by Deborah L. Costella
“The Giving Tree” is a children’s story written by Shel Silverstein. A tale of unconditional love demonstrating, in simple yet beautiful prose, how pain, sorrow and joy are part and parcel of the give and take pendulum. It’s about the relationship between an apple tree and her beloved “Boy,” a relationship akin to that of dogs and those who love and care for them. For dogs, I have learned, are much like giving trees.
His mistreatment must have been particularly brutal during feedings, as it took years for him to eat from his food while anyone was present. He drank water in front of the humans, but never would he eat so much as a morsel if anyone was standing nearby. He quickly learned to fill up on water whenever it was available.
It was a particularly nice spring day, a day when hummingbirds were sharing with one another at the feeders, a day when mother quails proudly strutted about the yard showing off their changelings, a day that offered promise and hope. A day so nice in fact, this young and not-so-carefree animal could no longer stand the confinement of his cage. He wanted out. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been allowed out of his small metal housing to run, jump or play. He just lay, head resting on crossed front paws, watching the world pass by. Always confused and sad, for no matter how hard he tried to keep the mean man and meaner lady happy, they were always angry with him. He was always in trouble. Today, he made his decision.
After hours of crying, whining, biting and chewing, he finally managed to somehow break the latch and found himself standing on the outside of the cage, looking in. His crud-caked water bowl, dry as ever, offered nothing. No kibble was left in the turned over and cracked food bowl. Only bits and pieces scattered in the dirt, serving as a buffet for the ants. And his blanket? Staring at the one thing that gave him comfort after the beatings while providing companionship during the long lonely hours in his cage, well, dragging the blanket out just meant dragging the memories it held around with him. The dog backed away a few steps then looked around, casing the expansive yard he was rarely permitted to enjoy. A last-minute change of mind and a mad dash back to the cage he grabbed his torn and tattered blanket. Holding it tightly in his teeth, he frantically made his way out of the yard through a small hole under the fence. He was out.
Not knowing which direction would best secure his freedom, the dog ran as fast as his skinny and weakened legs could carry him, all the while, clenching his blankie between his teeth as though it were a shield. The barking and yelping of other nearby dogs caused only a momentary pause. Their frantic barking sounded as though they were yelling at him to keep going, to be the one dog to save himself thereby, saving them all. Unsure of his surroundings but instinctively knowing he had to get as far away from the old house as possible, he didn’t waiver. He was incredibly thirsty, but he had long ago learned to deal with thirst that felt like pine needles on his tongue and down his throat. He courageously marched on unfettered by discomfort.
Finding himself on a street clear of muted colored cars and near-flat tires and far softer, greener lawns, he felt safer. This caused him to slow his gait so to better enjoy his surroundings. “Look!” shouted a voice from a passing car. As the car reduced its speed, the frightened dog could hear a child through the open window. “Look, it’s a puppy carrying his own blanket!” “He’s so cute,” said another, higher pitched voice. “It doesn’t look like he’s wearing a collar!” said the first voice again. “Look at how skinny he is, poor little thing,” murmured yet another voice.
Instead of running from the now stopped car, the dog stood, curious and innocent. Then, the back door opened, next thing he knew he had been picked up by a child and pulled into the car. The trembling puppy sat on the lap of the first voice as the higher pitched voice softly stroked him behind the ears. The lady in the front seat turned and passed back bits of a partially eaten ham and cheese sandwich. As hungry as he was, the puppy didn’t dare take a bite.
Carefully and cautiously the boy, his sister, and their parents taught Franklin, as they dubbed him, to sit, wait, and how to walk on a leash. There was food at the same time each day and lots of water. Though food was abundant in this home and was without punishment, Franklin still consumed far more water than food. He played with the family regularly, was taken on walks every morning, and slept on a clean pillow big enough to give a Great Dane cozy-comfort. And the trees, so many giving trees. Franklin loved trees and they were everywhere in this new yard. There were trees that provided shade, trees that dropped apples and figs for Franklin and the children to eat and enjoy. Trees that sent big, crunchy leaves, gently falling to the grassy ground as gifts for Franklin and the children to play in. Big, beautiful giving trees.
Though it had been nearly three months since this family had rescued him and Franklin believed he had found his forever family, what he didn’t know, was they were actively searching for a new home for him. There were already three other dogs in the household and that just didn’t leave room for another, according to the mother.
Still a puppy, but with the wisdom and awareness that comes with intimate exposure to difficulties and hardship in life, Franklin left his new home and his loving family to live with a single lady. Her name was Rosamund; she had no children, no male companion and no other pets. While this new owner didn’t beat Franklin as his original owners had, she was just as cruel in another way, neglect.
Franklin’s new home didn’t include a doggie door so he couldn’t get in and out as needed. Rosamund worked long hours and traveled so she never took the time to put in a doggie-door. Worse, she never walked Franklin. He spent his long, lonely days in yet another barren back yard. There were no flowers, bushes or giving trees, only dirt, gravel and an exposed pad of concrete. Nothing to provide shade or refuge in the sweltering Las Vegas summers. Where did the other family go?, wondered Franklin. What did I do to make them send me away?, he thought pondering these questions for days, weeks, months, eventually years. Then one day it happened.
It was a scorching hot day in July when Franklin was unwittingly lured out of that desolate back yard. Not by anyone concerned about his well-being, rather by two bad guys who showed up to do bad things, yet inadvertently did something wonderful. Enticing the now full grown, black dog, without tags, not fixed and no longer able to discern good people from bad in his hunger for companionship, turned out to be a true gift, eventually. Franklin heeded their directions and the bits of steak they had armed themselves with, gleefully following them out from the back yard into the open world of the front yard. Turning around to see what they wanted him to do next, Franklin saw they were gone and they had closed the back gate, leaving him alone once again. He stood in his spot patiently and waited and waited. They never did come out.
Franklin realized there was nothing else for him to do but walk. To walk away from the house and yard where he had spent the last ten years. Already hot and thirsty, Franklin made his way through the neighborhood. Hours later an elderly gentleman called out to him, looking as though he held a bowl of something in his hands. Franklin was dubious about approaching any more humans, so he turned and ran in the other direction. Now panting and hot, so hot the pain in his hips from years of sitting on hard concrete and solid dirt was almost too much to bear. Franklin didn’t know what else to do, so he just kept walking.
A sense of the familiar washed over Franklin as he heard a vehicle slow down alongside him. There were no children in the backseat this time, only a single man. His voice was kind as he called out to Franklin, “Here boy, come here, fella.” Instead of bringing him into the truck to sit on his lap, the man swooped Franklin up and carried him in the back of the truck. There, Franklin was locked in a cage, alongside many other cages with many other dogs inside them. Oh no, was all Franklin could think.
We celebrated my birthday for only the second time. Though no one knows for certain how old I really am, the decision was made last year, to celebrate on July 4th, the day I was rescued by my new dad. I heard the lady they call, Nana, say I’m about 13 years old, “That would be 91 in dog years,” she said. Yesterday’s birthday party was the best one yet! We went to Auntie Sharon and Uncle Daniel’s house where I played with my cousins Uli and Lincoln all day long. We ran up the stairs and we ran down the stairs. We jumped around, twisting and turning mid-air like gymnasts and trapeze artists. My hips bothered me a little, and Papa cautioned about me getting overly excited and having one of those seizures again, but his warning wasn’t enough to stop the fun. We tousled and wrestled then drank water to our hearts’ content from the biggest water bowl I’ve ever seen. The sun was blazing hot, and the water bowl was big enough for me and my cousins to drink from and play in while the humans cooked up mouthwatering foods on a round black thing they called a barbeque. As they finished cooking, Auntie announced it was time to go into the cool of the house.
After reassembling ourselves in the kitchen Papa got down on his haunches beside me. Nana walked over holding a plate in her hand. More steak? I was hopeful, I’m always hopeful. Nope, it wasn’t meat; instead it was a big bone. Bigger than the bones Nana makes for me. However, this bone had a fire stick stuck in it. Everyone was looking at me as they began singing a happy song. Papa kept petting me as he set down the plate with the dog bone. I had a bite, it was delicious! Oh, my gosh, so good. Almost as good as those bones Nana makes.
The rest of my celebration included lots of hugs, pats on the head and belly rubs. Not to mention hours more play time with my cousins. By dusk I finally collapsed on the rug at the feet of my dad. My hips were aching, my back hurt and I was exhausted. Exhausted but dog-gone happy.
As it turns out, that day so long ago, when I was picked up by the man in the truck and taken to doggie jail was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I was in that joint for three days, scared, cold, and isolated in my own cell. The other dogs inside said I was a gonner. Not fixed, I was old, black; no one was ever going to adopt me, and I believed them. I knew I had dodged fate twice already and it didn’t seem possible I could get lucky a third time. But I did.
It was late afternoon of day three on the inside, when I heard his voice, “Franklin! Franklin, are you in here buddy?” It was the tall, skinny man with the beard. He cared for me sometimes when the lady, Rosamund, went away for long stretches of time. He always took me to his house. I loved it there. He walked me twice a day, talked to me, even got down on the floor and played with me. When he dog-sat me I got delicious food, not that cardboard Rosamund fed me. There was a different woman in his house. She’s older like me. I can smell age and illness, she has a little of both. But she always cooked for me; eggs, meat, and some special bones she made at home. She and the man with the beard called them Cosmic Muffin Medicine Bones.
Not only did I enjoy companionship and great food when I was with them, there were plenty of giving trees in their back yard and the canyon below. Whenever I was at their house I felt as though I was staying at Club Med (for dogs). Yet, how can I be hearing the man’s voice here, in this awful doggie-joint? The mix of scents and smells in here make it hard to discern if it’s really him. Could it be? Dare I hope? Maybe I’m having one of my doggie dreams. But I’m usually running and happy in my dreams. I know I’m not running and I’m certainly not happy. I stop, I wait, I listen, I see him! I wasn’t dreaming the man with the beard is here! He runs up the concrete walkway, past the other cages and barking dogs. He sits on the floor with me, just outside my cage reaching his fingers though the holes to pet me, best he can. His voice is soft and sad and happy at the same time.
The man with the beard sat on that hard, cold floor until the man with all the keys on his belt came and let me out. I was led out on a rope they used in place of a leash. My legs wobbled and my hips ached more than ever. The man with the beard paid some money then together we walked outside. There in the car was the lady they call Nana.
I was so excited to be free, but unsure what was going to happen next. Were they taking me home? Where was my home anyway? Does Rosamund not want me anymore?Not that I really want her, but where else can I go? The man with the beard sat in the backseat with me the entire ride. It felt so good to hang my head outside the window. To breathe in the clean, fresh air, to drool openly and freely. Then the car turned onto a street I recognized. They weren’t taking me to Rosamund. They were taking me to their house! As we pulled up and the man with beard opened the door, I did my best to scramble out of the car, but my legs gave way and I fell to the ground. My hips and back wouldn’t work right, no matter how I tried to stand on my own. “Oh no!” I heard Nana say. “I’ll just carry him in,” said the man.
Inside Nana set out a soft, silky blanket as the man set me down on it, I thought of my old puppy blankie. Moments later there was one of those scrumptious medicine bones in front of me. The man with the beard said, “Go on, buddy, eat it. It’ll help you.” I remembered these. Nana made them for me whenever the man with the beard dog-sat me. I’m not sure how long after eating that bone it happened, but the pain in my hips and back began to ease. Before I knew it, I was fast asleep. I slept like the puppy I never was.
The next day the man with the beard took me on a short walk. Then Nana fed me some new food, I had clean, cool water in a sparkling new bowl and another tasty bone like the one I was given yesterday. It’s been a long time since the day I was rescued by the man with the beard, whom I now call, “Papa.” Papa says he didn’t rescue me, rather I rescued him and just like his favorite storybook, “The Giving Tree,” we give to each other, unconditionally. As for my hips and back, the hair has pretty much rubbed off after years of sitting and lying on concrete and hard dirt, but whenever the pain is too much or I suffer the onset of a seizure, Nana has one of her special medicine bones ready for me. I may be old, but I am one happy dog.
Cosmic Muffin Bones for Dogs (makes about 4 dozen bones)
2 cups whole wheat or
brown rice flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups soy flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1 cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup grapeseed or olive oil
1 Tbsp. molasses
2-3 Tbsp. CBD oil
1 cup warm vegetable, chicken or beef broth –
low sodium and warmed
¾ cup warm tomato juice or water
Heat oven to 320° degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, wheat germ, soy flour, cornmeal, milk powder, and nutritional yeast until well blended. In a medium bowl combine egg, oil, molasses, CBD oil, broth and tomato juice or water. Stir wet ingredients into large bowl of dry until well combined. Mixture will be thick and stiff. Cover with plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for about 30 minutes in refrigerator. Remove from fridge and divide dough into three parts. Keeping unused pieces covered with plastic, roll out sections of dough on a lightly floured surface to about ¼-inch thickness. Do the same for the other remaining pieces of dough. Using a bone shaped cookie cutter or doughnut cutter, cut out shapes, and place on parchment lined sheet pan. Bake in preheated oven for about 15-25 minutes until bones are cooked through and crisp. Allow to cool completely then store in air-tight container.
Author’s Note: I would never recommend giving animals any cannabis product with THC in it. However, I wholeheartedly support the use of edibles with CBD (cannabidiol) content. The healing properties of CBD works for dogs in the same manner it works for humans. No psychotropic effects, only medicinal properties. Dosing is contingent upon the size of your dog and his or her ailment. Our Franklin is indeed quite old and dealing with age-related maladies such as arthritis, a heart condition, and seizures. We have found he benefits greatly from periodic consumption of these easy to make, CBD dog bones.