Buddy can’t jump up or get down our bedroom step in the dim light anymore (but Tom says he can still get down and get funky). There is only one step but he will stand looking at that step, whining, until he is rescued from it to the wool carpet or to the comfort of the bed, fluffy with down and warmly coated with a thick wool throw. The bed is only a foot and a half high but he has trouble jumping up to that too… even more-so if the covers are untucked, because he then has no access to the lower perimeter ledge of the upholstered frame.
Somewhere between 3 weeks to a month ago, he stepped up his game (yes, pun intended), and flew down the stair (singular), without a blink in the dimly lit room, but because I had food (in bed). The movement was quick, so determined, yet graceful and swift; he landed in the proximity of my lap (up on the mattress top, plus fluff, bed) all before I could blink. He landed even before Ginger could get to the step. I think he likes cheese!
I am always amazed at how much time I can spend just watching my dogs. They aren’t always doing anything especially exciting and there is rarely a time that they do something new, or something I have never seen them do at least a dozen times before.
Yet there I sit, watching, never growing tired of what I see. The slight movement of one’s head will have me smirk or smile as the nose on that head nestles under the nose of a stuffed bear, or as a tiny paw tucks underneath their own wet, cold nose. Watching them sleep is an activity I am particularly fond of; I like watching their inactivity. Particularly the newer activity of sleeping next to each other, sometimes even touching back to back; a sight we never thought possible a few years ago.
There is a sound that comes out of Buddy as he sleeps that I find myself listening to as intently as if there were a jazz band jamming on a new tune. It is somewhere between a snore and a groan but it is rhythmic and undulating, moving his breath in and out. Ginger doesn’t snore, she rests softly, until she lets out a large sigh. The sigh is so long, peaceful and cleansing that it reminds me to let my breath out and breathe, yes, yes, b r e a t h e.
Ginger is still active for a gal of fourteen. She loves to play like a puppy and she spends many moments flopping to and fro on her back. Ginger is a ham (which, of course, goes well with cheese). She likes to perform and she wants all eyes on her. Buddy is more of an onlooker. He sees all and makes sure he is always in the know. I can’t walk two steps in the house without him following frantically behind (tap, tap, tap, tap, hop).
If there is food, or even if Buddy thinks there should be food, he makes it a habit to levitate while letting out an enormous squeal. The sound should have me cringing as I would from the sound of a slow, d e e p scratch over a chalkboard. However, watching a small, furry, live cartoon character, lift off the floor, all fours at once, is amusement enough to let the sound become overlooked and to send me to the kitchen to get food.
Buddy has a hop to his step. Sometimes, when he gets excited, his hop becomes higher and more pronounced, like a bunny. He is animated in his movements and I can see how he might be considered the real inspiration of “jumping beans”. He would also make a good fencer because he is agile, plus quick to duck back and forth to get out of my way as I swiftly prepare a meal in the kitchen or two-step at the bathroom sink getting ready each morning.
Some days, I think buddy is a puppy, but others I realize he is an old(er) man. Sadly, recently we had one of those “old man” days. Last Saturday morning we awoke to a hunched back, little/old furry guy. No telling why but the skip and the hop were not present; in their place were moans, agitated snoozing and hesitancy to move. He looked disoriented, uncomfortable and (gasp) old.
At least he had comfort in his friend.
The severity of our concern escalated for 24 hours without apparent relief or restitution of symptom. No more leaping at cheese (on the bed or elsewhere), hopping, skipping or otherwise enjoying the usual happy pursuit claiming food. This could not end well, I thought. I was once told (and believe for myself as well as for my pups), that without the rudimentary, yet essential yearning of food, it is time to be concerned. In other words, as long as one has an appetite, it can’t be too bad. Luckily, his appetite did remain, it was simply the lengths to which he would go to obtain the food that had changed.
Come Monday, we were able to secure an acupuncture appointment with Dr. Rice. We were hopeful that relief was in store but not convinced that it was going to provide complete recovery. Thankfully, we were proven wrong (about complete recovery). Within mere seconds of the first needle going in, a large, dumb, tongue hanging grin appeared on buddy’s previously tortured looking face. I don’t think Tom or I could have smiled any larger than we did at the sight of that toothless grin.
Pin cushion Buddy
We are avid believers in the practice of acupuncture, both for dogs and of humans, after experiencing it first-hand for ourselves; if ever skeptical about the effectiveness of it though, this was proof enough for us. At the exact moment that the smile appeared on Buddy’s face, relief washed over us and we realized the power was deep and even more powerful than we first had believed. We brought in an old man and went home with a pup.
Pitter pat, pitter pat….pat..pat…pat….pat! To and fro, up, down, hop…skip…jump!
Duck confit hash with poached egg, roasted mushroom & cauliflower sauce
Serves 2, easily doubles
Buddy and Ginger used to eat duck and potato kibble from Prescription Diet; this was due to Ginger’s early allergies that were suspected to be due to food. Apparently, this is a very common thing for canines to suffer from and it was(is) believed that by feeding them sources of food not readily available to their ancestors, there bodies would be less susceptible to allergy. Hence, duck to replace chicken and potato to replace traditional grain. It has been awhile since they have eaten that food (since Buddy’s first scare) but their newer diet does still consist of duck (raw, from Darwin’s). We try to lay low on potatoes but they love them and are sometimes allowed to still have them snuck into their meals (boiled, not fried).
Last weekend, while brunching at Sitka & Spruce on Valentine’s Day (a day I have long ago sworn off from eating out on, but this brunch was spontaneous), we stopped into Rain Shadow Meats. For those of you who have not been to Melrose Market on Capital Hill in Seattle, you must go. If you live here, you probably have been, if you haven’t, it is worth a trip. The brunch at Sitka & Spruce still has me drooling and attempting to recreate the roasted carrots with rhutabega puree.
Our duck confit from Rain Shadow Meats, pictured on the counter to the right
With several brown packages tucked neatly under my arm, we looked forward to our dinner. Plans always sound better with a cocktail and a good meal. We ended up eating pizza, but did make a series of delicious meals on the days to follow as we pursued using up all of the meats that we bought that day. The remains of their house-made duck confit was still in our fridge the following Saturday morning (yesterday), so I decided to make a duck hash for brunch.
The hash is topped with a poached egg drizzled with roasted mushroom and cauliflower sauce. The sauce is actually a soup that I made mid-week for Ginger and Buddy but it works nicely over the egg, and they enjoyed it this way for brunch too (sans hash for them).
This starts with my breakfast potatoes, then gets layered with caramelized onions, roasted pepper and the duck. Cooking low-and-slow helps everything to remain soft while developing a nice crust. You can purchase duck confit from a good grocery store or your butcher if you aren’t in a position to confit it yourself. This would also be equally good with a roasted duck leg which is really easy to do and less expensive to buy.
3 potatoes, cut into 1/2″ dice, parboiled in salted water
1 TB butter or duck fat
1/2 of a roasted red pepper, cut into strips or 1/2″ diced
A handful of caramelized onions (approximately 1/4 cup)
Meat from a 1/4 leg duck confit (approximately 3-4 oz.)
1 oz chèvre
2-4 poached eggs (1-2 per person)
3-4 spoonfuls roasted mushroom & cauliflower sauce per person (recipe to follow)
To a very hot pan over high heat, add the butter or duck fat. When it has melted, add the potatoes and turn the heat to low.
Let the potatoes cook, undisturbed for about ten minutes then stir them around to brown the other side.
After a few more minutes, when the potatoes begin to soften and color, add the bell pepper, onion and duck. Stir to combine then let cook, undisturbed for another 10 minutes or so.
Stir again, then cover with foil and continue to cook over low heat while you poach the eggs. Turn on the broiler before poaching the eggs.
As you remove the eggs from the poaching water, crumble the hash with the chèvre and place the pan under the broiler for just a minute or two.
Divide the hash between plates, top with an egg (or two) and drizzle with sauce.
Roasted mushroom & cauliflower sauce (or soup)
This makes a delicious soup both for us and our dogs. You can adjust the thickness by adding or omitting chicken stock. Vegetable stock works too if you want to keep it vegetarian or use water if you don’t have any stock. When I serve myself this as a soup, I drizzle the top with truffle or Argan oil. You could also slice raw mushrooms very thinly, season them with sea salt and pepper, then marinate them in lemon juice, truffle and olive oils. Add these as a garnish on top of the soup.
The quantities below are just a suggestion. Using more or less vegetable will require more or less liquid. There are so few ingredients that the roasting and coloring of the mushrooms and cauliflower are what will yield the intensity of the flavor. I like using a ratio of more mushrooms than cauliflower to bring out the nutty earthiness but it is the cauliflower that smooths the consistency nicely enough to use it as a sauce. I use my Blendtec to puree which turns it velvety smooth.
10-12 oz Crimini mushrooms, stems discarded
1/4 head cauliflower, large stocks removed and discarded, florets separated
2 cups chicken stock (from this recipe if serving to pups)
Approximately 3 TB lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste (limit this if serving to pups)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the mushrooms and cauliflower on a sheet pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast them in the oven until the mushrooms are slightly crisp but not burnt and the cauliflower is browned, approximately 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender (again, if you have a Blendtec or similar, use that). Add the stock or water and lemon juice.
Puree until completely smooth. Add more liquid if needed or desired. The consistancy should tend toward the thickish-side. Season to taste and serve warm as a soup or a sauce.
Brunch is good!
Roasted carrots at Sitka & Spruce
Brussel sprout, flora & parsnip fritatta at Sitka & Spruce
Duck confit hash at Chez Stacey
Happy pups, begging for more at Chez Stacey