Milford woman returns from helping animals on the Caribbean islands

Sue Maraczi of Milford sailed around the Caribbean islands for three months with a crew helping animals in the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Irma last September.

Sue Maraczi of Milford sailed around the Caribbean islands for three months with a crew helping animals in the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Irma last September.

Sue Maraczi sailed around the Caribbean islands for three months — but not for pleasure.

Maraczi, of Milford, works as a licensed emergency and critical care nurse at the Animal Medical Center in New York City.

Alongside many veterinary professionals throughout the region, Maraczi arranged a massive food relief effort for hungry animals after Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean islands on Sept. 6, 2017.

But she quickly decided that wasn’t enough and came up with the idea to fly down to the islands and help.

Melissa Marter, a friend of Maraczi who lives in Stratford and owns Who’s Your Doggie in Milford, immediately got on board.

The two flew to Antigua the morning of Oct. 5, 2017. Getting on that plane, the two had no idea what would await them on the islands. Marter stayed for about a week and Maraczi returned to Connecticut in early January.

“There were horses running free, dogs, cats, goats, bulls,” Maraczi said.

She said they got in contact with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international nonprofit group made famous through the television show “Whale Wars.” The two were offered a place on the John Paul DeJoria boat, captained by Jaspal Oberoi.

Maraczi and Marter spent three days on Antigua/Barbuda before setting sail. Then she said they sailed to Dominica and through the Panama Canal.

“We had the most amazing crew,” Maraczi said. “I've honestly never seen a group get along so well in my life. We are still very close.”

Being aboard the Sea Shepard meant saving anything that needed saving, Maraczi said.

“Black tip sharks, hammerhead sharks, cow nose rays, guitar fish, sea turtles, dolphins, sea lions, birds ... we weren’t limited to anything who needed help,” she said.

Some of the animals Maraczi and the crew encountered had cuts, respiratory infections, musculoskeletal injuries and a few cases of mange.

“We did the best we could with what we had,” Maraczi said.

In Barbuda, food was scarce for the animals, she said. And in Antigua, she said shelters filled up quickly.

“Some of the dogs were beginning to starve and started to elicit pack behavior, so we covered as much as we could with the food we had,” Maraczi said. “We had to be on the lookout for them and approach every one cautiously.”

In Antigua, the crew went to two shelters where many evacuated animals ended up.

“Although they were basic dog and cat shelters, it wasn’t uncommon to see a goat here or there,” Maraczi said.

“I watched people lose everything they own, some even lost their pets. Some pets we found and we were able to reunite with the owners. And some pets waited at the shelters, lost, waiting for someone they knew to walk in. It was heartbreaking,” she added.

When the idea to make this trip first sparked, Maraczi was out of work, waiting for the facility she works at in New York to finish construction. But she’ll said she’ll be able to return on the Sea Shepard every so often to help out.

“I'll be heading back as soon as I can,” Maraczi said. “My employer has granted me time to use for Sea Shepard and volunteer opportunities.”

Maraczi said more is still to be done in the Caribbean when it comes to the animals.

“The donated supplies and food were needed. They are still needed,” she said.