WRITER, entrepreneur, photographer and yoga instructor Elspeth Duncan takes multitasking to a whole new dimension. But it’s the other hat she’s taken on — that of an animal rescuer — which serves as the inspiration behind this creative’s latest projects.
Cupid The Laughing Gull is the first in what Duncan hopes will be a series of books based on some of her rescues. Duncan has also registered her popular Tobago-based animal rescue initiative Venus Doggess of Love as an NGO. Part proceeds from book sales will go towards the newly-minted NGO.
From her home in Tobago Duncan spoke with the Express about her passion for animals, her wildest rescues and some of the obstacles she’s encountered as an animal welfare activist in Tobago.
Duncan rescues animals on a regular basis. She’s rescued everything from dogs and cats to fruit bats, a pelican and laughing gulls.
“Cupid, my most recent wild rescue, was a laughing gull. The experience was very inspiring to me and had a deeper message that I wanted to share widely with others. For a while now I have wanted to document these different animal rescues in book form, since every rescue touches the heart and has its own messages and lessons. There is a lot we can learn from interacting with animals — even more so when we rescue them and spend close quality time with them,”she says.
The book which targets all ages is a short read and includes photos. Duncan intends to work on a collection of true stories behind her animal rescue cases to inspire and motivate others to help animals whenever they are in need.
Duncan has had a lifelong passion for animal welfare and animals in general. In 2015 she started a Facebook page, “Venus Doggess of Love” — which was inspired by a pup she adopted from a Tobago animal shelter whom she named Venus after the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Harmony. She replaced “goddess” with “doggess”.
“I started featuring animals I rescued on the page and soon the page gathered a lot of followers, locally and abroad. It became an animal rescue page from which people adopted animals I rescued,” she explains. “This year I decided to make Venus Doggess of Love into an official NGO, as more and more people were donating money to support rescue cases. As an NGO, Venus Doggess of Love can have its own bank account in that name and is also eligible to access funding and have official fundraisers. All of that will enable more work to be done for the homeless and neglected animals of T&T.”
Getting support for her NGO hasn’t been a challenge for Duncan because over the years Venus Doggess of Love has been growing in popularity.
“When I feature an animal that needs veterinary assistance (whether minor or major) I post about it and online supporters quickly donate to help cover costs because they care. I see the beauty of humanity shining through so many of the people who support Venus Doggess of Love,”she says.
Nothing stands in Duncan’s way when it comes to attending to an animal in need.
“One of the most memorable examples of this was hiring a private plane to fly Henrietta (a Tobago road chicken with a broken leg) to Trinidad, since there are no X-ray machines for animals in Tobago and CAL said they would not fly her. The ferry was giving lots of problems and would have been a long and traumatic journey for her, so I arranged for the private ‘jet’ and passengers came for the fun of the adventure, but also helped to cover the cost,” says Duncan.
Over in Tobago where Duncan calls home, she encounters a variety of responses to animal welfare and not all are positive. There are those who are indifferent and leave animals tied on short chains with no water or shelter, while some go so far as to poison and abuse animals. At the other end of the spectrum are those who love and care for animals. Part of her work as an activist is helping people to view animals as sentient creatures deserving of our love attention and assistance, she says. As a representative for the Animal Welfare Network in Tobago, Duncan will teach animal welfare education in primary schools.
“It is important to reach the children and help them to understand the sentient nature of animals and that they are our friends...many children, upon seeing a dog, will either react scared and/or pick up a stone or stick to pelt or beat the dog. Children are not born that way. It is a learned response from adults around them who most likely learned that as children too,”says Duncan.
Cupid The Laughing Gull is available on www.Amazon.com, at Paper Based Bookshop at the Normandie, St Ann’s and at Shore Things Cafe in Lambeau,Tobago. Those interested in obtaining an autographed copy can call or WhatsApp the author at 786-2539. For more details on Venus Doggess of Love, visit the NGO’s Facebook page.