We’re suckers for a good travel story and we love when people share them with us! Most recently though, we received a story that involved our very own Susan Elliott and it was too good not to share.
When we refer to traveling beyond everyday, we also think of going above and beyond for people whenever we can. As you’ll read below, Susan delivered in spades. Well done!
I have a story about a little Cuban street dog and some very good people, that I would like to share with you.
In February my family went on a holiday to Varadero, Cuba. While there, we met and fell in love with a little homeless dog we named Shelley. My daughter spent every spare moment on the beach with Shelley. They wrestled and played fetch with a worn hunk of coconut. Although she was young, Shelley had a coarse coat and large, sore, bald patches caused by parasites. I tried to adopt her while we were there, but she was not healthy enough to travel. I don’t speak Spanish so could not communicate enough to find someone to help us. When we left the resort to return home Shelley followed my daughter to the bus, tail wagging. It was absolutely heartbreaking to leave her behind.
Once home I decided I would try to find someone to help us rescue Shelley. I didn’t tell my daughter because I didn’t want to get her hopes up on the slim chance that I could find her. Through Facebook I learned about The Aniplant Project (TAP.) This organization works to reduce and aid the homeless dogs of Cuba by:
- Operating spay/neuter programs for locals pets and homeless cats and dogs
- Educating about the need for spay/neuters
- Promoting general health care and welfare for animals
- Assisting refuges
- Intervening in cases of animal suffering
While TAP is not a rescue organization, they graciously agreed to help me find Shelley. Danielle Spiers, a TAP volunteer living in Toronto, contacted Dra. Gladis Ocho, a TAP veterinarian from Cuba. Dra. Gladis went back to the hotel but couldn’t find Shelley there, so she searched along the beach and eventually found her at another hotel. It was so exciting to learn that Shelley had been found! Dra. Gladis brought Shelley back to her clinic in Santa Marta, treated her for parasites, vaccinated her and cared for her until she was well enough to travel.
Next I had to get Shelley back to Canada.
The only airlines that will fly pets out of Cuba are WestJet and Air Transat, and they will not ship them by cargo. They require someone to escort them and they had to travel before May 15 as it gets too hot after that date. So, I had to either find her an escort or return to Varadero myself and bring her home…in 5 weeks. This street dog could get expensive.
After putting out dozens of email and Facebook requests (all on the sly, so my daughter wouldn’t know) I was finally contacted by Susan Elliott, a travel agent with TierOne Travel. Susan is an animal lover and she enthusiastically took on the challenge of finding a ride home for Shelley. Several days later Susan called to advise that she had spoken to someone at WestJet, who thought she knew someone who could help. Soon after, Chris from WestJet emailed me. It turns out that he had also adopted a dog from Cuba and knew Dra. Gladis. What luck! He told me not to worry. He would fly to Cuba and bring Shelley home. He just had to find an opening in his schedule. Later, Chris contacted a friend, Rebecca, who he learned was already in Cuba (on her honeymoon no less). Rebecca agreed to bring Shelley back via Toronto to Edmonton on April 20. Between Danielle and Dra. Gladis from TAP, Rachelle and Chris from WestJet, Susan from TierOne Travel and Rebecca, Rebecca’s flights were juggled, Shelley was booked to fly and the travel documents produced.
It is worth noting that I have never met any of these people. I have communicated through Facebook, email and phone. There is nothing in this for any of them except the desire to help a homeless dog. It brings tears to my eyes that they are so kind and selfless and it strikes me what a gift little Shelley has already been to connect me with these wonderful people.
I live near Okotoks, so I will drive to Edmonton to pick up Shelley on the 20th and return to Calgary on the 21st. Susan the Travel Agent wants to come with me and she booked us a room at her special rate! My daughter, Belle, attends MRU and is writing her final exam on the 21st so the plan is for Susan and I to return to Calgary and pick up Belle at school with a surprise.