I don’t know how to start this.
I don’t know how to say this.
My dog has a terminal illness.
Three years ago, right around this time, we adopted Magnus. Early on we learned from our vet that he had a heart murmur that was not disclosed to us by the rescue organization we worked with. After a phase of gnarled frustration and a weird pre-grieving period, and with our vet’s patience and wisdom, we were ready to soldier on and enjoy our new family member with one easy medication and crossed fingers.
Since day one, Magnus has been an angel. A dream. He’s the sort of dog that makes dog people out of not-dog people. He’s the sort of dog that will quietly nap with you, quietly sit with you, quietly sleep next to your chair while you type away, your mind on work and the internet and what’s for lunch and other deep mysteries of the universe, your feet tucked next to his paws, gently twitching in squirrel dreams.
Danny calls him Little Big Dog. He is soft and black, with soft floppy ears and a regal beard. He is gentle with everyone and everything. We think he’s sort of a schnauzer-poodle-something-else mix. His torso is substantial and strong, his front legs politely turned out just so in presentation, as he looks up at you and cocks his head.
In early May, Magnus developed a little cough. We reckoned it was kennel cough as he had recently been in for some grooming, and figured he’d just caught something. The vet ventured the same hypothesis. But because of his heart murmur he decided to do a quick x-ray to make sure it wasn’t something heart-related. It was. It is.
Our dog has congestive heart failure and it’s likely he’ll leave us sooner than we’d like.
One medication turned into three, then four, then five, and requires stricter timing than our admittedly casual administration back in the healthier days. He will always have a little cough. The goal is to help him slow down, calm down in those moments so that the little cough doesn’t agitate bigger coughs, spurring his heart rate higher and into moments of failure.
His medications are meant to help keep his heart calm and keep fluid out of places where it shouldn’t be, but are only a stopgap. The condition will progress until it’s too much.
We have talked about what happens when that happens, but that’s not what this post is about.
I can’t stop this heart condition from moving at whatever pace it will move. I can only give care and love to this sweet animal who I swear has human eyes, and who has given us so much love and peace.
Amid aisles of salty, beefy, chickeny dog treats made by machines, this is why we make dog biscuits. At home, from scratch. To show love.
These biscuits are insanely easy to put together, and while it’s extra cute if you’ve got shaped cookie cutters around, you can easily do this with a pizza cutter, as I did. (I do actually have some bone-shaped cutters but was feeling anti-extra this time around. I like the simplicity of a nice square. Or rhombus, as some of them turned out.)
If your dog is anything like ours, his love language is human food, and these do the trick nicely as they’re made with real, natural stuff that will make the doggie think he’s getting away with something.
Note: the dough for this is rather stiff, but still workable. It’s a great recipe to try with small kids, as there’s very little precision needed and the biscuits are hard to mess up. Also!: these make a great gift for folks with dogs. (In case my family isn’t the only one that gives actual wrapped Christmas gifts t0 our dogs each year.)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened, smooth peanut butter
- 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two sheet pans with parchment and set aside.
Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, and peanut butter until smooth. Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt, and stir to combine using a wooden spoon. The mixture should be stiff but not dry. Feel free to use your hands to finish combining the ingredients.
On a clean surface, roll the dough out to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes if you have cookie cutters, or just cut into squares using a pizza cutter.
Place the cut biscuits on the pans, leaving a little space. (These won’t expand, but will still need room to breathe and get crisp.)
Bake until hardened, about 40 minutes. Use this time to give the dog a few good belly scratches. Let the biscuits cool completely, then store in an airtight container.
- baked goods
- beans + legumes
- dinner party
- gluten free
- make ahead
- pregnant food
- roasted stuff
- special occasions
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