Chi Chi’s story is a heartwarming story of love and a tragic story of loss that epitomizes what the reality is for even the luckiest of animals in Cuba, but it is also so much more. It demonstrates how a bond between an animal and a human can change not only their lives, but the lives of those around them. How a dog can save lives.
Chi Chi, also known as Pequeño Guerrero Cubano or Tiny Cuban Warrior, had a beginning much like countless other animals in Varadero. He was a young stray living on a beach, surviving off table scraps from kind-hearted tourists in the resorts. His life would change forever in May 2017 when he gave puppy dog eyes to one particular tourist named Tera. That fateful look sparked what can only be described as the true definition of love at first sight and the two were instantly bonded. Tera and her husband spent their vacation feeding Chi Chi, and keeping him safe in their room. But as all vacations do, this one came to an end. Broken hearted, the couple said good-bye to that sweet dog and flew back to Canada. But that was not the end of their story.
Tera and her husband knew they couldn’t leave Chi Chi to his fate in Varadero, and from their home in Halifax, NS, began tirelessly trying to find a way to bring him home. Tera’s search led her to a man named Anton, who would become the heart and soul of our APAC team in Cuba. Without hesitation he vowed to help her, but it was not as easy as they had hoped. Anton went to the hotel where Chi Chi stayed, but, as he was not a guest, was denied access day after day. In desperation, Tera created a facebook post pleading others for their help, and it went viral. A few days later, tourists from Germany and Canada teamed up and scoured the resort and beaches until they found Chi Chi. Together they were able to get him to Cardenas where he was under the protection of Anton and his family. Two weeks later, Tera’s husband booked a flight to Cuba to bring Chi Chi home.
This should have been the end of the story. Chi Chi should have been one of those lucky strays with that happily-ever-after ending that makes you cry with joy to read about. Sadly, however, living as a stray in Cuba would take his life, even after being adopted. Unbeknownst to anyone, he had contracted Canine Distemper during his time as a stray. Tera, her husband, and that little dog fought with everything they had, but lost the battle less than a month later.
Tera was devastated, but she knew there had to be a deeper meaning behind that bond. She knew in her heart that she had to do everything she could to save other animals from a life like Chi Chi’s, where every day is a battle to survive against starvation, dehydration, disease, parasites, abuse, and countless other cruelties, and she dove headfirst into that effort.
All People for Animals in Cuba was created in July, 2017 and has evolved in many ways since then, becoming a registered Canadian not-for-profit organization a year later in July, 2018. Chi Chi was the catalyst for the inception of APAC, and, though he passed away in 2017, he continues to help countless animals in Cuba through the legacy he left behind.
All People for Animals in Cuba is an organization of volunteers from Canada and Cuba who work with Cuban nationals and tourists to better the lives of the animals across the country. We are based out of Cardenas and do most of our work in the surrounding areas, including Varadero. We help in many ways including facilitating adoptions within Cuba, helping tourists to adopt strays they have met while on vacation, and providing veterinary services to pets and strays.