And a cheesy treat for your canine companion
I cannot remember a time when my family did not have a dog. Even though my dad was in the Army and we moved almost every year, dogs were part of our pack. During my four years in college, I lived and worked in dormitories, so having a dog was out of the question. But seeing my pooches on trips home for holidays and summers, along with the kindness of strangers with canine companions, got me through that dog-free drought.
The first thing I did after graduation was get a dog. From that day to this I’ve never been without a four-legged BFF by my side.
My parents were dog snobs. They always gravitated toward the fanciest, priciest breeds they could find. Unfortunately they weren’t very savvy when it came to understanding breed standards. They were also blindly trusting of anyone who advertised dogs that came with American Kennel Club papers, a designation that leaves a wide berth in which unscrupulous breeders can operate. We ended up with a few profoundly flawed companion animals, who mostly fell into the “beautiful but dumb as a box of hair” category.
I wasn’t nearly as picky as my parents. “Loveable” was always at the top of my must-have list. Gorgeous or goofy, small or large, whip smart or learning disabled, purebred or pure mutt—every dog in my life has taught me invaluable lessons. Most dogs demonstrate an admirable capacity for enthusiastic and unconditional love, but the very special dogs in my life have taught me so much more.
Though the list is almost endless, here are just a few of the things my dogs have taught me.
A tiny, neurotic party-colored toy poodle was my introduction into the world of canines. As a toddler and beyond, I loved Casey with the passion only a child can bring. Casey, on the other hand, loathed me from the pink bow in his topknot to the tips of his painted pink toenails (don’t ask). Casey taught me that it is impossible to make someone love you if they are not so inclined. Also, Casey taught me it’s never a good idea to pick up a growling dog. (Ouch!)
Spencer was an old English sheepdog of extraordinary beauty—and 100 pounds of sheer stupidity. (My parents loved the dog on the 60s TV show “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” Once they saw him, only a sheepdog would do.) Having Spencer in my life taught me the value of cleaning up yard poop before mowing the lawn. And because he had health issues unique to overbred sheepdogs, I learned that good health trumps good looks every time.
This charming, obedient West Highland Terrier was the first dog I owned with another person. My now ex-husband gave her to me when we became engaged. Seven years later, we got divorced and I lost Emma in the ensuing custody battle. Emma (and my ex) taught me that the heart has an infinite capacity to break and eventually heal.
She was my sweet friend and constant companion. What she lacked in smarts, she made up for in devotion and chill. Meggie taught me the value of a long nap, a short memory when it came to perceived slights and the restorative powers of a car ride with the windows down. She aged with grace and dignity and died as she lived, quietly and with a minimum of fuss.
Duncan was a 4-pound miracle who was the love of my life, my soulmate, my true spirit animal. He came to me as a baby, the runt of the litter and half the size of his older brother, Murphy, who is with me to this day. When Duncan was a few months old, his gait became wobbly and he face-planted with alarming regularity. I discovered he had severe neurological damage and was not expected to live past six months. Through sheer dint of will and an abundance of love, he made it to six years. He walked, when he could, like a drunken sailor. He was always cold, so he had an impressive sweater wardrobe. Duncan was brave (his best friend was a 150-pound Great Dane), confident, and the best friend I ever had. He taught me that true love does exist. You just never know where you’ll find it.
6. Murphy, Mouse & Hopper
My current pack consists of an old, cranky Yorkshire terrier, Murphy; a loveable, submissive Chiweenie rescue, Mouse; and Hopper, another rescue from the mean streets of North Carolina who will either lick you into submission if he’s in a good mood or bite your face off if he’s not. (Hopper leaves tomorrow for three weeks at reform obedience school to help him with anger management issues.) This pack has taught me patience, persistence and the benefits of discipline and consistency.
It’s true that on rainy days my house smells like wet dog, my cool-girl black wardrobe is covered in dog hair, I spend more at the vet than the GDP of a third-world country and every night is a three-dog night, but the truth is undeniable; I can’t imagine a life without dogs.
A Cheesy Treat for Your Canine-American Companion
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 stick butter
Milk as needed
Bring cheese and butter to room temperature.
In a mixing bowl, add softened butter and cheese to the flour and cream together with a hand mixer or fork until well combined. Add milk if needed to form into a ball.
Roll dough out to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Using a cookie cutter to cut dough into your pupper’s favorite shape. My guys like a bone. I also make tiny heart shapes for training treats.
Bake until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.