Scroll to the bottom of this post for a dog-friendly birthday cake recipe.
Vernon is ONE. Our pit-hound mix lover of a pup was born some time between mid-October and this time last year. We’re not certain of an exact age, but regardless, time has flown by since picking him up off the side of the road.
Prior to Vernon I thought I was a small-dog kind of gal. I grew up with a Pomeranian and a Toy Poodle that were both cute, but incredibly useless when it came to playing or just acting like a dog full-stop. This kind of deterred me from the idea of being a pet-lover. I thought people who treated their pets like their own children was absolutely ridiculous. But as you can see, my heart has changed and I am now the type of person who would trade a few thousand dollars as a reward for someone returning my lost animal to me. Maybe paying some sum of money to find a lost pet is a more general/less surprising expectation, but who’s to really say because here I am — celebrating my dog’s birthday with a polka-dotted hat, homemade cake and a round of Guinness for Vernon and his buds. I’m not crazy, you’re crazy.
Disclaimer: before anyone thinks I have lost my ever-loving mind for pouring my dog a beer, the occasional Guinness is actually great for preventing/treating heart-worms because of the hops in it. See here, here and here.
We found Vernon during Hurricane Harvey. In short, while I was living in Texas last year I asked Cormac if he wanted to come to my house for family dinner and later that same evening Hurricane Harvey hit. We pulled out the blowup mattress and he was stuck with my family and I for two weeks.
Cormac went for a run every day to escape the long days inside, and on one particular run a car stopped at the opposite end of the road and dropped off a puppy. It ran towards Cormac as he was doing hill sprints (one minute reps back and forth) and the puppy struggled to keep up. Cormac said each time the dog would finally catch up, he would have to turn to do a hill sprint in the opposite direction.
Cormac noticed that the puppy had blood dripping down his leg so he picked it up and brought it back to my house. My mom answered the door and started hollering (Sharon, my mother, is the epitome of dramatic). I followed after her and saw that the pup’s bum hole was HANGING OUT of his body (prolapsed butt-hole; I think that’s the medical term?). I don’t want to be too graphic, but it looked like a grub worm was making its way out. I was concerned and highly confused.
We took him to our local vet who couldn’t have been more generous and patient with both the two of us and Vernon. He gave us a decent amount of canned puppy food, took care of the puppy’s shots and fixed up his bum for $30. Within 5 minutes of hearing he was going to be okay I had a name picked out and I was ready to take on the role of dog mom.
Vernon is my grandfather’s name, but I wouldn’t say we named Vernon specifically after my grandpa. I thought it would be a funny name for a small puppy. Now I obviously can’t picture him with another name, but it’s not as cute as I thought it would be longterm — it’s especially embarrassing in public when we’re either trying to get his attention or are yelling at him not to lift his leg on an end aisle display at PetSmart.
Vernon has a very mild temperament and is relatively well-behaved, especially since we adopted another dog, Forrest. But like the majority of well-behaved animals, it took an immense amount of time, energy and tears through puppy training. He’s ripped up carpet and torn through a couch, and when I say through I mean he went in one end and out the other (see photos one and three below of the remaining couch cotton around his neck and spread across the floor), but I am happy to say he has only done this once and wouldn’t dare do it again.
I used to go over to Cormac’s apartment to puppy sit while he was away at school or work, and when Cormac would come back I would nearly be in tears of frustration from wanting to throw Vernon out the door but loving him enough not to go that far.
According to the experts (YouTube), there were so many rules that applied to training a puppy: don’t yell because they don’t understand why you’re yelling. Don’t spank them because they don’t understand why they’re being hit. Let the puppy out every hour so they know that peeing on the floor is not acceptable. If they bite you, advert their attention to a toy.
I won’t quote Ariana Grande lyrics, but overall Vernon taught us real patience. It is so strange to be equally and simultaneously frustrated and sympathetic toward something other than a human. I realize that I’ve made Vernon sound awful, and he was for a couple months, but he’s now the most well-behaved Vernon in the history if Vernon’s.
Cormac always says that Vernon has good manners, and I think we only realized the effectiveness of puppy training when we started retraining an untrained puppy. Vernon sits politely and waits to be fed, he is exceptionally intelligent, he is an Ennegram type 9 (see here), but my favorite thing about him is that his love language is NOT physical touch so when he kisses you or comes and lays his head on your lap, he really, really means it.
We’ve gotten to see his personality develop over the past year and let me tell you, it’s a lot more rewarding to watch a puppy grow than it is a plant. A puppy like Vernon is one to be celebrated and it wouldn’t be a party without a dog-friendly pumpkin cake.
Vernon and Forrest eat a 100% whole food and raw diet. We (Cormac now that I’ve moved to Nashville) prep dog food at the beginning of every week and keep it in the fridge until the dogs are fed. We find that raw foods gives the dogs more energy and has given them a stronger immune system to fight off diseases. At this point anything that’s not natural will change their mood and/or make them sick so for this cake we only used ingredients that we knew wouldn’t be harmful in any way and might even be good for them (i.e. coconut oil, egg, honey, pumpkin, peanut butter). It was incredibly easy to make and I can confirm Vernon ate 2/3 of it himself and didn’t show any signs of feeling bad.
Here’s what we used to make the cake:
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 egg (side note: If you want, you can use the entire egg — shell included. It’s a great source of calcium.)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
And the icing:
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- Mashed berried for color (optional)
Here’s how we made it:
- Preheat the oven to 350
- Mix all the dry ingredients into a bowl
- Mix all the wet ingredients into a separate bowl
- Mix the dry and wet ingredients together (they’re mixed separately prior to assure there are no chunks in the mix)
- Pour the batter into an 8 inch non-stick baking dish
- Bake for 20-30 minutes — we tested the cake with a fork to see when it was ready
Let the cake cool for a while and once cooled, mix the ingredients for the icing together and pour it over the cake. From my experience, it is a fun thing to sing happy birthday before your dog dives into the cake. He or she will be utterly confused and you’ll be equally entertained.
If you’re serving cake at your dog’s birthday party, share your photo on Instagram and tag @Lille_Vandreren. I would love to see your pup celebrated!