Doggos Travel & Food

The Best Laid Plans of Dogs and Men

The hand-off was supposed to go down late at night on November 8, 2019, on Calle Compostela in the old part of Havana.

There he was, resting in a doorway, indifferent to his surroundings. The street wasn’t too busy or bright, so I didn’t have to worry about attracting attention. I dug into my pocket, pulled out a small Ziploc bag, selected one of the items inside, and gripped it carefully.

I didn’t expect what happened next.

I extended my hand and offered the item to him. He ignored me. I waved it under his nose, hoping the smell would convince him it was the good stuff from America. He didn’t care. He wasn’t interested in the slightest.

He didn’t even wag his tail.

Operation Treatos Para Perritos was off to a bad start.

“No gracias.”

Our Plan Went to the Dogs

A few weeks earlier, when the Complimentary Spouse and I were planning our third trip to Cuba, we were discussing the homeless dogs we’d seen on our previous visits. They were friendly and happy, but clearly weren’t getting much food.

We decided to put a box of Milk-Bones in our luggage for the dogs, along with gum, tennis balls, and other little presents we always bring to give to kids.

I named our plan Operation Treatos Para Perritos. We thought the dogs would love it. But, as we leaned quickly on Calle Compostela, they couldn’t care less.

We approached about 30 dogs over three days with Milk-Bones. They loved the attention from Britt and me, but had no enthusiasm for the treats. Just one accepted a treat, but only after a long period of confusion and uncertainty. Instead of eating it in front of us, he took it in his mouth and slowly walked away. I’d like to think he ate it, but it’s more likely that he spit it out.

This dog doesn't want a treat.
“I’m gonna pass.”
This dog doesn't want a treat.
“I’m going to ignore you now.”

The only taker for the Milk-Bones was a woman who saw what I was doing and asked for a few. I explained they were dog treats, and she said she had a dog at home. I gave her a handful.

About half an hour later, we saw her trying to sell the Milk-Bones to people in the street.

Free enterprise will always find a way.

Planning Ahead

So, what went wrong? At first, I thought the dogs didn’t like Milk-Bones — but I quickly realized that was a stupid idea.

Homeless dogs in Havana are not pampered pets like Lucy and Linus. They’re not holding out on the cheap treats because they know there’s leftover steak from Bern’s in the fridge.

No, the most likely explanation is that these dogs wouldn’t recognize any dog treats as real food — from ordinary Milk-Bones to the gourmet $5 biscuits at the dog boutique near our house.

If you were used to scavenging for scraps of leftover food, you’d probably be perplexed by prepackaged, processed, or custom-made dog treats too.

Accordingly, I’m adjusting my strategy for the next Operation Treatos Para Perritos. I’ll test out things like jerky, freeze-dried treats, and rawhide chews.

And, if that doesn’t work, I’ll round up all the dogs and take them home with me. I’ll just have to figure out how to convince Southwest Airlines that I need two dozen comfort animals.