25 Dec Have a Very Basset Xmas

Jill makes a killer cheesecake–not only is it delectably dense but also thick and dry enough to be chewy in the true, Manhattan style. This season she upped her game by making a pumpkin cheesecake. An involved process, it takes about four hours. When she completed her first of the season, I set it outside (on one of our garden tables) to cool. I’m crazy for desserts, especially when Jill bakes. I myself love to cook but have little patience for the science of baking: it’s all about chemistry–too much of this, too little of that, and you’ve made a lot of disappointment.

            A couple of hours after setting out the cheesecake, I stepped out with the garbage and was surprised to come upon the cake pan, empty and sitting at the edge of our concrete patio. For a moment, garbage bag in hand, I stood in denial. This couldn’t be the same cake pan. The cheesecake pan? No: this pan was not only empty but scoured clean, as if taken right off the shelf. But then, glancing to the garden table, I saw that the cheesecake was indeed gone.

            As we live in the country, you might assume that a raccoon had absconded with our prized dessert. If we lived farther north, you might even guess a bear.

            I carried the pan into the kitchen. “Jill?”

            When she turned around, I could tell that she was experiencing her own moment of denial. Her face seemed to express a slow-burning Wha . . . ?

            Then the realization hit home. She grimaced, rolled her eyes, and said, “Masie and Oliver!”

            Our basset hounds.

            January marks the one-year anniversary of our adoption of Masie and Oliver, two gorgeous pedigree basset hounds saved from the Chinese meat trade. Everyone agrees that basset hounds–with their big bear paws and floppy ears and baleful eyes–are cute as can be. What non-basset owners don’t know is that they are among the most mischievous dogs in the world. The secret ingredient of their mischief is an all but indelible stubborn streak. Add to this their tenacity and go-for-broke, I-live-large! personalities and you’ve got dogs that offer multiple challenges, some surprising entertainment, and a never-ending series of adventures.

            Here’s one more: I came home after a long day; Jill was working late. I dropped my book bag and a sack of groceries on the porch, then let the dogs out–they’re crazy at the end of the day, leaping to get out and run around. I fed them on the patio, then walked down to feed the barn cats. Our vet says ours are the healthiest barn cats she’s ever seen. The secret? Feed them canned food once a day, in addition to free-feeding them kibble. We have seven and a few of the wildest have gotten almost friendly this past year. Can’t pick them up but you can scruff them pretty good and get plenty of purring. 

            When I returned to the porch, Masie and Oliver were gone, no doubt snouting and sniffing in the grass, always looking for food, you know. Wait a minute. Food? Then I realized my mistake: I’d left my sack of groceries on the porch! The sack was empty. Groceries gone! What the f**k! I shouted. It was dark and those two were gone with my groceries. All of them. What the f**k!

            I felt like I’d been mugged.

            I rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a flashlight, then jumped into the dark yard. When I flicked on the flashlight, it was stuck in strobe mode. I swept the strobing light across the darkness. I shouted for Masie and Oliver. Assholes! I hollered. They would likely hide half of what they’d stolen. I could take the loss of everything except the very expensive shrimp I had bought to make a special dinner for Jill: one pound of jumbo shrimp cost me $22.

            I found Masie finishing the gourmet tortillas I’d bought at Whole foods. Keep in mind, in the dog world, this was fair game. After all, the groceries were at ground level. And unguarded. So what was Ron’s problem, yelling and running around with a strobing flashlight?

            I left Masie to finish her treat and sought out the shrimp. At last, my flashing light found Oliver near the hen house. He had his snout in a two-pound bag of organic oats. The shrimp?

            Oliver, where are the frigging shrimp?

            When I got to him finally, I nearly slipped on a scatter of . . .  frozen jumbo shrimp. Frantically, I gathered them up from the grass, that flashlight–now stuffed into my pants pocket–still strobing. Both hands full, I jammed shrimp into my other pocket, then trotted back to the house. I dumped them into the sink, then went out and fetched the rest. Maybe I got most. As they were frozen, I had only to rinse them off, then throw them into hot water.

            But by that time I was so stressed out, all I wanted to do was get a drink and go to bed. But I rallied and made the special dinner I had planned, Jill none the wiser.