a minority of Bahamians are among the few who take notice of this native breed. Intermittently, foreign benevolents would sponsor the neutering and caring for of several of these dogs, but these acts are just not enough to curb their plight or promote their unseen value. These dogs are considered throwaways. But are they really?

potcake 2photo by Syreta Roberts

Over the past few years the country’s crime rate has increased. In 2013 alone, there were 573 armed robberies, 956 drug related arrests, and 133 arsons among other crimes (The Royal Bahamas Police Force).

Potcakes have the ability to do scent detection work for the country if well trained and properly cared for. Scent detection dogs are dogs trained to locate drugs, bombs, guns, and arson among other scents. A good scent dog has more to do with a dog’s drive and the quality of training than its lineage. The average dog has 200 million scent receptors versus humans who have 5 million. Many potcakes could be trained to locate guns and explosives by detecting the odour of certain metals used in making guns and specific substances commonly used in the production of gunpowder and explosive devices.

Arson trained dogs are instructed to detect the chemical traces of accelerants. Dogs can be trained to pick out the specific odours of flammable substances and locate the source. Potcakes could also be trained to carry out drug searches at airports, on planes and on boats as these dogs have the ability to locate even the tiniest trace of a drug. (Forensic Science Central –Detection Dogs, UK).

Similarly, potcakes also have the ability to be trained as diabetic alert dogs. Diabetic alert dogs are trained to react to the scent of chemical changes produced by blood sugar highs and lows in diabetics, especially those with type 1 diabetes (alertservicedogs.com). Seven percent of Bahamians are diabetic. Some diabetics may be interested in having diabetic alert dogs if they knew that there was this option. According to Assistance Dogs International, the characteristics of a good service dog is that it is not protective, is people orientated, is not overly active, is confident but not dominant or submissive, and does not require complex grooming. Potcakes possessing the appropriate traits should be considered for training as service dogs.

The question is why have we not yet considered our genetically superior potcakes for scent detection work with the police force, defense force, fire departments, and customs officers as they are just as capable of being trained and their anatomy will resist the elements of the environment much more than the pedigree dogs?  Why have we not yet considered training our potcakes as service dogs?  Putting our potcakes to good use will not only take strays off the street, it will create a new emerging market of potcakes trained in specialized fields.  It will eventually lessen the dependency the nation has on importing already trained pedigree dogs. It will facilitate the emergence of specialized Bahamian dog trainers and it will curb the culture that Bahamians have towards potcakes, subsequently impacting tourism positively.

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6 Comments

  • avatar image
    Frederic
    March 5, 2014 Reply

    Excellent and original article about an important aspect, the Potcakes, of the fauna in The Bahamas. Very good suggestions regarding the positive contributions that these dogs can have for our society.

  • avatar image
    Devlyn Stubbs
    March 9, 2014 Reply

    Thanks. My company Stubsdale Dog Care Center has started a program where I go into school and educate the youth about dogs and how to care for them, through our school club & summer camp. We will curb the stray dog problem with education! The topics I often present on are "How to care for your dog" and "The connection between Potcakes and farming in the Bahamas". some of the views I express are mirrored in your article. In particular the fact that the potcake is genetically superior. You are right on target with your assertions and suggestions, some of which are happening on a small scale. Good work!

  • avatar image
    Ava Brodheim
    March 11, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for opening our eyes to all of these possibilities Syreta! I truly admire the love and passion you have for animals . . . Very Proud of you!

  • avatar image
    Ruth Thackray
    March 12, 2014 Reply

    Over the years I've seen many Potcake's that are almost supernatural in their ability to be 'in tune' with our human emotions. And I agree they would make excellent service dogs. They've not just evolved to be genetically superior and hardy, they are emotionally evolved and supremely conscious as well. We see it on the streets everyday, they are highly aware of humans state of mind, its evident when a dog 'latches' on to a certain tourist, who then turns out to be a bit more sympathetic than the other tourists, they intuitively know who to best get some affection off, and in turn get some food from. They've always had to live off their wits and only the most intelligent dogs survived, and this is why they are so 'in tune' with us. The Potcake is the perfect dog in my humble opinion.

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    Youri Kemp
    March 12, 2014 Reply

    There are the birds of Capistrano, the Polar Bears of the Artic, the Bengal Tiger of the Indian jungle, and NOW the Potcake dogs of The Bahamas. They should be treated with respect and dignity. They are who we are as a people.

  • […] and well known to the public.  I’ll let my colleague Syreta Roberts tell you more in her blog post about the invaluable […]

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