This vegan shepherd's pie was such a hit at the holiday supper club (including with the non-vegan diners) that I had to make another one. I used this Whole Foods recipe, subbing veggie crumbles for the tempeh and using dried herbs, not fresh. (Go ahead and use the same herb quantities from the recipe, which will lend a deliciously strong sage flavor). For the mashed sweet potato topping, I followed this recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess. This dish is so flavorful and comforting that it will be welcome equally at a festive occasion or for an intimate dinner at home.
Around the time of my veganversary, Kelly of Vegan Thyme gave me an Honest Scrap award! What a nice way to celebrate. Thanks Kelly! She's one of a growing group of Missouri vegan bloggers. Yes, we are taking over the Midwest. I found her blog relatively recently, and enjoy visiting every post. You won't find mundane cooking at Vegan Thyme; prepare yourself for creative and venturesome recipes.
While I am supposed to tell 10 honest things about myself, I'm gonna bend the rules and talk about my favorite topic, shelter dogs! For inquiring minds, you can find random things about me here and here. As you can see from my blogroll, there are so many vegan blogs I admire and could nominate. If you would like to join in the fun, consider yourself nominated for the award and check out Kelly's blog for details.
Ten Lessons I Learned from Shelter Dogs:
1. It's always the bottle. I had the honor and pleasure of socializing pit bull puppies, among other tasks, at the temporary shelter for the large dog fighting rescue that occurred this summer. What was the favorite toy nine times out of ten during supervised play time? Not the braided ropes or balls, but the empty plastic water bottle. Noisy and crunchy, it was always the bottle.
2. Music can be therapeutic for dogs too. Do you turn up your Chillaxin' playlist when things get hectic? Research indicates that classical music can calm anxious and stressed dogs. Put some Bach on your doggie playlist if your dog is having a hard day.
3. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Dog training and particular types of toys can challenge Fido's mind and keep him relaxed and focused on constructive activities. Stuff Kongs with peanut butter and freeze them and keep a variety of treat dispensing toys on hand to give your dog something to work on.
4. Be quiet and say something. Our nonverbal behavior can say a lot more to dogs than our words, and there are particular "calming signals" we can show to communicate to dogs that we mean no threat to them, such as yawning and turning the head away.
5. Don't blame the dog. One misconception about shelter dogs is "those dogs are there for a reason." Yes they are, but is the reason because they are bad pets? Nope, reasons include the owner lost a job, got divorced, moved, developed an illness, didn't take time to train the dog, was a poor match in terms of energy level, or thought the dog should not fart. (I kid you not.) Shelter dogs vary greatly in temperament and energy level, and some will benefit from training, like any dog. Shelter dogs aren't bad pets. They need another chance to find the right home.
6. Have hope. Sometimes it seems like a particular shelter dog may never find the right home. Maybe she has several strikes against her due to stigma about her breed, shy behavior, and feeling stressed, and adopters pass her by again and again. But that perfectly matched person who can see beyond this and meet her where she is can come in to take her home this afternoon.
7. Don't judge a book by its cover. Some dogs might be rowdy in the shelter kennel, or shut down, but outside on a walk or in a quiet room with a toy, they can really loosen up and show their playful personalities. If you are visiting dogs at a shelter, keep in mind that the shelter environment can contribute to the behavior they might show.
8. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Scout, our stray mixed breed, was around 7-years-old when she graduated from Reactive Dogs class. Thanks to clicker training, she rarely does her Cujo imitation when she sees dogs on walks. Shelter dogs of all ages can benefit from training too, both after being adopted and even while in the shelter. Check out this comprehensive program for shelter dogs called Working Like Dogs.
Here's Scout, cuddling happily with her new buddy Ruby. Much better than Cujo behavior!
9. Obama, it's not too late for you to adopt a shelter dog. Looking for a particular breed, maybe due to allergies or preference? I've seen labradoodles, Old English Sheepdogs, Great Pyrenees, chihuahuas, yorkies, and so many more breeds available through shelters and other rescue organizations. If you desire a particular breed, you will be able to find one to rescue.
10. You never know who will steal your heart. I gravitate toward medium to large sized dogs who are rough and tumble types. So to my surprise, one of my favorite shelter dogs was Blossom, a shy, soulful-eyed, sweet beagle (who has long been adopted). While it's helpful to consider characteristics of the dog you prefer to adopt, you never know who you might make a special connection with.
Of course, a medium-sized rough and tumble type stole my heart too. Here's our adopted shelter dog Ruby, with her own plastic bottle.