Happily Ever After
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 The heat wave in Seattle has been replaced by a pouring of rain, real rain – dark skies and fat drops that fall like bullets.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.
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And tell me about your pets! What are their names? What are they like?