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this old girl

Recipe: salmon cakes

For those of you interested in the good eats around Boulder, I wrote a little article for The Guardian that was published over the weekend in their travel section. Of course, Boulder has WAY more than 10 great restaurants (and bakeries and coffeeshops), so this is really just a sampling of the awesomeness that is the Boulder Food Scene.

It’s been a girls’ weekend here at Butter Headquarters. Jeremy is in Hawai’i for a meeting, a trip I declined to join because even though Kaweah does not require high-maintenance care, she does require specific care and attention for her various medical issues. We took her to the vet a few weeks ago for a check up and her conditions (laryngeal collapse, kidney failure, canine degenerative myelopathy, deafness) continue to decline, but slowly.

those old legs have hiked many mountains

I asked Doc Clements how we would know when it is time, but I couldn’t finish my sentence as I looked at the ground and blinked away my tears. Quality of life, dignity, happiness, he answered. All the while, Kaweah was wagging her brains out because she absolutely loves being at the vet. He raised his eyebrows in a thoughtful manner as he handed Kaweah a treat, “When I first saw her symptoms a few years ago, I would have given her a few months. But it’s been a couple of years and she is doing very well, considering. So she just might surprise us yet.” He smiled and reached down to give her a pat and another treat.

she still keeps her girlish figure

Kaweah is my first dog. I mean MY first dog. I used to wonder when she was ever going to slow down because she was so full of energy and enthusiasm for over a decade. We just got used to her dragging us up and down the mountain for 18 miles and taking running leaps into icy alpine lakes and acting like every single person she met had just promised her a lifetime supply of raw beef. When it did happen, it was gradual and rather pleasant. She stopped pulling at the very end of her leash anytime we hit the trails. Kaweah began to behave herself after 10 minutes instead of 2 hours when guests came over to the house. Her après hike naps grew longer.

and kaweah knows how to stop and smell the roses blanket flowers

It has been bittersweet to witness Kaweah’s body finally succumb to her age. She’s more affectionate now. She can no longer outrun us. She doesn’t bark anymore when the foxes call at dusk because she can’t hear them. In the past year she has started hiding out in dark corners or under tables on occasion. Her walks are down to a quarter of a mile and her hind legs tend to slip and stumble and give out every now and again. But each morning, she’s a bouncy, waggy, happy dog who pounces on her plush toys in anticipation of breakfast. I toggle between being ready for that day when I have to let her go and sobbing at the thought of saying good-bye (like I am right now). I know some people regard aging pets as a burden, but in many ways I feel the same compassion for Kaweah in her old age as I did for my beloved grandmother in her last years. Be kind. Be patient. Be understanding. Be loving. Be caring. Spoil her.

you will always be my baby puppy

Kaweah may or may not have gotten a few chunks of salmon while I was preparing this recipe. It’s getting hard to say no to that furry little face, especially when she tilts it to the side. When my parents came out to visit us in Crested Butte, Dad kept going over the menu for their stay as if these were critical military strategies. He told me he would make salmon cakes, freeze them, and cook them for us the first night. I heard so much about these salmon cakes that I almost didn’t want to eat them… but I did, and I really liked them.

removing the skin from the filet

salmon, onion, eggs, lemon, mayonnaise, salt, flour, bread crumbs, parsley (not pictured: panko)

chop the salmon

everything prepped to make the patties

Salmon is in season now, so I picked up some beautiful wild Coho salmon from my fish monger at Whole Foods. If you’re wondering whether you should use fresh salmon or canned salmon, I’m here to tell you to go for fresh. If you don’t think there is a difference between the two, I don’t think we can be friends anymore. When preparing the salmon filet, you can skin it yourself or ask your fish monger to do it. You should also run your fingertips along the surface of the filet to feel for any bones. The easiest way to take those suckers out is to use a pair of clean needle-nose pliers to clamp down on the end of the bone and pull it out. These should parallel the length of the fish.

combine the salmon, salt, lemon juice, parsley, mayonnaise, onion, and bread crumbs in a bowl

mix it together

scoop some up to form patties

make them big (here) or little (for appetizers)

I opted to make large salmon cakes to be served in sandwiches or solo, but these would be absolutely delightful as small bites for a party too. Now, the salmon mixture lacks the cohesion of ground beef or ground pork. The trick is to gently form a patty (the more you press, the more it falls apart – zen, huh?) and carefully set it down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The patties spend a little time in the freezer to firm up. The recipe calls for 15 minutes, but I gave mine 30. While the patties chill out, you can ready the breading station: a shallow bowl of flour, a bowl of beaten eggs, and a shallow bowl of panko.

ready to dip

coat the patties in flour then dip in egg

apply a final coat of panko

at this stage, you can either fry the salmon cakes or freeze them for later

When all of the salmon cakes are done, it’s time to fry them up. I didn’t use the entire 1/2 cup of oil called for in the recipe. I just spread enough to generously coat the bottom of the sauté pan. When the oil is ready, add the cakes. They cook quickly and the bottoms should be golden in 2-3 minutes. Flip and fry the other side until golden (2-3 minutes). This amount of frying time cooks the cakes through. When the salmon cakes are frying, you can quickly mix the dill-yogurt sauce.

flipping the cakes over as the bottoms brown


salt, lemon, dill, plain greek yogurt (not pictured: dill pickle relish)

stir it all together

These salmon cakes are tender inside, crisp and crunchy on the outside. The flavors are nicely balanced and are fantastic on their own, in a salad, or popped into a sandwich. I only made a single batch, but next time I will definitely make a double batch and freeze half as this recipe is a great make-ahead meal for weeknight. Definitely take advantage while the wild salmon are in season!

a nice lunch

chock full of wonderful coho salmon

Salmon Cakes
[print recipe]
from this recipe

1 1/4 lbs. fresh salmon filet
1/3 cup white or sourdough bread, crusts removed, chopped or food processed into coarse crumbs
2 tbsps mayonnaise
1/4 cup yellow onion, grated
2 tbsps fresh Italian parsley, chopped
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsps lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying (I used less)

dill-yogurt sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tsps fresh dill, chopped
2 tsps lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 tsp salt to taste
2-3 tbsps dill pickle relish or sweet pickle relish (optional)

Make the dill-yogurt sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until mixed. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Make the salmon cakes: Remove the skin from the salmon filet. You can have your fish monger do this, or you can do it yourself. It’s quite easy and Becky Selengut has an excellent video demonstrating her technique for skinning a fish filet. Chop the salmon into 1/4 to 1/3-inch pieces. Mix the salmon, white bread crumbs (not the panko), mayonnaise, onion, parsley, salt, and lemon juice together in a medium bowl. You can make about six 3-inch diameter patties about 3/4-inch wide for a main course or make several smaller patties for appetizer bites. If making larger patties, be careful and patient when handling the patties as they easily come apart. Place the patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes or more (I went 30 minutes).

When the cakes are ready to come out of the freezer, place the flour in a large shallow bowl, the beaten eggs in a medium bowl, and the panko in another large shallow bowl. Dip each cake into the flour, making sure to coat the entire cake and gently tapping off any excess. Then dip the floured cake into the egg and coat the entire thing. Pockets of flour will peel off – don’t worry – just dip your hand in the egg and “patch” the flour spot on the cake. Finally, coat the cake in the panko crumbs, making sure to cover as much of the cake as possible. Set the cakes on a plate, or if you are freezing for later, set the cakes on a baking sheet and freeze until hard then package in an airtight container (to cook, just double the cooking time if frozen). Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot (drop a panko crumb into the oil – if it sizzles, the oil is ready), carefully add the salmon cakes to the pan. The bottoms should become golden after 2-3 minutes. Gently flip the cakes over and fry for another 2-3 minutes until the remaining side is a dark golden color. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with dill-yogurt sauce on the side. These can be served as appetizers (individual salmon cakes), on a salad, in a sandwich, or as a main course. Makes 6 salmon cakes or 12-18 mini salmon cakes.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

crabcakes (maryland) blackened salmon sandwich teriyaki salmon collar or fillet grilled salmon panang

59 nibbles at “this old girl”

  1. Monique says:

    I am at that point with my 15 yo kitty who has given me so much companionship over the years. It rips my heart apart to know that the day is coming sooner than later. Enjoy the time and you are right…”Be kind. Be patient. Be understanding. Be loving. Be caring. Spoil her.” Take care.

  2. M says:

    I went through something very similar with my (family’s) dog 2 years ago. Incidentally also a Lab :) She was diagnosed with cancer and we thought it’d be a year, but instead she continued on happily and lost functions veeeeery slowly. So slowly we almost missed how much pain she was in in the later stages, which is something I still feel bad about sometimes.

    And nope, you can’t say no to those faces. They’ve gotta have that salmon/chicken/cheese/veg/fruit scraps (we used to joke and say ours was vegetarian, because she’d go for fruit and veg before raw meat)

  3. Jeanne Kane says:

    Oh, Jen, so sweet the way you are with Kaweah.

  4. Christine says:

    Truth be told, I’ve been reading each new post of yours with dread for the last several months. Each time I get past the initial stage of realizing there’s no bad news about Kaweah, I breathe a sigh of relief. The beginning of this post brought me to tears. I know well the grief of losing a beloved dog, and am also fearful of that time with my current dog. But you’re right, we can only be grateful for the time we have with them now. Thanks for the lovely reminder.

  5. Lisa says:

    I have to admit, after losing my dog almost 8 months ago, this brought tears to my eyes. Moose had lots of medical problems and like your vet, my vet said we would know when it was time, and we did. Although its still difficult to live without him we are adjusting and time does heal. I treasured every single moment when we was with us, I know you are doing the same with your girl.

  6. joanne says:

    Kaweah will let you know when the time is at hand.
    Until then, keep doing exactly what you’re doing.

  7. Theresa A says:


    Thank you for being willing to share with all of us. This brought tears to my eyes this morning.

  8. Lauren says:

    I luckily came across urb about a year ago and have been reading ever since. First time commenting! Not only did your cooking and photography talents draw me in, the voice that shines through your writings, the beauty of colorado, but so did Kaweah! I feel like I’ve grown to know her and I can see how you sure give her a wonderful life. It seems like she still enjoys all she can still do. I am also a first time dog owner and am happy to know the love of a dog. My dog loves when I sneak him some salmon too, especially the salmon skin :)

  9. Ashton says:

    Its been almost 11 years since I lost my first “MY” dog, a loving yellow lab and your post made me tear up. We have two other furry kids now and all I can tell you is you’ll know when its time. Its not easy but you’ll know. In the meantime enjoy every moment. Spoil her to pieces, regardless of what anyone may say. The only problem with dogs is they don’t live forever.

  10. Gail says:

    Jennifer, I’m crying right beside you and with you. Our not quite 15 year old Papillon, Mitzi, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She’s on steroids to reduce the swelling which caused the pronounced symptoms that prompted us to take her to the vet. She’s my first dog, she’s been with us through the deaths of my parents, 9/11, and the start of my business, to name a few life-altering events.

    Our animals make us better people, They make us more aware of the world around us, they draw us out of ourselves. As painful as this is, I know that we’ll have wonderful memories of our faithful first canine companions.


  11. SallyBR says:

    Bawling my eyes out. Did not even get to the recipe.

    Going through the same path, wondering when the day will come for the tough decision to be made. Honestly, I keep hoping that one day Chief will just not wake up, peacefully stay asleep, dreaming about chasing squirrels.

    Not easy to see him walk to the toy instead of pounce on it from half a mile away (or so it seemed). He is not afraid of thunder anymore, because he cannot hear the storm outside. Makes me smile, but a smile that hides a ton of tears inside…

  12. Kimberly says:

    Jen, I will be keeping Kaweah, you, and Jeremy in my thoughts. It sounds like you have been a wonderful companion to Kaweah and she has been so lucky to have you. Best of wishes to you all.

  13. Laura Levy says:

    Dear Kaweah,

    A little advice…. give your mommy your best watery-eyed “if you loved me you’d give me at least one whole salmon cake look” – Works every time!


    Ginny the dog

  14. Flavia says:

    Hi Jen, I always love reading all your blog posts, but I have a soft spot for the posts that include your sweet Kaweah. I know what it is like to see a beloved fur baby grow old before your eyes. We lost our Dutch 2 years ago and I still cry when I think about him. Some of it is from regret: for leaving him at home when we went to work, instead of researching doggie day care; for succumbing to my then stress-filled corporate life and being impatient with him; for not spoiling him more. I wish I could take those things back and do it better all over again for him. But I am comforted that we gave him a good home and a life filled with love. Now, with our 2 year-old Irish Setter, Sienna, I am much more conscious of not repeating the mistakes I made with Dutch: she goes to the vet’s daycare program when I will be out of the house for most of the day, I let her sit on the couch with me to watch tv, she gets a piece of smoked salmon every time I make my favorite breakfast, I make her scrambled eggs and feed her pieces of watermelon (as well as other veggies and fruits she loves). I love on her like there’s no tomorrow. I know Sienna will slow down eventually and although her endless energy sometimes leaves me feeling a little tired, I make sure to enjoy it rather than let it get me stressed. I’m learning to take lessons from her in living in the moment because dogs are the best teachers of that lesson. You are such a wonderful mama to Kaweah, so don’t ever second-guess yourself. Our dog’s only fault is that they don’t live longer, but when they have crossed to The Rainbow Bridge, they leave behind love and memories in our hearts.

  15. jill says:

    What a loving post. I’m lucky we met Kaweah…she is such a dear, as are you and Dr.Darling. Enjoy and spoil her, YES! xo, j&t

  16. Theresa says:

    The Boulder restaurant article is perfectly timed as we’re neck deep in planning out trip in September, so thanks!

    Your salmon cakes look fantastic. I always cook salmon as filets because I lack the patience to make the patties… but yours look so good I might just do that next time. Especially if I can make a bunch and freeze them for later. Do you have to let them thaw before cooking?

    My aging pup loves salmon too :) It’s so hard to watch them age, isn’t it? My girl is definitely slowing down these days. I almost wish for hearing loss for her so that she won’t hear the storms and fireworks she’s so terrified of. It seems her vision is going first though. Like you, I’m extra patient, extra loving, extra spoiling because who knows how much time we have left with her. If I could freeze time to keep her from getting older and leaving us, I would do it in a heartbeat. Just the thought reduces me to tears and I hardly ever cry at anything!

  17. Kristen says:

    I second the sentiments which express tentative dread regarding any news about Kaweah. Despite never having met her, I have such a soft spot for her because she reminds me so much of my older dog, Buddy. I’ve commented here about him before because those soft, elderly dog faces are so similar they make my heart ache! Buddy was 14 when I had to put him down. He was diagnosed with liver cancer and the vet gave him a month but in turn he gave me six. I’ve always been a hiker and he my constant companion. I lived out in southwest Colorado for a year (a few years ago now) and that’s ultimately where he decided he wanted to be laid to rest.

    I know the slow decline is very hard. I was lucky in a sense because Buddy ended up what we think was a stroke, and he just wasn’t right one morning and couldn’t go down the steps and refused to eat anything. Took him to the vet and gave him fluids and I slept next to him that night on the floor. He woke up happier, but I knew in my heart I couldn’t let him go through that pain again, as hard as it was to let him go. I know that pain, Jen! I’m so sorry you’re having to go through it now. I ended up getting another dog, a submissive, spotted puppy from the shelter, before Buddy passed, as I knew I couldn’t live by myself when he was gone. He tolerated her for those last four or five months and even shared his bed with her a time or two (albeit begrudgingly).

    One thing I will always remember is an old friend telling me, after I had put Buddy down, that “Polaris is lucky. She got to meet Buddy and he got to pass his knowledge onto her. A part of him is always with her.” That knowledge strengthened me after his death. I’m sending you strong vibes for these tough roads ahead. Kaweah is lucky to have you both as parents.

  18. Lynn says:

    Hi Jen. Have you considered a rear or back harness for Kaweah? Our malamute lived to be 15 years old and in his last year, he had trouble getting up and walking around due to arthritis. I got him a neoprene back harness from In the Company of Dogs and it really improved his quality of life. He took longer walks and was much happier because he was more mobile. Of course, I was always there to help him move around but it’s the least I could do for him. It’s been 4 years now but I still miss him and think of him often.

  19. Kathya says:

    Aww, sweet Kaweah. Love to you all. xo

  20. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    Salmon cake are one of my favorites! These look amazing.

    It’s so hard to say goodbye, but you’ll know when it’s time.

    I had to let my sweet old boy go a while back. He was 17 and I could tell he just wasn’t enjoying life. IT IS SO HARD, but as my vet told me “The best gift you can give an old friend.”



  21. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Pussy, Mitzi, Clarence, Jangles, Peppy, Coki, Angel, Honey, Reggie, Brady, and Chelsea. A lot of animals, a lot of love. It is never easy. But I believe they try to make it easy on us. Be strong. And know you are the best mommy for Kaweah. And now I want this salmon cake and I will give one each to George and Freddie. You just made their day!

  22. Ro says:

    What a beautiful and touching tribute to a treasured friend. I too have a Kaweah in my life…MY first dog who is named Lola. At the ripe old age of 11, she’s slowing down, too, and has some chronic conditions (diabetes, arthritis, pancreatic issue). Truly, every day with her is a gift. You’ve made me weep, but at the privilege of having been Lola’s momma all these years. Kaweah is a lucky, lucky girl.

    Please give Kaweah greetings from Lola in Albuquerque. *woof*

  23. Erin says:

    I’m tearing up at my desk reading about your experiences with Kaweah as she ages. Though I am not as far down the path that you are on, my Boston Terrier is 11.5 and I’ve started to notice his age showing a lot in the last year or so, which has been a bit heartbreaking. I feel guilty when I lose my patience with him, and can’t bear leaving him when I go on a run and he looks so excited. So, I end up taking him and while it ends up being more of a walk than a run, I’m glad to have him with me, trotting along jauntily. I read somewhere once that the only bad thing about dogs is that they don’t live long enough. How very true.

  24. jacquie says:

    as others have said – i dread the day i look at your post and see Kaweah is gone. and yes i have tears in my eyes now from the post itself, remembering of dogs past and the one i’m currently on the same journey with. have you seen the book “old dog, good dog”? it and an earlier one w/ a similar title are truely beautiful and express the emotions and attitudes towards older dogs that you mention above. it is a great resposibility and it will be hard and it will take courage but you will know when the time is right. just be willing to listen with an open heart and Kaweah will let you know when the goods days or even moments aren’t frequent enough to outweigh the bad. sometimes a peaceful end is the last gift we can give to one who has given us so many other gifts through the years.

  25. Jenny Hartin says:

    My heart is breaking for you. xoxo

  26. GwenO says:

    I’ve been wondering about Kaweah since we have pup in almost same situation and feel the same way about him…quality of life, dignity with love and affection in his sunset years. Same discussions with vet too. It’s so hard to watch those weak legs, slowness, longer sleeps, not hearing the things they used to hear. So spoil her as much as you can, while you can. She already loves you forever!

  27. marla says:

    Awwwww…Jen this post is so touching. We don’t currently have a dog ~ but certainly want to add one to our family. Growing up we had 3 dogs (one at a time) they are the greatest gift and to love them even more so. Take care of that sweet baby. Certainly difficult to handle when the going gets tougher :) XO M

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  29. Kristin says:

    It’s a testament to Kaweah, you & Jeremy that she has lived so much longer than your vet expected. Strong girl, great care, and lots of love (and maybe some snacks sneaked in). I dread losing pets and, as others have said, I dread the day you share sad news about Kaweah. Thank you for sharing this with us. Love to all of you.

  30. Susan says:

    I helped care for a German Shepard with degenerative myelopathy and we got her a “wheelchair” cart. She was so happy to be mobile again. She also had water physical therapy in a tank which she also loved. It was heartbreaking to let her go when it was time, but I have a lot of fun memories of her, Mira.

  31. Carole says:

    Please give Kaweah a big hug and some kisses from me and all your other readers who feel so connected to her in spite of never having had the pleasure of her company. I’m pretty sure a lot of readers would have a hard time deciding which photos we like best on your blog: the food, the flowers or the sweetie pup.

  32. nancy says:

    I love reading your posts, seeing your gorgeous photos, but tonight I cried reading your post about your beloved Kaweah. I too have my first dog, Stella the Pomeranian, and while she is tiny (8.4 pounds) she hikes and backpacks w/me everywhere, hiking up to 8.5 miles in a day. She is now 10.5 years old, and I am starting to panic about losing her. She is super healthy, but when the day comes, whenever it comes, oh, I send you many many hugs and wishes for your black coated angel to be with you for many more bites of salmon and many more days of love.

  33. sabi says:

    My heart pangs for you, as I share those feelings with trepidation and a younger chocolate lab, but I worry about facing the day when he slows like your darling Kaweah. He shares all of those classic lab traits, of voracious greeting, and crazy out running us on the trails, when we tire of throwing a ball, stick, pinecone, waaay before he’s ever tired, he tosses the ball down crazy cliffs, and dives down without pause. I must remember to film that soon, before it slips out of reach. Enjoy the rest of your summer with your lovely, sweet, shiny girl!

  34. Kurt Jacobson says:

    Old dogs are a gift from heaven! There is nothing that can compare to the joy I had from having my first dog for all 12 of his years-most of them in the mountains of Colorado. The last years of his life taught me much about the joys of dog ownership like, slow down and smell the flowers, pay attention, when in doubt-wag the tail, and use your eyes to communicate to your master “I love you so much”. I had the pleasure of repeating most of that experiance with my next German Sheperd and got 12 amazing years with her too. I would just tell you to enjoy the special moments you have left with Kaweah in any way you can and by all means spoil her. She is such a lucky dog to have you.

  35. Carla says:

    Our sweet doxi, Gatordog, has been gone 5 years and I miss him like it was yesterday. I don’t thnk I could have made that hard decision if he hadn’t told me it was time. Crazy, I know…but I swear he was “talking to me”..asking me for one final act of kindness. Our vet said we treat our pets better than people..

    Curses to the people who tell you to just get another one!! To understand unconditional love, adopt a dog..or more correct…let a dog adopt you!!!

  36. angelitacarmelita says:

    I know I’ve written about her before, but my mom’s sweet Maltese, Timona is 15. I adore her, and love every minute I get to spend w/her. I’m lucky enough that I only live 8 miles from my mom, and that I get to have dinner w/her every Sunday. This past week, I just sat w/Timona in my lap and massaged her tiny neck (it’s her favorite thing for me to do for her, I’ve been doing it for her since she was just a puppy… and she’s still, never forgotten it). I agree that if you love your pet, (as much as you clearly do Kaweah) being there for them as they age is just the kindest thing you can do for them. Spoil them, love them, cherish every moment. On a lighter note, I adore Salmon, and Salmon Cakes! what a great recipe! and although when I was much younger, and more broke (if that’s possible), I used to use canned Salmon, I’d never even consider that now. It’s good to know we can still be friends! Thanks for the post!

  37. Lisa says:

    Sweet puppy…your post brought tears to my eyes.

  38. Cindi says:

    Well, I read this thru tears, Jen. So much of what you are experiencing with Kaweah is what we are living this moment with Simba. Unlike your girl, though Simba (literally) lost it (all over the floor) when we took her to our Vet Saturday – for just a nail trim! She was terrified – we think because it was just out of her comfort zone. Her walks are brief and she sleeps most days away. Meals are carefully prepared, mixing in her medications. She seldom barks and can’t hear. She often has a very faraway look in her eye and it just breaks my heart.
    So hugs to you and your girl. Big hugs. Because I know.
    (And the salmon cakes look amazing – and yes on the fresh salmon. Always!)

  39. laura h says:

    Now Atlas is closing. :/ Great looking cake, lovely pooch.

  40. Ruth says:

    this really made me cry…for all of us with aging pets, it’s hard to see them slow down to the point they are fading away…she is still as beautiful as the first photo you posted of her, our pets are more, much more than that, they are part of us…thank you for sharing this and a beautiful recipe…

    Give her many hugs and kisses, she knows you adore her…

  41. marissa says:

    You are one amazing lady. A real tribute to humanity. Thank you for allowing us to read and share your experience. With gratitude… Love and Light. Marissa

  42. hungry dog says:

    Do as you’re doing–enjoy every day with your sweet girl! That’s all you can do. We lost our chocolate lab in 2011 at the age of 15–she had been diagnosed with cancer at 10 and at the time we didn’t know how long she had. Turns out, awhile! She was, like Kaweah, full of energy, life, and love.

    They let you know when it’s time. People always said that to me, and I never understood it, until I did.

    Your girl deserves every bite of salmon you feel like giving her! At the end, we cooked our pup a hamburger patty every night to put over her kibble. We carried her up and down the stairs. I never once resented doing those things–they are small when you think of the joy they have brought you.

    Big hugs to you and Kaweah!

  43. Sasa's Mom says:

    There is nothing like a beloved pet to teach us the true meaning of love. We’re going through the same with our 15 year old kitty who is suffering from kidney disease. Like my husband says, let’s spoil her rotten for as long as we have her. My very best wishes to you and Kaweah. Thank you for sharing.

  44. Eva says:

    I had a hard time reading this as I had tears in my eyes. I have a 4 year old pitty and she is the love of my life. Even having to imagine not having her in my life makes me devastated. I wish that they could all live forever. Anyway- you touch a nerve, write so beautifully and reach into our hearts and have them ache for you. I hope miss Kaweah is healthy and happy for many more moons and when the day comes, we will all be there in spirit with you as fellow dog lovers.

  45. Susanne says:

    How lucky you and Kaweah are to have spent so much of your lives together. Sending happy thoughts and best wishes…

  46. Pey-Lih says:

    Yes, enjoy and spoil your furry kiddo freely! They make us happy and in return, we do the same for them with treats, long walks, affection, and tummy and butt scratches. Oh, I miss our fine old dog, Oscar, dearly. Thanks for the salmon burger recipe! Now I know how to make it from scratch and enjoy it with my hubster buster.

  47. Ellen says:

    I have seen Kaweah through the years and I am actually crying my eyes out after reading this post. Praying for your old girl, may she be blessed with more healthy years. I have an old boy myself and I felt every emotion that you tried to convey here. Sending my love for Kaweah!

  48. melanie says:

    I love that beautiful baby doggie. I’m balling my eyes out, reading this. Like many, I’ve followed you for a long time. We all love you and Jeremy and Kaweah. I have a sickly 15 year old cat. He has long passed his life expectancy. The vet told us he would be gone in 3 months, that was over 10 months ago. We love him and make him as comfortable as possible. I send you and beautiful Kaweah a BIG virtual hug ! these are our babies.

  49. Andrea says:

    Even though I’ve been reading this blog for years (years!), Kaweah never seemed to age to me. She always looked like a puppy in her prime. You’ve taken such good care of her. You and she have nothing to regret. I hope you two have as much time as possible together!

  50. Sobaka says:

    I cried while reading your post. Three days ago we lost our 17 year old dog. He was just like Kaweah – slower, mainly deaf, somewhat blind, a little shaky on the legs, slept more, but each time he woke up he was eager and ready to go, until the last morning, when he suddenly got very ill. We learned he had a liver tumor that had shown no symptoms until the last minute. He was ready to go, and I held his head and petted him as he slipped away. As he grew older he required a lot of extra time, but I enjoyed every minute of it, and there is a huge emptiness now where he was. I’m glad you still have Kaweah for a while. I love seeing photos of her. She is so beautiful.

  51. L. says:

    I worry about Kaweah from post to post too these days. From everything you’ve written here it seems like you’ve given her a perfect dog’s life: tons of love and socialization, good training, great food (but not too much), and scads of outdoor time in wilderness and beautiful places. I hope that helps when you think about facing the day she has to leave you.

    I don’t think of myself as a dog person, like I wasn’t raised with dogs (or cats), have never had them. But I am typing this with a very little toy poodle puppy in my lap. We’re just getting to know each other and I’ve been cleaning up a lot of dog wee. I’m really looking forward to becoming a dog person and seeing more of that wordless joy and happiness in the moment, to be here with people and other critters, that seems like the most beautiful thing about dogs.

  52. April says:

    I had my dear dog companion for 15 years until she finally died suddenly at home. My vet told me we’d know the time had come when she stopped eating. But Koka ate with enthusiasm until the very morning of her last day. She went out for a slow walk that day, wagged at the neighbors as usual, accepted a treat, enjoyed the sunshine and her day. This was after years of age-related kidney decline and then heart problems. I had been agonizing about whether or not to take her into the vet for The Last Visit, but as I said, she enjoyed every minute until she took that decision out of my hands. I haven’t had a dog since. I don’t miss having a dog; I miss her. I’ll never forget all she taught me, and her memory brings me joy, as I know Kaweah brings you. May she abide with you for a long while to come.

  53. Meg D says:

    I have had the same approach as Christine, loving your blog so much but reading the opening lines with fear/dread. Your photos and captions are so loving and beautiful. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us so eloquently. And I can’t wait to make these salmon cakes. I know my family, including Jerry the Springer Spaniel, will love them!

  54. Melanie Evans says:

    Dear Jen. I went through the same progression with my wirehair Griffin. Kaweah is living a good life while making yours so much more than it would be without her. I can’t even imagine how life would be different, less without our sweet little furry buddies. I’m glad you’re appreciating and enjoying every minute you have with her. It’s very hard to know the “right” time. She’s definitely still loving life. I wish you and her the very best. Love, Melanie

  55. Amy says:

    My first time commenting! I’ve been reading your blog for a while but this is the first recipe I’ve tried. I love it! Thanks for the recipe.

  56. Margie says:

    Love that puppy so much…love her mama, too.
    Our dogs are our family. The mystery in life is this: “Who rescued whom?”

  57. Brynnie says:

    Been catching up on my URB posts that I missed after a minor surgery and recuperation recently, and just got to this one. Oh boy. Tears are rolling onto my Macbook right now. I have followed your journey with Kaweah for several years now and keep her (and you) close to my heart as you walk this slower path into her later years. Your last photo, with the “You will always be my baby puppy” caption, is my favorite of this post. I told my sweet Aussie mix Nash when he was a young whipper-snapper and trying to act too big for his furry haunches, “Chill out, dude… you are NOT a big dog, you are a baby doggie!” And yes, of course… ever since that moment he has been my “baby doggie” and I refer to him as such most days, if not every day. Now, at 7, he is still vibrant and full of energy, and our days on the trail together are not yet numbered. But having had many pets up to this time in my life, I know those years will come, and my heart is with you as you experience them with Kaweah. She is precious, and your journey with her has been precious to me, and as evidenced by these “nibbles”, to so many other readers of URB too. Mwah to the “baby puppy” on your end! And in closing… all I have to say is (sorry, Dad)… “salmon cakes, what salmon cakes?!” Real butter is a mere co-star on this blog, in my book. <3

  58. jenyu says:

    Oh, thank you all for your sweet comments and for sharing your loving and tear-inducing stories of your own beloved pets. I think we all learn so much from our four-legged companions. They teach us about what matters in life and to always be happy (except during baths). Your support and love for Kaweah is incredibly comforting too. I’m sure if you were all here to meet her, she’d sniff each of you down to see if you had a treat for her :) xxoo

    Theresa – I think you can cook them without thawing, just cook longer. Or thaw them and cook them like you would normally.

    Lynn – we’ve tried a similar set up with Kaweah, but it’s partly her hind paws that have trouble staying flat (they knuckle under because her nervous system is deteriorating). She can no longer go up stairs on her own, and only goes down the carpeted stairs with a “spotter”. We carry her, and it’s fine for now. We’re watching her closely, making sure she’s comfortable and happy :)

  59. Salmon Cakes & Tsa-Tsiki Sauce says:

    […] season is once again upon us and it’s time to make delicious Salmon Cakes. I saw the recipe on userealbutter, and because the list of ways to use salmon was exhausted, I decided to give it a try. What I love […]

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