Cubans who've suffered horribly from my government's harsh embargo, continue to love and admire us, think of us as their northern cousins, and hope one day we connect as a community in unity and friendship.
Blaine, Washington (Vocus/PRWEB) April 18, 2011
This new website offers the first-ever the story of an American service dog visiting Cuba. It is told by his traveling companion Davis Hawn. Mr. Hawn, a grad student at Bergin University of Canine Studies, and his service dog Booster, joined a Cuba Education Tour in March 2011. They remained on the island for an extra three weeks to conduct research, meet the people and make new friends.
Please see Cuba Education Tours page for complete article. In the meantime we share these excerpts:
We just returned from an amazing month in Cuba. My traveling companion was Booster, a 100-pound Labrador retriever service dog.
Booster went to Cuba with me as part of my Bergin University Master's degree program in Canine Life Sciences. My thesis is titled Project Fidelity. Its focus is to introduce Cubans to the value of assistance and therapy dogs (which are uncommon in Cuba).
As a result of the success of our Cuba journey, I have established a scholarship fund for a Cuban citizen to come to the U.S. to learn to train dogs in these skills.
While in Cuba, I adopted a homeless Havana dog. His passport name is Fidelity. He's in the process of immigrating to the States now, and will be trained in Mississippi to become a therapy dog. Fidelity is missing half his tail, and has a lame rear leg. But he has a heart of gold to match the color of his coat. He'll excel, I am certain.
Many cautioned me prior to travel about the difficulties of bringing a dog to Cuba (let alone bringing a Cuban dog back to the States). I was not thwarted. There were tons of obstacles, yet all were overcome with the help of Canadians, Cubans and Bahamians. Booster and I arrived on the island without complications. Indeed we were greeted with interest and respect – a warm welcome indeed.
In Havana, we met with the President of the Cuban Association for the Blind (ANCI) to discuss my project. Seeing eye dogs don't really exist in Cuba and are a new concept. I also met with the President of the Asociación Cubana de Limitados Físicos y Motores – ACLIFIM (Cuban Association of the Physically Disabled), as well as the President of the Cuban Animal and Plant Welfare Association (ANIPLANT). We all hit it off and made plans for future projects together.
Later, when word spread of Booster's presence on the island, we were whisked off by car for a live Cuban television broadcast at Canal Educativo Uno studios.
Booster and I met with primary students at the Casa del Niño y la Niña (House for the Boy and Girl school) in Central Havana. The kids were thrilled. These are just several highlights. Everyday we had amazing encounters.
Booster and I rescued an ailing street dog and rushed him to a vet for medical care in a horse drawn buggy (common transportation in the village of Viñales).
While visiting Havana's eastern beaches, enthusiastic dog-loving Cubans threw sticks into the warm emerald sea for Booster to retrieve. He loved it.
Many Cubans spontaneously welcomed us into their homes to share their affection for dogs and imbibe in human camaraderie.
One night, en route to Havana's Chinatown, in a 1953 Chevy taxi, I forgot Booster's stuffed toy. After finishing dinner at a local eatery, I heard "hola" from behind me. It was our taxi man. He had gone home after a hard day's work. He glimpsed the toy in the back seat of his taxi. He remembered dropping me off in Chinatown. He jumped into his cab and drove many miles to search every Chinese restaurant. He found us! Very special attention – very Cuban!
Reflections Upon Returning to America
Dogs in all nations live in the here and now and don't dwell much on the past nor plot for tomorrow. I went to Cuba to witness the enchanted island through the lens of a dog. I went to Cuba with eyes wide open, and to the chagrin of many, a mouth to match. I asked frank questions and received only candid responses.
I don't want to get political (nor does Booster). Yet I must say upon reflection, the U.S. embargo against Cuba really hurts the people, especially the youth. That's the bottom line. I ponder the irony that perhaps we've hurt ourselves more than we've harmed Cubans by being disconnected from this most loving people and their vibrant society and culture.
I can attest to a truth discovered: Cubans who've suffered horribly from my government's harsh embargo, continue to love and admire us, think of us as their northern cousins, and hope one day we connect as a community in unity and friendship. Remarkable.
My father was in Pearl Harbor when Japanese bombs dropped. He survived. In the 1970s he was interviewed on television and asked why his wife (my mother) drove a Datsun. He responded, "time heals all wounds." In his spirit I say tear down the walls that distance Americans from Cubans now.
With the help of the Spanky Project (a Canadian animal welfare group), Bahamas Air (Booster traveled in coach class with the permission of jet Captain Vincent Beneby), and Cuba Education Tours, (not to forget numerous Cubans), I was able to accomplish what was not possible solo. Our trip and its success was truly an international effort.
I want everyone to experience the affection and friendship we found in Cuba.
Booster and I are available for interviews about our Cuban sojourn.
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