The Need for a Pet Cemetery

Yenisel Rodriguez

A dog lover.

How can you give a dignified funeral to a deceased pet when you live in an overpopulated city?

Two months ago Jaru died.  He was one of the most beloved dogs in my life; my uncle simply adored him.  After finally accepting the inevitable loss, we began asking ourselves where we would bury his body.  We live in the most densely populated municipality in the country (“The Tenth of October”), where there isn’t a patch of earth for even the tiniest flower garden.

Here in our neighborhood there exists the custom of merely tossing dead animals into the community dumpster.  I’ve seen this done with cats, but never with dogs.  Maybe it has to do with the negative stereotypes attached to felines, which end up producing a certain indifference toward them by their human counterparts.

Notwithstanding, a dead body is a body that lived.  It is the physical evidence of an emotional relationship.  As such, the body merits respect, and though burying it is not the only way of showing this, my uncle and I had no other ritual to offer Jaru’s body.  In fact, his burial created difficulties for us.

In a flash we thought about Santos Suarez Park, one of the most beautiful in the city and, paradoxically, one that still hasn’t been destroyed by the high levels of pollution that surround it.

Late that night we carried Jaru’s body to the park.  Before burying him, my uncle I said a few words.  A few meters away was a royal palm tree, while a couple kissed in the distance.  We were pleased with the metaphor of the scene.  The body had received its farewell.

Passing by the park a few days later, the calmness of the setting made it appear that my pet’s grave had not been detected.  Still, I couldn’t forget him.  At that very moment I thought about Jaru with a light sense of guilt, which had increased in me over the short time.

Had we acted correctly in burying our pet in the community park?  Hadn’t it also been an act of selfishness?  To what degree could the generalization of our altruistic act towards the animal’s situation affect the park’s well-being?

Yet calling for a pet cemetery in today’s Cuba generates a dual feeling within me.  On the one hand it seems like something improper given the political situation in which we live; but on other hand, I feel that the rights of animals are a complement of victorious revolutions.

Given the problems that revolutions have run into in the recent and relatively recent past, asking animals to wait patiently for the arrival of a utopian society before struggling for their rights is like asking them to commit collective suicide.  Cuban animals have spent more than fifty years waiting, and unless they’re the cow on the label of Ubre Blanca milk, the donkey for Mayabe beer or the horse Palmiche in the cartoons, the future for these compatriots looks bleak.

Santos Suarez Park is persevering in its resistance to the lingering period of drought that has hit all of Cuba.  Its greenery serves me as a fleeting justification.  Perhaps Jaru’s body has reincarnated in the sap of the park’s royal palm, or perhaps in the red of the hibiscus flowers to reveal the lineage of that enthusiastic dog.

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.


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