It seems such a simple and straight thing for those of us living on the mainland. If your dog gets ill, you can take it to the vet to get help, or contact a charity to help out. On an island as small as Eigg, though, there aren’t facilities like a supermarket let alone a vet.
When I was visiting this destination in the Small Isles of Scotland for my new book Treasured Islands, I got chatting to a couple of people who faced just that dilemma. For them, going to see a vet with their pet is a substantial task. There’s the drive to the ferry terminal, getting to the boat in time and remembering to pre-book. The journey over to the mainland at Mallaig, all this before the appointment itself. But depending on the time of year, the boat timetable might not be that generous to allow a return on the same day. During winter when the tourist numbers dry up, boat timetables are often squeezed to a minimum and a journey to the mainland might well have to include an overnight stay.
And then you’ve got to factor in the weather. when you leave on the ferry one day, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to get back the next. Storms are commonplace over the Scottish islands and strong winds are a devil for cancelling the ferry timetable, or at least bringing major disruption. In this case, when I went to Eigg to research the book there has been no boats for a few days. The trip to the vet has involved starting at a friend’s house for the best part of a week.
We enjoy visiting islands and reading about their charms and unique character. We often fall in love with the scenery and sense of community. But it’s worth keeping in mind that there are challenges associated with living in such a remote outpost and these are not something that everyone could cope with. Having to plan a military operation to go to the vet is just one example. It may seem weird to the city dweller, but those living on our small islands are well used to putting in a lot of time and money to doing the things we take for granted and consider mundane.
Treasured Islands is out now, published by Bloomsbury.