Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tea Party

The year's end is a fine time to highlight the most useful thing we've learned about in ages -passion flower (passiflora foetida).  
We started by foraging and drying it for tea and both noticed how better rested we were the morning after an evening cup. A little online research revealed that it is safe for dogs. 

Theanimalherbalist.com has a page that I recommend reading. 
The description of symptoms that passion flower addresses "... separation anxiety or fear aggression that is associated with jealousy of another animal." was reason enough to give it a try. 
I'm looking at you Maggie and April -2 dogs that have gotten much better over the years, but still have a nasty habit of lashing out at other dogs vying for Sean's attention. Frankie and Bosha have similar issues, though they are slightly less fixated. A dose of passion flower makes a difference in all of them! They seem happier and are noticeably less defensive/confrontational with no grogginess. The effect is subtle, but undeniable.  
Sean and a mellow April.

We've had no luck yet finding the supplies we need to make tinctures, and we can't possibly afford to buy them for so many dogs, so we been giving it to them in powdered form. We've started with boiled potatoes as a cost-effective and successful medium. Herbed potatoes for the discriminating dog!  Roughly 1/2 tsp for a small dog, 1 tsp large -mixed in a bite of spuds (with garlic powder and olive oil for the persnickety few). We've been feeding it to many of the dogs (usually in the morning) and paying attention to the results.
It has the most noticeable impact on unquestionably nervous dogs, but it has a calming effect on most of them. A handful receive it almost daily and I never want to be without it!  Medication time at the asylum.

The last 3+ years have undeniably been made more stressful as a result of the presence of the six dogs we call theTribe. The number of them, coupled with their manic personalities, result in a terrifying sibling group mind. Their family motto would be "vigilance and hysteria." 
They've made hosting volunteers and Couchsurfers difficult and less pleasant -so much so that it has been over a year since we've considered it.

Zoot (theTribe) on passion flower is slightly less crazed. 

I know a fair amount about about dogs, but there is much more that I don't know. Some of the behavioral changes surprised me. After a few days on passion flower, Mega and Amber (both of theTribe) volunteered to go along on Sean's morning run for the first time in months!
Amber and Ginger.

Passion flower worked so well on dogs whose behaviors are obviously anxiety based, that it made us reevaluate what motivates the behavior of the other dogs that showed a distinct change. It has little to no effect on Ginger, a sensible, well-balanced girl. 
Ginger and Ziggy, morning walk.

Then there is Ziggy: heart of a lion, brain of a turnip. Frustratingly single-minded about barking when he's in the yard and perfectly well behaved outside of it. Newer recruit Roxy is similar (and April and Greta to a degree). I've come to see this as a territorial anxiety and it is noticeably reduced by the addition of passion flower. 
Zasu and Ziggy.

Initial attempts at making passion flower biscuits have been a resounding success! The original batch was
-whole wheat/gluten free flour (what I had already open)
-roasted beet and pineapple juice puree (left over from making a batch of  "http://minimalistbaker.com/fudgy-vegan-beet-cupcakes/" -which were freaking amazing!)
-ground flax, garlic powder and dried passion flower
-spread on greased baking sheet, pre-cut with pizza wheel and baked

The result is more aptly described as purple jerky (sounds like a euphemism) than biscuits, but nearly all the dogs loved it! All but 3! Outstanding! 
The improved version also has olive oil; it comes out thin and crispy. We call them Beet Thins. The problem now is explaining that they don't all need it! We have some expert moochers.
Amber is much less tense on passion flower, while Bette and Linda (aforementioned expert moocher) need no help with being well-adjusted.

Seven happy little dogs in a row (and 2 of them benefit from passion flower).

I hope that by reducing their anxiety we can increase their quality of life. I'm absolutely certain that reducing the frequency of crazy outbursts (barking at birds?!) and bone-headed skirmishes will increase the quality of our lives, as caretakers.  
Three of these seven have noticeable behavioral improvements from passion flower.

A happy new year to all the lovely pollinators, without whom there would be no passion flower! You're the bee's knees!
...and best wishes to the helpful boa constrictor that took up residence here for a while.  Good hunting in your new (and hopefully safer) home in the deep woods.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

X marks the Spot.

Over the last few years we've occasionally taken other peoples' dogs to be sterilized at ADAY in Merida -a low cost, all volunteer clinic.  At the end of October Sean took 6 dogs and we hope to repeat this a few more times this year. We intend to arrange a place in Celestun to hold clinics closer to home next year.
Blanco at the clinic after neutering.

Two dogs ready for surgery.

Machucon and Bombo, dogs we had spayed and neutered previously, watch over the return of their friends.

Returned by way of the flooded streets of Celestun.  We're lucky to live outside of town on higher ground, but this is terrible for the people/animals in this neighborhood!

The plants have been loving the rain and the bugs have been less overwhelming than recent years. We've been encouraging the growth of baybean on our beach side fence and it has been a popular spot for all manner of bird, lizard and bee.   

Dear old cat friend Spot is no more and his absence is tangible. Nothing I say about him could do him justice; he was a force of nature and he is missed. 

I had nearly given up on seeing this bougainvillea bloom.

Video from Sean's Nov.3rd morning run:

Ginger has been having some health problems, but she's doing well enough to enjoy a walk to see the flamingos.
November morning walk.
Zoot after a good roll in poo.

Where the road becomes water.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Barking at thunder. Daily.

George and Tori, just because they look nice together.

I'm finally uploading a few of the videos Sean has taken on runs. This one is from February (and the camera is waterproof).

Shirley thinks rainy days are fine if you have enough toys.
This is from the end of June.

A few seconds from September.

Zoot enjoys a lovely September morning.
A hummingbird takes a break from hovering but not eating.
Tiny assassin bugs on a sea grape. 
Smiley face spider in our neem tree.
Sean found this little red-cheeked mud turtle too close to the road. He posed for a few photos before being relocated to the woods. Identified thanks to Jim Conrad's excellent site (link page right).

Sugar's kittens have been spayed and neutered! Minya didn't let the collar get in her way.
Recent family portrait. Sugar, her doppelgänger Falafel, Kevin, Cali and Minya.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Raining cats and dogs

Motivation, electricity, and internet have been sporadic.  Yes, the rainy season has begun!  Hot by 8AM, with high humidity and afternoon thunder.  Still, somehow, a few things get done.  Maggie had surgery for bladder stones; Doctora Sandra removed 3 large and 40+ smaller stones. 
Mags has recovered and is feeling much better!
Roxy has been having a hard time; she still has ehrlichiosis because the medicine upset her stomach and she couldn't keep it down.  Now on something to calm her stomach she is taking smaller, more frequent doses.  Sean has been her personal nurse.  She's due to be tested to see if the heartworm treatment worked but her being alive is a good indication that it did.  She's a tough little thing and happy to have people!

Hazel decided to have an adventure, and was gone for a couple of days.  
Much anxiety was had by all -though mainly Sean, Murci and me.
Other than that, the dogs seem happy.
Xmul and Reggie sandwich Otto.

Greta tidies up Steve.

PuppyG does anime cosplay without a costume.

Henry leads Eve and Monkey in a sea shanty.

So many strays around now! Dogs barking all night, on all sides.  One dumped with rope tied around its neck; if it lives long enough it will strangle.  Damn humans.  We'll do what we can.  Some sick kittens were dumped nearby.  Luckily, we attended to them far from ours until they went to the vet.  They tested positive for feline leukemia; we had no choice but to have them put down.  
I spent a week away visiting family, and Sean survived.  
Here he recuperates with other members of the shaggy dog club (he's an honorary member) Henry and Linda.

Sugar has been spayed and she tested positive for FIV.  Her kittens will be going in to be tested and sterilized soon.  They've been vaccinated and are currently doing great.
Falafel leaps and Cali prowls at dusk.

Xena has been renamed Minya.  
Minya and Kevin in sync.   

Bodging for kitties has become a full time job!  The most recent version of kitty bridge has been a success.  The longterm goal is integrating them but desensitizing the dogs is no small task.  Kevin and his siblings check out the new dog harassment platform. 

Falafel and Cali cross the kitty bridge.

Sugar and kin are the center of attention. That's an early stage of the kitty viewing station (pre-bridge), it was meant to be a place for potted plants.  Of course, the plants had to go soon after this was taken.

Monday, June 30, 2014

June bugs.

May brought kittens, June brought flies.  June is a bitch.
Momma Sugar and Cali, the day we met. 

Sugar was living at a beach shack next door with her kittens.

Here are all 4 of the little devils.  I like cats, but not what they do to the birds!  
At least these 4 won't be having kittens.  

Sugar checks out the view from the roof.

Sugar and Maldi have a tentative peace.  
She's already proven herself to be a good mouser!  

Daisy and pals play with their new toys, thanks to Lisa and Tim!

Xmul prefers Mo to toys.  Happy dogs at sunset.

Lovely Xmul.

Not so much lovely as loved.  
Ziggy naps. 

These orange insects were standing motionless on a new shoot of our nopal.  They caught my eye because it looked like a bloom, but nopal doesn't have orange flowers.  They were so still that I touched them, thinking it was some kind of fungus.  I'll update when I identify the species. 
Identified as assassin bugs by Amanda. Thanks!

The dogs do their best impression of ants.  
Hey!  No dogs allowed on the tabl.... ah, forget it. 

Elewah and Sean.

Her darling daughter Lily, and a napping Frankie.

Blue leads Zoot, Amber, and gang.
Siblings Zoot and Amber have not wanted to go out for months!  So odd.

Finally, success -we convinced/tricked them, and
Amber couldn't be happier! 

Zoot also seems to have forgotten what all the fuss was about.
Zasu, Zoot, Rita, Monkey and Tito head home.

A good representation of Ginger -doing her own thing.