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Goodnight, sweet Guinness

It has been a devastating four weeks in our house.

About five and a half weeks ago, Guinness and Kaylee went in for their annual checkups. Clean bills of health, and Kaylee had a small cyst removed which meant returning the next week for staple removal. Easy. Routine. Same old, same old.

A few days later, Guinness developed a small cough. So small, it was barely noticeable. We thought – oh – a little kennel cough, I guess. He’s fine.

And until the following Wednesday, Guinness was fine. His cough improved. He and Kaylee played throughout the day, he mooched for treats as usual, he ate a hearty dinner with his usual appetite. The dogs enjoyed pig’s ears in the evening. I read a book upstairs with Kaylee, and Guinness cuddled with Jason, sharing a few potato chips while watching a movie.

By bedtime, there was a slight wheeze in his breathing. We knew we had a vet appointment for Kaylee the next day, so we thought “we’ll ask them to squeeze him in and just take a quick look. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

The next morning “it’s nothing” had turned into “can you fit us in ASAP please?” – the wheezing had gotten significantly worse. We drove straight to the vet, assuming that that mild case of kennel cough had flared up – at worst, poor Guinness had picked up a case of pneumonia.

We were so wrong.

Guinness’s chest and abdomen were riddled with tumours. On the x-ray, his whole chest cavity looked like a snowstorm. His liver, spleen and lungs were all involved. The cancer was aggressive, and it was everywhere.

The vet said he probably had a few good days. He didn’t.

That afternoon, we took Guinness home to let him recover from the anesthetic. We wanted to see our boy again, and all doped up he was anxious, uncomfortable and very much not-himself.

We sat up all night with him, in turns, just being there by his side while he struggled to breathe. Around two in the morning the anesthetic finally wore off and you could see he was back – the soul-searching eyes, the loving kisses, the head in your lap. But he couldn’t get comfortable. He couldn’t get enough air. He wheezed, and his chest heaved with the effort of every breath.

By morning, we knew we could never ask him to go through another night like that.

We took Guinness and Kaylee on a long car ride that Friday morning. We drove down all the back roads and took the longest way home we could manage, with the wind ruffling the fur on his ears as he stuck his head out the window. We walked him up and down our street… slowly, slowly… knowing he could breathe better when he stood up, and knowing he loved to be outdoors with us. His grandparents and Jason’s brother joined us, petting him and telling him how much he was loved. How much he would be missed.

Our vet arrived at 1:00, on her day off, to help us say goodbye.

Today would have been Guinness’s ninth birthday, but instead we’re marking a month without him.

I can’t describe what it feels like to lose an animal that you love so much. I won’t try. There aren’t words. But I do know that in the moment when his heart stopped and he slipped away, the person that I was slipped away too, and someone new took her place. This new person isn’t quite sure who she is. She hurts, though, in a place in her heart that she didn’t know existed. She loves her husband and her family and her dog Kaylee, but she doesn’t quite know how to live, yet. But she – I – am grateful to have the people I love with me, so that we can figure it out together.

I haven’t decided yet what to do with this blog. I may continue, but right now my heart hurts a little too much. I hope you’ll enjoy the memories we created here as much as we will – in time.

Hug your furbabies tight. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Goodbye, Guinness. We love you.
Goodbye, Guinness. We love you.

 

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Kaylee’s Birthday Cake

I wanted to make something a little special for Kaylee’s birthday this year, so I searched the interwebz until I found just the right recipe from Sweet Beet and Green Bean. The dogs both really liked it!

Rarin' to go!
Rarin’ to go!

The only change I made to this recipe was adding a tablespoon of cinnamon (I got the idea somewhere from another recipe in my search) – this certainly made them smell good! I doubled the recipe so I could make both a small cake for her actual birthday, and some mini cupcakes for later. These are fairly dense and not exactly low-cal (although I’ve seen much worse) but they are relatively healthy so I just put it down as a special treat (and adjusted their daily food accordingly).

Of course I had my taste testers along the way!

Nauch.
Nauch.

This was a really easy recipe – basically dump everything into one bowl and mix. The best part was measuring out the peanut butter because it resulted in this:

It looked a little… questionable… going into the muffin tins and ramekins…

Um... delicious?...
Um… delicious?…

… but the end result was pretty good!

Nommmz!
Nommmz!

 

The birthday cake itself took a little longer to cook (as expected),but also turned out really well! Two small ramekins was just the right size for a Kaylee-sized cake (with lots left over, and with plenty to share with her brother, of course).

I carved off the top of each so they would stack, and rather than making frosting I just used a  low-fat yogurt (which they love). Unfortunately the top cake was heavier than I realised so it created a bit of a… smushing effect…

This is not going as planned! Abort! Abort!
This is not going as planned! Abort! Abort!

By this time I’m trying to photograph the steps and Kaylee is losing her everlovin’ mind. I thought she was going to jump up on the island and eat the cake out of my hands – she knew it was for her and she had no patience for my poor, slow photography skills. I wish I’d captured it on video… she was SO excited it was pretty hilarious.

The end product turned out ok!

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Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you… I better give you cake now… before I slip in your drool…
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Devoured!

The birthday slices were devoured in seconds, but this actually held up pretty well for the next two days (even with the yogurt). I’d make this again, but probably only for special occasions because it’s pretty calorie-dense. But hey, if it makes them happy…

pupcake: the cupcake for dogs!

pupcake: the cupcake for dogs!

pupcakes
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp honey
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/2 c shredded carrot

toppings
plain greek yogurt
carrot shreds
dog treats

preheat the oven to 350F

shred your carrot first.  one medium-sized carrot should give you a bit more than the 1/2 cup you need for the recipe so you have some left over for decorating.

mix together the flour and baking powder, then add in the peanut butter, apple sauce, vanilla, honey, egg and water, and mix in evenly.  add the carrot shreds last and loosely fold in, the texture should be slightly liquidy but still fairly thick.

 

fill 5-6 cupcake liners about 2/3rds full of batter and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out of the middle clean.)  let cool thoroughly before serving to any pups, you can even make them ahead of time since, let’s face it, dogs don’t really care if food is stale.  and make sure to remove the paper liner before they really dig in.

Happy Birthday, Kaylee-girl

Today is Kaylee’s 8th birthday… well, based on the arbitrary date we decided was her birthday, anyway. Our girl is getting older, and a little slower, but she’s still got lots of puppy in her yet.

We had a fun-but-low-key day… some scrambled eggs for breakfast, a romp in the yard while we cleared the driveway, and a nice snugly nap.

Nom Nom Ball
Nom Nom Ball

In the afternoon, we headed over to a park in Burnside so the dogs could get a good run in.

GO GO GO!
GO GO GO!

Kaylee loves to play catch, but in the semi-deep snow the chuck-it ball disappears pretty quickly so we had to keep our throws short(er)… ok honestly, Kaylee can’t track the ball too far at the best of times so we also keep the throws a little shorter for that reason. She’s sweet, but her paw-eye/mouth-eye/ everything/eye coordination is terrible.

Thankfully for Kaylee, being bad at something has no impacts her enjoyment of said activity.

Snow Kaylees... I mean angels...
Snow Kaylees… I mean angels…

Guinness also enjoyed a chance to play in the snow and stretch his legs.

Handsome devil!
Handsome devil!

It was nice to get out and enjoy some family time.

<3
<3

By the time we left, everybody was ready for the warm, dry car!

Tonight we had doggy-friendly peanut butter and carrot birthday cake (more on that in a later post) and perhaps a new toy will turn up later this evening… although lord know she doesn’t need any more toys!

Is that... for me? OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY!
Is that… for me? OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY!

Happy Birthday Kaylee-girl… may there be many, many more.

 

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Play date with Indy

Guinness has always been a pretty intense dog. He likes other dogs – a lot – but his enthusiasm can be more than a little overwhelming. He hadn’t learned to play nicely before he came to us, and if I had to guess I’d say he was either badly or barely socialised as a pup, so we’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting him to a good place with other dogs. He still barks more than we’d like, and he can still get a little too… uh… zealous… but he’s come a long, long way. We learned a long time ago that dog parks are not for him, and he does best in small groups with well-balanced dogs. (The one exception – Happy Hounds in Halifax dog daycare, which is an awesome place that both dogs love).

Kaylee is nearly the exact opposite. She’s a well-socialised, adaptable, friendly and generally happy-go-lucky pup, who adapts well to the play styles of others… but if given a choice, she’ll choose people over dogs 100% of the time. No question. Playing with pooches is fine, but other dogs don’t have hands for petting and scratching and “oooooh-yeah-that’s-the-spot” moments. People are Kaylee’s favourite people, as it were.

So for us, the best play time is a play date.

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Why hello, friend!

Guinness and Kaylee have a couple of well-balanced, awesome canine friends that they enjoy meeting up with for some backyard shenanigans or an off-leash walk, but their favourite place to play is at a local ball field. In the winter, the city turns a select number of baseball parks into off-leash dog parks, and this is where they get their zoomies out! One of their newer friends is Indy, a two year old mix who has boundless energy… she runs my two under the table, and they’re ruined before she’s barely broken a sweat.

IMG_7053
Go go go!

For the longest time, Guinness couldn’t get his head around the idea that lots of dogs like to be chased, but not that many really like to be caught. Guinness is fast, and he can be a rough player, so he was always bringing thimgs to an abrupt end. Now, he’s finally figured out that body-slamming your playmate to the ground might not be the best way to make friends. (Except for Kaylee, who freaking loves that. I missed the moment on camera, but at one point, while Guinness was chasing Indy, out of nowhere Kaylee headed him off and just plowed him straight into the grass. It was hilarious, particularly with the smug “that’s for the last 1000 times, a$$^&*#!”  look on her face.  )

As soon Indy hits hit the field, it’s a mad dash to see who can catch who… Kaylee’s a lot slower, but she makes up for it plucky determination (and wears herself out in the process).

Wait for meeeeeeee
Wait for meeeeeeee

And of course, we take a few breaks here and there for rests, water, and t-r-e-a-t-s…

Treat time!
Re-fuelling time!

In the end, we have two tired dogs, and uh.. well Indy takes the edge off, anyway…

(That’s not Kaylee panting, by the way… that’s Guinness, sitting under the camera!)

A good day of play makes for a happy dog. Or in this case, three happy dogs.

The three amigos <3
The three amigos <3

Kaylee played a little too hard this time out and has a little limp, but she’ll be fine in a couple days… but until then, I get to deal with this face.

I'm not gonna make it. Go on without me. I'll never forget you.
I’m not gonna make it. Go on without me. I’ll never forget you.

Drama queen.

 

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The Great Chicken & Cheese Dog Cookie Experiment

I may have officially lost my mind.

It’s New Years Resolution season and it seems everyone around me has sworn off baked goods and bacon (blasphemy!) and all things chocolate-covered. A few days ago I was having a conversation with a friend about healthier baking … not dog treats, exactly, but just baked deliciousness in general, and what level of sacrifice is necessary to turn good things into slightly-less-delicious-but-much-healthier things (note: if you believe raisins are an acceptable substitute for chocolate chips in a cookie, you can get the $!&% out right now, because you’re not welcome here).

I was lamenting my general lack of culinary skills in this area when my friend said – rather innocently – “it’s not that hard… just throw some things in a bowl. It’ll work out.”

Now, this friend bakes. And I mean she really bakes. Her cookies are the kind that make angels weep with joy. Mine? Hahahahahaha. The idea of “throwing some things in a bowl” and expecting them to come out as any kind of edible creation is pretty much an impossible dream for me. It’s like when you ask your grandmother for the recipe for your favourite cake, and it’s always “a little of this, and some of that” and then next thing you know you’re standing in a disaster zone of flung coco powder and spilled milk, having a weepy meltdown on  your kitchen floor because you’ll never be able to replicate your grandmother’s recipe and why couldn’t she just use a @#^%#*! measuring cup?! WHY?!

But I digress.

Anyway, the whole conversation got me thinking about expectations. I would normally have high expectations for myself, but reality has set in as far as the kitchen is concerned. I am, as they say, hopeless. But my dogs… their expectations are very low. In fact, they have none at all really… homemade cookies? Awesome! Store-bought treats? Awesome! Random scraps off your plate? Awesome! Goo on the side of the road? Probably awesome but Mom’s a jerk and won’t let me taste it. Thanks Mom. 

So what harm could it do to “throw some things in a bowl” and see how it works out?

A quick once-over of my fridge, freezer and pantry revealed… that I need groceries, mostly, but also turned up a couple of yummy options for treat ingredients.

  • Chicken – specifically freezer-burned chicken from the bottom of the freezer. Ew, right? Except that freezer burn only affects the taste (not the nutritional value or the safety) of chicken and once it’s boiled, chopped, and baked into a cookie do you really think your dog is going to care?
  • Cheese – my dogs love cheese. I could put cheese on literally anything and they’d eat it. I feel like these cookies might need the help.
  • Flour… because cookies?
  • Eggs… because binding agent, and also cookies.
  • Water… no wait, chicken stock! Oooooooh fancy……

Armed with what would surely be a non-recipe for disaster… we started.

I started with the cheese because it was the easiest… although it did attract some attention from the peanut gallery.

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You can actually see the drool running down her face… gross, sweetie.

I’ll spare you the boiled chicken photos because… blech. It’s a really attractive process. Two full chicken breasts amount to about 1.5 cups of chopped chicken, which of course had to be sampled to ensure the dogs didn’t mind a little freezer burn.

Hahahahahaha. Nope. All good, Mom.
Hahahahahaha. Nope. All good, Mom.

I added the egg and tried to decide where to start with the flour, since I’m literally making this up as I go along..

IMG_6806
Already unsure about this. Not a great start.

I started with a cup and a half of flour, which seemed reasonable, and added a 1/4 cup of chicken stock to moisten things up. That was too dry, so in went another 1/4 cup of chicken stock, but then that was too wet (of course) so I added another half cup of flour, roughly, and mushed it around and then it kind of looked right-ish so I figured that was close enough.

... sure.
… sure.

The usual process followed… got flour everywhere (including up my nose, somehow, and completely unknowingly, which caused some serious concern when I sneeze later and flour came out), rolled out the dough, got it stuck to the rolling pin, cursed a lot, pried it off, started again, got more flour everywhere, sighed, considered evaluating my life choices, got the dough rolled out, and searched for an appropriate cookie cutter. The dough was still pretty sticky, so I opted out of the cute bones and found a simple heart-shaped cutter instead. And then I started cutting.

Awww
This will be quick and easy and entirely successful!… said no one ever in reference to my baking…

And I cut, and I cut… and I cut and cut and sweet baby jeebus how many cookies did I accidentally make? 

144, it turns out. And I turfed some of the dough because I ran out of space on the trays. I think 160 or 170 was probably where we would have landed.

Whoops. Too many cookies!
Whoops. Too many cookies!

I popped them in the oven at 350, cause… 350 seemed about right? I checked on them every 5 minutes and at about the 25 minute mark they were “done” (and by “done” I mean “slightly-harder-than-I-anticipated-but-still-not-browned-wtf-you-know-what-they’re-fine”).

Not too shabby for a made up recipe for made up cookies!
Not too shabby for a made up recipe for made up cookies!

Of course, the true test is always whether the dogs will eat them, and how enthusiastic they are about seconds.

We can haz cookies please?
We can haz cookies please?

The first taste is always a little hesitant… they may be dogs but they also know my baking skills. In the end, though, I think they turned out just fine… because the dogs love them, so who cares about the rest?

Note to self… work on Kaylee’s catching skills.

***

I can’t imagine anyone will ever want to make these, but hey, just in case…

Chicken & Cheese Made Up Dog Cookies

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled and finely chopped (approx 1.5 cups)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups flour, plus some for rolling out your dough
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
Mix chicken, cheese, egg, flour and chicken stock together in a bowl, adding more flour as necessary until you get a cookie-dough like texture.
Roll out dough on floured counter to 1/4″ thick and try not to pitch the whole thing into the garbage as you fight with the dough.
Cut into shapes (depending on the size of your dog, you may want to go larger or smaller)
Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake approx 20-25 minutes, or until cookies harden. Allow to cool.

Makes approx 150, 1″ diameter cookies. Each cookie is approximately 15 calories.

 

The post-holiday hangover

Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and we are enjoying a late week of vacation here at our house. Unfortunately, we had a crazy busy December, and with it came the inevitable post-holiday hangover, where we’re all unreasonably tired and sloth-like and it’s the 5th of January and I JUST got the live tree down and oh-my-God-it’s-Thursday-already-and-vacation-is-almost-over-aaaahhhhhhh…… I’d like to say we’ve been packing in as many adventures into the last week as possible, but the truth is we’ve been doing a lot of sleeping, snuggling, and Netflix-watching. Still, the dogs don’t seem to mind too much.

There’s been napping…

Look how adorable we are!
Look how adorable we are!

…and playing…

LET ME LOVE YOU WITH MY TEETH
LET ME LOVE YOU WITH MY TEETH

… and cuddling of all sorts…

Some of us enjoy cuddling more than others...
Some of us enjoy cuddling more than others… 

… there’s been the prerequisite stuffy destruction…

Mwhahahaha
Mwhahahaha

…and in between the bouts of general laziness we managed a few walks and trips to the park, of course…

Run like the wind!
Run like the wind!

It’s been a rough couple of months, with the dogs getting out a little less than usual, but they never fail to be their loveable selves. I’m so grateful we got impossibly lucky not once, but twice, with two amazing rescues.

My cuddle buddy
My cuddle buddy… never fails to take up more than half the bed but we don’t mind… 
My handsome boy!
My handsome boy with his soulful eyes <3

I’m loathe to go back to work on Monday and leave their smushy faces behind!