#2 From Cuba with so much love ….. September 2016
Havana Cuba, is experiencing incredible changes at an unbelievable pace, even since we were last there in February. It is an honor to travel to Cuba and to have the opportunity to talk with our friends and colleagues about how best to help the animals, given all the hurdles we face in each of our countries, the most complicated of all being the US embargo against Cuba.
As we work to unravel the new processes on both sides, in order to start our TNR program, we find ourselves falling hopelessly in love with this country, its people and its animals. We witness the realities of living as a Cuban and are humbled by peoples resilience and creativity. Their sense of community is extended to us, despite us traveling from the country who imposed the embargo. Our interactions transcend political lines, they are about humanity and love.
We stay at hostels that are managed by community members who now graciously treat us as family. The whole street knows who we are and why we are there. Cats are everywhere at night and as we walk about, we chat to everyone and learn about the cats’ daily patterns. We see the tipped cats, who we have already fixed, hanging out in their same haunts, looking fat and sassy.
People tell us they like the program and would like it to take place more often as there are more cats around the corner, behind the scaffolding and in the park. Not one person said they should be killed or removed, not one. These cats certainly have a busy job keeping the rodent population in check, but they are also highly revered by the community. Don’t you know that the ‘Havanese cats’ are the most beautiful in the world? We do, they are certainly stunning.
As American’s begin to trickle into Havana, we had feared that the street cats and dogs might ‘disappear’, as so often happens in many countries, such as before major events like the Olympics. This is not the case in Cuba, of course there are random poisonings, but there is no effort to organize mass killing of the animals by anyone. No one wants to build a shelter; everyone understands that strategy does not work. It is rather the opposite, the question is; how can we work together to efficiently and humanely reduce their animal populations utilizing spay and neuter, while working with and providing information to the local community.
Animal Balance hopes that our 13 years of experience and humble delivery of this information, will aid the authorities with their strategy for the country. At this time, we are working together to create a humane strategy, whilst continuing to navigate the new and ever changing agreements between our countries.
#1: It’s a whole lot more than just MASH!
We love doing MASH (mobile animal sterilization clinics) We love booking our tickets, packing like a ninja and traveling to the other side of the planet to work with others like us, to sterilize the cats and dogs. We all know this action will reduce the cats, dogs and others suffering and create a healthier environment for all. We love getting to know new people and experiencing other cultures. We love getting to know our team mates, as every AB team is different. We make life-long friends all over the planet. We connect and we are very, very excited when we do this as we absolutely believe in it, we want to share it with everyone. Our positive vibe is contagious and without a doubt, our temporary MASH clinics quickly become hubs of chatter about animals. From those interactions, comes change.
I used to think that we were on a mission to hit that ‘70+% fixed’ and provide practical assistance only. I have coordinated and directed over 70 campaigns around the world now; that is a fair few! I have been lucky enough to meet strong and compassionate people all over the planet. I have also met a few thousand pretty awesome cats and dogs along the way. It recently struck me that it is not AB bringing everyone together across our planet, it is the animals.
We have all performed rescues, trapped animals and brought animals into our MASH clinics, with people who we would never have met otherwise. The animals bond us, even when language and all social and environmental norms are different. Our love and compassion for the animals connects us, along with a good sense of humor. I have learned to listen and not take myself so seriously, one kind of has to, as it does not matter how great your plans are, they never work out the way you think they will.
For example, on our first trip to the Galapagos Islands, we had given out collars and leashes as incentives to those who had their dogs fixed. However, the leashes were being used to tie up boats and the collars had quickly become teenage fashion necklaces 🙂 We went on the radio to let everyone know that we were holding dog training classes. When we got to the designated area for the dog training, we found 8 dogs tied to a palm tree and no owners! When we eventually found the owners, they thought it was hilarious that they had to participate in the dog training course. After explaining how important their role is in communicating with their dog, they became fully engaged and very competitive. Dog training was then a major event in town; it made everyone happy, particularly the dogs and ALL species benefited from this success.
We recently chose ‘Evolution thru Compassion’ as our tag line, as we believe that we are evolving into more compassionate global community as we all meet one another and share ideas and strategies to reduce and stop suffering, wherever it may exist.
Watch Evolution thru Compassion the Movie to see how a belief that we can change the lives of animals for the better turned into a movement
Pictures by Cardboard Zebra