And so we catch our breath.
In the last two months, life here has changed. When I started composing this post, the date was April 10th, and it was the day before our beloved greyhound, Lochrima’s, 13th birthday. But before I could finish, she starting limping and on April 13th was diagnosed with cancer. While we knew she was old for a big dog, nothing really prepares you for those words. The vet said it could be days or weeks, that she had a tumor in her chest so advanced, it was pressing on her heart, lungs, intestines and stomach. It felt like Doc kicked me in the gut. The tumor caused her limp because it was restricting blood flow to and from her legs. This was the only symptom of a cancer that was at least months old, if not a year.
Basically, the DH & I dropped everything and spent time with Lochrima. Work and clients waited. Chores were set aside for another day. We found out how amazing our friends were, as many of them showed up with food for us and treats for Lochrima. There were visits from dog pals, with whom our girl enjoyed a sniff in the yard and her birthday cake. There were visitors from far and near. Turns out that other folks loved Lochrima, too, and wanted to say goodbye.
That awful day came on May 1. That morning the tumor opened up and started to drain into her lungs. We had the choice to basically let Lochrima drown in her own tumor-fluids and blood, or to put her down quickly and spare her the painful dying process. And we chose euthanasia. May 1 was one of the most difficult days either of us have lived through. On the drive to Doc’s office we looked down at her crying – and she was looking up at us with tears rolling down her face. We didn’t even know that dogs cried tears, or that any moment could be so painful. That day, we also learned how much we could cry.
Many people say companion animals are very special friends. That’s got to be the understatement of a lifetime, really. Companion animals fill the spaces that humanity cannot. They know a depth of love that brings true acceptance, forgiveness and compassion – one that people rarely offer to each other. As I type this, sitting beside the empty sofa with no hound on the fuzzy red dog blanket, the vacancy serves to remind me of how much joy, spirit and devotion Lochrima selflessly gave to us. I frequently wish I was more like her.
DH & I have taken time recovering, getting back to work and daily life. We are both still broken-hearted and are no where near ready for a new dog in our lives. Yes, we know how many dogs and cats and rabbits and more need loving homes. We know our house is empty and that there is an unoccupied dog bed next to the desk. But we’re not there. Sometimes, you need space to exhale.
As a tribute, we plan to create a collection of the homemade dog treat recipes we have made for her. Some are already on this blog; others are still in our notebooks. If you have never baked treats for a dog (yours or a friend’s) you should get on that immediately. Nothing compares to the appreciation of a dog who has waited patiently by the oven, sniffing homemade cookies – and then eating them! Stay tuned for that later this year and if you’re local, we can use some canine taste-testers.
Until then, here is the birthday cake I baked for our sweet hound for many years every April 11th. She adored it with vanilla coconut-milk ice cream. Or as-is.
As a final gift for Lochrima, I ask you, beg you – please celebrate every damn day you have with those you love – dogs, cats, horses, birds, people. We all get too wrapped up in nonsense sometimes to focus on what is really important – loving the way our animal friends do – unconditionally.
Carob Chip-Peanut Birthday Cake for Dogs
2 Tbl. flax seed meal mixed in 4 Tbl. warm water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbl. non-aluminum baking powder
1 Tbl. carob powder
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup brown rice syrup or molasses
3/4 cup carob chips
Preheat oven to 375. Mix together flax seed meal and warm water to gel into a binder, set aside.
Stir together whole wheat flour, baking powder and carob powder. Add peanut butter, applesauce, brown rice syrup or molasses and flax seed meal mixture. Stir by hand until well combined, about 60 strokes. If the batter seems too dry, add a little water (this can vary based on your peanut butter brand!).
Spray a cake pan, springform pan or muffin tins with non-stick spray. Pour in batter, distributing evenly.
Bake cake for about 20-30 minutes or “pupcakes” about 10-15 minutes until batter is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and serve to birthday dog – or any dog you love and want to celebrate for just being your pal!