Two years ago today, our black dog was born to a precious litter we found out of Kingstree. My husband, being an avid duck hunter all his adult life, was ready to train his own hunting partner. We piled in the car, along with my brown dog so he could meet the little pup, and drove upstate. Choosing was easy, as there was only one black male available and we were sold. He was only three weeks old that day and we’d have to wait another three weeks to come back for him. And once we did it was game on. That little black was so full of life and spunk and still is today. He got one week of solid play and adjustment to his new digs and started training the next week. Each week adding new skills and learning new tactics.
To watch him hunt today is so inspiring. It reminds you on slow days when there’s barely a duck in the sky, that you gotta stay in it because he is. His hind legs twitch at the sight of birds flying by wishing they were ducks…and that we’d killed them. And don’t think he doesn’t know what it means when the alarm clock goes off at 3 or 4 am for a morning hunt. My husband has worked with a few close cousins and been active in the training practices and hunts using their dogs. He’s pooled lots of research, taken notes and observations along the way, and made adjustments where needed truly in line with the art of training a retriever and I couldn’t be more proud of his practice and the end result.
I didn’t grow up in a predominately duck hunting family, but bird dogs nonetheless. The focus being on quail, dove, and pheasant. My dad’s dad was an amazing bird dog trainer working mostly with pointers. Growing up with my older brother, we had a set of cousins our same age and each our own bird dogs. The boys had the boy dog—Tony, and the girls had the girl dog—Angel. What else did you expect? We got to help our granddad work with his own dogs running quail scent from wings tied to fishing poles and keeping the dogs at point. Talk about something amazing to watch was the way my granddad had such a connection with these dogs and shared such an intuitive common goal with them. My dad always like to share a great story capitalizing on the legend surrounding these dogs my grandfather produced. It reminds me a lot of that scene in The Notebook, after Noah re-finishes the house and the buyer offers him $10,000 more than his asking price. Noah refuses the sell because “He must be plain crazy to pay all the money and I’m not selling my house to a crazy person” or something along those lines…In the 1960s, some gentleman showed up at my grandfather’s house in a brand new Cadillac offering it as payment for one of his bird dogs. And in the same fashion, my dad said my grandfather’s response was, “I can’t do anything with a Cadillac.” And he continued training pointers until he no longer could.
So tonight we celebrate our black dog’s second of many birthdays, and another season of hard work with a homemade birthday cake! I’ve never made this recipe before but have made other dog treat recipes from one of my favorite books ever; Country Wisdom & Know-How, Everything You Need to Know to Live off the Land. A gift from my brother and sister-in-law, it’s always within hand’s reach at our house.
Here’s the recipe for Best Friend Birthday Cake and Frosting:
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup carob chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan. Combine all above ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into your pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, roughly 25 minutes. Allow cake to cool before frosting.
1 8 oz package low fat cream cheese
1/4 cup mashed bananas
2 tablespoons pure honey
1 tablespoon unbleached flour
1/2 cup carob chips
In medium sized bowl, combine cream cheese, bananas, honey, and flour; mix until smooth. Spread a thin layer of frosting onto the cooled cake. Sprinkle carob chips over frosting to decorate.
And if you’re wondering, both dogs devoured their cake and are sound asleep as I type.