This is Fred. He’s a Vizsla, eleven years old (and change) and he developed cancer. If you’re the weepy type, I suggest you stop reading here and skip right to the recipe at the bottom. On Saturday, Fred was no more. Unfortunately, the cancer he developed was inoperable in his breed, since Vizsla’s are sensitive to anesthesia and just as likely to not wake up from being put under as to undergo a complicated surgery.
When we first got a dog, I was about four. I’m not sure how my parents came to the conclusion of buying a Vizsla, but we did. We visited the breeder, somewhere in Northern Virginia, and picked out the runt of a litter of the hunting breed variety. I got to name him, and I called him Bob. We joke that we knew this was the dog for us because he wouldn’t leave me and my sister alone. We have a picture of my sister, who was about two, putting Bob in a headlock. If this puppy could wtihstand a headlock, he was definitely meant for our family.
If you’ve ever owned a Vizsla you know what comes next, you are inexplicably smitten with this dog and all you can talk about is how freakin’ awesome they are. Perhaps Bob was an exceptional dog, he was very well mannered, ultra-sweet with kids, and a total pushover. I mean we used to put this poor guy in a sweatshirt, tie the arms together where his front legs were and then call him to try and get him to walk across the room. Yeah, it was pretty mean, but the amount of table scrapes and the number of times I snuck him into my room to sleep under my bed more than made up for it.
When I was in 8th grade, we decided to get another Vizsla puppy. Bob was about eight years old, and still pretty sprightly. This time, we got the runt of a litter of the show dog variety. My sister got to name him, but I bullied her into calling him Fred. So basically, I named them both. It’s okay, she got to name a couple cats.
The biggest difference between Bob and Fred, besides their build, was absolutely their personalities. Where Bob was a bit stoic, pretty sturdy and even-keeled, Fred was a freakin’ maniac. I have never seen such an excitable puppy in my entire life. His ears were way too big for his body and he tripped on them constantly, probably causing him brain damage, which would explain a lot of his eccentricities. And let me tell you, this dog was eccentric. He was beyond squirmy, could never sit still, had all sorts of phobias (loud noises, big objects, shadows, his own shadow) and absolutely had to be at the front of the pack when we went on walks. He would practically choke himself out on the leash trying to push ahead of Bob, who of course, had the same need to be at the front.
Overtime we developed a few names for Fred, Freidrich von Hossel Dork, Weiner and my dad’s favorite, Betty. To say that Fred is a little effeminate would be a massive understatement. If dogs are gay, Fred most certainly was. When he sat, he’d primly cross his front paws in front him like a good girl would cross her ankles when she was seated in a chair. Everything about him was dainty and prim.
Then there were his other bizarre habits. He’d constantly sit on Bob, not that Bob minded, but it was a little odd; in fact, he always had to be touching someone when he was in the room. And his favorite activity of all time was to wiggle between your legs and then plant himself right there, digging his skull into your butt. It was really weird, and you got used to it after awhile, though when he did it to guests you felt a little awkward. “Oh, I’m so sorry, he just likes to be between your knees. I know, I’m sorry. I’m just going, uhm, excuse me, I’m just going to reach between your legs and awkwardly drag my dog out. Yeah, we’re getting personal, sorry.”
When I was in college, my dad managed to convince my mother he needed a hunting dog. Despite the fact that both Bob and Fred were technically bird dogs, neither of them had the constitution for hunting. My dad chose an English English Springer Spaniel and named him Butch. By this point Bob was probably around 13 and Fred was about five. I don’t remember much about Butch as a puppy but I do know that he most certainly extended Bob’s life by a solid two or more years. My senior year of college, Bob developed several funky tumors and growths, and my parents came home one day to find him in so much pain, they put him to sleep immediately. He was 17 years old.
I guess we were spoiled with Bob, he was such a good dog and lived an eternity that it came as a shock a few months ago when I learned that Fred was really sick. In the last few months of Bob’s life, he had taken to peeing in the kitchen overnight, simply because he was too old to wait until the morning. Fred had developed the same tendency, except he peed constantly and everywhere. After several trips to the vet it looked like this was probably just the new normal. He’d wear a doggie diaper in the house, sleep in the basement on a plastic covered bed and we’d call it a day.
Then a week ago, I got a call as I was finishing dinner after apple picking. Fred had bladder cancer. It was inoperable, we were going to have to put him down. Being the giant sissy I am, and because I already had plans to attend homecoming in Pennsylvania that weekend, I came home on Thursday to hang out with him one last time. Friday morning I took most of these pictures. By the time you read this on Monday, Fred will have passed.
It’s always hard to lose a pet, and honestly every time it happens I think to myself, “Why even go through with it? Just make lots of friends who have pets and spend time with them instead. Avoid the heartbreak.” But then you can’t snuggle with them when you sleep and you can’t give them awesome names, like Bob and Fred (or my cat from college Mr. Larry Pickles, who still lives with my parents), and you certainly don’t get all the benefits of having an animal whose sole purpose in life, it seems, is to make your life better.
On Pinterest I saw a quote with a picture of a boy and his dog. It’s supposed to be a true story. A family had just had to put their dog down and as everyone is commiserating over the death and wondering aloud why pets have to leave us so early, their six-year-old boy pipes up with something like this, “Well, we’re put on this earth to learn to love and respect others right? But a dog comes into this world already knowing how to love and so, he doesn’t have to stay here as long to figure it out like we do.”
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
12 tbsp (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1-1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips (I’ve made these with semi-sweet and I felt that the cookies aren’t sweet enough, the batch pictured have 1/3 cup milk chocolate, 1/3 cup peanut butter and 2/3 cup butterscotch chips)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
Place 1 stick of butter in a large sauce pan and melt over medium high heat until it begins to turn a caramel color and smells nutty. This process happens fairly quickly so keep an eye on it and keep swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. Once the butter is browned, pour it in a heatproof bowl and melt the remaining half a stick of butter in it. DO NOT try and take the lazy route here and brown all 12 tbsp of butter. If the butter is too thick in the pan you’ll just end up partially clarifying it instead of browning. You need a fairly shallow amount of butter in the pan for this to work.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the sugars and butter for about 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and then the egg and egg yolk and continue to mix until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. The dough will be a little bit tougher than normal cookie dough. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Place rounded heaping tablespoons of the dough an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges are just turning golden. Let sit on the pan to cool for 5 minutes – this is really important because the cookies are still soft when they come out of the oven and will lose their shape if you try to move them too soon. Remove from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Can keep in an air tight container at room temperature for a two weeks.