HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago my dog died. He was a frisky dachshund about eight and a half years old.
He showed up at our house nameless and before even having marked three months of life. He almost wound up living in Granma Province because my brother, in a xenophobic mood, baptized him with the name that was supposedly telling the puppy to head to the east of the country: “I wanna-go-to-Havana.”
I shortened it to “Yo-quiero” (I-wanna), the name that best fit him since his appetite was limitless. Later, thanks to the natural spoiling these loving creatures compel, my mother abbreviated the name even further to “Yoqui.”
He wasn’t the first canine to die in our house. Prior to him there was another dog that was sick for a long time. I cried a lot, though I felt that his death had freed her from her suffering.
Yoqui, though, was the first being that I saw die. I was deeply moved when I realized how life is so ephemeral. Still, the certainty of our vulnerability makes me enjoy the present, especially the people I care about.
My friend (undoubtedly he was) emanated life in every way. Three days before his death he ran to the bakery, ate wildly, barked at anyone who walked past him, and tried to jump up on a bicycle with me.
He was weakened by a parasite that likes to feed on red blood corpuscles, which triggered a profound anemia that only worsened – despite the constant care of a veterinarian.
Needless to say, neither state-run nor private clinical laboratories are readily available for veterinaries out here in the suburbs. They make use of their experience and not the results of analysis when it comes to making their diagnoses. Nevertheless they do the best they can, though they can’t do transfusions (where would they get the blood?).
The Carlos III Clinic, in Centro Havana, is the vet facility closest to my neighborhood. There, they usually give good treatment though (like at many places) the workers aren’t always in good moods nor have all the resources they need to treat their four-legged patients.
The veterinary doctor who attended us was going around collecting money from everyone there to fix the clinic’s bathroom, while at the same time treating a Belgian Shepherd that was in as bad a condition as Yoqui. The stench overran his office, the closest one to the toilet. Nor could they perform blood transfusions, though they had some antibiotics and vitamins.
Since it’s no use thinking about what I should have done but couldn’t, I tried to forget these last three days. It’s easy, since I have so many other memories of Yoqui, mostly happy ones. But occasionally his sad eyes and drooping ears will return to my mind and I’ll think of the irony that accompanied his end: he — who was so uncontainable — suddenly lost his spirit to either walk or eat and ended up with no appetite.
We buried him near our house, in one of his favorite places.
I read a poem by Miguel de Unamuno several years ago which came to mind. Back then I didn’t really get it, but it came back to me with the passing of Yoqui. The poet wonders, like me, if he’ll even find his dog again:
There, in the other world,
your soul, poor dog,
Won’t you have to lay your spiritual head
on my lap again?
Won’t the tongue of your soul, poor friend,
lick the hand of my soul?
The other world!
The other… the other and not this one!
The other world is of pure spirit!
Of pure spirit!
Oh, terrible purity,
Won’t I come back to find you, gentle friend?
Will you be there as a memory,
A pure memory?
And this memory,
will it run down my eyes?
Won’t it jump, wag its tail with joy
hold its tail erect?
Won’t it lick the hand of my spirit?
Won’t it look in my eyes?
won’t it be you, yourself,
free, experiencing eternal life?