Godliness Revealed, at Home.

I was walking my dog this morning and, as it usually happens, I started thinking…

“It’s not surprising that the word “Dog” is “God” spelled backwards; not when you watch a dog in their everyday interactions. Most dogs really do exhibit Godly qualities, albeit some more than others…”

Here’s Mango and Rosebud…

Can you tell which one is a saint?

Although the one on top is clearly the rascal in the family, I’ve learned valuable things from and have been inspired by both, Mango and Rose.

Today, as Mango and I traipsed around the neighborhood …or I should say (for a more accurate account), as my almost three-year-old yellow Lab. dragged me around by her leash, I couldn’t help but think “I need to be more like her.” Mango is absolutely the happiest dog I’ve ever met.

Ecstatic just to be alive and able to breathe it all in, Mango approaches other dogs and people with equal abandon. It’s as if everyone she sees are long-lost, favorite relatives; all adored, with no questions asked. No matter how many times she gets growled at by dogs of all sizes, her optimistic approach never changes. No matter what yesterday brought, each day…each turn of the corner brings with it all kinds of brand new loving, exciting and just flat-out fun possibilities. She’s open, present, trusting, forgiving and just ridiculously jovial. (“I’ll have whatever she’s eating….”)

As I watched Mango this morning, I couldn’t help but think about the one who really helped to shape her.

This morning’s walk was filled with memories of Rosie.

In Loving Memory Rosebud Groveman August, 1994-August, 2008
In loving memory of Rosebud Groveman, our sweet Rosie. Born: August, 1994 Died: August, 2008.

Rosebud was a real gem. She passed away last summer, just a few weeks before her 14th birthday. Rose never stole food from my children or from my guests, when entertaining. She loved us with all her might and trusted us completely with her heart and physical well-being. I never worried about her running away since all she ever seemed to need or want was right in her own back yard. And, although she was always a shining example of what it means to love unconditionally, it wasn’t until her later years, that I really got to see and appreciate how special she was.

When my son, Ben, was in his last year of college, he got a puppy, a gorgeous French Mastiff, he named Luke.

Luke as a baby...could you just melt!
Luke as a baby…could you just melt!

I loved when they would come home to visit….

Luke loved my cooking...
Luke loved my cooking…

Everything was great until Luke, at about 1 year old, had his first seizure. After several months, it was clear that having a sick dog at college was too much, so we had Ben leave Luke with us. Things were good for a while. Luke was eating well and seemed seizure free. I actually allowed myself to think that “my mothering” could keep him well…but no, the seizures returned and we knew our “Lukie” was very sick.

Those days were unbelievably trying for all of us. Luke, because he had to take barbiturates twice a day to help prevent and/or control the severity of the seizures, he would often tumble down the stairs, bump into walls, become fixed in a standing position, just staring into space and there were even times when he forgot how to eat. During those few months (which felt like several years) I rarely left home and, when I did, it wasn’t for long. Twice a day I would feed Luke by hand, trying to make sure he would get enough food in his system to be able to tolerate the medications. It was a real catch 22. If we took him off these debilitating medications, not only would his seizures return with more severity, but he would also go through severe withdrawal. Oh, it was a mess…. Thank goodness for Rose. Luke loved Rose!

Here’s Luke before things got really bad…

A big beautiful lug.
A big beautiful lug.

Rose took Luke under her wing like a mother would a cherished child. Although he was much larger than she, Rose instinctively understood his fragility and would stay by his side all day long, watching to see if he needed help.

They were always together…

Rose and Luke were a fine team! (For a while...)
Rose and Luke were a fine team! (For a while…)

Here’s when things got really bad…

Luke near the end...
Luke near the end…

Several months after Luke passed, I really needed another dog. Although I knew Rose was fine with a sick dog, I wasn’t so sure how she’d feel about having a frisky puppy around. But, you know…once a mother wants another baby, there’s just no stopping her!

The day I met Mango, she was five weeks old…

Love at first kiss....
And it was love at first kiss….

And so, when Mango came home, at just 7 weeks, although Rose was already 12 and had acute arthritis, she, once again, welcomed a new life into our home. I was so grateful to her.

As a baby, Mango slept A LOT….

As a baby, Mango slept a lot...
baby Mango

Hey…Rose loves to sleep A LOT, too!

A match made in heaven!
Seems we had a match made in heaven!
And, when awake, Mango was glued to Rose....
And, when awake, Mango was glued to Rose….
And stayed glued to Rose...
And, as she grew, she stayed glued to Rose…

During the last years of her life, Rose had more fun than ever before. Despite having painful arthritis, she embraced her relationship with Mango with the same spirit of generosity and tolerance that she gave to Luke. Rose knew that, although elderly, she could still teach Mango. She also was smart enough to know that, although old, she could (if she remained open) learn so many wonderful things from Mango…. like how to dig outside and to eat dirt with gusto! You might think “well, that’s what dogs do,” but Rose, with her regal demeanor, never did. She had never before romped outside with the kind of deep-down-dogginess that Mango seemed to naturally possess…a farm-dog mentality, you might say. And so Rose, in the end, got to really play.

During her last year, Rose rarely wanted to be alone; as if to instinctively reveal life’s truth, that time with those you love is so very precious.

The Point: Although “today” many of us spend lots of time trying to figure out how to maintain happiness, whether by devouring books and magazines about metaphysics and/or spirituality, or by practicing yoga and meditation, or by traveling to some ancient cave in a remote part of the world, hoping to revamp one’s karma, we often overlook the incredible “at home” clues that sit right in front of us. It’s as if God gave us dogs as this four-legged, tail-wagging, daily reminder of what it is to really live and love. Happiness, as a state of mind, I think has more to do with one’s ability to appreciate and cultivate the essence of simple goodness than anything else. And, especially in this way, Dogs rock. So, the next time I encounter a bump in the road of life, before I let it ruin my day, I’m going to ask myself “how would my dog handle this?” ….I have a feeling I won’t be surprised at how profoundly applicable some of the answers will be, for all of us humans.

Here’s a recipe I wrote when Rose was a young dog, in honor of my love for her.

Biscuits for My Sweet Rosie

Biscuits for my sweet Rosebud
Rose and me…

I can’t think of a more deserving soul on earth to be presented with a homemade tub of crunchy nibbles than my wonderful dog, Rosebud. When she was alive, Rosie would sit and stare at the filled container and actually drool at the sight of these biscuits. (Mango loves them too, but she would happily eat a can…) As the list of ingredients indicates, these are not just any dog biscuit! If I had to guess, I think the component that always made Rosie swoon, is the glaze. Flavored with either chicken or beef and mixed with egg, milk and honey, I think it’s this dimension that made my dog go ape when she got one of these biscuits between her teeth. Speaking of teeth, be prepared to hear quite a “crunch” when your dog bites down on these biscuits, since they’re intentionally hard. This way, in addition to making your pup feel happy to be home, each bite will also give your dog’s teeth a good cleaning! (It’s the mother in me…)

Yield: about ninety 2 1/2-inch biscuits

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting, as needed
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup coarse rye meal (available at the health food store)
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (coarse or medium ground)
  • 1 cup cracked wheat or cracked wheat cereal
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk
  • 1 to-2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cup defatted beef or chicken stock (no salt added or omit above salt), vegetable stock can be used as substitute (for a chicken stock recipe, click here and for a preview of the video of me making all kinds of stock, click here.)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup mild honey
  • 1 package active, dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Glaze Ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon mild honey
  • 1 teaspoon “Better Than Bouillon” (beef or chicken-flavored concentrate); available in well-stocked supermarkets

First, set up: Position the oven racks to the upper and lower third shelf positions and preheat the oven to 325oF. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside, for now.

Now, make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to combine the white and whole wheat flours, rye meal, cornmeal, cracked wheat, wheat germ, dry milk, and salt, if using. Heat the stock in a 2-quart saucepan, over low heat, until tepid (just warm to the touch) and stir in sugar and honey. Turn off the heat. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar, until visibly bubbly, about 3 minutes. Pour the sweetened stock into the flour mixture and add the dissolved yeast. Stir until a firm but shaggy dough forms. When the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured wooden surface and knead it, adding more white flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and quite stiff (but not so stiff that it’s too hard to roll out). (For a video of me showing you how to knead dough, click here or here.)

Now, roll and cut the dough:Cut the dough in half using a pastry scraper and cover one piece while working with the other. Using a straight rolling pin, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Using sturdy cookie cutters, in a variety of shapes, cut out as many biscuits as you can and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Gather the scraps and re-roll the dough until you’ve cut out as many biscuits as possible. (Since tenderness isn’t the goal, don’t worry about overworking the dough.) Fill up both baking sheets, leaving 1/2-inch in between each biscuit. If desired, use the tines of a regular fork to decoratively prick the center of each biscuit. (If you fill the sheets before using all the dough, and if you don’t have a double oven, you’ll need to wrap any remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it, overnight. Allow it to come to room temperature, before rolling and cutting more biscuits.)

OK, it’s time to glaze the biscuits and bake: Combine the egg, milk, honey, and beef, chicken or vegetable flavor-concentrate and strain this through a medium-mesh wire sieve, positioned over another bowl. Using a pastry brush, paint some of the glaze over each biscuit. Place the baking sheets into the oven and reduce the temperature to 300oF. Bake the biscuits for 45 minutes, switching the shelf positions of the baking sheets after half the baking time. Turn the oven off and allow the biscuits to sit there, undisturbed, overnight. In the morning, bring on the pooch! Store the biscuits at room temperature, either piled in a tightly covered cookie jar or in an airtight tin, with a sticker with your dog’s name on it.

Timing is Everything:

  • The stock can (and should) be made weeks (or months) ahead and stored in the freezer.
  • Each time you make a batch of dog biscuits, make an additional dry mixture and freeze it, in doubled, well sealed, freezer bags.
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