Life is never boring when you live with a special-needs dog. And, boy, is our dog special.
Now, let me be clear. Even if my dog was a normal, average, healthy, run-of-the-mill pup, my (and Husband's) personality is such that she would still be The Most Amazing and Unique Dog on the Planet, With the Most Amazing and Unique Needs. We are dog people. We spare no expense. We elevate canines.
We got our Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a magnificent girl we named Jet, in June 2006 when she was about eight weeks old. She was a normal little pup in every way, growing and learning, simultaneously adorable and a large hairy whirlwind of mischief. We treated her like a child, she wanted for nothing. We even had her portrait painted in October, a gorgeous 30" x 30" oil-on-canvas work that hangs in our living room.
But then, in early January 2007, at the young age of nine months old, she started having seizures. If you've ever seen a dog (or a person) have a seizure, you know that it is a heartbreaking thing to witness. Especially that first one she had, when I didn't understand what was happening and thought for sure she was dying. Fortunately, she was not. Unfortunately, the seizures continued at an unacceptable pace so we shifted into high veterinary gear, taking her to specialist after specialist to try to determine the cause of her malaise.
A very respected vet in the area suggested that the problem could be rooted in a food allergy, so we began an intensive allergy trial. Like hawks, we watched every morsel of sustenance that found its way into Jet's mouth. She had one type of food and one type only, and for some time she couldn't even have treats. To make a long and at times heart-wrenching story short, it turns out food allergy was not the culprit of the seizures; she either has idiopathic epilepsy or is suffering the effects of low thyroid. While we continue her epilepsy medication and thyroid treatment, we are grateful for her otherwise robust health. We are so lucky that she's had an awful lot of healthy days lately!
At the risk of this post being too depressing -- food should never be depressing! -- I am compelled to share this dog treat recipe with you because, through all of Jet's health travails, we have learned the importance and goodness of homemade and otherwise high-quality pup snacks. When I was growing up, our dogs always enjoyed Milk Bones between meals. Now, I can't imagine giving Jet a Milk Bone. Not that there's anything wrong with them; it's just that after months of acute awareness of every potential health issue from which she might suffer, it just doesn't make sense to feed Jet a treat made of anything less than the best of ingredients. My food is homemade and high-quality, why would I not extend that consideration to my dog -- a pup I very well might love more than life itself?
It is out of such logical concern that these treats remind me of Jet. They remind me that I am taking good care of her; I am doing right by her. We are lucky that she is our dog, because we are completely committed to helping her. And so it is that these treats have a happy association for me, not a sad one related to her seizures. They recall many happy evenings in a peanut-perfumed kitchen, Chessie at my feet, waiting for the treats to cool. They help me remember that it is loads of fun catering to our girl's every need (necessary and totally extraneous!). These treats are what is good about dog ownership -- well, these treats, the backyard games of Frisbee and those dreadfully cold nights when she curls up next to me in the bed and keeps me warmer than any furnace ever could.
Jet loves the following recipe (but then again, she loves pine cones). I would love to be able to describe its taste and texture to you in great detail, but, you know, it's a dog biscuit. I have tried them. They are crunchy and peanutty. But they're not sweet and therefore don't comply with human "cookie" conventions. The recipe comes from Paula Moran, who is the woman who introduced me to Jet's breeder and to the unadulterated joys of sharing your life with a Chessie. Coincidentally, she is also married to my boss and owns Jet's sister, Lili. The girls love to get together, and always recognize each other right away. Must be a bond forged in the womb. These treats are very easy to make, and yield quite a few biscuits, especially if you use a small cookie cutter.
Take an hour or so some night to bake a batch of these for the beloved pup in your life. Even if you haven't resorted to the homemade treat as a reaction to a winding, treacherous health road (and I hope that you haven't), your best friend will thank you nonetheless.
Arf! Or, as Jet would say, Har.
CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER DOG TREATS
Adapted from Paula Moran's recipe
3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 c. soy or dairy milk
1 1/4 c. chunky peanut butter
2 T. honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the whole wheat flour, rolled oats and baking powder in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Using a food processor or blender, mix the milk, peanut butter and honey until smooth, and add to dry ingredients. Stir to begin to combine the dry and wet ingredients.
Using your hands, knead the dough while it's still in the bowl, to more fully incorporate the dry ingredients with the wet. Turn out the dough out onto a floured surface (use the same whole wheat flour you used in the recipe). Knead the dough further, until it's smooth. The dough will be stiff and a little sticky.
Cut the dough in half; set one half aside. Roll the first half out to about 1/4" thick and cut with the cookie cutter of your choice. Roll out remaining dough scraps a second, third or even fourth time, cutting out more treats until all the dough is gone. Repeat with the second half of the dough that you set aside earlier.
Place treats on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave treats inside the oven until they're cool. This recipe makes more treats than fit in the oven at one time, so I generally let the first batch completely cool, remove them from the oven, then fire it back up to 350 degrees to bake the second batch. Feed them to your grateful pup just as soon as they're cool!
This recipe makes a varying amount of treats, depending wholly on the size and shape of cookie cutter you use. Sometimes I use a traditional dog bone shape, though on Valentine's Day I use hearts. Today I used dog and duck shapes, since my dog is a dog that was originally bred to retrieve ducks in the icy Chesapeake Bay. Today the recipe made 75 treats. Which should last Jet about 2.4 days.
Store in airtight containers.