‘It makes my heart full…’

Kingston woman fills suit­cases with aid for stray, abused dogs in Cuba


When Cheryl Ponee goes to Cuba, she takes treats for the dogs. Lots of treats.

In fact, the last time she was in Va­radero, in Septem­ber, she had a large suit­case and an over­sized dog crate filled with toys, food, med­i­ca­tion, leashes and col­lars. She got some looks at the air­port.

“I think the stars were aligned that day be­cause I had to go to the kiosk to get checked in and the West­Jet agent had looked in the crate and won­dered why I didn’t have a dog in there and asked what was all the stuff,” Ponee said. “I ex­plained to her about Cuban Dog Tales Res­cue and what we do. She ended up get­ting her phone out and show­ing me the dog she res­cued from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic … She could re­late to what I was do­ing and she was able to get all our bags checked in with no is­sue.”

Ponee, who lives in Kingston, is also a mem­ber of the RCMP out of Bridgetown and works with youth as part of her job. But what takes her to Cuba is fit­ness.

“I work part time for a com­pany out of On­tario called En­ergy To Go and I look af­ter 10 re­sorts in Cuba plac­ing fit­ness and yoga in­struc­tors, so I go to Cuba quite fre­quently and have been for years,” she said.

Her friends in Cuba soon re­al­ized her pas­sion for an­i­mals was as great as her pas­sion for fit­ness and she’s been called Doc­tor Doolit­tle more than once be­cause dur­ing break­fast, sup­per, or eat­ing out she was al­ways feed­ing stray dogs.

It was some­thing Danielle Speirs of On­tario was do­ing - but on a big­ger scale.

Fell In Love

“My first trip to Cuba was in Oc­to­ber of 2014 and it was dur­ing my stay on a re­sort that a very skinny stray made her way around the pool area right to my­self and my hus­band,” Speirs said. “We were not there even 10 min­utes from ar­riv­ing that she bee-lined for us. Dur­ing our stay she came ev­ery­where with us, chas­ing the golf cart we took to the beach area ... wait­ing out­side our room ev­ery­day.”

“It was one of the hard­est mo­ments for me to leave her be­hind,” Speirs said. “The mo­ment the wheels of the plane lifted off the run­way I cried and vowed I would find a way to get her to Canada.”

Af­ter weeks of try­ing via email and a trans­la­tor pro­gram she found some­body in Cuba to help and the stray was fi­nally res­cued.

Speirs started Cuban Dog Tales Res­cue with two pri­or­i­ties: get­ting sup­plies to Cuba to help vet­eri­nar­i­ans and an­i­mal pro­tec­tors so they can help strays with sick­ness, in­juries, and dis­ease, and to sup­port ster­il­iza­tion pro­grams. Sec­ondly, she wanted to help tourists, who like her­self, found a dog or cat they wanted to adopt.

Ponee Helps

It didn’t take any con­vinc­ing to get Ponee in­volved.

“When I came back af­ter a trip last fall, I stum­bled across this Face­book page about this Cuban dog res­cue,” Ponee said. “I reached out to her (Speirs) and asked if there was any way I could help her. I brought stuff down the first trip and ever since then I’ve been bring­ing more and more, do­ing fundrais­ing and cre­at­ing aware­ness of this.”

Ponee al­ready helps an­i­mals at home in Nova Sco­tia.

She’s fundraised for Com­pan­ion An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety and is a big sup­porter of the SPCA.

“It’s just that here at least they have a hope,” Ponee said, “where down there, the Cubans are so poor they have a hard time feed­ing them­selves let alone the stray an­i­mals.”

Cuban strays lack just about ev­ery­thing. If you go on the Cuban Dog Tales Res­cue Face­book Page un­der ‘Notes,’ it will list some of the things they need more than oth­ers, es­pe­cially any­thing to do with tick or flea med­i­ca­tion.

“Even if they have the money down there they don’t have the fa­cil­i­ties to buy it, so they rely on sup­plies from Canada,” Ponee said. “Any­thing like ban­dages, Polysporin, cor­ti­sone, any an­tipain med­i­ca­tions, glu­cosamine, vi­ta­mins, that kind of stuff for the dogs. Leashes, crates, col­lars, any­thing. It’s all listed on the Face­book Page if peo­ple are in­ter­ested in do­nat­ing.”

And, “if there are vets around here that have med­i­ca­tion that’s about to ex­pire, or they’re not us­ing it any­more, or the pack­age is ripped, we will take all that,” Ponee said.

An­i­mal Pro­tec­tor Through Speirs’ con­nec­tions, Ponee works with a vet­eri­nar­ian in Car­de­nas, Cuba, and with an an­i­mal pro­tec­tor and res­cuer in Va­radero, Cuba.

She’s go­ing back in De­cem­ber and sup­plies are al­ready ac­cu­mu­lat­ing. She’s go­ing to a dif­fer­ent part of Cuba in the spring and is al­ready col­lect­ing stuff for that trip too.

“Be­cause they’re re­ally in des­per­ate need of stuff on that part of the is­land.”

Ponee said the Cuban peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate what she’s do­ing.

“It makes my heart full to do this. I can’t even ex­plain how gra­cious they are and how thank­ful they are when I go there,” she said. “It’s just some­thing I’ll con­tinue to do. When­ever I get back I’m al­ready sav­ing for the next trip.”


Cheryl Ponee of Kingston, is seen here with her best friends Izzie, a Wheaton Ter­rier, and Sully, a Labradoo­dle. When Ponee isn’t home with her dogs, she’s in Cuba help­ing stray and abused ca­nines through Cuban Dog Tales Res­cue.


The last time Cheryl Ponee went to Cuba, she filled a large suit­case and over­size dog crate with sup­plies for stray dogs in Cuba. She does it ev­ery time she goes there.

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