Street Mural

Dogs seem to be the preferred pet for people who can afford them. When we arrived, the weather was cool by Havana standards and we saw a number of dogs wearing T-shirts. We were told their owners had probably been for some exchange in Moscow before Russia pulled out of Cuba. The Russians put clothes on their dogs in the winter, so the Cubans did the same.

We heard a rumor that puppies were fed to the lions at the zoo, which answered our question about sterilization and the lack of really scrawny dogs. The strays are rounded up occasionally when the lions are hungry. It seems cruel, but going hungry is cruel, too, and the lions have to eat. We were assured that they do kill the dogs humanely before the lions get them.

One day, when I was returning to the hotel with my pizza, I encountered a Cuban man who had parked his bicycle next to the bakery near the hotel. He rattled a lively patter I couldn’t follow but he was gathering a crowd so I joined them. Occasionally, he pointed to a dachshund in a rather odd costume lounging in the sun. What was going on? It felt a bit like a carnival scene.

When he had the crowd he wanted he called the dog who perked his ears and trotted over. The man whisked him into a plastic crate with padded edges fastened to the back of the bike. The dog sat up on his rump, limp paws delicately touching the edges of the crate while the man talked to him, kissed his muzzle and arranged his costume, a tiny red net t-shirt, a scarf around his neck, and a little cotton car cap secured with an elastic chin strap. The elastic goes behind the dog’s ears so when the cap is on straight, it pulls his ears forward a bit. The dog’s eyes were only half open during this adjusting and his body lolled against the support of the crate. I couldn’t tell if this was because he was bored, or because he loved being adored.

After more patter extolling the brilliance of his dog I’m sure, the man asked what time it was. The dog raised a paw that had a huge red plastic watch on it. They did a high five, hand to paw. For the final touch the dog sat patiently while his owner put sunglasses on him and then earphones. The dog seemed to bask in the applause from the crowd. I wondered if the man knew his dog well enough to know the limits of his tolerance because he quickly whipped off the earphones and sunglasses and pedaled off. The dog remained as he was, relaxed and upright in the crate. As I lost sight of them, the dog was rolling easily with the motion of the bicycle.

The man did not ask for tips, the real surprise in that area of town.