“What’s this dog’s name?” I asked my host dad/grandfather. “Black,” he responded shrugging his shoulders. Ha. Clever, I thought. A few days later, I was playing with the cat. “What’s the cat’s name?” I asked my host mom/grandmother. She blinked her eyes slowly and replied, “Gato.” Alright, they don’t name their pets. That makes sense. Life went on. I called the birds “Bird One and Bird Two.” I called their pet rodent “Cus” (like ‘couscous’ because I couldn’t remember what the full name of the animal was). I called the dog “Black.”
Problem: There are two black dogs.
How do they solve this? I was bewildered.
The answer came at breakfast. We dine outside among the elements and the animals, which is quite lovely. The chickens roam around and cackle in contentment. If you’re lucky, the breeze blows and refreshes you. The dogs and the cat patiently stare at you while you eat, hoping there will be leftovers. If they come too close, my host sister/child yells, “Fuera!” and aggressively stomps her feet at them. She is the scariest and most intimidating of the family, so this role was bestowed upon her. Anyway, during this particular breakfast the dogs were tired after running around in the campo that morning. They were napping in the yard when my host mom/grandmother threw one tortilla to “Black” and three tortillas to…wait for it…”Mariposa.” Yes, poor little Butterfly was coming down with something and needed some extra nourishment.
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to meet the family! I live with an older couple named Santos and Cruz. They have four daughters, two of which are moved out of the house. The two daughters who live here are Lupe and Rosa. Rosa has a nine-year-old named Karen and is expecting a second child in December. Her husband, Jose, lives with us as well.
Rosa is a nurse at the local clinic. She comes home looking pretty tired each day, but not too tired to take care of the garden, joke around with Cruz and I, nag Karen to do homework, and help cook dinner. One day, she brought a sandwich and chocolate milk home for Karen. “Let’s give some milk to Cus,” she suggested.
Although I am still unsure what species Cus is, each of his meals is an experiment, and he is the guinea pig.
Rosa filled his bottle with no more than an ounce of chocolate milk. Cus went berserk. He drank that milk down like he was a stranded marathoner in the Sahara. Suddenly, he was calm. I actually enjoyed his company for once and petted him a bit.
“Se pone mal…” observed Cruz, “he doesn’t look so good.”
And sure enough, his eyes were squinty and he was slowly swaying side to side like he had had too much sun and tequila on Spring Break.
“QUE NOOOOOOO!” Howled Karen, and she began to yell at him like Rosa yells at her when she doesn’t do her chores. She aggressively grabbed him off the floor and shoved him into Rosa’s arm. Give him to the nurse…good thinking, Karen.
Rosa grabbed him by the waist, shook him a bit, and stared at his face. Then, she bounced him up and down on her lap, “Responder, responder,” she chanted calmly as Cus flopped from side to side. They tried water. They tried tortilla. No success. Finally, they put him back in his cage and hoped for the best.
Five minutes later, he was back to his scampering, annoying self.