HAVANA TIMES — The nearly incessant and deafening noises made by fireworks and firecrackers make Venezuela’s New Year’s celebrations a very stressful time for cats and dogs (and for other species, myself included, as well). Recently, however, I read some good news for these animals we call “pets.”
After a long, grassroots struggle by several animal protection groups, the Venezuelan government has agreed to create the “Nevado Mission”.
Yes, I know, the name says nothing to most people. I’ll have to be a little clearer. The Nevado Mission is a new project aimed at protecting stray animals.
When I came to Venezuela the first time, I was naive enough to think that all dogs in Caracas were well-fed and looked after. This is because I would always cross paths with dogs in the company of their owners or near a store.
Sometimes, we grow tired of seeing these animals suffer and our minds make up brilliant stories, stories such as: there’s plenty of food in Venezuela and people feed stray dogs, which is why they all look so healthy.
The truth of the matter is that the dogs I would see near stores belonged to those who worked there. They were lying on the sidewalk, but their owners were close by. Stray dogs in the capital are regularly picked up, and not to be taken to a better place (though that’s what many of us say when someone dies, that they’re “in a better place.”)
Those who can avoid this fate because they live on the outskirts of the city, well, their lot is to endure winds, intense sunlight, rains and the mistreatment of everyone who makes a habit of venting their frustrations on helpless animals.
Fashion, a lack of real interest in animals, the desire to make profits through these animals and other factors lead many people in Venezuela to opt for a purebred dog over a mongrel.
It is also often the case (particularly during Christmas) that parents buy their children beautiful pups and later abandon them on the street because they don’t know how to take care of them properly, because the kids lose interest in them or because the animals become sick and they don’t have the money (or don’t want to spend the money) to pay the expensive veterinary bills.
There are many reasons people discard something they do not feel attached to.
The news was one of the few that were welcomed by Venezuela’s two short-tempered political camps.
As is to be expected, there’s always someone who complains, saying that we should fix all of the problems people have before addressing those of animals. I imagine these people would have been very happy back in the days when women ate their husbands’ leftovers, or, better, when serfs ate the leftovers of their feudal lords.
The important thing is for this new program not to become (or start out as) a bureaucratic mechanism used to sustain the bank accounts of those in charge, that animals receive true aid, that veterinary clinics with prices the average citizen can afford be created, for example.
As for the name, well, personally, I would have named it “Mission Orion.”
Nevado is the name of Simon Bolivar’s dog. They say he used to run to battle next to him and that he died during one such battle. Battles, wars, heroes with blood-dripping hands….even dogs are included in such reverential stories.
I imagine that, in a different kind of world, a world in which people do not worship wars, Orion would be a good name for any project, clinic or hospital for dogs. Orion is a dog from Venezuela’s state of Vargas who, during the tragedy that claimed the lives of thousands of Venezuelans in 1999, saved more than 30 people from drowning in troubled waters.
He did it all by himself, without anyone instructing him to do so. A brave little dog that will not go down history, because he was not in any historical battle.
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