I am grateful, if not a little teary-eyed, to note that today is Mason’s 14th birthday.  Fourteen years for a Labrador retriever is, quite frankly, impressive.  I remember the life-expectancy poster at the animal hospital where my mom worked for so long stating that a Lab’s life span is usually 10-11 years.  Mason was 9 at the time, and the poster made me blink back tears, hard.

I did not think we would have the gift of 14 years with him. He is definitely the dog that keeps on giving.

Although he is shedding fur by the ton lately, has random difficulty breathing, requires medication twice a day and can barely stay two minutes outside before the humidity threatens to incapacitate him, he still gives enthusiastic hugs and slurpy kisses, he still smiles, and he still wags his tail wildly at the sound of our voices.

The Kiddos and the Monk, 2008

The Kiddos and the Monk, 2008

I had worried that Mason wouldn’t survive leaving our old house. I worried that he wouldn’t live to see the new house. I worried that he wouldn’t see his 14th birthday. I don’t know if he will see his 15th. Hell, I don’t know if he’ll see this Christmas. We know we are on borrowed time, and we are grateful for every furry minute of it.

Two Sleepy Puppies September 2013

Two Sleepy Puppies, September 2013

Despite that Mason’s favorite foods have always been pizza and French fries, I try to make sure that he eats properly, which I firmly believe has contributed to his life span and overall health. We diagnosed a grain allergy when he was five and had to change his food to some crazy-expensive grain-free brand. When I started evaluating ingredients in our food, I naturally evaluated ingredients in our dogs’ foods and made sure that we only bought treats and foods that met my ingredient standards. I caved recently and allowed Milk Bones back in the house, only to read the ingredients on the box last month and ban them all over again.

What’s a snack-starved pup to do? Well, if you’re my pup, you lay across my pathway in the kitchen and take a snooze while I spend the next hour whipping up some grain-free dog treats.

Monkey Underfoot, September 2013

Monkey Underfoot, September 2013

In honor of Mason, the Best Damn Yella Dog EVER, here’s a treat recipe for the furball in your life.

Grain-Free Dog Biscuits (originally found on More Than Paleo)

1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into chunks and boiled until soft.

¼ c. coconut milk (I was out of coconut milk, so I used almond milk instead)

1 ½ T flaxseed mixed with 2T water to make a paste (I was out of this too, so I used chia seeds)

½ c peanut butter (I think I need to go to the store!)

1 egg

½ c coconut flour (you can use more to thicken if you need to)

Mash up the boiled sweet potato chunks and add remaining ingredients. Blend together and drop by small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I scooped out about a teaspoon at a time and patted it flat in my hand to make a smooth, flat biscuit. (You don’t want rough edges.) They won’t spread out at all, so you can put them as close together as you like on the sheet, without letting them touch.

Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool. If these had turned out very crunchy, I would have stored them in the cookie jar where the dogs know their treats live. But since these turned out to still be a little soft in the middle, I followed More Than Paleo’s advice and stored them in the fridge. Now the pups think they’re getting some of our food!

Happy Birthday, Monkasaurus! We love ya to the moon and back!