Spot the Cat

A few days after Cocoa joined the gang, my son tried to introduce the new addition to the Puppers. Fred was curious but George was jealous. He barked at Cocoa who leaped out of my son’s arms and ran to the corner of the yard, curling up on himself like a pillbug. My son was disappointed. He’d hoped they could be friends.

Since the dogs aren’t getting along, we have three walks to take in the morning, and three in the afternoon. Fred and George have priority. Then Terry, as fast as possible–Terry’s choice not ours. Finally, Cocoa. He’s small, so he doesn’t go too far, but he loves the grass. He throws himself about like a kid in a ball pit. He isn’t much interested in doing his business outside though–too many things to sniff.

Our walks have added a Where’s Waldo activity just to liven things up. The borega guy has an orange and white cat that looks like a sun-bleached Garfield. This cat has taken to my son like they are long lost buddies. It comes mewing along every time it sees us, completely oblivious to the dogs.

So each of our walks, we play Spot the Cat! Sure as anything, at some point along the walk, Garfield will appear. Sometimes it’s on a rock, waiting like the Cheshire Cat. Other times it is in the cornfield, just watching us pass. 

Fred and George are absolutely stunned at Garfield’s presence, every single time. They freeze and it takes some coaxing to get them started again. Terry, when he takes the time to notice, tries to attack. The new leash has proven its mettle. Cocoa can’t see Garfield over the clover and has no reaction whatsoever. 

We’ve recently realized that Garfield is actually a Mrs. Garfield, and a pregnant one at that. She now not only appears on our walks but follows us home meowing piteously for food. She’ll only accept food from my son for whatever reason. And since she’s eating for 23 (or so my son says) she comes morning, noon, and night for more vittles. 

I think she’s taken up residence in my sister-in-law’s house and that’s where the kittens will appear. Time will tell!

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Mexican Herbal First Aid Kit

Although there are countless home remedies used in Mexico, not all of them have been studied for effectiveness. However, I believe that having a basic herbal first aid kit, in addition to an emergency first aid and medicine supply can help you in the event of some medical emergencies. 

Árnica Mexicana (Heterotheca inuloides) can be used externally for joint inflammations, arthritis, injury, contusions, bruises, tendonitis, sore muscles and skin infections due to bacteria or fungus. You can buy dried Árnica Mexicana from the market and make a tincture or find pomada de Árnica at most pharmacies.

La sábila or aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) can be used externally for burns, insect bites, and wound care. It’s best when used fresh. Growing aloe vera isn’t difficult and having it on hand in emergencies makes it worth the effort. To use, cut the pencas (leaves) in half lengthwise and heat briefly to get the juices flowing. Then apply to the affected area.

La manzanilla, chamomile, (Matricaria chamomilla) can be used as an eyewash, digestive aid or mild sedative. It can be found dried at the market or already in teabags at the store.  

Los chiles, peppers, from the Capsicum annuum family have a variety of medicinal and health benefits. Rubbed on the body, they promote circulation to the area. Be careful not to get any in your eyes though. A bite of a particularly spicy chile will cure a headache after your eyes stop watering. Toasted on the comal, dried chiles will clear the nasal cavity and lungs. Powdered chile and olive oil and be mixed to make a liniment for joint, muscle and back pain. 

El ajo, garlic, (Allium sativum) is not just for flavoring. When battling a cold, la gripa, or cough, la tos, regular doses of garlic tea will perk you right up. To make boil 3-6 peeled and halved cloves in three cups of water. Add ½ cup of lime juice. Add honey to taste and serve. 

El limón, lime, (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle) is a regular addition to most meals in Mexico.  The leaves can be used to make a refreshing tea, high in antioxidants. Lime juice squeezed on wounds will reduce the chances of infection and slow bleeding. Fresh is best, so consider planting a lime tree in your backyard. 

El jengibre, ginger (zingiber officinale), also helps soothe the digestive system. A pinch of powdered root in your cup of yerba buena (spearmint) or manzanilla (chamomile) will help with nausea. Its anti-inflammatory action relaxes membranes in the airways, reducing the cough reflex. To brew yourself some ginger tea, add 20 to 40 grams of fresh ginger root slices to hot water and sweeten with honey (another natural cough suppressant). Finally, ginger works as a warming agent by improving blood circulation. Ginger root can be found at the market quite easily. 

La lavanda, lavender, (Lavandula angustifolia) is a natural antiseptic and has antifungal properties, making it an excellent wound wash. Mixed with olive oil, it works well as a muscle rub, headache cure, or for cramps. Used as aromatherapy, it reduces tension and helps you sleep better. It can also be burnt for insect fumigation. The leaves can be added to other herbs for a digestive tea. You can easily find lavender plants at the viveria (plant nursery) so you’ll always have it on hand. 

The following are not herbs per se but are great natural additions to your Mexican herbal first-aid kit. 

La miel, honey, has all sorts of beneficial properties. If you happen to live in the Yucatan, the local Melipona honey has even higher antimicrobial, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties than regular organic honey. Apply honey to wounds and burns to aid in healing. Honey is a natural cough suppressant. It also aids in digestion, calming heartburn and ulcer flare-ups. If your blood sugar drops, one tablespoon of honey will bring it up. If your jar of honey crystallizes, place the container in a pan of hot water to liquify it again. 

El bicarbonato de sodio, baking soda, is useful for stings and bites. Mix water and baking soda to make a paste. For severe heartburn or urinary tract infections, 1/4 tsp can be taken internally to help alleviate the symptoms quickly.

El carbón activado, activated charcoal, can be applied as a poultice on spider bites, stings, and infected wounds by mixing it with enough water to make a paste. It can also be taken internally as a remedy for food poisoning, diarrhea or gas. Taken early enough, it may also help absorb other types of accidentally ingested poisons.

You might also want to invest in an herbal apothecary book. Look for one that specializes in plants found in Mexico rather than one that is designed for all of North America. Do you have any suggestions?

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Sir Cocoa Beans

Out of the blue one day, my son calls out to me that there was a puppy in the truck. My husband hadn’t mentioned anything when he pulled the truck into the garage, so I was skeptical, but sure enough, there was a little puppy. He was from Azul the vet’s female dog’s litter and apparently in the same line that Puppy was. They have the same eyes, that’s for sure, although he didn’t get the expressive eyebrow markings that the Puppers have. 

We rescued him from the front seat of the truck and gave him some water and food. My son christened him Cocoa Beans on the spot. 

Fuzz wasn’t sure what to make of the new puppy. Initially, he took the high road and completely ignored his presence. However, towards evening, he went on an all-out attack, determined to kill the little vermin.

When that failed, he led Cocoa on a merry chase under chairs (where Cocoa got stuck) over obstacles (that Cocoa couldn’t get his stubby legs over) and outside (where Cocoa could not open the door to return).  After all that running around, Cocoa collapsed for the night in his box with some old clothes thrown in for blankets. 

The next day, nervy little puppy piddled here and there and everywhere. I put both Fuzz and Cocoa outside while I mopped and what a racket they made. Both of them spent 30 minutes crying at the door. Fuzz, who under normal conditions can let himself back in, was prevented by Cocoa who was blocking the door. 

Finally, I relented and let them in. Both were promptly horrified when their paws got wet. Fuzz retreated to a chair and I tucked Cocoa in his blanket, and they both took a nap.

Fuzz continues his torment of Cocoa. He pretends he isn’t interested, but we know better. He lays on the floor and deliberately plays with one of Cocoa’s toys to get him riled up. Or he gets up on a chair and dangles his tail like a fishing line, hoping to catch a puppy. 

I bought both of the little guys collars with bells and bow ties. Cocoa adores his collar, prancing about just to hear it jingle. Fuzz, on the other hand, was horrified. He kept trying to sneak around without making noise. It literally took him 20 minutes to “sneak” up the stairs. He was so miserable that I took it off. He’s back to sneaking up on Cocoa and pouncing. 

Cocoa has taken over Fuzz’s bed–not that Fuzz ever slept in it. Cocoa loves it. He contentedly curls up next to our bed so he won’t miss the moment I get up to use the bathroom in the night. He assumes that every time I get up, it’s time to eat. 

Since he had been eating not only his food but anything Fuzz left for later and it was making him sick, I’ve had to portion out his meals. I’ve also moved Fuzz’s food up on a chair and placed a barrier around it so Cocoa can’t knock it off and eat it all. However, this morning I realized that Fuzz has been getting up on the table and knocking the half-packet of saved food off for Cocoa. 

Because I don’t want to be stepping in poo or pee when I get up in the night, I’ve been trying to housebreak Cocoa. I tried putting a seed sack down. Fuzz and Cocoa used it as a Wrestlemania mat. Then, I got some artificial grass in the hope to encourage him to use the bathroom in a set area, but it’s only worked marginally so far.

Cocoa also came with fleas. Lots of fleas. Since Fuzz and Cocoa are Lucha libre fighters, Fuzz got fleas too. That meant a bath for the both of them. What a horrendous activity–crying, screeching, soaking wet, and then there were the unhappy animals! No one enjoyed the experience. When they were bundled up like burritos in towels, they finally calmed down. 

The flea collars I bought haven’t completely eradicated the fleas–so I expect another bath is in order. In fact, the first time we put the collar on Fuzz he started foaming at the mouth. We think he may have licked it. A second attempt was more successful, thankfully. 

With the two little guys upstairs, we’ve certainly have our hands full. But since we aren’t doing anything interesting otherwise, might as well raise two more young’uns in La Yacata. 

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