Have a Heart …

… literally!  A beef heart, to be exact.  Besides work and rescue activities, I’m also in conformation training with the puppy, Teller.  Well, not so much a puppy anymore as he’s now 14-months old but I suspect he’ll be known as “the puppy” around our house for quite some time to come.  Getting — and keeping — his attention at class can be hit or miss depending on what’s going on and how many dogs are in attendance.   While he’s greatly improved in the past month, it’s time to step our game up.  With a recipe for microwaved braunschweiger (thanks, Deb!) and the most recent find … baked beef heart … we have his mostly-undivided attention.

After several phone calls to the meat department at King Soopers, the two half beef hearts arrived in vacuum-sealed packages.  Not a stranger to the meat industry, opening the first package brought back a flood of memories … on smell alone.  I have a twin brother and every summer my father, a commercial meat salesman, would take one of “the twins” on his three-day out-of-state sales route.  More than just time spent with Dad, it was a break for my Mom who apparently didn’t want to listen to the twins bickering and/or whining all summer.  So, for years, part of my summer was spent being schlepped from grocery store to butcher shop to meat market.  The smell of fresh meat is unmistakable and, in my case, unforgettable.  Know how to cook kidneys?  Boil the piss out of ’em!!  Haha … sorry, inside joke.

With recipe in hand and a two-pound chunk of beef heart oozing blood on the cutting board, I put aside my disdain for the organ meats.  Or anything that even remotely resembles organ or “offal” meat (a totally appropriate name in my book), i.e., heart, kidney, liver, tongue, tripe, etc., etc.  Supposedly, beef heart is making a culinary comeback but I’m not buying — or biting — into that trend.

First step is to slice the heart into 1/8″ slabs.  Easier said than done as the heart wants to roll with each slice, leaving a much Heart on cutting boardthicker piece than what’s needed for even baking.  I quickly figure out that squeezing and compressing the heart while slicing results in thin, uniform slabs.  Dad would have been proud … and prouder still that my knives are always razor sharp and made quick work of the slicing.  Know the most dangerous utensil in the kitchen?  A dull knife.  If nothing else, I did learn proper knife use and care while on the perimeter of the meat industry.

Lay the slices on cookies sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with crushed rosemary and a little garlic powder.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes (325 if using a convection oven).  About half way through baking, dab with paper towels to remove excess liquid.  At 35 minutes, I removed the cookie sheets from the oven (now turned off), turned the slices over, dabbed again with paper towels and put back in the now-cooling oven for another 10 minutes or so.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  When cool, slice into very small cubes and package for freezing.  During the baking/dabbing process, Teller got a bite.  Evidently it was pretty good as he kept going back over to the oven door and looking in at the still-baking treats after that bite.  Once completely cooled and cubed, I kept some out for this week’s training treats and stored the rest, about three cups worth.  For storage, I opted for freezing and used the FoodSaver with the wide-mouth jar accessory to seal in pint jars.  Vacuum sealed, the treats will stay fresh longer and won’t form ice crystals.

Now the answer to the question that’s sure to be on your mind … does it smell??  Yes, but not nearly as obnoxious as liver that’s being cooked (I’m *very* aware of cooking and dog odors in the house).  The odor dissipated fairly quickly once I opened the house up to air out.  Given the first run, I will make this again but with more rosemary added and the house windows open at the start.  At some point, I’m going to try the dehydrator so (1) it doesn’t have to be under refrigeration at all times and (2) so I can set it up in the garage for volume production.

In any event, the homemade treats are definitely a hit with my four-legged crew!!  Hubby … not so much  lol.

UPDATE:  Hold the rosemary!!  Evidently there is a connection between rosemary and seizures in dogs.  Guess I’ll be using parsley next time around.

Ready for freezing
FoodSaver w/wide-mouth jar attachment
Top – braunschweiger treats; bottom – baked beef heart

All That Remains …

Sweet Sophie
Sweet Sophie

Friends recently had to said goodbye to their 16-year old terrier mix, Sophie.  A delightful little sprite, she had a good long life with her owners and the two Apsos in the household.  As is so often the case with elderly dogs, quality of life became the deciding factor.  Difficult as it is, we owners are called upon to take their pain and make it our own, giving them release from a body and/or mind shuttered with age and disease.

In my many decades as pet owner and rescuer, I have been at that crossroads seven times now.  While it does not get any easier, each passing has given me a deeper experience base from which  to call upon when the next time comes around.  And there is always a “next time” for those of us who choose to share our lives with four-legged companions.  Over the years, I have learned to set aside my grief and look objectively at what is best for the animal, whether treatment should or should not continue, and how any of it will change the outcome and to what degree.  Are they here because they find enough interest in each day to carry on … or is it because I, in my gathering grief, can not let go?  Sometimes, the hardest part of letting go is seeing beyond what the heart feels.

During email conversations with Sophie’s mom, the subject came up of what to do with the remains of our companions.  A profoundly personal choice with no “right” or “wrong” answers, there are a myriad of choices available now.  Options that were not available in the late ’80s when faced with my first euthanasia!  My beloved cat — Bear — was brought home, wrapped in a blue towel and buried in a corner of our large yard (a practice not allowed now in many communities).  A divorce not too long afterwards precipitated a move back to my home state of Colorado and it has always saddened me that my old Bear was left behind.  With that experience imprinted, my first Apso, Brittany, was cremated and returned to me in a little floral box.  I’ve toyed with the idea of “planting” her in the yard with a spectacular specimen of some sort — high on the list at this moment is a yellow magnolia tree.  Then the nagging questions set in, i.e., what if we move away?  (And we will eventually move away, even if it is only on a gurney out the front door.)  What if the plant dies and we have to dig it up and send it on?  So, there she sits, on my bookcase with her collar and tags laid across the top.

After the death of my parents along with a major clean out of their house and 50 years’ worth of accumulated items, hubby and I embarked on a major decluttering of our own home.  While dusting the bookcase one day, I began to think about how many boxes of ashes I’d eventually end up collecting … and why leave them for my niece to dispense with when our time has run.  With four geriatric animals in the house at that point and Locketscertainly more in the future, I made the decision to let go of the ashes to come.  When we lost Ali in 2011, she was cremated and then scattered at a pet cemetery in Northern Colorado … a quiet place with a stunning view of the Front Range of Colorado.

In all honesty, I did not let her go completely.  Starting with Ali, all my dogs have been in full coat at some point.  Just before being clipped down, I take a lock of the full coat starting at the top of the shoulder … a visual and tangible reminder of the life we shared when they are gone.  These lockets now hang in the grooming room, a collage of sorts with fired clay name tags from another friend.  Hubby has compared them to the shrunken heads one might find in a voodoo shack.  But, in the same breath, I’ve also seen him reach up and gently rub the red braid between his fingers.  A connection across the years and a whisper from the Bridge … all that remains.

Pet Safety on the Road …

Dog-in-CarAs a legal assistant specializing in personal injury law for the past 27+ years, I’m acutely aware of bad driving practices on the road.  Without fail, injuries are caused because someone wasn’t paying attention to traffic patterns, road conditions and/or traffic signals.  Short of a boulder falling off a mountain, there are no “accidents” when it comes to people, vehicles and inattentive driving.  It literally takes just the blink of an eye to change someone’s life and health forever.

While running errands yesterday, I saw several vehicles with dogs riding in the front seat next to their owner or pacing the full length of the back seat.  And — I have to admit — I’ve been known to toss a dog on the front seat and make the straight-shot, 5-minute drive to my vet/grooming facility.  However, after watching the slow motion videos from the Center for Pet Safety, that practice is hereby discontinued.  Permanently.  These videos are part of a study on pet restraint systems and how effective they are in an automobile collision.

Please take a moment to read the short article and view the videos in the link below …

Canine Automotive Restraint Crashworthiness Testing

Now imagine a dog with no restraint system in a collision.  Imagine a small dog on the front seat with airbags deployed (at 200 mph) in a collision.  Imagine a dog hanging over the door as in the above photo (convertible or not).  From here on out, my dogs will always ride crated in the back of the vehicle with the crate secured in some fashion … no matter how short the trip.

Sliding into Fall …

Teller …

Rescue has been a bit quiet here lately … which is a good thing when one considers the overall picture.  No strays and no dogs surrendered by their owners.  On the home front, it has been a bit hectic, however.  The end of August, I flew to Minnesota to meet up with friends, attend a four-day dog show and pick up a new puppy.  My retired champion, Dante,  sired a litter in Canada and we were there to evaluate the puppies and bring home the new little one.  Meet Apsolutely FFT Tell Me No Lies a/k/a “Teller” (yup, that’s a red Apso!).  He did just fabulous on the trip home, including sitting calmly on my lap in the airport watching the travelers go by and sleeping in his Sherpa bag during the flight with nary a peep.

Given that it’s been seven years since we had a puppy in the house, there’s been a learning curve.  Potty training is a challenge and I’ve had to refer back to my own article a time or two.  Thank heavens for belly bands and hardwood floors!  The kitchen floor by the water bowl is scrubbed daily as puppy can’t get a drink without getting his whole beard wet and trailing water through the kitchen.  Frankers has earned the nickname of “Uncle Grumpy.”  Thankfully, Teller is respectful of the old man and will back off with a correction from Frankers.  The geriatric resident — Boogins, the cat at 15.5-years old — isn’t so fortunate as the puppy is fascinated with him.

The house looks like it’s inhabited by toddlers with toys strewn from the kitchen to the bedroom and everywhere in between.  Last night Teller came flying into the front room with a bath mat in tow, shagged out of the master bath.  Other times, it’s a crate pad from the master bedroom.  And he’s certainly not above running off with whatever clothing item that hits the floor.  My last routine for the evening is gathering up all the toys and putting them back in the toy baskets … which reminds me of dusting the house.  Wait 12 hours and it looks like it’s never been done.

Grooming Teller has been … ummm … interesting to say the least.  Yeah, “interesting” is a good word.  Here’s why:

Bathtime with Teller …

Can’t say that the subsequent baths have been any less loud or any less vocal.  Just not as long!  Given that Dante was very vocal about his baths for the first couple of years, it would appear that Teller comes by it honestly.  While only 5.5-months old, Teller is quite well-traveled.  From Canada to California to Minnesota to Colorado.  He’s been through a puppy kindergarten class and has attended two conformation classes.

Fall arrived in Colorado with some fabulous color in the mountains … and decidedly colder temps.  The hard freezes have taken out the annuals and we’ll start the yard cleanup here shortly in anticipation of putting it to bed for the winter.  Have a great fall y’all!

Hot, hot, hot!!!

Asphalt temps …

Colorado, like the majority of the country, has had miserably hot temps which arrived in early spring.  Given the weather patterns so far, I’m sure it will remain quite warm well into September.  This post is prompted by the number of people I see out walking their dogs in the afternoons here lately.  Rule of thumb, folks — if you can’t walk barefoot on the concrete or road surface due to the heat, neither should your dog!!  I did some checking and found this handy-dandy asphalt temps guide which notes that while the air temps might be tolerable, the pavement is much hotter than one would expect.

As children growing up in Colorado, my twin brother and I sustained burns on the bottom of our feet walking back from the swimming pool on an asphalt road.  We’d gone — barefoot — to the pool in the early morning and didn’t even think about the pavement being scorched on the way home.  We sustained burns severe enough that we had large, raised water blisters on the balls and heels of our feet despite the heavy callouses from running barefoot most of the summer.  Think a dog can’t sustain burns on the pads??  Think again …

If you simply must walk your dog, please do so in the early morning or late evening when the ground surfaces have had sufficient time to cool down.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget the mosquito repellent.  Living in Larimer County where we had a severe outbreak of West Nile several years ago, one must always be aware of the danger of contracting West Nile (I, personally, know four people who have had it to varying degrees).

Since we’re on the subject of hot summers, let’s not forget how quickly car temps can heat up with moderate temps … for dogs and little humans alike.

Keep it safe … keep it sane … and keep your dogs home out of the heat!

Wishing …

… everyone a happy and safe 4th of July!!  And one without more new wildfires in the West or monster storms in the East.

For those of you in areas with fireworks (banned in most of the western states due to the extreme fire conditions), please please please make sure your pets are secure in the house.  Pets are lost every year when they escape their yard, frightened by the booming of fireworks.  Make sure your pets have current ID tags … utilize white noise to help drown out the neighborhood noises … try Rescue Remedy to lessen their anxiety.

Stay tuned to meet our newest foster … a puppy mill survivor from the eastern plains of Colorado.

The Pitter Patter …

… of puppy feet!!  Well, not quite but at least the puppies have arrived.  We’re very excited as these are Dante babies.  He was bred to a Canadian champion in early March and the puppies arrived the evening of May 7th.  Thankfully all are doing well;  the pups are thriving and gaining weight daily.  Welcome, little ones!

#1 Female gold sable 4.2 oz
#2 Male Red sable …. Ta Dah!!! I Is Here!!!
#3 Male gold sable w white blaze & markings … a flashy little boy
#4 Male Gold sable 4.4 oz