Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not So Mean Streets

These Havana streets are strangely comforting for me.
The same is true for many dogs.
The one above seems to call home the Estacionamento (parking area) adjacent to
Parque Central.

Not all dogs in the street are homeless.
For some, the streets are their home and they are often supported by the community.

This morning we met with Directora Guadalupe Ramos and Dr. Fernado Gispert of
Clinica Laika.
We began at the Museo del Chocolate.
Sadly, they were out of the Aztec hot chocolate.
Then we moved on to La Marina for lunch.
Gladys had been very troubled with the health of one of her cats. Eric el Rojo (Eric the Red) had stopped eating and exhibited other symptoms.
She brought Eric with her so Gispert could do an exam.

After a thorough examination, as thorough as one can be for a non clinical setting, and lots of palpation ... Gispert suggested blood work be done.
This is not an easy feat in Cuba. Veterinary laboratories are near non-existent.

After Eric was back in his carrier we got back to our discussions.

Dr. Gispert, in addition to being proud of his hat, is very happy with the work of the
Comisión de Esterilización.
The number of stray dogs in the streets have been visibly reduced.
Guadalupe and Fernando filled us in on how the work in Habana Vieja is progressing.
They also informed us that the Consultorio Veterinario in the Santo Angel barrio will be totally renovated and ready for opening in September.

To help celebrate the re-opening we have been invited to collaborate in a
Desparasitación Masiva de Mascotas.
Bayer's animal health division is supplying Advantage for over 400 dogs and cats.


One of my favourite walks out of Habana Vieja is up Calle Teniente Rey.
It is a straight shot from Plaza Vieja to El Capitolio.
This route goes from the renovated and rejuvenated Vieja through real neighbourhoods to bustling Paseo de Marti.

This walk up Teniente Rey showed how successful the spay/neuter program for dogs has been.
In 2003 there were few cats visible except, funnily enough, in Barrio Chino.

Now that stray dog numbers have been dramatically reduced feral cats are populating the streets.

And the play grounds.

Preliminary discussions are ongoing with the end goal being a
Trap, Neuter & Release program for cats.
Spanky would approve.
These discussions will be picked up in September when the Spanky Project arrives with
Animal Balance.

El Capitolio

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Centro Habana - Barrio Colón

My lodging on this trip, as many trips before, was the Hotel Plaza.

A three star hotel that straddles the tourist haven Habana Vieja and the gritty Centro.
The roof top views at breakfast are great.

The rooms may be a little tired, but
the bed is firm and the linens clean.
Besides, I'm here to be on the streets not in the room.

After breakfast I was off to meet the Spanky Project's Cuban representative, Gladys, and coordinator, Susana.
These two ladies work so hard on behalf of the Spanky Project.
I will forever be indebted to them.

After catching up we hit the streets.

The aim of this trip was to set the stage for the September and November missions.
In September, the Spanky Project has the honour of introducing Animal Balance to Cuba.
This is a "feasibility visit"for Emma Clifford, the founder of Animal Balance.
Their mission statement ...
"Animal Balance believes that high volume, community based sterilization campaigns combined with rabies vaccination is the only humane, logical and sustainable strategy to combat the over population of cats and dogs and prevent the spread of rabies."
Their goals and world wide experience bode well for future collaborations in Cuba.

First stop, Centro.

The Spanky Project has had an ongoing relationship with the
Consultorio Veterinario - Centro Habana.

Photos by S.Hurlich

Magalis (left), the recently retired Consultorio Directora, and Regnit (botom), the current Directora, greeted us. Ibrahim (right) was attending to patients in the treatment area.

With the Comisión de Esterilización doing great work in Havana Vieja, we now have the opportunity to expand our efforts.

This meeting set the stage for that expansion.
Centro Habana is an area with many challenges.
With Animal Balance we will do a modest 25 sterilizations.
This will be a get to know you event and a chance to discuss larger campañas.

Perhaps we will see this guy in September.

On this day he certainly hit a mother load of entrails.

The Barrio Colón area of Centro is a vibrant, real community....
...that can use some help.
We will be here to help Cubans help their animals.

Passage to La Habana

This late June afternoon found Skeeter
-- once again--
dropping me off
for my bus to Toronto's airport and an onward flight to Havana.
Door to door, these trips are usually a twelve hour haul.

Check- in opened three hours before the flight. Well before that, Cubans and expat Cubans were lined up with a of bounty of consumer products. A sampling of these goods included flat screen TVs, a compact clothes washer and car tires. I didn't even begin to guess what was in the Marshall's bags or the coolers.
Once on board, I had one of those Washington slept here ...
... or Hemingway drank here moments.

This plane was Shepard One during John Paul II July 2002 tour of
Canada, Guatemala and Mexico.

A 20:30 departure and an 2:05 arrival at Jose Marti airport is not my favourite way of passage.

This is especially painful when you must wait for someone held up in Aduana (Customs).
Seems like Aduana does not like to see WIFI routers in your luggage.
Mind you, I saw this as payback for the times I have held up the bus while Aduana cleared 50 kg of veterinary supplies.

I finally greeted my "cama" at 4:30 am.
This haul was 15 hours.

Tomorrow it's off to the Consultorio Veterinaro Centro Habana