Alina and Manu, oh, Kieran and Cartagena too!

WARNING: if you love dogs/animals as much as I do, reading this will require a box of tissues.

On March 24th, we left the super quaint town of Salento and took off to Cartagena, a beach town on the Caribbean Sea.  Unbeknownst to us, it is considered the “new hot Caribbean destination” by the Wall Street Journal.  It is a very picturesque colonial style port city which is also probably the most culturally diverse city that we have seen in South America.

As this has become a very touristy destination with Floridians, New Yorker’s and others, Cartagena is now pretty expensive (from food to hotels), so we decided to rent an apartment through   After much research, I learned that staying inside the “walled city” would be the best and safest bet, and so for four nights, we rented an apartment right at the Santo Domingo gate (great location – highly recommend it).  This apartment was right across the street from Cafe Del Mar, which is a great spot to watch the sunset or if you don’t want to spend money, just sit on the wall and enjoy the view.


After settling in, we were walking over to Cafe Del Mar to watch the sunset and this is where the entire Cartagena getaway took a dramatic turn.  We are walking through a small park filled with vendors on our way to the “wall” and I see a dog laying on the sidewalk, licking its bloodied severed paw.  I immediately see stars and die internally.

FullSizeRender 9 So, we walk past him to go “enjoy” the sunset, but at this point, my mind is on the dog and what I can do to help it.  So, within minutes, I run back downstairs and frantically try to ask every person in the park what happened to this pup? Who does it belong to? What can I do to help?FullSizeRender 4Everyone is super chill about the entire situation (which I don’t get) while I am totally losing it.  So, through various conversations in 90% Spanish and 10% English, I learn that the dog, Manu, is the parks’ homeless dog and belongs to a few of the homeless guys and that one of the locals who was at the park with his dogs at the time of the incident (whatever that was), called Humane Society to come by and look at the dog.  Lo and behold, a vet shows up on a scooter and gives the pup two antibiotic shots.  Ok, I feel a bit better, but what’s next?  This dog can’t walk, it’s not being properly fed and it has no water. UGH!

Kieran and I make our way to the grocery store where we buy some meat for the dog and some water (nothing less than Evian for my Manu). I also realize that in the midst of my dog loving panic attack, that Kieran may have been starving as it was already 8pm.  On our way from the store, we stop by a lovely restaurant called Maria, which came highly recommended not just by the Wall Street Journal article but also by a few other people (thanks, Summer).

FullSizeRender 6It was delicious, I think!  I remember none of it as all I could think about was MANU!  After dinner, we go back to the park (across the street from our apartment) and there is my little pup laying there with blood shot red eyes and very rapid breathing.  I am now hysterical.  I go back to the apartment and talk to the next door neighbor (who speaks English) and tell him all about the dog and drag him downstairs with me to help me catch a cab that will allow me to bring the dog to the vet.  The cabs want to have nothing to do with it even for extra $$$ (shocker) and so feeling super sad and gloomy, I sit next to Manu and give him some food and water.

FullSizeRender I wanted soooo badly to bring him upstairs so he could be in a clean apartment rather than having his bloody foot in the dirt, but his park owners just looked at me crazy.  I went to sleep with a very heavy heart and for the next four days, I would go back to Manu at least 3 or 4 times a day to give him food and water and to harass locals about calling the vet.

The next morning, the first stop was to get a chorizo from a vendor for Manu before doing anything else (forget about breakfast for Kiearan or Alina).

IMG_5395He was in much better spirits the next morning with antibiotics obviously working, but his paw still looked bloody and raw with the paw pads just hanging by a thread.IMG_4980

Kieran and I decided to let Manu rest for a bit while we finally explored the city.  We walked for hours and by walk I mean stop at every possible coffee/food/ice cream place to soothe my emotional binge eating.

One of my favorite ice cream spots, La Paletteria, that I actually discovered in Chile, is also very popular in Colombia.  So, I may have gone there on daily basis…

pops.IMG_1564Another favorite of ours in Colombia is Juan Valdez Cafe for its wonderful coffee and great free WiFi!  Kieran and I spent a significant amount of time hanging out here and reading books.

We spent the rest of the day (besides me running back to Manu) walking inside of the Walled City,  which has stunning architecture.  There are lots of shops, restaurants and bars with something to satisfy every taste and budget. It is super lively at any time of the day with people strolling the narrow streets and various styles of music heard throughout this neighborhood.

IMG_5396 FullSizeRender 5That evening, we spotted a very funky Argentinian BBQ spot where Kiearan ordered a large steak and Manu got all the left overs.  IMG_4977FullSizeRender 2Our third day in the city, we finally decided to do something a bit more touristy, like a free walking tour; but, first things first – feed Manu!

FullSizeRender 10The walking tour was excellent!  With the free tour you never know what you will get, how good the tour guide will be, and if the guide will speak English. However, our guide Edgar, was super funny and friendly and very knowledgeable.  For anyone in Cartagena, I highly recommend to take this two hour walk around the city.


After the tour, I ran to make sure that the vet showed up to give Manu another shot – yes, I am dog obsessed!   Here is what I learned about dogs in Colombia and in S. America in general.  There are really no dog boarding places and if I was to take Manu to the vet (which I tried numerous times), the vet would just say “well, what do you want us to do with him after since he is homeless”.  As for boarding places for animals, if an owner goes on a long vacation (let’s say a few weeks), they just kick the dog out and hope the dog comes back alive one day! WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS? Box of tissues please….

That evening, Kiearn and I went to an Italian spot for dinner called Andante Allegro Vivace.  If you are in Cartagena, go have yourself a nice home made ravioli or gnocchi.  It was fantastic! We then stopped by a Russian bar called KGB; with a name like that, what Russian can pass on the picture opportunity?

IMG_5393After dinner, like clock work, I went to feed Manu.  I have become very popular with the local homeless guys as they appreciated my caring for the dog.

On our last full day in the city, Kieran went to check out San Felipe Castle – it is an old fortress which I can’t say much about as I wasn’t there, but Kieran came back very impressed and he said getting a guided tour (courtesy of Paloma) was a must!

IMG_5437 IMG_5431 IMG_5413I, in the meantime, spent half of the day with my favorite homeless dude going to the vet shop to pick up some cream for Manu along with a few other things (flea soap and a syringe filled with some liquid).  Since I didn’t understand any of it, I pretended that everything I bought was in fact for the dog and not cocaine for the guy.  OOPS?

When Kiearan came back, I told him about my adventures (he wasn’t super pleased) and we spent the last night of our trip to Cartagena just wondering the streets and eating ice-cream (as I do).

The last morning was bitter-sweet as I was very happy to go back to Bogota and to our favorite hotel, but I was super sad to leave behind an injured dog that I would never see again.  Our final goodbye consisted of a big meal, some nice water and maybe even a close encounter of Kieran almost losing a finger while the dog tried to protect me when Kiearn got a little too close.

IMG_5466So, here is my question for you: what would YOU have done if you saw an injured homeless dog on the side of the rode while traveling?  What’s the best way to help?

  • a&G

    This is sweet and sad story…big mistake to read it before going to bed

    • Alina Basina

      at least you get to cuddle with Paloma 🙂