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Dreaming of a chewy Christmas: Vivien and Gabriel keep vigil hoping Santa will soon arrive with toys and treats.
THREE PAIRS OF big brown dog eyes, wide with wonder, are riveted to my hands as I roll up a batch of Devoted To Dogs pinwheel cookies.
I crack open the seal of a bottle of real bacon bits. I sprinkle a big square slice of flatbread with the bacon. Gabriel, my black and white springer spaniel, tips his nose up toward the counter. His twitching nose makes sniffing sounds. He must be thinking, "BACON!" I shake the big green canister of Parmesan cheese over the thin layer of bacon bits and my bearded collie, Vivien, thunders a delighted, "woof!"
Baby of the family, Zeela, a small liver-colored spaniel girl, raises her head from her bed in the corner of the kitchen. Since it is impossible to do anything else while supervising a chewing puppy whose chain-saw teeth investigate everything, I have corralled little Zeela with a "Kong" toy stuffed with peanut butter and and Nylabone brand "Gumma" Frisbee while I bake eight dozen dog cookies.
Finally, I roll the flatbread into a tight roll and slice it into half-inch pinwheels with my rolling pizza slicer. Baked 10 minutes at 350 degrees, and left in the oven overnight; we will wake to the crunchiest, most dog-delightful canine cookies imaginable.
I have been invited to my first " Holiday Dog Cookie Exchange."
Humans have been gathering to swap cookies and holiday cheer for years. Pick up any cooking or housekeeping magazine from November to January and you will find, "How to Host a Cookie Exchange."
It is time for dog lovers to unite for dog cookie parties. Dogs delight, covet and dream of cookies. Cheese, liver, peanut butter, apple-cinnamon, chicken, bacon and pumpkin are just a few of the ingredients calling to dogs from our pantries and refrigerators.
Baking for dogs is a fun to do and dogs are guaranteed to eat the delicacies from your oven with the joy that reminds us why we love dogs. Dogs always think everything their humans do is superior, fascinating and brilliant. No dog ever offered cooking criticism.
No dog ever sighed and said, "Oh but we had chicken yesterday." Your dog will lick your fingers and your face in gratitude. Humans could take a lesson from dog's ever grateful, waiting to kiss you attitude. "Kiss the Cook" is a fine holiday motto for all.
Hosting a dog cookie exchange is easy. Invite a small number of dog loving friends to come to your house bearing dog cookies to share with the group. Stress to your guests that they should feel free to bring favorite store-bought cookies, or to bring dog biscuits from their own oven. Dogs will not complain if cookies are not homemade.
Keep the invitation list small; eight to 10 people
LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT GIFT FOR YOUR POOCH?
Two favorite dog cookie and gift emporiums are Dog Krazy, at 1011 Caroline St. in Fredericksburg, and 360 Feeds on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County. Nancy Guinn, proprietor at Dog Krazy, is brimming with ideas to make any dogs' eyes gleam with appreciation this holiday.
"Our best-selling cookies this holiday season are Mina's Peanut Butter and Honey, Maizey Blue's Cheese and Bacon, and Piglet's Peanut Butter and Bluebully," said Guinn.
Dog toys that sell the moment they hit the shelves are the ones that keep dogs entertained while they satisfy a dog's chewing needs.
"Popular chewing and play entertainment toys are Westpaw's Bumi, the treat-dispensing Buster Cube and all our puzzle toys. Puppies love to chew marrow bones, bully sticks and moo tubes. The champion chew-through-anything chewers will have a really good, long chew with Nylabone's Galileo and Big Chew, and with Westpaw's Tizzi. For dog safety it is important for owners to read all labels and buy only natural product chews that are made in the United States."
LEND A HELPING PAW
Dog Krazy has a Greater Fredericksburg SPCA Angel Tree to collect donations from shoppers for specific gifts for dogs at the shelter.
"The SPCA requested special foods and toys for their dogs with allergies or who are strong chewers," said Guinn. "We have those requested food and toy items, priced $5 to $65, available for purchase."
The Angel Tree will be on display until the new year.
As a thank-you, shoppers will receive a 20 percent off coupon for every $50 purchase when they sponsor an angel. Coupons can be used Dec. 26 to Jan. 31, 2013.
Dogs love Marty LeTourneau, manager of 360 Feed & Supply, 5037 Plank Road.
While moms and dads shop for food and toys, dogs come into the store and schmooze with LeTourneau and his always dog-wise and friendly sales force.
"The best-selling treat brands are Instinct, Nature's Variety, Darford and Zukes. Most popular toys are Kongs, and a plush toy that dogs love to shake and toss called a 'Skeenie,'" advised LeTourneau. "If your dog is a strong, determined chewer, excellent toys for him are Giggler Balls, Tuffys and the Tire Biter with rope. Puppy teeth will stay busy and out of chew trouble with bully sticks, Beams and cow ears." 360 Feeds also has an SPCA tree and makes supports area dog rescue organizations by donating many bags of food.
Whether you tie on your apron and bake dog cookies, or visit a fine local dog emporium wielding your charge card, the dogs in your life will wag and woof with gratitude. Happy crunching this holiday season.360 Feed & Supply: facebook .com/pages/360-Farm-and-Pet/196636007062015) Dog Krazy: dogkrazyva.com SPCA: fburgspca.org
Sarah A. Ferrell of Spotsylvania County; author of "Devoted To Dogs: How to Be Your Dog's Best Owner' (available at abrohamneal .com or amazon.com) runs Dog Manners and Obedience. Email