Island Life and Stalking Iguanas

by Kellie Heckman

This week I’ve had a few “Wow, I am living on a tropical island!” moments. It started when I was sitting on the couch doing some work at home. I heard a scratching sound at my door and, when I looked up, I saw a bright green iguana looking in, checking out the interior of my apartment. What? As a Midwesterner, I found this a bit bizarre and unexpected. Then yesterday, while walking home from the post office, I saw what could have been the exact same iguana hanging out in town on a street corner…watching me. Stalker iguana?!

Why am I living on this particular island again? People often ask, and I make a point of telling them that it is not because of the beaches (in fact, I am more of a bustling city kind of girl). FiXiT specifically chose St. Croix as our first community to implement our marketing strategy because of several key factors.

First, as an island, it is a closed companion animal population; not too many dogs and cats moving to the island to retire and the nearest island, St. Thomas, is an unlikely 40 mile swim. This is important for keeping track of our progress in reducing the dog and cat populations over the span of our project. It is also a relatively small island–50,000 people over 84 sq. miles–which means that we can make a big difference in the several years that we are here.

Second, there is only one, very cooperative animal shelter on island, the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center. Initially, communication with the shelter not only gave us a clear indication of the extent of the overpopulation problem but also solidified the great need for this project on St. Croix. Also, having just one shelter helps us track our progress. We will have shelter intake, adoption rate, and euthanasia rate data from before, during, and after our time here.

Third, there is a large, supportive animal-loving community on St. Croix. The veterinarians on island are all participants in a low-cost spay/neuter voucher program, managed by the shelter. There are also organizations dedicated to humane education, which visit schools to discuss companion animal issues at all grade levels. Plus, there are many wonderful volunteers here that are key to the success of all the programs that are working to help the animals on St. Croix (including FiXiT’s).

I’ll be here for at least 3 years, directing the spay/neuter clinic and marketing project. Over time, I might eventually get used to this place…but in the meantime I’ll keep you posted on my iguana friend/stalker situation!

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