When our builder poured the concrete for the driveway at Sand Nickels, it was quite a production. The driveway itself had to be cut through rock and then graded. Afterwards, a great amount of concrete was prepared and then poured. After much labor, time and cost, the smooth workmanship was obvious. That is with the exception of some unplanned paw prints that made their way into the equation. I already knew who the culprit was, ACE!!!! That was his name, Ace! What was this?
The dog of a nearby neighbor had wandered on to the newly formed concrete and indelibly left his mark forever. After some time and months of staring at one another, Ace and I became good companions. He would vigilantly watch the property, patrol the boundaries and loved to join me for my morning and evening strolls on the beach. He loved swimming on Hoopers Bay and even enjoyed barking at the resident turtles that swim there. In return, he was loving and loyal. He, I would come to find out, was a Potcake. What exactly is Potcake, I asked myself.
The Bahamian Potcake is a local desert that is served at local festivals and special events. It is made of fried dough and has a creamy inside filling. Not really, but it does sound appetizing doesn’t it? Actually, the Potcake is mixed breed dog that has been indigenous to the Caribbean for centuries. Specifically, the Bahamian Potcake can be found on New Providence, the capitol of the Bahamas, as well as throughout the family islands. As of 2014, it is estimated that the local Potcake population on New Providence was about 15,000 and an additional 15,000 located throughout the family islands. The Potcake is actually a designated breed. The Bahamas achieved full independence on July 10, 1973 and several years later, our friend the Potcake, was designated the Royal Bahamian Potcake.
After spending any time on Exuma, you will see these dogs on the side of roadways as you travel from one location to another. Their name originates from the Bahamian staple of Peas and Rice. When cooking up a batch of a congealed Peas and Rice mixture, the cooking pot used will ultimately be left with a thick cake on the bottom of the pot. The remains of the cooking process. This is what the older Exumians from years past would feed to the stray dogs that originally wandered on their property and ultimately came to stay. Hence the name Potcake.
The Potcake is actually a very resilient animal as it is not negatively impacted from the parasites, diseases that ordinary breeds require vaccinations to fend off. While most have become quite adept at dodging automobiles, this is still their number one cause of death. They are very intelligent and are capable of being trained to sense for narcotics, guns and also have been utilized in Arson investigations, capable of sensing accelerants. Additionally, as 7% of the Bahamian population suffers from Diabetes, Potcakes have been trained to effectively alert when negative chemical reactions are taking place in the human body, acting as a form of insulin monitoring device, where such a costly mechanism is difficult to afford or to maintain.
They are very loyal and loving animals and also act as very good security guards for their adopted owners. This why they were encouraged to stay on landowners’ various properties in the past as they really like to bark and alert when intruders were noticed. Do be cautious when encountering adult Potcakes however, some can be aggressive and some do carry diseases.
Just last month I was in Exuma for a couple of days, sneaking in between rentals for a couple of days to rewind and relax. I was outside playing a Ring Toss game on the beach with some local friends when I heard what sounded like a kennel just up the hill. Apparently, my neighbor who lives there part time had come across a new litter of puppies, eight in total, that she found under an abandoned car in Little Exuma. They, in turn, had been abandoned by their mother and my neighbor had rescued them. Several people had pulled up their sleeves and built a small pen to house the overly excited group.
Upon seeing the group of puppies, I immediately volunteered to drive to Exuma Market and purchased two large bags of Puppy Chow. But what would she do with all these puppies? Perhaps she could relocate them to a Cay up North of Exuma and have them swim out to people who come from distant lands to take their selfies with them?
The Potcake has been the subject of stories and songs, becoming an accepted part of Exumian life and folklore. There is a growing trend to salvage these wonderful animals and many have been adopted both locally and abroad, throughout North America and other parts of the world. If you have an interested in supporting the Potcake, the Exuma Humane Society located in Bahamas Sound 18 is a great place to start. They coordinate foster homes, adoptions, neutering and veterinary care for the uncared for when necessary. The number is 1.242.557.8838 and they also have a great facebook page.
As for Ace, he relocated to Nassau, in New Providence, with his owner when she moved for an employment opportunity. And as for the gaggle my neighbor rescued, all have been adopted, three went to North America and one to England. The rest were adopted by locals including a police officer.
So next time you see a stray dog on Exuma, think about this. Now you know. By the way, if anyone refers to you while on Exuma as a Potcake, it is not necessarily a compliment.