1/3/2017: Dog Biscuits and a Tale of Canine Collision

Ran out of dog treats last night trying to keep my girl entertained, because she is a diva and demands attention despite the miserable weather outside.  This led to an unexpected but fruitful (well, technically legume-full) cooking project starting at about 8:30 PM.

This Peanut Snack Sandwiches Dog Treat recipe comes from Sweet Paul magazine, a source I enjoy reading but rarely cook from.  This one seemed simple enough, and I had nearly all of the ingredients I needed.

Dog Treats: Peanut Snack Sandwiches

Makes about 20 treats

2 tablespoons canola oil

1⁄2 cup peanut butter (all-natural or organic) – should contain NO artificial sweeteners, as they can poison dogs!

1 cup water

1 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1⁄2 cups white flour

peanut butter, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl combine canola oil, peanut butter and water.
  3. Add both types of flour, and work the dough together.
  4. Wrap in plastic and leave it for around 30 minutes.
  5. Knead dough into a firm ball and roll to 1⁄4 inch thickness.
  6. Use a small glass or cookie cutter and cut out small circles.
  7. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Sprinkle with peanuts, and press them lightly into mixture.
  9. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.
  11. Store in a jar with a tight lid.
  12. When your dog has been good, sandwich a little peanut butter between two cookies and serve.

TIP: You can also make these without the peanut butter.

Notes:

  • I didn’t have whole wheat flour, and substituted coconut flour instead.  I also used coconut oil (melted) instead of canola.  As a result of the substitutions, my dough was desert-texture rather than dough-texture when following the recipe.  I added more oil and more peanut butter and let my mixer work it for a while, and it came together.
  • Whether because of the added/different ingredients, that I rolled them out too thick (doubtful), or another factor, these treats took much longer than 10-12 minutes to cook (though Kyra was perfectly happy with them raw).  I baked the first batch for about 20 minutes before I was satisfied that they were hard enough, and they were still soft in the middle.  The second batch was kept in the hot oven with the oven turned off until they had cooled – that helped a great deal to dry them out.  Rather than take chances, though, I’m storing these cookies in the freezer until they’re ready for canine consumption.
  • The thinner-rolled cookies turned out better and produced more cookies from the same amount of dough.  I ended up with around 5 dozen individual cookies, enough to make more than the predicted 20 sandwiches.  I’m not planning to make sandwiches out of them – she can be happy with what she gets one at a time!
  • Having a dog-bone cookie cutter is absolutely not necessary, I just had one from past cookie-making adventures.  Cut them out however you want.  Having the shape and depth of the cookies is important to make sure they all bake evenly – perhaps of moderate importance to you, especially if you plan to keep them on the counter in a jar, but it is of zero importance to your dog.  These cookies were a big hit with the canine.

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How I Met My Canine:

As anyone who has been around me for more than 5 minutes or so knows, I own a dog who is the light of my life.  She’s the first dog I’ve ever owned independently, and it was never my intention to own her to begin with.  We found each other by accident.

Dirty Dog
Dirty girls enjoy life!

I had been fostering dogs for a local shelter in Massachusetts and was on my 3rd or 4th foster dog.  Some had been successful, others not so much, but all had been adopted.  The dog I had at the time was a young male pitbull mix who was a tremendous pain in the butt.  Cried all night in his crate, difficult to train because he wasn’t food motivated, marked in the house, destroyed whatever he could get his teeth on…all of the typical things you expect in an untrained young adult male dog, and the reason I find so fostering exasperating at times.  Not because I’m upset at the dog, but because I’m so infuriated with the humans who let these dogs get to this state, and it is difficult (but not impossible!) to bring them back to what I consider adoptable-dog level.  Particularly unneutered males past puberty…there is always something in them that is seeking the freedom to find a territory and some females to call their own.  HT was the first dog I fostered who had these problems but has not been the last, and I find every one of these types of dogs very difficult to handle.  Nice guys, snuggle butts, trainable to an extent, but generally speaking you feel like you can never let them out of your sight, and to a one they’ve all HATED being crated.  Hey, I’m not perfect…yes, I have a preference when it comes to what type of dogs I prefer to foster.  I’d like to save them all (actually I’d like them all to be born into good homes to begin with), but I don’t want all of them living with me.

HT was driving me up the wall to the extent that I finally called the shelter and told them that I couldn’t keep him any more.  They protested but then finally agreed, and told me they had an adopter lined up for him anyway over the next couple of days (that assuaged my guilt a bit for giving up on him).  I remember pulling up to the shelter very ready to hand over HT and make my getaway back to my now-peaceful home.  Sue, who ran the shelter, approached me and asked if I could possibly take another foster.  “She’s currently a red-flag dog.” She said, and pointed to an outdoor pen.  “She’s over there with our trainer right now.”

Often shelters color code their dogs so that the volunteers and staff know how to approach a dog.  Green dogs are easily dealt with and can usually be walked by kids/elderly volunteers and get along well with other dogs.  Yellow dogs generally have some boundary issues, either with people or dogs, may exhibit some mild behavioral problems, usually pull on the leash, but overall are not a concern, just need some work.  Red dogs are typically isolated from the general population and can only be handled by experienced staff members or particular volunteers.  They have major behavioral or health issues and need serious work.  Generally they are considered unadoptable except to the most experienced households.  (PS: I did not, at that point, consider myself an experienced household!)

I followed the line of Sue’s arm out to watch a woman in an outdoor enclosed pen gesture at a small black dog standing in front of her.  The dog promptly sat, and when the woman praised it, the dog jumped up and latched on to the woman’s arm.  As in, leaped up and took a firm bite and hung on.  Fortunately it was early November and chilly that day, and the dog let go as the woman scolded it.  The dog had only bitten into her jacket.

I turned to Sue and said “Are you CRAZY?”

I’m still not sure what made me walk over to the pen and take a closer look at that dog.  I should have gotten back in my still-running car and driven away.  Fast.  Sue must have magic powers of persuasion (something essential to the job description, no doubt), because whatever she said to me kept me out of my car and in that parking lot.  I approached the pen with the trainer and the psycho dog inside it while Sue took HT and went into the main shelter building.  The trainer asked me to come in the pen with her to meet the dog, and handed me a few treats.

The dog was a young female, black with white paws and a white splash across her chest.  She was skinny, as her ribs showed easily, and extremely energetic.  I asked her to sit for me, which she again did promptly.  What a good girl!  I gave her a treat, which she took without quite taking my fingers with it, and then she sat again.  About three seconds passed.  No further treats appeared in front of her mouth.  She launched herself at me, grabbed my forearm and hung on.

What insanity possessed me to take that dog home with me that day?  I’ll never know.  I was wearing a sweatshirt at the time, and the dog managed to both rip open the sleeve of the sweatshirt and leave lasting bruises on my arm in the space of a few seconds.  Why in the world I’d want to bring home a scrawny, deranged little animal who had patches of hair falling out and no behavior sense whatsoever is beyond me.  But I did.

379514_2903383864304_908711625_n

My pictures from early in the dog’s tenure with me are not great, because at the time I only had a flip-phone camera (ahh, the early poor years).  The pic from above was a little over a month after she came to stay with me.  You can still see how skinny she was, and the circles around her eyes where her hair was still growing in.  She was allergic to the food she had been fed, and it was making her itch and the hair fall out. She was recently spayed, housetrained (thankfully), but she chewed the furniture, walls, scratched up the carpet, crashed into things and people, bit you if you didn’t do exactly what she wanted you to do, and generally never stopped moving.

My abiding clear memory from that time getting to know this girl was probably a day or two after I took her home.  I had a relatively large backyard but only a small portion of it had been fenced in with chicken wire, as I was a single homeowner on a young teacher’s salary and couldn’t spend much on anything, let alone fencing.  I had invited a dog trainer friend over the house to ask her advice on what to do with my new hellion.  We had let the dog out the back and were standing on the back porch watching her and chatting about the next steps in training.  The dog was running in circles around the small yard.

It was funny at first.  This little dog in this little yard, running as fast as her legs could carry her around the small space.  Sometimes she’d cut across and do a figure 8. Sometimes she’d reverse direction suddenly.  But she never stopped running.

Then it became sad.  It was obvious that this running was not in celebration of freedom, or to investigate the new area, or in the simple joy of being unconfined and outdoors on a chilly New England day.  This was desperation running.  This dog simply could not contain the energy inside of her.  She HAD to run.  She HAD to get the energy out somehow.  You got the sense of a bomb waiting to explode but not having a trigger to let out the combustion.  She had been trapped for so long, and this little space to run was what she had at the moment, and so she ran.

I fell a little bit in love with her at that moment.

It was never my intention to adopt this dog.  By a week into her stay with me she had already successfully destroyed an antique wooden bed frame gifted to me by my grandparents and chewed through a $100 computer cable I had left too close to her crate (she’s still lucky to not get zapped by that!).  She was great in obedience class but played very rough with other dogs and nipped and bit at people when she wanted attention or didn’t get what she wanted immediately.  However, she was smart, learned fast, and was eager to please (on her own terms).  The biting habit disappeared within about two weeks, and the chewing habit soon after.  We expanded the backyard fencing for her, and she started running large circles and figure 8s now for fun rather than out of necessity.  She chased squirrels, went for walks, made some dog friends, and she learned how to properly greet humans who came to pay homage to her adorableness.  I trusted her enough to leave her uncrated during the day, and she slept with me at night.  She advanced through obedience classes at a steady march.  She became a reformed hellion.

If you’ve noticed, I haven’t mentioned her name.  That’s because, for about two months, she didn’t have one.

The shelter called her Monkey, and from the moment I heard it, I despised that name.  It didn’t fit her at all, and I refused to call her by it.  Typically as a foster mom, the name the dog comes with is their call name until the new adoptive family chooses a name or keeps the one they have, whether you like it or not.  I’ve never refused to call a foster dog their given name until this dog.  The shelter kindly enough allowed me to change it to whatever I wanted.

I got many suggestions, mostly focused around her looks.  Boots, mittens, and White Socks were all popular.  I actually looked through baby name books at one point, hoping for inspiration.  Nothing really fit.

Then one night I began re-reading my favorite Stephen King novel, Bag of Bones.  The little girl in the novel is named Kyra, so-called because it is the translation from the Greek meaning ‘ladylike’.  I had recently watched a Cesar Millan episode in which he discussed that you should name a dog according to what you’d like them to become – don’t call a puppy that you want to become a loving family member “Killer”, for example – because people who meet the dog automatically make assumptions about the dog based on their name and treat them accordingly.  Ladylike seemed the perfect fit for what I wanted Kyra to become, because I was forever despairing of the possibility that she’d ever be a well-behaved dog.  It turns out another translation of Kyra is “dark lady”…how perfect is that?

Soon after the name stuck, I realized that I couldn’t give this girl up.  It was perhaps an opposites-attract sort of scenario, and perhaps a we-need-each-other scenario also.  She was a pushy, energetic diva who assumed the world revolved around her and what she wanted.  I was a shy, out of shape workaholic who spent most of her time on the couch wishing for a better life.  I remember saying to Sue when I called her that Kyra and I had been through too much together, and that I couldn’t give her up.  It had only been a couple of months.  Sue seemed unsurprised.

It took two more months for me to save up enough money for the adoption fee.  Only a few months after that, Kyra and I moved to a different state and started a new life together.  It’s hard to believe that next month will be our 5 year adoption anniversary.  We’ve both come a long way…Kyra has earned multiple CGCs, multiple Rally titles, has participated in a number of dog sports, and is an active registered Therapy Dog.  She’s starting to get a little grey on the muzzle and has white patches appearing on her body.  I’ve lost 100+ lbs, become an active OCR enthusiast, and have conquered (mostly) my tendency towards depression and shyness.  I’ve got some grey hairs of my own, and a few more wrinkles.  And yet I still remain a relatively isolated nerd who is awkward in a crowd, and Kyra remains an energetic socialite diva dog.  We are a team; we are a partnership; we compliment each other.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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