My Puppy Dog and Working Class Guilt in Cuba

Janis Hernández

mozartHAVANA TIMES — Though it is true that the practice of domesticating animals is a social phenomenon that dates back to antiquity and that the breeding of animals as pets (or training these for social or entertainment purposes) has always existed in Cuba, it is also true that such practices have become a means to a profit only recently.

Some have turned the sale and subsequent care of pets into the business of the moment in Cuba. Private businesses that sell purebred animals have sprung up around the country. This may explain the extremely high price of these animals, in a country where the majority of the population earns less than a dollar a day on average.

I imagine that those who own these businesses know that the lives of Cubans are truly contradictory and that some are Third Worlders hoping to appear bourgeois, people who like owning costly pets, as only rich people in other parts of the world can afford.

Since social differences have already become quite evident in Cuba (though some insist they haven’t), the pet you buy will speak to your income. What’s sad about this is that we come across people who, instead of wanting to raise the animal out of affection, merely use these pets to feed their vanity.

I am one of those people who likes dogs out of the tenderness these domestic animals awaken in people. I don’t care if they’re purebred dogs or mongrels. Twenty days ago, I saw the beautiful little face of a Cocker Spaniel pup (who seemed to be asking that I take him away with me) and it was love at first sight.

A kid sold it to me on the street for 30 CUC (US $ 34). I felt guilty thinking that I was willing to pay that price for the pup while many people don’t have enough to eat, but I managed to overcome these proletarian pangs of conscience. I had the money and I decided to pay for the company of the cute little puppy, even though it was quite expensive.

I named him Mozart. Once at home, I began looking for some things, like a brush, a tray for food and water and a cushion to sleep on. I made him a collar, so I could take him out to pee.

The problems started days later, when I took him to the nearest veterinary clinic to get rid of his intestinal parasites and start him on a vaccine cycle. I found that the place was in a rather precarious condition and had next to nothing of what my pup needed.

I called the international veterinary clinic to ask about the vaccines (the pentavalent and canine distemper vaccines). They told me that they hadn’t been carrying those for some time now. They gave me the address of another clinic, where they could have the distemper vaccine in Cuban pesos.

I was lucky and was able to get my dog the two injections for canine distemper for 28.75 Cuban pesos each (there weren’t many left). There, they gave me the phone of a private vet who had the other vaccines.

When I called him, he told me he charged 20 Cuban pesos for a consultation and 15 CUC for the pantavalent vaccine. The list of prices for other services (such as nail trimming, for instance) was alarming.

Then, I headed over to the pet shop downtown in search of a bowl. The clerk told me, unfazed: “We don’t have any right now. They’re coming in next week. The small ones cost 10 CUC (or 250 pesos) and the big ones 15 CUC (or 375 pesos).”

I can understand that the cost of living is high and the self-employed have to pay steep taxes, but I think these prices are a bit much.

Taking care of my little dog isn’t going to be cheap, but I am going to do it nonetheless. I will feel quite guilty when I buy the utensils and groom him, seeing so many people out on the street with poverty stamped on their faces. But that is the way things are here. I have a cute, purebred dog, and some pangs of guilt.

3 thoughts on “My Puppy Dog and Working Class Guilt in Cuba

  • As I returned to Cuba after a 44 year hiatus, I found so many homeless dogs and a reflection of the society that allows for the defenseless to not be defended. After that first trip, I began to immerse myself in dog rescue efforts on the island by many wonderful people who feed, shelter, provide medicine to and find homes for some of these little beings. Sterilization is the most important avenue to reduce the homeless pet population. It pangs me to see a society that so actively has worked to produce dignity within its people not provide that same dignity to its other inhabitants. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated,” Ghandi.

  • You are actually going to pay money for a bowl? Most dogs are content with a puddle. Are you aware that anything concave is a bowl from a dog’s point of view? On the farm animals roamed until they got sick. Then they got shot. There was an oversupply of them generally. Bullets are 1 peso each. Castration helped. My brother cannot do the just thing & put down his own suffering animals, so the neighbour obliges. I heard that potassium nitrate injection will allow a suffering animal to pass away in it’s sleep, but I am not a veterinarian. Due to licensing regimes & bylaws forbidding animals any social lives in my city, I cannot afford the unworkable luxury of having a pet. Maybe, in my senior years I will trump the needs of an animal to be free with my need for companionship. With the right age of animal, there can be a relationship that is rewarding to both owner & pet.

  • Having a conscience is part of who you are, you are having a conflict with whether to look after a pet which is proving to be quite expensive, whilst people all around you are going hungry. Well I take it that you worked hard for your money are entitled to spend it as you see fit, you have not caused this financial crisis in the country, those who have caused this financial crisis will have plenty of cash stashed away, so do not feel guilty and spend your hard earned money on whatever you wish to and stop feeling guilty.

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