30 December, 2010

The benefit of memory lapses

The human memory is short, particularly when it comes to painful experiences.  That's one of the miracles of human proliferation.  Without the benefit of suppressed memory - let's call it selective amnesia -- few women would endure the pain of childbirth more than once (or so I've heard -- no first-hand experience, myself).  The same can be said for raising more than one puppy.

Clue, my Golden Retriever, is almost 12 years old.  I rescued her from a shelter when she was 10 months old - still a puppy with all the joys and aggravations that brings.  Over the years, the memories of chewed  shoes, chair rungs and rugs, ADHD at obedience classes, and mad escapes from the yard have faded. And, in my blissful state of amnesia -- or maybe it's conscious repression -- I aagreed to foster a puppy.During the holidays! Colour me crazy.

So Henry arrived.  A six-month old border collie mix rescued from a kill shelter in TN, Henry has charm, personality, and energy to burn.  In fact, he could probably power the city of New York all by himself.

Day One suckered me in.  A shy little bundle of fur, he appeared quiet, exhausted from the 24-hour trip and traumatized by all the changes in his short life.  That was the honeymoon... By Sunday morning he had recovered from the journey and was raring to go, full of puppy kisses, curiosity, and -- OMG -- energy.  He's been a whirlwind ever since, settling down for a nap only after meals. A very, short nap.

Everything is new, everything has to be investigated, sniffed, touched and, preferably, tasted.  Chew toys can't compete with the allure of shoes, though human fingers are an acceptable substitute,  and repentance for transgression can be measured in nanoseconds. On the plus side, he's really smart.   In just three days he's learned to sit for his treat - but not for anything else. "Come" means nothing; "No" even less. "Leave it" is beginning to filter through...slowly..but only when he feels like obeying. So far I've removed two pennies, a ballpoint pen, and tree bark pellets - among other things -- from his mouth. Yuck.

I decided not to crate train him.  My bad.  I religiously take him out every two hours and he's really good about doing his business.  No accidents in the house, I'm happy to report.  But bedtime?  SuperNanny couldn't cope with this little scamp.  Night One: 45 minutes of repeatedly putting him on his cushion, saying "bed" with a quick cuddle and a soft toy.  Night Two: 30 minutes, Night Three: 30 minutes.  Night Four: 30 minutes. We seem to be in a holding pattern. If he's not on my bed, he's on Clue's -- anywhere but his own.

The joys of raising a puppy are indescribable.  The small triumph when he learns to walk across the slippery floor, the pride when he returns at the call of his name -- even if it is a fluke.  And then there's the flip side: the discovery of a white Christmas on your bedroom floor when he shreds a queen-size roll of quilt batting or drags a 36" doggie bed through the entire house, knocking over everything in his way.  Did I mention he weighs 12 pounds!

As women we are biologically programmed to bear our children when our bodies are young and strong. Resilience is a prerequisite for motherhood. The same should apply to puppies, particularly since grandparents are far more willing to babysit for their two-legged grandchildren than the four-legged ones.

Soon Henry will go to his "forever" home and only the good memories will remain.  The painful memories will dim, the selective amnesia will cloud my sanity and, yes, I'll foster again.

14 December, 2010

Practical Holiday Giving

As I was writing end-of-the-year checks to various charities, it occurred to me that it was all pretty impersonal.  I knew the money would help, but it still felt kind of sterile. Every year I write checks, donate provisions to the local food bank, and bake cookies for the nursing home.  Blah, blah, blah.  Practical, but boring. There had to be a better way to give  meaning to this special season.

My brothers won't be traveling to CT this year. meaning  it's just my mother and I for Christmas dinner, so no big deal there (although I will be providing a gourmet menu).  I have time on my hands.  So what could I do to help more?  Take in a foster dog, of course.

Working with the Circle of Hope group out of Tennessee, I found Henry - a black lab/border collie mix. There are currently 70 others dogs, just at Circle of Hope, looking for foster homes - all have been pulled from kill shelters, and most are less than a year old. 

Henry will arrive Saturday and will stay until he finds a forever home.  His stocking is already hanging from the mantle, right beside my Golden's, and toys will soon be under the tree. I'm not sure Clue is quite as excited as I am, but I know she'll adjust to having a "sibling" to play with, and will enjoy the company -- if not sharing her "people." 

I think this is going to be a very, merry Christmas. 

13 December, 2010

No Fuss, No Muss Cocktail Food

This time of year there are never enough hours in the day, but I balk at skimping when it comes to serving food to friends and family.  Many years ago, someone gave me a cookbook called How not to miss the Cocktail Hour.  I loved the idea of not being stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun, and began compiling my own stash of recipes for entertaining. The holidays are here, so it's once again time to dig into my special box of "quick & easy, make ahead" goodies.  One of my favourites is marinated mushrooms, which can double as cocktail fare or an appetizer.  They can be served chilled or room temperature and, aged overnight, they only taste better!

Clue's Marinated Mushrooms
1 lb  small white and/or cremini mushrooms (quarter if large)
5 Tbsp  oil (vegetable or canola)
4 tsp  vinegar (white or cider)
3 tsp  chopped onions
3 Tbsp  dry white wine or white Vermouth
2 Tbsp  Cointreau
2 Tbsp  tomato paste
1 Tbsp 
chopped parsley
1/2 tsp 
Herbes de Provence (optional)

Salt & Pepper to taste
1 In a large frying pan, saute the onion in oil until it is light brown.
2 Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes.
3 Add all the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and simmer for 5 minutes
4 Cool. Serve alone or with toast points.

Serves 6