Happily Ever After

August 15, 2009 at 11:08 pm 49 comments

Has your heart ever dropped so fast, you were too shocked and jolted to even cry?

This is Tilly. She is… indescribable. She is solid sunshine. She is warm, real comfort… friendship, beauty, and unfiltered goodness. She is the neediest, sweetest, most skittery dog I have ever met. She is family and I have loved her like family from the moment my dad brought her home, a pound puppy of unidentifiable breed, ten years ago.

I found out at work, a few hours before my lunch break. The heat wave in Seattle has been replaced by a pouring of rain, real rain – dark skies and fat drops that fall like bullets. We think something must have happened to Tilly as a puppy, something awful, because she is frightened by the strangest things… the sound of ripping paper, fireplaces, motionless soccer balls… Rain is one of her more ordinary fears. And in the torrent of rain on Wednesday night, Tilly vanished.

At first, I was so worried I could hardly keep working. But deep down, I felt certain that Tilly would come back. Dad was looking for her, and she was smart enough to know her way around the neighborhood. But the whole day passed. Dad spent hours calling her name, not even eating. He put up hundreds of posters and received two calls, both false alarms, not Tilly but unfamiliar dogs roaming the neighborhood. His calls and texts grew more and more hopeless, and as his outlook deteriorated, so did mine.

I’ve seen lost dog posters before. Everyone has. You look into the dog’s eyes a moment, read the phone number, tell yourself that you’ll keep an eye out. “Poor thing,” I always think. “His owners must be so worried.” But unless your own dog has ever gone missing, without a collar or chip or source of identification, it’s impossible to understand how worried you really can become. How guilty and pessimistic.

I imagined Tilly slinking, still frightened, in dark alleys and shady neighborhoods. I imagined her streaking through the rain between speeding grey cars, barely avoiding them. I couldn’t bear to imagine her hit by a car. I thought about Tilly injured, scared more horribly than she’d ever been in her entire life and never so alone. It was physical pain to want to hold her and I tried to remember the last time I’d hugged her, whispered to her.

Suddenly, for no reason at all, I thought about an image that I’d always wanted to photograph. After dinner, we always clear the table and mom washes the dishes, humming. Tilly stands at her side, ears perked, tail wagging like a metronome, waiting for the moment when a scrap might accidentally fall. I love the way Tilly looks at that moment and every time I think to myself, “I ought to get a photo.” But I never do. Driving back home, as I realized I might never get that photo, I started to cry for the first time.

It was late, maybe 9 PM, when I felt my phone vibrate. It was a text from my dad – “I have Tilly!!!!!” And the relief was so overwhelming that I sat down and nearly cried again because I was so happy.

When I saw Tilly again, I just wanted to hold her and never, ever let go, to make sure she was really there and really just fine. Tilly seemed to know too that she was the luckiest dog in the world, because she had been rescued by the nicest people.

We don’t know what happened to Tilly the whole night, but at one point she was seen by a family driving by in the rain. They said Tilly looked terrified (understatement) and “out of place.” Amazingly, they decided to turn around, go back, pull over and pick her up. I mean, I am a compassionate dog person, and I wouldn’t have done that for a strange dog.

Tilly was so freaked out and distrusting that she turned and ran. They chased her into an open garage, where she tried to claw through cement to escape. They scooped her up and took her home. They even gave her a bath, so that when I hugged her for the first time, she smelled good. They were planning to take her to the shelter the next day when they saw one of my dad’s posters. And just like that, it was a happily ever after, after all.

I’d wanted to make dog treats for a while. In fact, I’d thought about blogging them so I’d have an excuse to show you  my dogs Tilly and Otis. But I never did, and it might have never happened. But with Tilly in my lap, I knew today would be the end of stalling. The first thing I’d do was make some yummy dog biscuits and the second thing I’d do was bake a killer cake for the family who took care of Tilly.

And tonight, after we polished off the bread and meatballs and cucumber salad, as mom began to tackle the mountain of dirty plates by the sink, Tilly took her place by the dishwasher. And me? I took out my camera.

There is Otis’ nose… I suppose he deserves a proper picture because I love him just as much as Tilly, even if he did try to eat his way into the photoshoot. Maybe someday he’ll get a post all about him!

The dog biscuits are made of good stuff: chicken stock, whole wheat flour, honey, corn grits, and a dollop of peanut butter. I baked them nearly twice as long as the recipe suggested to get them good and crispy. I also tried one myself. The dough wasn’t great, but the biscuits weren’t bad. They tasted kind of like you’d expect dog biscuits to taste like.

My mom said they might be good with soup or something. The crunchiness was good, the corn grits added a lot of texture. I even thought I could taste chicken. It’s not like there’s anything unsavory in them, so why not?

Tilly went crazy over them. Her eyes got as big as chocolate covered cherries, her ears perked up, and she put her paws on my hand because she knows I can’t resist her when she does that. As for Otis, well, he just tried to eat them whenever I set them down.

I packed some in a bag to give to my new heroes along with the cake, since they have three dogs. As for the cake, well, I have never wanted a cake to taste as good in my whole baking career. I wanted to make the most amazing cake I have ever done. I just wanted to say thank you. It’s a three layered chocolate cake using the same recipe from my birthday. The frosting is a simple buttercream with cocoa powder and instant coffee. I piped dots and rosettes on it and topped them with coffee beans. I hope they know how much their kindness means to our whole family!

Crunchy Dog Biscuits
Adapted from Desserts by the Yard
Makes 24 large treats

2 large eggs
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup corn grits

Whisk together eggs, honey, vegetable oil, peanut butter, and chicken stock. Whisk in half of the flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the remaining flour and the corn grits. Knead until a dense, stiff dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Put a rack in the lowest part of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Roll out the dough to 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick and cut into bone (or cat or people) shapes. Use a fork to prick holes in the middle of each biscuit. Place on parchment lined sheets and bake, one sheet at a time, on the lowest rack in the oven. Bake 12 minutes. Flip all of the biscuits over for even browning and rotate the pan. Bake for another 12 minutes or until brown and thoroughly crispy.

Printer Friendly Version – Crunchy Dog Biscuits

And tell me about your pets! What are their names? What are they like?

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Georgetown Chocolate Cupcakes and 7 Things In the Kitchen with Dad

49 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Julia @ Mélanger  |  August 16, 2009 at 12:11 am

    My heart just sank as I started to read your story. A lost dog? NO!!! I would be beside myself. I love dogs so much. They are wonderful creatures. We have a couple in the family and they are just a joy. So so so glad to hear that Tilly came back safely. It’s strange when things like that happen, and you remember all the stuff you wanted to do – e.g. like take photographs of them! But now, safe and sound. Phew! With biscuits to boot? Perfect. Love the look of these. There is a gourmet Brisbane based business, Sweet Chops, (massive dog lovers!) who make lovely little treats for dogs. They have all good ingredients in them, too. You should check them out for ideas for future baking for your pooches!!!!! http://sweetchops.com.au/

    Reply
  • 2. Wendy  |  August 16, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Ahh your story got me so tense, but thank God Tilly came back! I’ve never owned a dog before, but I might try out your doggie biscuits for my cousin’s or my friend’s dogs. They look really appealing and I can imagine how popular they will be with dogs!
    I’m sure your relationship with Tilly with become even stronger after this!

    Reply
  • 3. linda  |  August 16, 2009 at 4:33 am

    as soon as i saw tilly’s photo she had my heart! happily ever after…thank goodness!!

    Reply
  • 4. Alana  |  August 16, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Oh wow…what an intense story. You’re so lucky to have such a wonderful dog. I’m sure the dog biscuits were much appreciated :)

    Reply
  • 5. Erin  |  August 16, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Your puppies are so lucky to have such a kind and loving mom. I’m sure you just made their day with those luscious treats!

    Reply
  • 6. Becky  |  August 16, 2009 at 8:07 am

    What a beautiful story. I understand a dog being the light in your life. My parent’s dog is a miniature Dachsund, Lucy, and she is happiness itself. My husband and I have two cats that we’d lay down in front of a train to protect. They are comforting and loving and I’d definitely bake for them if I thought they’d appreciate it!
    I had a cat as a teenager who ran away. I remember going through the process of making posters and hanging them around the neighborhood. Fortunately she came home on her on, but unfortunately, she was not long lived and we lost her a short while later. Having experienced the joys of pet ownership and the sorrow of pet loss, your story touched me in a deep way.
    Thank you for sharing, and just remember this when you see a stray on the side of the road. Think of the joy you can bring to someone else by returning their beloved pet!

    Reply
  • 7. Valérie  |  August 16, 2009 at 9:23 am

    What a scary experience, I’m so glad everything’s all right now. Good things tend to come out of these things, though (provided there’s a happy ending, as in your case): 1) we appreciate our pets more, and 2) we realize that there are some really nice people out there. I’ve never lost a pet myself (except for that time when my pet rabbit somehow managed to conceal herself completely in a nook of my tiny one-room apartment and I spent two hours looking everwhere and racking my brain), but a friend of mine lost her cat once, and someone picked it up and took it home, before seeing the posters and bringing it back. People are really cool, sometimes.

    It’s so sweet that you baked biscuits for your dogs! They look like really good dogs, too!

    Reply
  • 8. Baking Monster  |  August 16, 2009 at 10:04 am

    aaw what a cutie! I think anyone with a dog in there life has lived through that situation. I had a dog named Otis to he went by odie though he looked just like yours. :) I used to love making dog biscuits i will give yours a try.now I have a chubby english lab named Molly she very lovable but very out of it shes a dumb blonde to say the least. By the way the cake looks amazing!

    Reply
  • 9. Cathy  |  August 16, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I’m so glad you found him! I was worried at the beginning (even though the title said happily ever after) that it was a PSA to find Tilly.

    I don’t have a pet, but my husband does. The dog stays at his parents place since we can’t have pets in our apartment. He’s a giant 5 yr old french mastiff named Humphrey that still thinks he’s a puppy and is extremely playful. People are usually scared of him at first, but he’s a friendly dog.

    Reply
  • 10. cookienurse  |  August 16, 2009 at 11:17 am

    So glad Tilly is back home, thank you for sharing your story – it made my day!!

    Reply
  • 11. chelsey1016  |  August 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I am so happy you found her. You are so lucky. My dog ran away after 8 years of living with us, and we never found him. I still think about him, I’m sure he’s living with a wonderful family. He’s so amazing, that is what he deserves.

    Reply
  • 12. Shannalee  |  August 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I am crying! If something happened to my Bailey, I would lose it. I love the way you told this story and I love that those sweet, kind people brought Tilly back to you.

    Reply
  • 13. Monica H  |  August 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Whata sweet ending to a sweet story. I’m glad Tilly is back home. And I’m sure both dogs appreciate the homemade treats.

    I made treats for my dog pretty regularly but I make such big batches that I only need to bake 2-3 times a year. And she loves them. I’ve made some with bacon and cheese, carrot, tuna and cheese and the latest batch was oatmeal and PB.

    Reply
  • 14. Fuji Mama  |  August 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Thank goodness that there are wonderful people in this world with big hearts and thank goodness Tilly is home safe and sound! I have 2 female cats: a 15-year old named Neko (means “cat” in Japanese) and a 4-year old named Noodle. I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to either one of them! I love your idea of taking doggy biscuits and a cake to your heroes–what a sweet thing to do!

    Reply
  • 15. Shannon L  |  August 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    this might be a long comment but i want to share

    i have 3 dogs and let me tell you they are my best friends without a doubt we have rescued all of them from shelters one at age of 1 Colby, the other at 5 with a broken hip Goku, and the other at the old age of 11 Skippy- ilove them to death and they are definitly my best friends- goku sleeps next to me in bed every night and skippy never leaves my lap one day before we got skippy both colby and goku got out through our back yard they were only gone 1 hour but i thought my world had collapsed they had run to the other side of our huge neighborhood someone had found them with their collar and called the number i would not be the same person if we hadnt found them

    when we got skippy we realized he had a habit of sprinting out the door. i have chased him for hours on end with him just running and running for such a little dog.one day it was pouring rain and we had a heavy lightning storm (i live in the lightning capital of the world!)… i had to go running out in the pouring rain i ran about two miles after him soaking wet when i got him cornered in a open garage- i love that dog so much… i always feel like kharmas gonna come back to me if i see a dog and dont check its collar because someone did that for my dog, but those saints of people who take in strange dogs like those people for your tilly, or my colby and goku are really wonderful people!! i just wanted to share because i know how much it sucks to almost lose your pet and its the worst feeling in the world

    your dogs are adorable and your biscuits sound good! i havent made doggie biscuits for my boys (they are all boy dogs) in a year and this sounds good!

    congrats for getting tilly back!

    Reply
  • 16. Ellie@AlmostBourdain  |  August 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Very touching story. I am glad Tilly is home safe. Love the dog treats and the yummy cake!

    Reply
  • 17. Dolce  |  August 17, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I am so glad you got her back! It happened to my parents once too. The dog ran for some reason and disappeared for 4 days. We were desperate and everyone was looking for him until the 4th day when a neighbor’s friend found him and brought him back to us.
    So it’s ok to spoil her now that she’s back :)

    Reply
  • 18. Katrina  |  August 17, 2009 at 6:34 am

    What a great story–you’ll be able to tell forever. Yummy treats for the dog and the rescuers!

    Reply
  • 19. Jennifer  |  August 17, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Dear Tilly, welcome home! Thank goodness! I hope you and Otis scarf up all of these lovely treats. You’re both adorable.

    Reply
  • 20. Erin  |  August 17, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Tilly is one lucky dog to have landed with you and your family! :)

    Reply
  • 21. calvin  |  August 17, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    wow that story actually made me hold my breath.

    Reply
  • 22. Lucy  |  August 18, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Woah the beginning of this post made me so nervous! But it has a happy ending, thank the lord, and you have the most adorable dogs (and very lucky too, having you make those biscuits for them :D ). I bet the family was chuffed to bits with the cake in return for their actions. Lovely story :)

    Reply
  • 23. fillmyrumblingtummy  |  August 18, 2009 at 5:43 am

    You are officially the only person whom I know that can make dog biscuits look appetizing.
    :D

    Reply
  • 24. Charisse  |  August 18, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Hello there! This was the sweetest post ever. I had tears for you, then I was overjoyed for you. I have been watching and reading your site for quite some time. I was in awe of your pictures of your cheesecake entry in the Daring Bakers Challenge. Your food always looks beautiful and from the ingredients I can tell that they taste delicious. Well today, I wanted to share my love of your website so I gave you a Lovely Blog Award and am encouraging all my readers (I have, like, 12) over here to check you out!!!

    Reply
  • 25. Amanda  |  August 18, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Elissa, I teared up just reading the story and I’ve never even owned a dog! You’re a great writer. :)

    I’m so glad things turned out this way.

    Reply
  • 26. nutmegnanny  |  August 18, 2009 at 7:07 am

    This post really warmed my heart:) I’m so glad you found Tilly! I lost my dog, Fluffy, when I was seven but unfortunately never found her. I understand the feeling of loss when you don’t know if they will come home. You are such a great mom to make her some homemade biscuits for her happy arrival home :)

    Reply
  • 27. Filiberto Martinez  |  August 18, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I could only imagine the horror of not knowing if you’d ever see your beloved Tilly again. We rescued a 3 month old Rottweiler Shepherd puppy from the local shelter. We’ve had her a month and she is a sweetheart, we named her Willow. The other day My fiance was taking out the trash and being very careful not to let Willow follow her out. I told her not to worry, she won’t run away. I was wrong! She ran halfway down the block toward a busy street. As I’d chase after her, she’d look back at me and run faster. She stopped to sniff something and I stopped too. I remembered something I had read. I called her and when she turned to look at me I ran back home and she chased me there. What a relief! I’m glad your story had a happy ending too :)

    Reply
  • 28. Alicia  |  August 18, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Aw!! Elissa I am so happy you got your little guy back!! I know that If my dog had gone missing I would have been a mess as well! How thoughtful of you to bake them a cake! I remember my dad had found a dog and also saw posters and had called them and they bought him a restaurant gift certificate – it just shows you how much pets are truly cared for! I bet she loved the treats! Good job at staying as calm as you could! =) happy to hear she’s safe and well fed!

    Reply
  • 29. Cousin Sharon  |  August 18, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Elissa, I am SO SO glad that Tilly is alive and well and back home. I am also glad I checked your blog tonight to find another touching well told story. Give Tilly, Otis and your dad a kiss from me.

    Reply
  • 30. Miakoda  |  August 22, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Thank God you got Tilly back and you’re all fine. I know how it feels- I lost Jass to the streets where he died in a road accident…..I lost a part of myself that day. It changed the way I viewed life. Nash and Jessie are the two monsters who rule my life now and they know it too! I’m glad this story has such a happy ending, I was a bit afraid at first :)

    Reply
  • 31. Marian  |  August 24, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    You certainly have a a story-telling talent Elissa! You brought me way down =( and right back up again. I’m so glad Tilly is back at home with you!!
    Very cute dog biscuits too!

    Reply
  • 32. Making my Mark  |  August 24, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Like I said in the other post, I’m glad it turned out well.

    My family has a Siberian Husky named Precious.

    Reply
  • 33. Lorna Yee  |  August 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I cried reading this post–as a dog lover, I know how afraid you must’ve been! So glad that Tilly is all right. Your cake looks gorgeous, and I’m sure the lovely family who saved Tilly appreciated it so much!

    Reply
  • 34. Lindsay  |  September 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    My friend’s dog’s birthday is on Saturday. She also just bought a new house and her birthday was 2 weeks ago. I’m a poor law student and have no money, but I can bake! I just made these and they turned out awesome!!! I put them in a gigantic mason jar with a bow. I bought a dog tag and got Happy Birthday Hunter engraved on it.

    PS – Thank you for not using random ingredients that costs a fortune and that I can only get at a lebanese vegan health food emporium.

    Reply
  • 35. meg  |  February 7, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I know this post is old but you said you were not sure of her breed. She definitely looks like a mostly Irish Terrier mix. Especially in the photo of her eating the cookie off the ground. If you ever had her hand stripped at a groomers she would look even more like one! Adorable though!

    Reply
    • 36. Elissa  |  February 7, 2010 at 9:44 am

      Meg – She does have an Irish terrier look! The one thing is that Irish terriers have sort of boxy noses, you know? Like a rectangular snout? Tilly’s is thin and tapered, more like a greyhound’s. The official humane society guess was German shepherd/wire haired terrier mix, but we’re not sure if we believe that either. All in all though, I think she’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen – but maybe I’m biased :)

  • 37. Jody  |  February 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    What a great story, with a happy ending! I found this post via a “dog biscuit” search on foodgawker. I wanted to make dog biscuits for kind of a similar reason as you. My puppy Dozer (11 month old Beagle) had a horrible accident when he was hit by a car 2 weeks ago. I found out while I was at work; I was lucky enough to be able to leave immediately to go care for him. He was in the ICU for 3 days but is home and recovering so well. My co-workers really rallied around me during such a traumatic time for me and my puppy and they started collecting donations to help pay for Dozer’s vet bills. I am making these biscuits as a very small thank you to them (for their own puppies) for their support. Great Recipe! The only thing I did different was substitute wheat germ for corn grits as I could not find corn grits. They came out great!

    Reply
  • 38. Leanne  |  March 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Elissa –
    I am new to your site and am slowly making my way through your entries. I love your writing style. I often feel like I am having a converstaion with a friend when reading your work. This entry touched by heart and brought tears to my eyes. I have a litlle piece of golden sunshine living at my house as well – Izzy the golden retriever. I know it is Izzy that I will cling to when my daughter goes away to college next year.
    I’m getting ready to bake for a charity dessert auction. My first one – but I get to spend 2 whole days baking!
    Keep on doing what you love
    Leanne

    Reply
  • 39. hannah @ thepastrykook  |  April 9, 2010 at 8:40 am

    dogs are everyone’s best friends! im glad you got tilly back. (: thank you so much for the dog biscuit recipe. now my dog can look forward to something yummy!

    Reply
  • 40. Andrea  |  June 3, 2010 at 6:04 am

    I really want to make these for my dogs, but I’m in the UK and have never heard of corn grits?
    I did a google search and It mentioned cornflour or wheatgerm but I can’t find these anywhere either!
    Can this be left out or is there anything that can be used in it’s place?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • 41. Elissa  |  June 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm

      Andrea – Yikes! Sorry for taking so long to get to your comment. When you don’t grind corn meal finely, you’ve got corn grits. It’s good in these biscuits because it adds a lot of grittiness, crunchiness, etc. This recipe is really flexible and you could leave them out altogether, or replace them with corn meal, polenta, or old fashioned rolled oats.

  • 42. Andrea  |  July 24, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks so much for your reply, I made them using oats in the end as I thought it would be near enough the same.
    The dogs loved them and I even had my neighbour asking for the recipe when I took some for her dog too.
    Thanks so much, LOVE your blog :)

    Reply
  • 43. Crunchy Dog Biscuits : Aloha Howdy  |  November 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm

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  • 44. In the Kitchen with Dad | VIVIMETALIUN  |  December 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    […] it’s been a week since Tilly came home, Dad still gets calls from people who think they saw her. While most are mistaken, a few have been […]

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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