Street Animals of Cuba

October 26-30, 2016

We went to Cuba.  It’s a magnificent and startling and complicated place.

Doodle went to camp for his own adventure.  We missed him, but we were lucky to have a house-dog.  Our casa, the large house in which we rented a room, has a wiggly boxer named Pike who is curious, sweet and extremely well-behaved.


He’d greet us in the morning and when we returned from the day’s excursions.  We brought in smells from America as well as places in the city he’d never visited.  We hadn’t expected to have a trip mascot, but he was a wonderful surprise.

Something else we didn’t expect– that we didn’t know to ask about in advance to emotionally prepare for– were amount of stray animals.  Because why would we?  How would we know that we’d see dogs and cats, puppies and kittens roaming around appearing generally well-fed but still showing the wear-and-tear of street living?

Some of them joined our tours for a stroll around a square and or exploring Hemingway’s Finca Vigia, vocally letting our guide know how much they liked her explanations.

In some places, dogs wear string collars with index-sized cards attached, like the pup perched on James’ lap.  The cards are handwritten and include the animal’s name.  They mean that someone feeds the dogs regularly.  These animals are still strays, but someone nearby looks out for them.

And yet, with so many animals in need of homes or stability, puppies are sold on the street, costing more than the annual salary of local doctors.


In Cuba, there is veterinary care.  There is a spay and neuter program through animal welfare groups to try to control the stray population.  There is no such thing as dog food:  domesticated animals like Pike eat whatever their humans eat.  Pike’s breakfast was an enormous portion of freshly cooked rice and boiled beans, and sometimes chicken.  Cubans who own pets or who take care of them share their monthly food rations with them.

Together, James and I took close to 400 pictures.  So many are of the animals that hang around public spaces solo or in packs, calmly approaching humans for food or affection or sniffs.  Sleeping.  Prowling.  Co-existing with the bustle of the city.

And no, we didn’t come home with a new furbaby.  We’d never have gotten out and they’d never have gotten in.  But like so much of our trip, they’re going to be with us as we process our experiences.


February 27, 2014

I’ve had the opportunity to work from home recently, due to illness and snow-tastrophies and general boss-omeness (that’s “boss+awesome” for those of you who don’t fluently speak Kari).

It’s a privilege to work in my pjs, with snacks and coffee and couches in easy reach.  And puppy snuggles.

Yes, during those days when the living room/kitchen counter/office/hammock becomes my command center, our furbabies are  (mostly) ideal coworkers.

Zo typically camps out, moving between napping (The Dorothy Intervention of daylight hours) IMG_1171

and participating in conference calls.  That is, he’s a snoring, adorable mound until I unmute the phone to participate in a meeting, at which time he growls, grumbles, and provides a rousing soundtrack to my conversation.  He’s also great at interrupting people who drone on and on…What can I say?  He’s got mad skillz.

MJ takes advantage of the human-at-home-which-means-no-crate time by lounging on her puppy-approved end of the couch.


She also pops over to my workspace, to sit and stare.  And judge me.  After which she gives a big, huffy sigh and wiggles away.

She sat on the floor in that exact stop and started at me for 10 minutes straight.

She sat on the floor in that exact spot and stared at me for 10 minutes straight.

Inevitably, something adorable like this happens, which I only discover when I try to stand up and ruin the sibling-love moment by falling over them.


Helpers to the end!

Fido Foto Friday


Where’s MJ?




Please let us out. I promise we’ll help you paint!


Hello, ladies.

Revenge is a female dog. And that Female is named MJ

Y’all, I jus’ happen to think it was in poor taste for Mama to put up that terrible post last week. I mean… she got two puppies. Obviously they’s dogs, so I don’t know what that “16 Reasons” mess was all about.

So, as a result, Doodle and me has been particularly naughty this week.  No sharin’.  Ruff-housin’ and the like.  Mama tries to sit on the couch, no couch for Mama.

photo (4)

Mama wants to go to sleep.  No bed space for (3)

In general, this is how I feel about Mama, even when I’m gettin’ my beauty (2)

So there.

We’re going to need a bigger trunk- OBX 2011, part 1

August 2011

One set, men’s golf clubs.

Two portable dog crates– or as we call them, winnebagos.

Four dog bowls.

28 ziplock bags of kibble with measured portions, labeled with each pup’s name and meal (breakfast or dinner).

2 pairs of doggles.

4 leashes and 2 extra collars (in case two get wet).

One small suitcase (for human stuff).

One foldable garment bag (for human stuff).

One canvas tote with snacks for the car ride, including dog treats.

One canvas tote with dog toys.

One laptop bag.

One purse.

One page of driving directions.

Two dogs, harnessed and buckled into their respective spots in the backseat.

Two humans, also buckled into their respective seats.

Bye bye house; see you in a week.


We start the adventure by taking the pups up to the local dog park to burn off some energy before hitting the road.  They’re so keyed up about the trip, they’re not interested in playing with any other dogs.  MJ spends most of her park time pretending to be shy, and Zozo finds a tennis ball, flops down and starts nomming on it.  (Stop #1)

Alright then, back to the car.

We buckle everyone back in, find a playlist on the iPod (a musical, natch), and start on our should-be five hour drive to the Outer Banks.  Zozo is a trooper on long road trips.  He typically falls asleep as we’re pulling out of the neighborhood and has to be woken up for a pit stop.  This is MJ’s first trip that exceeds an hour.  Since she sometimes gets carsick, the backseat and floor is covered in puppy pads and towels.  Perhaps I’ve over-prepared.

photo (2)

MJ is content to look out the window while sitting on Zozo’s snoring head for the first couple of hours, and then she’s antsy (or bored).  We find a rest stop and James goes in to get us food while I leash the furries up for a potty break.  We dine al fresco, then hop back in the car.  Zozo falls right back to sleep and MJ sighs, flops down and closes one eye.  Just. One.  (Stop #2)

We’re making tremendous time, and just as we cross the state line into North Carolina, Shifty MaJee gets restless.  We pull over for gas, and I run her out.  Zozo can’t be bothered to get out of the car. (Stop #3)

We make it forty five more minutes before she’s had enough.  No more snout pressed to the window.  No more sitting quietly, or as close to quietly as an 7 month old puppy can possibly be.  She’s had it.  We pull over. (Stop #4)

It’s not optimal.  We push the passenger seat back as far as it will possibly go, and then recline it.  I settle into the car and throw a towel over my legs.  James helps MJ into the car, where she climbs up onto my lap and plops down.  He buckles us both into the seat, making sure she’s harnessed back in and engaging the seatbelt lock.  Neither of us is going anywhere.  She falls asleep.  So do my legs.

45 minutes later, 6.5 hours after we left home, we pull into the driveway of the beach house.  It’s the dead of night and everyone is drained.  We grab what we need immediately– the crates, the dog food for the morning– and climb the stairs into the house.  James returns to the car for our suitcase and I wander to the kitchen to get some water.  Expecting the clicking stampede of curious furbabies behind me, I’m startled when I realize the house is quiet.  No prancing noises.  No exploratory sniffs.  Just the whir of the airconditioner.

I dreadfully walk back to the bedroom. 


 I’m so glad we brought the winnebagos. 




A picture, instead of a thousand words

June 2010

Like any respectable, young professionals accustomed to dorm-then-apartment living, we’ve decided to move again.  However, like any respectable, young married couple, we’re liquidating our meager savings and buying a house.

No more city living– or near-city living– for us.  No!  We’re moving to the suburban (read: unfashionable) end of a cool NoVA city with a big fenced yard and not a lot of commercial traffic.

And so, while we question why we have so many books and we fight over who is going to get the walk-in closet, I bring you a small photo-spread of Pupper and Athena as they begin to settle into their new digs.

Athena can matrix herself up onto any surface.  It’s not unusual to see her peering down from the fridge, the top of a bookcase or from behind the television.  But once she’s spotted, she either makes a break for it:

melting kitty









or plays the “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” game:


Zozo, on the other hand, has found his way onto the couch, which is his new command center while we bustle around with boxes.  From here, he can see everyone.  Everything.

Don't let this picture fool you.  He may look compact, but Zo's tucked his 75lbs into a little, furry ball.

Don’t let this picture fool you. He may look compact, but Zo’s tucked his 75lbs into a little, furry ball.


Or nap.  Mostly nap.    rest