Saturday, 10 January 2009

Heartache, Friendship, and Muffins.

When wedding for the second time, if one is not terribly old, that person is faced with the decision to have more children - or not. I merely inquired if I might have a puppy instead.
Merlin, my Shih-Tzu, is now 8 1/2. He was welcomed into the home, not terribly warmly, by the cat. Eventually they became friends and she taught him how to be a cat. Merlin loves to sit on the cushions of the couch and bask in the sunlight and enjoys a delicate balance of affection and personal space.
Two years ago, along came Bella, the pug. Hyper and silly, Bella surprised us by acting very puppy-like. She brought us balls and insisted that we throw them for her. She barked at the neighbours and gulped down her food without chewing. A very different puppy indeed. She also settled in as the baby of the house. Wanting to forever be on mommy's lap, upright like a real baby. To examine what I am eating, reading, doing, at all times. While Merlin enjoys relative proximity at the bottom of the bed, Bella likes to be wedged right in with the human bodies. So for the last two years, there have been few steps that I have taken that she has not taken with me, my little baby.
The week before Christmas, my baby suffered a grand mal seizure. I will spare you the details, and say only that I didn't think she would survive it. She did. It took a long time to get the pictures out of my head. After the check-ups we adopted a wait-and-see stance and I was relieved when she went through the holidays symptom free. Then a week ago, she had another one. Home alone, I called the vet and they said to record it and keep them posted. Hours later she had another one. Now it was an emergency, get her to the vet right away to start her on phenobarbital. I grabbed my coat and my pug and ran out the door to flag down a neighbour. The first one I saw was a big, woolly man who lives across the street and two doors down. Close enough to recognize and wave to, but hardly a first name basis. By the time I cut across his lawn with my baby in my arms, tears were streaming down my face and obscuring my words. It didn't matter. He immediately stated that he would take me to the vet and started up the car. He stayed with me while the vet filled the prescription and taught me how to take care of an epileptic dog. He took me home again, brushing off my thank-yous and asking me only one playful question when we got to my house - Do you know my name? Thankfully I did, just.
Bella seized three more times in the next 24 hours, until the meds kicked in. My son stayed home with me all last weekend to help take care of her. Even this big, tough, young man was shaken by her seizures. The drugs took some getting used to. She had a couple of accidents in the first two days, she is sleepier and stumbles when she walks. More importantly, she has been seizure free for a week now. Of course, the amount of attention the pups receive has increased even more since then, I would never have thought it was possible.
Life being more or less normal now, I decided to bake a thank you gift for my neighbour. I made Ina Garten's Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins. They are probably the best muffins that I have ever had. The ones in the picture are not the prettiest ones. All the best ones went to the neighbour, of course.

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins, Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream (I used plain yogurt)
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 paper liners in muffin pans.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup just over the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.
I have kept Bella's situation fairly private until now, I would like to thank those few who knew for their generous and unending support, friendship and love.