{blog hop} dog days of summer: puppy dog eyes, a picnic for buddy girl and daisy may + picnic rice salad

My first photo of Starbuck: this is the day I brought her home from the Humane Society.

This time of year, late July and early August, holds a special place in my heart. Three years ago, on July 29th, I took my dinner break from work and headed over to the San Diego Humane Society/ASPCA to look at a dog that I'd seen on their website. When I got there, that perfectly groomed 2 year old white and brown cocker had nearly 10 holds on him. Ten! So I decided he wasn't going to be the one for me and I continued to stroll the corridor and look at the other dog apartments, knowing none of the other dogs pictured on their website really spoke to me.

I'd been looking for the right dog for nearly two years and had made countless trips to the ASPCA and several dog rescue adoption events and still no pooch to call my own. They were either small yappy breeds or big tough ones. But I strolled the hallways this particular evening anyway having another 45 minutes to kill before my dinner break was over. Two apartments down from the cocker I went to see was a case in point: a very yappy small jack russell mix was at the window overly excited and trying desperately to get my attention. I stopped to say hello and noticed he had a roommate. There was a dog about twice his size on the floor chewing on her toy quietly ignoring the terrier's annoying overly excited barking. With her back towards me, I couldn't tell what kind of dog she was so I took note of the information on the door: Lettie, an American Cocker Spaniel, 10 months old.

Whoa! Wait! She wasn't on the website. I stood and watched for a minute as the terrier continued to bark and jump off the window love seat, run around and jump up again to bark at me. The whole time, that little cocker kept her back towards me and continued to play with her toy. Was she hard of hearing or just so well balanced that an excited dog garnered no attention?

 I went to the front desk and asked to meet her. Ten minutes later I walked into that apartment and of course, the russell terrier was jumping and nipping at me while Lettie moved towards the volunteer expectantly and peed on the floor when the volunteer bent towards her to pet her. I sat down and proceeded to listen to the volunteer talk about Lettie while she was stroking her. The kennel was filled with puddles of urine everywhere and really reeked. What was I doing here? I'm not a dog person. This is such a huge commitment. Do I really want to do this? Why did I listen to everyone telling me I needed a fur companion?

"Lettie was found by a woman on the street while she was walking her own dogs. She brought her in two months ago and we found Lettie had a hernia and was undernourished and disheveled. We performed surgery for the hernia and she was just released into the general population this morning. Lettie, like most cocker spaniels, does suffer from excited peeing … "

My thoughts hung on "this morning." What are the odds of that? As the volunteer spoke, the jack russell had gotten up onto the chair next to me and was barking at me and scratching at my arm. Lettie was watching me but had yet to make a move towards me. As soon as the terrier jumped off the chair, Lettie worked her way loose from the volunteer and walked over towards me, tail wagging, butt wiggling, she rubbed up against my legs like my cat used to do, licked my hand and sat in front of me, eyes looking up towards me. It was then that I understood the phrase, "puppy dog eyes" and that was it. That was the moment I fell in love with this little fur baby of mine. Three days later, on July 31st, I returned to the Humane Society, met with the vet who explained the hernia, the issues with the peeing and how to help her get over that as well as a few other things that I suppose were meant to dissuade anyone who wasn't absolutely sure about what the journey they were embarking on entailed. I listened and asked questions and even though I was nervous about this new addition to my home, there was a calm voice inside telling me all will be fine. 

I filled out the paperwork and asked if I could change her name. Yes, of course, they said so as I watched Lettie doing her own thing, ignoring the other dogs, I decided to name her Starbuck after a character on my favorite show at the time, "Battlestar Galactica." Captain Kara Thrace, call sign "Starbuck" was a gifted fighter pilot who danced to the beat of her own drum and ultimately, saved the human race. 

A fitting name for a pooch who in many ways, saved me. 

golden angels: lessons in love and loss from buddy girl & daisy may

Looking for feedback, in September of last year, fellow food blogger and friend Stephanie Weaver sent me and a few others a preview copy of her e-book, "Golden Angels: Lessons in love and loss from Buddy Girl & Daisy May." This moving collection of 13 essays and recipes documenting Stephanie's and her husband's loss of their first golden retriever, Buddy Girl, to cancer and their eventual ability to move on and adopt their next golden retriever, Daisy May, is a brave, soul-bearing roller coaster of emotions
An excerpt from "Golden Angels: Lessons on love and loss from Buddy Girl & Daisy May"

At the time I was still very much in the depths of my own grief and could not provide the feedback she needed. But as time has gone by, I have gone back to read an essay at a time and found myself stopping to look at my fur child and do what I can to squash the little voice in my head that says to me, "you'll go through this too, one day."  Although the book is about loss, it is also about release and moving forward. The lessons are universal and as Stephanie told me just this past Sunday, "It can be a great tool for family's to use to help them through their own grief whether over a beloved pet or a human loss of a grandparent or other relative."

The e-book, currently available on Amazon, is doing well. The Kindle version has an average rating of 4.8 stars. But people are expressing the desire to give this powerful book to friends who recently lost their pet. An e-book doesn't fit that need. Independent pet stores and vets have also expressed interest in selling the book.

enter Kickstarter

Stephanie's initial Kickstarter campaign goal was to raise $2,500 to pay the designer and fund a small print run of the book. That goal was met not even halfway through the campaign. So Stephanie's next goal is $12,000, which will cover the cost of 2,000 copies and a 4-6 city book tour. 

If you've ever loved a dog and suffered loss or if you are a current dog owner, this book is a comfort and joy. Filled with loving memories we all can relate to and recipes for both humans and fur babies, this book is worth being a part of. Consider making a $5 donation and passing on the information to a few fellow dog-loving friends. To find out more about Stephanie, head on over to her blog. To find out more about the Kickstarter campaign and to contribute ($1 minimum pledge), click here

a doggie picnic

Yesterday, Stephanie invited a few people over to meet Daisy and have a picnic in their dog-friendly backyard. Stephanie and I have been wanting to get our "girls" together for quite some time so I was happy to partake. My only hurdle was coming up with a dish to share. As you 'Confessions' readers well know, I'm a carb-loving carnivore. Stephanie is gluten-free and vegan. OH BOY! What to make? With several consecutive days of overtime at the newsmill, I had yet to think of what to make right up to the morning of the picnic. I knew I had brown rice in my pantry and headed down to the kitchen to see what other ingredients I could come up with. I found golden raisins, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, pepitas and pine nuts, celery hearts with leaves and arugula. Yes, I think I have the makings for an interesting salad. This is super simple and can be adapted for whatever you have on hand. No pepitas? No problem. Substitute sunflower seeds or slivered almonds. No cucumber? Try edamame or sugar snap peas. How about fresh tomatoes in place of the sun-dried? Have fun with it and make it your own. 

Our four-legged hostess, Daisy May.

The pooches went ga-ga over these dog biscuits that Stephanie made. I need to get the recipe!
I'm calling this Picnic Rice Salad because I came up with it on the fly for the picnic but it's delicious any time!
picnic rice salad

Serves 8-12

To make the rice:
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon country style dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon infused olive oil (or plain olive and the zest of 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup brown rice, rinsed

Add the water, mustard and oil to a pot with a tightly fitting lid. Bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper and the brown rice. Bring to a rolling boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and set timer for 25 minutes. Once the timer goes off, do not lift the lid. Reset timer for 10 minutes to allow rice to continue steaming. After it rests for the 10 minutes, drain any remaining liquid and spread the rice out onto a lipped sheet pan to cool while you finish preparing the other components.

For the salad:
1/2 cup peeled and diced seedless cucumber
1/3 cup jarred sun-dried tomatoes, rough chopped
3 inner stalks of celery with leaves, chopped fine
2 cups of arugula leaves, rough chopped
1/4 cup diced red onions
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup pine nuts

Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

For the dressing:
1/2 cup lemon infused olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon country style dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar (or agave syrup if you have)

Add ingredients to a small bowl and whisk well to incorporate all the ingredients.

To assemble:
Add the cooled rice to the bowl with the veggies. Drizzle with the dressing and stir well to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate and allow to chill for a few hours. 

New friends! Starbuck and Daisy got along so well. I'm so pleased!

Until next time friends, wishing you peace and love...

P.S. There are a few of us helping to spread the word about this awesome project. Check out the other blogs participating below!