I didn’t realize the dog was ambitious. After all, mostly what he did in our New Orleans home is sleep, chew shoes and chase squirrels, who would curse his barking in squirrel slang, until the puppy got bored and refocused his interest on a blade of grass, a bug, or the heavenly smell of cat poo.
He was a two month old yellow lab. Except for his tail and his nose, you could barely make out his front from his bottom he was such a darned cute fuzz ball.
Well, this event happened in New Orleans where even non events manage event status. It was King Cake season which is an awful lot of fun. For the uninitiated, a King Cake is a Mardi Gras essential. It is a beautiful ring of sweet bread, covered with glittery gold, green, and purple sprinkles. And the most exciting thing about this sparkly confection is that there is a little plastic baby hidden somewhere in it’s doughy existence.
Watching kids go at a King Cake is a little bit like watching Sherlock Holms solve a mystery. There would be about ten seconds of staring at the cake, imagining where the baby was and then diving in with a plastic knife at a piece where they thought they could unearth the treasure. This is a big thing.
As a novice bread maker, I decided to have a try at baking a King Cake. At the time I had three boys under four, two dogs, one of which was the aforementioned puppy and a husband. On my King Cake Day I ignored them all. I measured, I kneaded, I set clocks and made sure I had the freshest ingredients. I practically willed the first rise, tensely marching back and forth in the kitchen as if I was an expecting parent.
I had just delicately shaped the four pounds of dough into a resemblance of a circle, when I realized that I didn’t have enough sprinkles, which is like saying you don’t have any beads, or tabasco sauce or beans (these are confessable crimes).
I warned my husband that I was making a short trip to the supermarket which was less than a mile from the house. I’m not going to lie to you. I had spent so many hours with that King Cake I was a bit misty about leaving it.
I rushed through the store, made my purchase and returned home. And this is what I saw. No King Cake. I whipped my head around, four pounds of rising dough is hard to miss. I pinched myself. Had I dreamt my whole experience? When in toddles my puppy, or something that looked a little like a puppy. His stomach was HUGE! As if someone had given him a Mr. Potato head stomach from a St. Bernard. And he lilted as if he was on a ship. And the final bit of evidence was his sparkly lips, you got it, purple, green and gold.
I do what I reflexively do when something is going wrong. I yelled for my husband.
“What happened,” I said shaking my finger pointing to the dog who was getting bigger as we spoke. At first my husband was confused. He is seldom heralded into the kitchen, but I persisted pointing to our “rising” dog.
“Wow, that’s something,” he said giving the dog an appreciative nod as this was the new replacement for Monday Night Football. As if.
I was mortified. My day of careful planning was a bust, but now I was a little worried about my dog. I wasn’t sure our leashes would keep him tethered to the floor his tummy was growing so fast.
I called the emergency vet, who remained ultra calm. It appears several dogs attempt suicide by King Cake every year. Labs are gluttens. She told us what to do and a few minutes later I was holding the dog while my husband stalled.
“I’m a surgeon,” he said as he counted his fingers. We had to make the dog vomit. Even a two month old Lab has an impressive bite.
“Fine, I’ll do it.” We traded positions and with the help of some Kosher Salt we managed to get my dog to expectorate the partially digested King Cake. A few weeks later, the baby appeared in a lump of steamy refuse. The dog looked back at me proudly as if he were the actual King of Mardi Gras, and all I could manage was “Don’t throw me that Mister.”