Thursday, August 28, 2008

Puppy tales from Cuba, Part 1

I started this blog a few weeks ago, hoping to make a contribution toward a better understanding of Cuba. But it has gone downhill fast. And today I'm going to tell you a true tale about a stray dog named Blanquita.
I am an unashamed dog lover and fell in love with Blanquita when I lived in Tarara, east of Havana. She was about the friendliest dog I had ever seen and never seemed to stop wagging her tail. I never saw her angry and rarely heard her bark.
I fed Blanquita - or Blan Blan - and other strays whenever I could. She evidently appreciated that and came to my house along the beach when she felt the need to give birth to a new litter of puppies. And she evidently felt that need quite often.
Blan had 18 puppies at my house - three batches of six puppies each. We kept two puppies and gave the others away.
But Blan wouldn't stay in my yard. She continually hopped the fence, even when she was pregnant and her soft parts were practically dangling along the ground.
The way I figured it, she was a restless soul and missed life on the streets.
Or maybe she was a just a floozy, I used to joke.
Either way, I couldn't tame her, so I let her run free, but not before paying a Cuban vet to spay Blan so she wouldn't have any more pups.
I left Cuba in 2005 and a Canadian woman and her husband managed to adopt Blan Blan and renamed her Dulzura. The way I understand it, they pretty much shut the dog inside the house, so she had no choice but to stay. And before long, Blan got used to this new life, forgot about her vagabond ways and came to appreciate her new owners.
Not knowing Blan had been spayed, they took her to a vet for the same operation. The scar was small and the vet didn't notice until after he put Blan to sleep and cut her open.
That saved the dog, as it turned out, because she had developed some nasty tumors and the vet wouldn't have discovered them without the operation.
I'm telling you all this now because I just got an e-mail from Blan's new owners, Judith Saunders and David Carlin. They tell me Blan - I mean, Dulzura - is fine in Canada. She's quite the snowbird pooch and travels with them to Cuba every year.
Writes Judith:
Of course Dulzura...has her own fenced yard although she really is totally a house dog and our bed is her favourite place. She does enjoy going off leash to the woods and runs freely for the sheer joy of it. However she is careful to keep us within sight, not wanting to lose her meal ticket.
Judith also sent pictures, posted above.

If the U.S. and Cuba had normal relations, I wonder how many Cuban dogs would be adopted and sent to America?


alongthemalecon said...

Judith sent me a sweet note about Blan after reading the blog. Here it is:

Loved your blog about our wonderful dog. Thank you. She really is a very special girl, loves everyone including small babies and will cross the street to visit with children and let them do the most
rough and almost unspeakable things to her. She will also cross the street to avoid any water hoses or lawn sprinklers which leads us to think that maybe she was hosed by some gardeners at Tarara.

We often say that we did not rescue her, but rather the other way around. She gives unconditional love to us both and we say that she is an equal
opportunity dog. David is the chef in the house and feeds her while I (being a retired registered nurse) get to pour all the medications into her daily, clean out the ears when they get re infected and do the soothing baths etc. And my reward is always a lick on hand and face as if she is saying, "It's OK Mom, I trust that you would never hurt me in a harmful way".

She is at her happiest when we both take her in the car to the park and she can race from one to the other. And she loves to go and visit with our offspring and grandchildren.

It is us that are truly blessed with having her in our lives and we are happy that we have had a part in prolonging and giving her more quality of life. She travels with us to exhibitions and is well known in several art galleries and in lots of motels. And when we host a Cuban fiesta, she is right there in the thick of it for a while, then goes looking for solitude in another part of the house.

I wish you could see her again. She must be about seven years old now and can run like a pup for a short distance then needs to rest. Every day she lives on with her damaged liver and spleen is a
miracle, and we are grateful for it all.

We will continue to follow your adventures with interest and wish you the best of luck.

Judith Saunders and David Carlin

sleepingiant said...

I too have had my "time" with Dulzura. While my husband and I were in Tarara, she would come to our house and jump through the open dining room window and say "Hi". Then she would go upstairs to my room and sleep in the closet all day. I spent time trying to get close with her.....petting her and cooking her rice. She loved rice. She had a viscious ear infection that ( I found out later)Judith and David were trying to treat. She was and still is a real sweetheart. If only she could talk...what a story she could tell. !!!!!!!!!!!!
Judith has sent me your Blog so I could also enjoy the article about Dulzura.
Shirley Major

alongthemalecon said...

how true! what a story Dulzura could tell if only she could talk! thanks for your comment.

alongthemalecon said...

Gosh, Blan Blan (Dulzura) should get her own TV mini-series...
Here's more on the pooch from Judith, who says that the street dogs in Tarara were killed not long after Dulzura's lucky exit:

Thanks again for the video clip and also for the photos of Dulzura
leaping about. We do remember Negreto from Tarara. When we went back
the first winter to visit friends, her mate was still there. Then
they kicked out all of the tourists and started to close the houses
with the long term renters, and put in the Venezuelan people in for
medical care. All the kitchens were also removed and the people had
to go to a cafeteria for all their meals. That was when they had all
the dogs killed. Now the Venezuelanos are in Miramar on Calle 16 at
Icemar and Tarara had had the old schools rebuilt from the Pioneer
Camp days, and the houses and rebuild dorms are full of Chinese. We
did not go back last winter although we visited friends at Villas Los
Pinos. Many of the Canadians ended up there, and still go back there
every winter. They have been told that all the dogs are still gone.
The security has been doubled at Tarara and it is no longer possible
to walk in from the beach. And after we went back the previous year
and there were no dogs for Dulzura to visit, she did not want to go
again and made no effort to head in that direction as before.
You know, she still acts and looks the same when she runs free in
the bush and at the beach. Whenever she finds warm sand, she races
around if figures of eight and then jumps straight up in the air, and
lands fully splayed on the sand. I swear she is laughing for joy.
We live beside a large lake-- Nipissing---the largest in Ontario
after the Great Lakes. It is like Erie in that it is shallow with
lots of sandy beaches. Mainly pets have to be leashed, but she can
do wonders with the long lead when we get to one or other of the
beaches in the early evening after the bathers have gone home. The
sand is still warm and she often dig a hole and lies in it for a
while. Since she is at heart a vagabunda, we always let her choose
her route on the walks. And she heads for the downtown of the city, a
park or to the beach. We will have to try to remember to take along
David's video camera some day soon and send you a clip of her racing
around. Unfortunately she cannot keep it up for long as she starts
to cough and has to stop and rest. The vet says she also has a
damaged heart. But that does not curb her enthusiasm for life. I
know she will enjoy walks to the beach at Guanabo this winter. Our
beach in Miramar was a broken park with just concrete, but we went
most evenings to see the sun set and then took the long way home.
We are getting into autumn weather now which Dulzura likes more so
that the hot days. She likes the cold until about minus 10C. After
that she is reluctant to go for a walk. She likes the first snow
falls and acts the same as with the sand. But she hates when it
turns to slush in October. We may be under global warming but our
winters are arriving earlier and earlier, so we are usually happy to
head out of here, even with snow tires and four wheel drive on our

Our best,

Judith Saunders