‘It makes my heart full…’

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

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY LAWRENCE POWELL THE SPEC­TA­TOR BRIDGETOWN, N.S.

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.”

CON­TRIB­UTED

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED

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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