HIS FICTIONAL TWIN, THE GRINCH, WHO IS THE SOLE CLINICAL CASE TO HAVE BENEFITED FROM THIS MEDICAL ILLNESS
This past week, August 26th to be exact, my dog-son Dumpling turned 15 years old, almost 100 years old in human-years.
For small breeds such as the Maltese that he is, this may not be the most ground-shaking news, probably not even rare, but for my Dumpling, it is nothing less than a medical miracle. About a year and a half ago, shortly after the departure of our Frenchie Bado (here’s a short bio on the family, so far), Dumpling was rushed to the hospital after fainting in my arms with a screeching cry, where we were told that he was developing a severe case of congestive heart failure. It was ironic… really, for a borderline sociopathic dog loathed by almost everyone outside of his immediate families, to end up with a condition where his tiny angry heart, unstoppable and irreversibly, grew larger and larger by the day. But unlike his fictional twin, the Grinch, who is the sole clinical case to have benefited from this medical illness, for my Dumpling, what this actually meant was that… Christmas was really fucked.
The condition crippled his kidney, flooded his lungs with fluids, depriving his body of much needed oxygens and sending a previously active-if-not-hostile senior dog into a state of chronic fatigues and coughing. Then, the combatting medications, as if charging him for a toll for keeping him alive so far, have also distablized his digestive system and robbed him of the very few joys of living he still had… aka, honeydew melon and over-ripen persimmons. As for me, his mom/slave-nurse, the following 20 months staggering with hospital visits, endless cycles of pills, roller-coastering anxieties and virtually total loss of freedom, was undoubtedly, the unhappiest time of my life. I don’t like to talk about it too often. I’m not sure how. To wake up in the middle of nights, conflicted, not knowing if it was good or bad to see his little chest still moving up and down in darkness, is an emotion that I don’t know if you could understand.
I know there are people, many actually, who express disdain at the comparison between dogs and children. Saying, they just aren’t the same. Well, I agree. This kind of love isn’t coded in genetics, isn’t withheld by future hopes and prospects. It isn’t even a continuation of my existence, a glorified saying for animal’s instinct to procreate. I am guaranteed with nothing from this love except for an expiration date and one certain heart-break, a deal-breaking condition well within reasons for many human-relationships, even parental ones. It is, to me, truly unconditional, and an even more special kind of love.
So, for his b-day, I baked a cake. And you know how I hate baking. But I baked a cake. For my wrinkly son.
It may very well be… the last time that I could have. So I’m making it count.
It was a 3-tiered meatloaf “cake” designed with 63% good proteins like lean beef, chicken and egg, with 15% vegetables and 15% rice and oatmeals, and fortified with skin-friendly safflower oil, and a dash of toasted sesame oil to make it smell really good. Then it was “frosted” with a creamy layer of lightly buttered mashed potato, delivering essential vitamins and minerals. Despite what you may be thinking, it was, actually, extremely easy to make. About 1:30 hours in the kitchen, maximumly 2 from start to finish. If seeing your dog’s nose twitch and wiggle in ecstasy and his saliva forming a large bubble on the side of his mouth, isn’t worth this kind of time on your hands. Then maybe, we’re just no the same people.
Then maybe, you can’t understand.
- 1 cup (75 grams) diced broccoli
- 1/4 cup (40 rams) diced carrot
- 1 shallot, peeled (PLEASE READ NOTE)
- 1 clove garlic, smashed (PLEASE READ NOTE)
- 9.2 oz (260 grams) skinless/boneless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
- 9.2 oz (260 grams) lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup (86 grams) cooked white rice
- 3/4 cup (82 grams) quick-cooking oats
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 tbsp (20 grams) safflower oil, or flaxseed oil
- 1 tbsp (14 grams) toasted sesame oil
- 2 large (580 grams after peel) starchy potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 3 tbsp (42 grams) unsalted butter
- TO MAKE THE MEATLOAF CAKE: Preheat the oven on 350 F/175 C. In a food-processor, pulse and run broccoli, carrot, shallot and garlic until finely minced, then set aside in another bowl. Add the skinless/boneless chicken thighs to the food-processor, and pulse/run until it's evenly and smoothly ground and sticky (you may have to scrape the sides and bottom a couple times). Now add the ground beef and cooked white rice, then run the processor again for about 1 min until the mixture is paste-like and sticky again. This step strengthens the bondage between protein and water, reducing the amount of moisture the "cake" will lose during baking. Now add the quick-cooking oat and the large egg, and run for another min for the same effect. Then add the safflower oil (or flaxseed oil) and toasted sesame oil, and run for another min. Now add the minced vegetables back to the food-processor, and pulse until evenly combined.
- Line a 5 1/2" (18 cm) round cake-pan with parchment, then transfer the mixture inside, pressing it down gently and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 45 ~ 50 min an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean (or until the internal temperature reaches 160 F/71 C). Remove from the pan and set aside on a cooling rack for 30 min, or until cool enough to handle.
- TO MAKE THE POTATO "FROSTING": While the cake is baking, make the "frosting". In a large pot, add enough cold water until it covers the diced potatoes, then bring to a gentle boil, and cook until a pairing knife can be easily inserted into the potatoes, approx 10~15 min. Drain the potatoes and return to the hot pot for 10 min so excess moisture can evaporate. Transfer to a cleaned food-processor along with unsalted butter, then pulse/run until the potatoes are smoothly pureed. The food-processor will make the mashed potato a bit sticky and gummy, which is exactly the kind of support we want for the cake as a frosting. And guess what, dogs don't care about gumminess.
- TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: With a long serrated knife, cut the meatloaf-cake horizontally into 3 layers. Smear a thin layer of potato-frosting in between each meatloaf-layers, then stack them up. Then cover the exterior surface evenly with the rest of the potato-frosting. It can be as rustic or as refined as you like. If you want a smooth surface like this one, you can lightly oil the surface of a butter knife, then gently drag it across the surface to smooth it (apply more oil to the knife as needed). Decorate the cake with chive flowers like I did, or with doggy biscuits and whatever your dog loves. Then don't torture your dogs any further. Let them have at it immediately.
Because of my dog's special health condition, I've eliminated salt and organs from the recipe. But for perfectly healthy dogs, you can add a pinch of salt and a couple of chicken livers to the meatloaf mixture.
I changed the shallot and garlic as "optional" because dogs aren't supposed to eat them. But it does help with Dumpling's appetite and at this stage there's no point making something perfectly healthy that he doesn't want to eat. So I decided to add them, but for normal situations, please omit them.