by Ali Berlow
She took his head into her hands, stroking his ears and the softness of his cheeks. Looking into those cinnamon pools of brown eyes and the blackness of his face, she put her lips close enough to his so that he could take the treat gently from her mouth. His soft pink tongue, the tip of his cold wet nose tickled her, but she didn’t mind. Jake was well versed in this routine and understood that this was not going to be the last treat. He wouldn’t dare drool. There was no need to be greedy, more was on his way. He licked his gray whiskers with satisfaction and lay back down on his sheepskin daybed, opting for a leisurely nap before their next liver-flavored encounter.
She baked the dog biscuits as a present for the love of her life and the only one who loved her back unconditionally—Jake, her fourteen year-old black lab. It was the least she could do for an arthritic old friend although the actual cooking process was one of the grossest things that she’s ever done in her kitchen. She was grateful that no one was around to witness or comment besides Jake, of course, and he was, as always, close by her side, dreaming not of cages but of chasing tennis balls, digging in the sand, and swimming at Sepiessa.
It only took a few pulses of the blender to liquefy an entire pound of raw organic chicken livers into a smooth, velvety consistency. The crimson blood color seemed startling at first, or maybe it was just amazing how little it took to turn all those livers into one large frothy frappe that looked like something you could buy at Starbucks for $4.25. Then she added a fertilized egg—shell and all—along with a vitamin E capsule and some flax seed oil and gave it one last buzz for good measure. At this point in Jake’s aged life, he needed all the extra nutrients he could get. Recently he’d been having some trouble getting up in the morning and making it down the stairs and out the door to. . .you know. . .do his duty.
Little bits of ground up eggshell clung to the inside of the blender when she poured the liquid liver into the mixing bowl of her Kitchen-Aid. Then she added a cup of whole-wheat flour, an equal amount cornmeal, about two tablespoons of garlic powder (because it’s supposed to keep the fleas away), a drop or two of echinacea to boost Jake’s immune system, and squirts of turmeric extract and holy basil for good measure.
The resulting smell of re-hydrated garlic concentrate and raw liquefied organ meat was so strong at this point that she lit some seven-day scented candles. But that did nothing in the short term other than add perplexing layers of scent and saints. As she patted down the dense, brown, gritty batter onto a parchment paper lined jelly pan and put it into the hot oven, she experienced a sensory flashback that brought to mind the carpeting inside of Terminal C at Logan Airport and a muzak déjà vu of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The sheet of biscuits baked up in 15 minutes. She cut them up while they were still warm—into nothing fancy, just lopsided rectangles. She and Jake played their kissing game once the treats cooled down enough and he’d shaken himself awake on those hobbled legs and smiled at her. When he focused his gaze with those loving devoted eyes, she thought to herself with a liver treat clenched firmly between her teeth, “Who are you?” and then she gave Jake a sweet caress, a kiss, another treat.