It’s Monday night at 9 and I’m just getting around to writing my column. I’m sitting on the couch with my best friend -- another dumb blonde -- and we’re watching an episode of "Love It or Leave It," perhaps the 200th since we started watching it a year or so ago.
I’m not sure she’s actually watching it. Her head is on my lap and if the heavy breathing is any indication, she’ll be snoring in a few minutes. She doesn’t care if I change the channel, although she has a preference for Animal Planet. She doesn’t even mind being called a dumb blonde.
My best friend, actually my best four-legged friend, is our yellow Labrador retriever, Berkshires Sassy Lady, or just plain Sassy to her friends. My son calls her "Pooper" (for obvious reasons) and I sometimes I call her Sassmerelda, but she doesn’t care, as long as her food bowl is filled twice a day.
We got her 41Ž2 years ago, when our son was on winter break from college -- 36 hours after we lost our cocker spaniel to kidney failure. I didn’t want any part of getting another dog -- my husband and son told me we were going grocery shopping and we ended up at the breeder’s. Adamant we weren’t going to get a puppy, I spent my time grilling the breeder about her parents and the breeders themselves. Guy and David spent the time cuddling the puppy, who was the only one of her litter left (which I was also grilling the breeder about.) All was going well until Guy called my name, I turned and he pushed her into my arms. She sealed the deal by cuddling into my shoulder and sighing. I echoed her sigh, knowing I had lost the battle and asked, "Who do I make the check out to?"
Sassy has been unique since the day she was born. Although her parents and eight brothers and sisters are chocolate, she is a dark blonde, with the pink facial features and green eyes of a chocolate lab.
Although we were assured by the breeder she was crate trained, apparently no one had told her. After a week of listening to her crying and whining all night (while the men in my life slept through it) I gave up, I scooped her up and brought her into bed with me -- and there she’s been ever since.
A Lab is a water dog. It was January when we got Sassy and apparently she couldn’t wait until summer to go swimming. If we didn’t close the bathroom door tightly when we were taking a shower or a bath, she would join us in the tub. Unfortunately, it didn’t take her long to figure out how to open the door knob.
When summer did arrive, she became fixated with going swimming in our pool -- almost as fixated she is with tennis balls. Combine the two and you’re in big trouble ...
When she was a puppy, she learned early on her head and neck are the same width and she could easily slip her collar. We spent one morning chasing her through the neighborhood with the aid of a roofer atop a neighbor’s house who could see her every move and reported it to us via cellphone. We invested in a harness -- which she also proved she could get out of.
She and I run errands on Saturday mornings. She loves the women at the two banks we visit because there’s always a treat in the drawer for her, and if she’s lucky, I stop for a coffee and she gets a treat at that drive-up window, too.
She and I have been through a lot together. After I lost my husband, and David was still at college, she was always there for me, waiting for me to get home at night and cuddling up close when I needed it. She was there last spring to dance with me in the kitchen, while I was singing "Brick House," after a birthday celebration -- and a lot of Jose Cuervo -- with a friend.
I love making Sassy treats. She sits on the kitchen floor while her biscuits bake and stares longingly at them cooling on the racks.
In the summer, she loves Frosty Paws, but it’s so expensive and so high in fat content, I prefer to make my own. She’s not big on bananas, so I substitute jars of baby food -- sweet potato, squash or even one of the strained meats.
Frozen Dog Treats
32 ounce carton of plain nonfat yogurt (I use Greek yogurt)
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon peanut butter
15 Pupperoni dog treats or other brand
15 -- 3 oz. disposable paper cups
Process the first three ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Distribute evenly into cups. Cut off 1Ž3 of each Pupperoni Treats and reserve for a small treat for your dog later. Carefully place the larger piece of Pupperoni into the center of the yogurt mixture. Place all cups on a cookie sheet and freeze for several hours.
Once frozen, put them all in a gallon-size resealable container. When ready to serve, remove cup and watch your dog enjoy. (Tip: These are best served outdoors since they get really messy.)
Sweet Potato Dog Treats
Makes 32 servings
1 sweet potato
21Ž2 cups whole wheat flour
1Ž4 cup unsweetened applesauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick sweet potato several times with a fork.
Heat sweet potato in a microwave on high until tender, about six minutes. Cut potato in half and scoop flesh out of the skin into a bowl; discard skin. Mash potato with a fork or potato masher and transfer about one cup to a large bowl. Save any remaining sweet potato for another use.
Mix whole wheat flour, applesauce, and eggs in the large bowl with the sweet potato until a dough forms. Turn dough out on a well-floured surface and roll dough to about 1Ž2-inch thick. Cut out shapes using a cookie cutter or cut dough into strips with a pizza cutter. Arrange cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake until crisp, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.