Saving a Dog at Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital

La Niña

Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — The Coronary Care Ward at Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital is not exactly a merry place, but it would be far more depressing if it wasn’t for La Niña.

La Niña is a cute little dog that squats on the ground floor of the hospital. She is always in a good mood, greeting everyone with affection, spreading love on her four, agile legs. She has won over everyone this way.

Fate, however, is woven out of paradoxes and irony. Though La Niña is a universal donor of happiness, she had more than enough reasons not to be happy herself: one of her teats was swelling uncontrollably and had grown to the point that she was almost dragging it across the ground.

I had seen the dog around. Some time ago, I’d gone by the hospital and seen her immense, hanging bag. I thought of doing something for her, but my daily problems made me forget about the matter.

A relative of mine ended up in the Coronary Care Ward and the dog took advantage of the situation to break my heart.

Taking care of a sick dog requires money, time and effort. Every time I walked by the hospital and saw La Niña I thought of doing something to help her as soon as my relative got better.

One morning, after a sleepless night, the calculating part of my brain experienced a short circuit and the hemisphere of blind impulses staged a coup. I put the dog on my shoulder and didn’t stop until I reached the veterinary clinic run by ANIPLANT, an NGO based at the intersection of Espada and Hospital streets, Centro Habana.

It was a relief to be told that it was not a cancerous tumor but a groin hernia that was entirely curable. A few days later, La Niña went into the operating room, escorted by one of her adoptive mothers at the hospital.

Edgar, the veterinary doctor, spends long hours seeing sick little animals and dealing with angst-ridden “relatives”, without this undermining his kind aura one bit. As he handed over the “bundle” (La Niña, still under the effects of the anesthesia) officially to me, he explained she was pregnant and the uterus had drifted into the hernia. Had we waited a few more days, the condition would have become far more complicated.

The danger is behind us and La Niña has been discharged and is back at the Coronary Care Ward, sparing no affection. Now, the main concern of those who look after her is Zoonosis, Cuba’s State dog pound (allegedly hunting down dogs as a sanitary measure, though some claim it is to feed the lions at the zoo).

I want to thank Nora and the other doctors at ANIPLANT very much for having worked unselfishly to see the operation through. I also want to thank the nurses and caretakers at the hospital who made the utensils used to heal her available. I thank destiny for allowing me to arrive at the right moment and the neighbor who took in the dog during her recovery.

I invite everyone to look after the animals around them. The reward – the joy of seeing them get better and simply to be of help to someone – will come in this life.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.


19 thoughts on “Saving a Dog at Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital

  • October 3, 2014 at 2:58 pm
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    I was in Cuba a few month ago and I met Nora and ANI PLANT project and is really amazing all that they do without enough resources.

  • September 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm
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    Thankyou from the bottom of my heart for taking care of this little nina and many thanks to everyone concerned in her care. God Bless you all. Hugs from Canada.

  • September 22, 2014 at 2:20 pm
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    Great little tale! Many people say they care about animals but do not take action. Good for you, Irina, for helping this sweet pup. She looks a lot like my small dog!

  • September 19, 2014 at 7:43 am
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    I’m with you on this..Glenp! Thanks for saying exactly what I would have 🙂

  • September 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm
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    Information needs to be made available so that guests do not have to leave a dog to die

  • September 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm
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    What a Sweet story. I wish all people would do this and had This information. There is no need to have Dogs die or get killed. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • September 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm
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    cuba should pay for spaying then there would be less pets in distress

  • September 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm
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    Information needs to be made available .leaving a dog to die is so cruel

  • September 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm
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    Is information available so people know what to do when they find a stray dog?

  • September 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm
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    Amazing story . Thank you so much for what your doing.

  • September 18, 2014 at 12:57 pm
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    They r such innocent and loyal creatures,they should b loved,adored and taken care of rather then left alone to die in pain because of lack of awareness.please help them

  • September 18, 2014 at 10:20 am
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    Great story, one can only have respect for your act and decision. Many thanks in the name of those who love and care about animals.

  • September 18, 2014 at 8:30 am
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    Information is something that should always be provided for guests. Leaving an animal to die is unacceptable. What a gorgeous dog by the way.

  • September 18, 2014 at 4:09 am
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    Most dogs in Cuba live a far from perfect life. Most are underfed. The best fed ones are the ones used in dog fights Lots of people can’t maintain their animals and have turned them out. It is heartbreaking to see the “mangy mongrels” full of disease in the streets. How many great family dogs are hidden beneath the diseased skin?

  • September 18, 2014 at 1:40 am
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    Information needs to be made available so that guests dont need to leave a dog to die

  • September 17, 2014 at 7:54 pm
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    People should be made aware of what is going on.

  • September 17, 2014 at 7:33 pm
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    You should make information so guest know they can help and dont have to leave a dog dying.

  • September 17, 2014 at 7:16 pm
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    Thank you so much for caring and looking after this dog. <3 You are a true angel amongst us. Proverbs 12:10 tells us to look after animals. We all answer in the end. Cuba would do very well to have information containing names of local veternarians and families who would foster a dog. Cuba is loosing out on much tourism $ because many of us do not want to go back to Cuba and have our hearts broken. If tourists were allowed to sponsor a dog there and all information was made available at the resorts, there would be many more wanting to go

  • September 16, 2014 at 7:36 pm
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    It is wonderful that Irina cared enough for La Nina to take action for the little pooch. For many visitors to Cuba, the site of so many dogs with ribs and hip bones stretching the skin is distressing. Many are tied up all day and night in back yards as watch dogs receiving scant care and no exercise.
    The dog is the animal properly described as man’s best friend , Cuba should care more for its animals and especially the dogs.

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