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Saturday, 7 September 2013

Isla - The Story of Love

Ingrid, a Cuban co-ordinator for APAC-Varadero  found a young puppy and her mother sometime in June 2013. They were both homeless Cuban street dogs. Both got spayed and the mother was soon adopted. The puppy stayed with Ingrid. She named her Isla (“island” in Spanish)
Shortly after finding a puppy, it became obvious that there was something wrong with her. She did not walk properly, dragging her hind legs while trying to move around. At first, we all thought it could be due to malnutrition or some kind of injury, and that Isla would heal and improve in time, while given a good veterinary care and Ingrid’s love. Well – she did improve slightly and she was a very lively and a happy puppy, but she did not regain the control of her back legs. We realized we had a problem.

Ingrid with Isla
Little Isla would never be adopted in Cuba. There are no resources to care for a handicapped pet, and even if there were, keeping a crippled dog alive is beyond comprehension for the average Cuban. Ingrid took a puppy to Havana to find out more about Isla’s condition. The x-ray images revealed that Isla’s lumbar vertebrae were abnormal either due to an accident or a congenital defect. It seemed that a surgery might be the only way to fix it. Of course in Cuba, this type of operation on dog is not possible.

We posted about Isla on our Facebook and asked for advice. Within a short period of time, several rescues and individuals offered their help, including a donation of the wheel cart from HART (Humane Animal Rescue Team in Edmonton). Dr. Barry MacEachern (a volunteer doctor of  Hope for Wildlife) who has been involved in APAC’s work in Cuba, offered to arrange a surgery at the Atlantic Veterinary College in PEI - if we could bring Isla to Nova Scotia.

By this time, it was already late August. Most airlines have a heat ban during the summer (meaning no animals can be sent through cargo) as well as size limits for the cabin travel (the kennel has to fit under the seat, 8.5 inch space). Time was in issue as the fear was that Isla may not be operable if left in her condition for too long.
Once again, our friends from CANDi (Cats and Dogs International) and Air Transat came to the rescue. We have been working in partnership with them for three years now, and have saved many animals because of their help. The animals transported on the Air Transat flights are given exceptional care and attention, as the company follows the unique compassionate tourism policy adapted together with  CANDi. Air Transat Cargo staff on the ground also goes the extra mile to make sure the animals transported are safe and comfortable.

At the Varadero Airport
Our little Isla was booked for the last summer flight from Varadero to Montreal, free of charge. The cargo company serving Air Transat in Montreal closes its office at 10 pm, but the airline made sure that someone was available to help with receiving Isla the same evening (the flight was arriving at 9:20 pm). Safe and sound, our little puppy spent an hour in the arms of the Air Transat employee, while our volunteer was dealing with customs and all paperwork. Finally, shortly after 11pm, Isla was free to enter Canada.

Isla with an Air Transat Cargo employee
She spent a night with our volunteer in Montreal and the next day, thanks to help from Pilots N Paws Canada, she flew to Halifax where Dr. Barry MacEachern picked her up. Everybody was impressed with our little Cuban – she has been a perfect dog all the way through her journey. She patiently waited for the flights, was great in a car, slept peacefully and was friendly with all people she met. Everybody loved her.

Volunteer pilot from PNPC with Dr. Barry and Isla in Halifax
Unfortunately, after several tests at the Atlantic Veterinary College, it became obvious that surgery will not help Isla. She was born with only 5 lumbar vertebrae instead of a normal 7, and the surgery cannot change it. She has some control over her leg muscles and the back-end muscles, and she will require a long therapy to get better and be more mobile, including physiotherapy and acupuncture. Dr. Barry MacEachern will make a plan for Isla’s rehabilitation. Isla feels no pain and most likely she does not even realize that there is something wrong with her. She is full of life determined little dog, who brought so many people together – strangers became friends thanks to her. We believe that her determination and confidence are the result of love she has been receiving from the day she was found. Hasn't she been discovered by Ingrid and brought to Canada by our trusted friends, she would be most likely dead by now – kicked around because of her handicap, killed by other homeless dogs, starved slowly due to her limited mobility.

We know that she will receive the best help possible while under Dr. Barry’s care and that one day, she will make a wonderful pet to someone who will deserve her.

Isla with Dr. Barry MacEachern
We are grateful for all help received, especially to CANDi and Air Transat who brought our puppy to Canada, giving her a second chance of life – Darci Galati, Carrie Martin, Pierre Bassene, Javier Ferreiro in Cuba, and Kristine Perez in Montreal (who coordinated the after-hours help for Isla).

Bringing Isla to Canada would not make sense without Dr. Barry MacEachern whose generosity and kindness will now shape her future. We also thank everyone in-between – our volunteer Kiki Cliff who drove from Ottawa to Montreal to pick up our puppy, Judy and Wayne Anderson who offered their help, and to the pilots from Pilots N Paws Canada, who flew our puppy to Halifax – at no cost and after several attempts due to the weather problems.
For those who may ask why we did it all for one dog, the answer is – because we could. Because each life deserves to be saved and protected, because seeing so many people moved and brought together to do something good brings back faith in humanity.

"Perhaps the only failure is a failure to try..." - Deborah Moggach

Monday, 26 August 2013

Jibacoa Beach Project

After lengthy discussions and much planning a ground breaking “pilot” project is about to be launched.
The Jibacoa Beach Project is its name.
The ultimate goal is to humanely control the cat and dog populations on and around hotel properties.We hope to put an end to the killing of stray dog and cat populations.

This is a collaborative effort with the founding partners being:
  • Gran Caribe Hotels
  • Consejo Cientifico Veterinario - Filial Mayabeque
  • Institute of Veterinary Medicine - Mayabeque
  • Agrarian University of Havana - Veterinary Faculty
  • Comisión Nacional de Bienestar Animal - Matanzas
  • and Spanky Project with APAC-Varadero

The first step of this project was to conduct a census and survey.
Step two will be mass deworming events to begin September 14, 2013
Step three is sterilization campañas of domestic and homeless dog and cat populations.

We look forward to sharing our progress. 
These programs come with a price tag therefore we also look forward to your support.


Isla is a homeless puppy found by Ingird. Shortly after she was found, it had became obvious that she cannot walk on her own - dragging her hind legs while trying to move around. In time, her condition improved slightly thanks to a loving care of Ingrid, who refused to give up on this poor creature. With some help, Isla could stand up on her own for a few seconds, but we were all faced with a big question - what to do next? 

Isla in July 2013
We knew she could not survive in Cuba; therefore, we looked for options in Canada. The response was overwhelming - within days many individuals and organizations offered their help. HART (Humane Animal Rescue Team) in Edmonton donated a wheel-cart for Isla. We are yet to see if she will need it as something else happened - Dr. Barry MacEachern from Nova Scotia (Hope for Wildlife house doctor) has made arrangements for Isla to have a surgery at one of the best veterinary medicine schools in the country - Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island.

Here is Dr. Barry's professional statement about Isla's condition:

"Based on the x-rays from Havana we suspect Isla has a birth defect of a malformed lumbar vertebrae.  Currently she has superficial (and therefor deep) pain perception.  She has anal tone and is completely continent both urinary and fecal.  She can stand on her own but does have pro-prioceptive deficits.  The hope is that if we can open up the spinal canal and stabilize the vertebrae then she will improve.  The clinical signs/exam findings provided suggest we can make a difference in this dogs mobility."

So - Isla is coming to Canada. It took a team of people and several organizations to arrange her arrival.  We will tell you more about them all, and about Isla's progress once she is here, and we have a chance to follow her story...
Isla on August 24, 2013

Marti Spay/Neuter Campaign July 20, 2013

Marti is a small town east of Cardenas. It does not have veterinary services, and, just like the rest of Cuba, it is struggling with the overpopulation of homeless animals. The team was asked to organize the clinic there, so people could learn about the proper care of their pets and the benefits of sterilization. Quite a crowd showed up, and the doctors (Dr. Hanoi, Dr. Julio, and Dr. Omar) spent some time explaining the importance of spaying/neutering dogs and cats. They also discussed other animal health issues. The deworming followed, done with the Bayer medications received through Dr. Chan from Havana, and also with APAC’s supplies like Advantage and Revolution donated by our Canadian supporters. During spay/neuter surgeries, doctors discovered some other problems with dogs, and took care of them right away. The locals were impressed with the team and the work done. We are hoping that they will share their experience with the neighbours, and that another request for the clinic will come from Marti soon.

Ingrid - APAC's Executive Assistant

Queue outside the clinic - waiting to register pets for the surgeries

Let's see how much anesthetics will you need...


Dr. Julio - one of the regular volunteer surgeons

The Team of the Marti campaign

Cardenas July 6, 2013 Spay/Neuter Campaign

Massive rain falls flooded the Cardenas clinic and all the preparatory work had to be done twice. Luckily, on the day of the campaign the weather was nice, and the surgeries went well without any interruptions. There were a few homeless dogs taken care of, including our handicapped puppy and her mother. Fifteen cats were also spayed. Thank you Team for your great work.
Isla with her mom

Arriving for the surgery

Dr. Slavik Zenkov at work

Cats in recovery room

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Spring 2013 Updates

Mayabeque Campaing June 2013

Mayabeque became a province in 2010, as a result of splitting La Habana Province. It includes 11 municipalities and it is famous for its Jibacoa resorts - one of the most popular Canadian visitors destinations. Influenced by the work of the Spanky Project in Havana and APAC-Varadero activities in the neighbouring province of Matanzas, Mayabeque CCVC (Consejo Científico Veterinario de Cuba) has been organizing its own spay/neuter campaigns. This particular one has been prepared by the VESPA project of the Havana University and Natasha from the Mayabeque CCV. Most of the volunteers were of course students, but they could not do without our famous 'Ruso' doctor - Dr. Slavik Zenkov, who went to help.
We strongly believe in co-operation and mutual support. Involving university students is also very promising and "paves the way for a brighter future", as one of our friends put it.

Mayabeque Team (Dr. Zenkov - left, 2nd row)

Matanzas May 25, 2013 Spay/Neuter Clinic

Another successful campaign saw 62 animals sterilized. Dr. Hanoi Dominguez was in charge of organizing this clinic. Our core team was joined by two new volunteers - Dr. Raciel and Dr. Carmita from the provincial  Matanzas veterinary clinic. They have all done a fantastic job, with each campaign raising awareness and inspiring Cubans to get involved. Congratulations !!!

The Team

Ottawa Art Auction Fundraiser - May 4, 2013
We are so lucky to have amazing friends. Most of them are frequent visitors to Cuba, and they do understand very well the problems this beautiful island is coping with. They also know how much effort our Cuban team is putting into turning things around;  how much help is needed to make things happen.

The auction was a great success thanks to enormous effort of many people, but a special Thank You goes to Kiki Cliff, Judy and Wayne Anderson, and Zaneta Pernicova - who came up with and realized this idea. Thank you all for the preparation work and for making the evening enjoyable. The amount of money was amazing, and it will be used to support spay/neuter clinics! Thank you all who participated in the auction.

All for the Animals - Please, watch and share the video about APAC's work in Cuba. It was created by our friend, Wayne Anderson, and shown during the auction.


Colón – April 20, 2013 Spay/Neuter Clinic

Here are few shots from the Colón – April 20, 2013 spay/neuter clinic. A massive storm flooded the location, but it did not drown the Cuban spirit of our volunteers. Therefore, using Cuban famous resourcefulness, things were re-arranged and all was done as planned. Forty six surgeries were completed.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Our Record Clinic - Cardenas April 6, 2013

It was the busiest day so far in a history of our one-day spay/neuter campaigns. Since early in the morning, the IMV (Institute of Veterinary Medicine) Clinic in Cardenas was packed with people and their animals waiting to be checked in for the surgery. Not all animals were in a condition to be operated and their owners were advised how to care for them, so they could be fixed next time. In total, over 90 animals were taken care of, including 30 cats. Dr. Hanoi Dominguez broke his own record by operating on 35 animals.
With the demand for the free spay/neuter clinic growing rapidly, we will have to start planning two-day clinics.

First patients arriving

The waiting room gets crowded
Pre-surgery examiantion

Dailys comes all the way from Havana to help us with keeping records

Recovery room
Thank you all our amazing volunteers: doctors, veterinary technicians, and other volunteers who prepared the location for the surgeries, helped with the animals, and wrapped up everything, once the day was over. This day was your success!

"In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it" - M. Williamson

Monday, 1 April 2013

Convenio de Colaboracion

The week of March 3, 2013 was an intense one but a happy one as well. After a long wait and a few trips to Havana, we have received a permit to bring anesthetics for the spay/neuter clinics in Matanzas Province. Just like the last year, Dr. Barry MacEachern helped us with this assignment, and we are forever grateful to him.

Dr. Barry MacEachern, Ingrid and Dave

Dr. Beatriz Amaro signing the Agreement for CCVC
Grace signing the Agreement for APAC
Dr. Hanoi, Ingrid, Grace, Dr. Amaro, Dr Slavik - in Havana

Finally - relaxing with friends
On March 7, 2013, the team went to Havana to meet Dr. Beatriz Amaro, the President of Consejo Cientifico Veterinario de Cuba. APAC-Varadero signed the Collaboration Agreement (Convenio de Colaboracion) with CCVC. The agreement allows us an official presence in Cuba in several circumstances:

- as partners in organizing  spay/neuter clinics in various municipalities and other locations across the island
- as suppliers of veterinary medical equipment and supplies,
- for exchange of knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine
- for planning, together with CCVC, annual activities that would benefit Cuban animals and their living conditions
- for exchange of experiences between Canadian and Cuban veterinary doctors, veterinary technologists, and other veterinary medicine professionals

Busy times are upon us as we intend to fulfill the commitments listed in the Agreement. We are looking forward to involving more Cubans into our projects. We also hope that more Canadians will be interested in exchange with Cuba. Both CCVC and APAC-Varadero need your help to fight the overpopulation of homeless animals and to improve the lives of working animals, horses in particular.

"It is only through labour and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things" - T. Roosevelt

Monday, 11 February 2013

January 16, 2013 Matanzas City Spay/Neuter Clinic

We have started a year with a clinic in Matanzas City. The clinic took place in a casa particular (Cuban version of Bed & Breakfast). Five surgeons, two students from Havana and several volunteers gave their time off to our cause. Fifty one animals were successfully operated. The team prevented several offspring of cats and dogs to be born to a life of an unwanted, stray animals - always sick and hungry, living short, miserable existence.. We are very proud of our team. In spite of the obstacles unknown to other rescue groups, they patiently continue their job. Congratulations.