Yesterday, I was hanging out on Facebook–a not unusual pastime, truth be told–when I came across a picture of a lovely dog, a German Shepard mix, on the San Antonio Pets Alive page.  The wonderful people at SAPA were trying to assist her owner in finding Natasha a new place to live because they didn’t have room to keep her at their no-kill facility.  Natasha’s family had run into the kind of bad luck that requires big changes in your life. This meant that, although she had been a very good friend to a young boy with autism, that boy’s single father had to give Natasha up for adoption and move himself and his son across the country.  They were headed for housing that simply wouldn’t permit them to keep their very special dog.

Natasha is seven years old, and she’s a larger breed.  Those were two big strikes against her, in terms of finding her a new family.  The father had 24 hours left before Natasha would have to be surrendered to Animal Control–and as an older, owner-surrendered dog, Natasha wouldn’t be kept for long after that happened.  I see stories like this on a fairly regular basis, via the SAPA Facebook feed, and they always break my heart, but something about this particular story compelled me to click on the “Share” button.  I don’t do that very often.  Not because I don’t care, but because everybody has their own sorrows in this world, and I don’t see the point in adding to that load.

Well.

Perhaps I don’t need to remind you of this, but there are angels among us here on Earth.  Within minutes of sharing that photo–literally, minutes–my friend Cyn left me a message saying that she would email the owner and adopt Natasha.  Various logistical machinations and one day later, Cyn and her husband brought Natasha–now named Preacher–to their home.  And within minutes of seeing that message, I started gathering the ingredients to make a batch of Good Dog Treats to welcome Preacher to our neighborhood.

I started with this recipe, though in the end I was just doing my own thing, as is so often the case in the Foodie kitchen.  These treats are really easy to make and full of things that are good for any canine companion.  (Also for people, but because they have no sugar and are very, very hard, I don’t recommend eating them.)   You don’t even need a rolling pin, in spite of the fact that these are cut-out treats.  Just work with half of the dough at a time, pat it into a circle about a quarter of an inch thick, and use your favorite cookie cutter to create the treats.  I used a bone-shaped cutter, for obvious reasons, but these would be a very cute Christmas gift for a friend’s dog if you cut them into holiday shapes.  (Long ago, I knew a dog named Spiderman.  Imagine the fun you could have making treats for that dog on his birthday.)  I also included a bone-shaped cutter in the bowl of treats I took to Cyn, just so she’d be set up to make her own batch when these run out.

The number of treats you’ll end up with depends completely on the size of treats you’ll make, as does the baking time.  For larger treats, like the bones in the photos above, 30 to 40 minutes will do the trick.  The treats should not be soft on top when you touch them lightly–they should have the texture of dog biscuits even before they come out of the oven.  For the tiny treats, which I made from the leftover scraps of dough, about 10 minutes will give them the desired texture.  These are handy for quick reinforcement of good behavior.  You could turn a whole batch of this dough into tiny treats, for that matter, although you’d be sacrificing the “They’re so cute!” factor.

Before I took these treats to Cyn and Preacher, I tried them out on the Foodie family’s faithful sidekick, Hailey.  She has never been known to turn away from a snack, so I figured she was an excellent test subject.  Her verdict?  See for yourself.

And with that, I headed off to meet the dog whose new name is a testament in itself:  she tells me that bad situations can turn into something good, that open hearts aren’t that hard to come by, that people care about each other (and about each others’ animals) even when they don’t absolutely have to–and that sometimes, the opportunity to help somebody out is as easy as clicking a button with your computer mouse.   It doesn’t cost a thing to spread the word.

Welcome home, Preacher, you beautiful girl!

Good Dog Treats

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat or all-purpose white)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 T. smooth peanut butter
2 T. molasses
More flour, for kneading and cutting

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir to distribute. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture; add the eggs, pumpkin, peanut butter and molasses to the well. Using a wooden spoon, stir to create a sticky dough.

Sprinkle flour on a cutting board or countertop. Place half of the dough on this surface and sprinkle the dough with more flour. Knead the dough until it's dry and pliable, adding more flour if necessary. Pat the dough into a circle about 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes, using cookie cutters. (You can also use a sharp knife to create bars or tiny treats of any shape.)

Transfer the cut-out treats to a cookie sheet. Bake larger treats for 30 minutes, then test the surface texture. They should be firm, not squishy, before they come out of the oven. Smaller treats may need to bake only 10 to 15 minutes.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough.

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