Year of the Peruvian Bicentennial: Ñusta, our new canine ambassador to Cuba!

Havana:

“Due to the pandemic, since March 2019 I had to postpone a trip to Canada, where my family lives,” says Claudia Betalleluz, Minister in Peru’s Diplomatic Service and Head of Chancellery at the Peruvian Embassy in Havana.

“As I was about to return to Havana, I read in the specialized digital press a news story that said: Cuban man gives away his dog for lack of food: ‘I don’t have food for me, let alone her.’

In the picture: Ñusta before getting to her new home. PC: Yamile García©

“I saw the photo and it realized it was a completely malnourished Peruvian Hairless Dog in urgent need of a new owner who could save it! It broke my heart seeing its ribs showing and its state of malnutrition.”

Immediately, Claudia contacts the dog’s rescuer via WhatsApp. Yamile García, a haemotherapist in an hospital in Havana, as well as an animal rescuer, tells her she would keep the dog but, unfortunately, she no longer had any room at home because she had already rescued too many dogs and cats.

In the picture: Ñusta before getting to her new home. PC: Yamile García©

According to Yamile, the Peruvian Hairless Dog was hadn’t been neglected by its former owners on purpose but rather because they could not give it a dignified life for lack of money.

“I always wanted a Peruvian Hairless Dog,” Claudia tells me during our videocall. “I even went to a breeder’s in Chosica [Lima-Peru] with the idea of getting one. But for various reasons I never was able to go through with it. So when I saw that this Hairless Dog was being offered up for adoption in the same country where I now live I didn’t think twice: it was my best chance, it was like the universe put her in my path.”

Claudia says it with a tone of voice that makes one think that finding this dog was tantamount to winning the lottery.

Despite her enthusiasm, nothing was certain; Yamile had yet to make sure the dog would indeed go to a good home where it would be well cared for and loved: “I was told that there were several people interested,” and was asked for convincing references and evidence that she was the best choice for the dog’s future.

Luckily, after some formalities, everything went swimmingly, as evidenced by the beautiful Hairless Dog she shows me in her arms on the other side of the screen, now completely returned to that robust but refined and elegant state that is so typical of the breed.

Upon adopting her, Claudia renamed the dog Ñusta. Thus, returning to her the Peruvian cultural background she had lost upon her arrival in Cuba and in the distressing conditions in which the lack of resources of her former owners had plunged her. Secondly, returning her to good health, both physically and emotionally, with great care and patience, clearly proving to be the best owner that Ñusta could have wished for.

“[Ñusta] arrived six weeks ago weighing 7 kilos and 700 grams and now weighs just over 10 kilos. The idea was for her to gradually gain weight. I believe she’s already strong and full of energy now. She’s eating chicken meat, rice, quinoa, carrot, kiwicha [amaranth] and also canine food in the form of croquettes. She’s energetic and already feels safe in the house. Also, luckily she gets along very well with Gaia, my one-year-old Border Collie. Both have totally different behaviors and that allows them to get along. You can tell that Ñusta has not had any toys while Gaia is used to having them and plays with them. On the other hand, Ñusta likes the sofa, sitting in a hot place and, above all, to snuggle up with me; while Gaia only thinks about her toys and likes to lie on the floor, which is colder, because in Havana it is very hot and she has a lot of fur! So there’s perfect harmony and there’s no conflict of interest,” Claudia tells me, with a funny tone.

In the picture: Ñusta and Claudia Betalleluz, Minister in Peru’s Diplomatic Service and Head of Chancellery at the Peruvian Embassy in Havana. PC: Claudia Betalleluz. Design by Alessandro Pucci © 2021 APPP – ADPP

“Ñusta came to Cuba with the niece of the [previous] owner,” Claudia tells me. “She’s three years old and, from the information they provided, I presume that the person who brought her to Cuba had been part of a brigade of health professionals who supported northern Peru in the natural disaster of the coastal El Niño in early 2017. I think Ñusta is from Piura. So that’s how she would’ve arrived in the island.”

These days Claudia is looking for the person who originally brought Ñusta to Cuba.

Before she was called Ñusta, she was China [meaning “Chinese female”], since in Cuba the Peruvian Hairless Dog is mistakenly known a “Chinese Dog”, as people are obviously unaware of the ancient American origins of this breed and, specifically, its Peruvian origins. Currently, there are very few of these dogs on the island; those there are are chosen by people because of the existing belief that they cure asthma.[1]

However, now, thanks to Ñusta, more Cubans and foreigners will be able to learn first-hand about Peru and its ancestral culture and, at the same time, enjoy the company of a true Peruvian representative: Ñusta… Peru’s new canine ambassador to Cuba!

Unfortunately, not everything resembles the beautiful, picturesque postcards of old Cuba, “Cuba del Mar”, that of beautiful houses and traditions. For dogs, as for the people, Cuba is a place of many deficiencies. In the case of dogs, and despite the struggle of the famous historian Eusebio Leal for the reconstruction of the historic center of Havana and the protection of stray dogs, with an intense economic crisis the abandonment of dogs is increasingly frequent.

In the midst of this pandemic that has sharply aggravated the Cuban crisis and which has led to the country’s economy falling by 12% according to official sources in 2020, as well as the implementation from January 1 of what the Cuban authorities have called the process of economic and financial “ordering” that has increased the prices of essential goods and services and further multiplied the queues to obtain commodities, many Cubans have denounced that the situation is becoming increasingly difficult and that many of them are even going hungry.

In the picture: Ñusta and her rescuer: Yamile García. PC: Yamile García©

For over 30 years, independent associations and animalists have been fighting to have an animal protection law that allows them to have a dignified life. The government has just pushed for the first animal welfare law but it has not yet been passed.[2] Meantime, and although in Cuba there are no official statistics of the number of abandoned dogs, the number of them roaming the streets of Havana is ever higher; and clandestine dog fights and cult rites in which animals are victims of sacrifice are very common. On the other hand, and as always, it is possible to find people with a great affection for animals, such as those who took care of Ñusta during her adoption process. It is no surprise that especially in these difficult times there is an immense lack in the supply of food and medicine for these animals, and their protectors work mostly with their own resources to give them what they need.

For now, however, the only solution to the serious problem of the constant increase in abandoned dogs comes in the form of the program called “Zoonosis”, which takes abandoned and malnourished dogs off the streets to eradicate infectious diseases. It is only thanks to the efforts of rescuers like Yamile and the willingness to adopt a “street” dog of people like Claudia that dogs in a state of abandonment—like Ñusta—are given a second chance to have a dignified life, and so they are fortunate not to rely on programs like this, in which their future is unfortunately very uncertain.

In the picture: Ñusta and Gaia (Neleco’s Black Gloria), both from Claudia Betalleluz. In a traning session. PC: Claudia Betalleluz©

Claudia tells me that she always liked dogs: she has had Yorkshires, miniature Pinschers and Border Collies. Currently, her dogs are Chester, who lives in Canada with her son, and Gaia, who lives with her in Havana—and, of course, now she has Ñusta, too.

Gaia is purebred and comes from prestigious Cuban breeders, and is a very sporty dog. “Ñusta is intelligent,” Claudia tells me, “and I’d like her to be well trained and develop her skills. I would also like her to be able to compete in agility and beauty competitions: she’s very pretty and slender… she’s beautiful!” You can tell Claudia is immensely proud, and that’s why both dogs are being professionally trained from Monday to Friday. In Cuba there is a canine culture dating back several decades, and even have a canine sports federation. Claudia tells me that in it there are “dogs of all breeds: Huskies, Samoyeds, Fox Terriers, etc., and now they’ll meet the Peruvian Hairless Dog of Peru!”

It is astonishing how this unusual and initially tragic event has turned out to be such a successful event. How and why this representative of our National Heritage came to endure hardships in Cuba will remain an enigma for now; however, the actions of solidarity and support by the people involved in this noble act will serve as an example to all those who love animals and also to those who advocate for the protection of the Peruvian Hairless Dog.

At the beginning of the year of the Peruvian Bicentennial a new life full of love and cultural activities is now offered to Ñusta, our new canine ambassador to Cuba!

 

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Footnotes:

[1] It should be noted that according to explorer and naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, in his book Pictures of Nature [Tableaux de la Nature. Humboldt, Alexander Von. Translated into French by Ferdinand Hoefer and edited by Charles Turati Milan in April 1858. Page 87] tells us that, according to Tschudi, when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Antilles he found a dog that was to be called “Lesson’s Canis Caraibicus”, the same that was found by Hernán Cortes in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro in Peru. Everything points toward the fact that the Hairless Dog also inhabited the Caribbean Islands before Columbus’ arrival. However, we have no vestiges or representations of the Hairless Dog in he Islands, such as those in Peru, to corroborates its ties to the Peruvian Hairless Dog and how he arrived in the Caribbean.

https://chiennuperou.com/es/blogpost/2019/06/un-perro-ancestral-de-magia-y-misterio/ – Article of June 04, 2019 called “A Magical and Mysterious Ancient Dog” on the website “The Peruvian Hairless Dog”, written by the author of this article: “…we also know of the existence of the Martinique Hairless Dog, known by the Creoles, rather pejoratively—but in my opinion very sensibly—, with the name of Chien Fer or Dog of Hell—enigmatic appellation that would have been applied by settlers upon Christopher Columbus’ arrival on the island and that endures to this day.”

[2] https://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/20201015/484100785035/ley-de-bienestar-animal-una-victoria-de-la-sociedad-civil-en-cuba.html

 

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On the threshold of Peru’s Bicentennial: You will soon find out about Ñusta! …

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