There is an empty dog bed, a bowl not used, a hole in our lives, and a lonely Samoyed who has lost his best friend. We will all rebound, of course, but it is so hard to lose a beloved pet. Our Australian shepherd, Darwin, passed away recently. The tumor he’d had for many months finally got too big and he was obviously in pain. So we made that hard choice, and the dog that was my shadow and my confidante is now no longer with us.It’s very hard to describe the place a wonderful dog has in our lives — unquestioning affection, true loyalty, constant companionship — never more than a few feet away, ready to go anywhere or do anything to please his humans. The only thing he could not resist was a coyote yipping at him from just up the hill. He always looked back, as if to say “Sorry, Mom, I just can’t help myself…” And he’d go on up the hill, weaving in and out of the brush, as we’d yell frantically. As soon as he’d chased the coyote from what he considered “his” territory, he’d come back. He never bothered the deer or rabbits or quail, just the wily coyotes. And he always came back, until now.We will look for another Aussie, to join the long line of Aussies we have had here on the ranch, but not right away. Our Sammy will be an only dog for awhile, and the recipient of a lot of extra hugs and loves as he tries to fill in for his best friend.If I am sad or worried, I can almost always find some sort of solace in the kitchen — not eating, just cooking. Comfort foods — soups, macaroni and cheese, cookies and breads, simple foods that make one feel safe again. So today’s recipe is for a simple chocolate cookie, with a slight hint of orange and cinnamon. WARM CINNAMON ORANGE CHOCOLATE COOKIESThese cookies are easy to make, and if you only want to bake a few at a time, the dough will hold in the refrigerator for a few days. They are best served warm from the oven, or briefly warmed in the microwave. Good with a glass of milk, or best of all, a cup of hot chocolate Mexican-style, made with real cocoa, a cinnamon stick, and extra sugar.Melt in the top of a double-boiler over hot water:1⁄2 cup butter or butter substitute (such as “I can’t believe it’s not butter”)4 squares unsweetened chocolateWhen melted, beat in:1 cup white sugar1 cup brown sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extract1⁄4 teaspoon orange extract4 eggs, one at a time; beat after each additionRemove from heat, then, in a sifter, or mix in a separate bowl:21⁄4 cups all purpose flour, fluffed before measuring2 teaspoons baking powder1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamongenerous pinch of saltAdd dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mix well, then add (this is optional):1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup roughly chopped toasted pine nuts Chill dough several hours. Make into small balls and roll in confectioner’s sugarPress down on greased cookie sheets, and bake at 350 degrees about 12-14 minutes. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies. Best served warm.• David and Muffy Vhay are the owners of Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.