Joy, Gratitude, and Pumpkins

I posted the top photo above to Instagram yesterday and decided I wanted to share it here too. It takes a lot for me to let go of summer, but when I see my kids’ reactions to pumpkins, it’s nearly impossible to not feel a tiny bit smitten by fall. It’s also a great reminder to take a cue from my little ones and allow myself to feel pure joy over simple things. If they can feel such a thrill from an orange squash and what it represents, then I can too. We went apple picking last weekend and the excitement they felt was, cliche or otherwise, contagious. I feel such gratitude to be able to learn from them every single day. They are truly the best teachers I’ve ever had.

The photos above are all from the last two years, but I see a 2018 pumpkin farm visit in our near future.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Anka got her rabies vaccine and microchip today

She didn’t even flinch, but she kept her eyes on me while they did it. She also knows her sit and down commands.

This dog has nerves of steel.

anka at the vet


Natural History

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Are Grackles Dangerous to Your Dog?

Today we have a guest post from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences about a topic that’s familiar to just about everyone who’s ever parked in a…

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We’re Launching a New Blog! #Giveaway

The last few weeks, we’ve been hard at work preparing a new blog that we’re launching today: get ready for DogTipper’s DOGGONE TEXAS! Our new blog is created in the same style as…

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Weekend Activities for the Fall

In between football games, I am easily amused. Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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50 year conviction is overturned, thanks to Lucy the dog

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Practicing Daily Gratitude With Your Kids

Last week, I posted the top photo above on my Instagram, with the following caption: “Every morning when Essley wakes up, I ask her to tell me one thing for which she’s grateful. She’s like her mama (we don’t enjoy mornings), and I’ve found that starting my day with gratitude (even if I have to force it) genuinely helps me feel less anxious and more happy through out my day – and it seems to help her as well. This morning, her response was ‘my family’ (gold star answer, kid) and ’763 pieces of chocolate’ (clearly my child). Have a grateful day, friends.”

I received over 30 messages after posting that, from both parents and non-parents, thanking me for the idea and stating that they were going to do the same with both their kids and themselves. My response to every message was that while I certainly didn’t come up with the idea of practicing morning gratitude, I was thrilled to see that our silly little morning ritual could possibly help others who have anxiety (like me) or who just wanted to start their days in a positive way. And it got me thinking about other ways my kids and I could practice gratitude together. So Essley and I sat down and came up with a “gratitude to do list”, which I am sharing below.

1. Every morning upon waking, say out loud at least one thing in your life for which you feel thankful.

2. Keep a special journal or sketchbook, and throughout your day, write down or draw pictures of things that you appreciate.

3. Give every family member a hug and tell them how grateful you are to have them in your life.

4. Make a thank you card for a friend and tell them you appreciate their friendship.

5. Say thank you out loud every time you eat a meal.

6. Smile a LOT. (Essley says this one is the most important of all.)

7. Take videos of your little ones telling friends and relatives why they are thankful for them, and then email or text them the videos.

8. Make a giving list. For holidays or birthdays, make lists of the items or experiences you want to give others. (Sort of a reverse wish list.)

9. Everyday, tell each person in your family one thing about them you love and appreciate. (This can be anything from something profound to Essley’s favorite, “I like your outfit mommy!”)

10. Before bed, say out loud one great thing that happened that day for which your are thankful.

Consciously feeling grateful for things in your life is such a simple concept, but it’s been life changing for me in many ways. (Sounds super cheesy I know, but it’s the truth.)  And it makes sense – research shows that practicing gratitude causes us to enjoy our lives more and feel happier in general. Even the act of putting this list together made me feel thankful and happy, and I know it did the same for Essley. If you have little ones, try some of these and let me know what you think. And if you have ways you practice daily gratitude with your children (or yourself!) I’d love to hear!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Calm When Moving #AdaptilDog

  This post is sponsored by CEVA Animal Health, makers of ADAPTIL® for dogs. All statements and opinions are entirely our own. As always, we only share products that we use with our own pets!…

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Why did mankind not domesticate the African wild dog?


Man originated in Africa. The whole lineage of apes from which we and all the other human species descended was in Africa, a sister lineage to the apes that gave us the chimpanzee and the bonobo.

But man’s first domestic animal was not of Africa at all. The large pack-hunting wolf roamed the great expanses of Eurasia, and it was only when certain Eurasian hunters began to incorporate wolves into their societies that we began the process of domestication.

For nearly two million years, human ancestors and the ancestors of the wild dog lived throughout Africa.  There was never an attempt to bring these dogs to heel, and there was never attempt to reach out to that species.

The question remains of why African wild dogs were never domesticated, and part of the answer lies in their nervous nature. I am reminded of Martin Clunes’s A Man and His Dogs.  Clunes ended his two part documentary with a visit to Tony Fitzjohn’s African wild dog project, and at one point, Clunes is asked to pick up a tranquilized African wild dog, while making certain that the jaws are positioned well away from his body.  These dogs react and react quickly.

These dogs live as quite persecuted mesopredators in an intact African ecosystem that includes lions and spotted hyenas.  Yes, this animal that kills large game with a greater success rate than any other African predator is totally the underdog in a land so dominated by the great maned cat and the spotted bone-crusher.

Their lives must be spent hunting down quarry and then bolting down meat as fast as they can before the big predators show up to steal it.

The current thinking is the first African wild dog ancestor to appear in Africa was Lycaon sekowei. This species lived in Africa from 1.9 to 1 million years ago, which is roughly the same time frame in which the first human ancestors began to consume meat readily.  It was very likely that a major source of meat consumed by these ancestors came from scavenging.  Homo habilis has been des cribed as a very serious scavenger, as was Homo erectus.

Both Homo habilis and erectus were contemporaries of Lycaon sekowei, and one really thinks about it, these early humans would have been very interested in the comings and goings of the great predators. Of all the predators to drive off kills, it is obvious that a pack of wild dogs would be easier to drive off than just about any other predators that were evident in Africa at the time.

So for at least 1.9 million years, African wild dogs evolved knowing that humans of any sort were bad news.  They may have inherited an instinct towards antipathy toward humans, and thus, there never was any chance for us to develop relationships such as those that have been observed with wolves and hunter-gatherer people.

I think this played a a much bigger role in reason why man never tried to domesticate African wild dogs. One should also keep in mind that wolves in Eurasia were also mesopredators in that ecosystem. Darcy Morey and Rujana Jeger point out that Pleistocene wolves functioned as mesopredators in which their numbers were likely limited by cave lions, archaic spotted  hyenas, and various forms of machariodont. They were probably under as much competition from these predators as the ancestral African wild dogs were under from the guild of super predators on their continent.

What was different, though, is the ancestral wolves never evolved in an enviroment which scavenging from various human species was a constant threat, so they could develop behaviors towards humans that were not always characterized by extreme caution and fear.

We were just novel enough for wolves to consider us something other than nasty scavengers, and thus, we could have the ability to develop a hunting symbiosis as is described in Mark Derr’s book and also Pierotti and Fogg’s.

It should also be noted that African wild dogs do not have flexible societies. In wolf societies, there are wolves that manage to reproduce without forming a pair bond, simply because when prey is abundant, it is possible for wolves other than the main breeding female to whelp and rear puppies. These females have no established mates, and they breed with male wolves that have left their natal packs and live on the edges of the territories of established packs. In the early years of the Yellowstone reintroduction, many packs let these females raise their pups that were sired by the wanderers, and one famous wolf (302M) wound up doing this most of his life, siring many, many puppies.  I think that what humans did in their initial relationships with wolves was to allow more wolves to reproduce in this fashion, which opens up the door for more selective breeding than one would get from wolves that are more pair-bonded.

In African wild dogs, one female has the pups. If another female has puppies, hers are confiscated by the main breeding female and usually starve to death.

The wolf had the right social flexibility and the right natural history for humans form relationships with them, which the African wild dog was lacking.






Natural History

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Are Peas and Potatoes Problematic?

Dog eating Halo dry dog food
You may have recently heard about an FDA statement regarding alleged associations between pet foods and a heart disease called DCM – dilated cardiomyopathy. In their statement, the FDA implicated certain ingredients (particularly potatoes and legumes like peas) and types of food (such as grain-free diets) as having potential associations with this condition.

Please allow me to be perfectly clear: any relationship between DCM and certain types of diets or ingredients is not fully clear.

What does diet have to do with heart disease in dogs?
Historically, DCM has been caused by taurine deficiency in pets who were either eating diets with insufficient taurine or taurine’s precursors methionine and cysteine, or in dogs with genetic predispositions and higher taurine requirements.

Taurine is not generally recognized as an essential nutrient for all dogs, as adult non-reproductive dogs can generate their own taurine, provided the sulfur amino acids methionine and cysteine are included at appropriate levels in their diet.

What do peas and potatoes have to do with this?
The FDA’s recent warning had to do with diets which contain little or no grains, so called “grain-free” diets, which typically have high levels of legumes, sweet potato, or potato as an alternative source of carbohydrates. Legumes typically have quite a high level of protein in comparison to grains, and inclusion of legumes in pet food can affect the amino acid profile of the diet. The ideal protein would be one in which all amino acids are in perfect balance, however this ideal protein does not exist as a complete and balanced food for pets. Instead, multiple complementary protein sources are combined to meet each amino acid requirement. While legumes are a rich source of protein, they are limited in sulfur amino acids.

Furthermore, high fiber content can decrease digestibility of a diet and increase taurine excretion. Diets rich in legumes and low in grains can have higher fiber contents than diets which include grains and have lower levels of legumes.

My dog is eating a “grain-free” diet or a diet with a high content of legumes – what should I do?
First and foremost, if you have any concerns about your pet’s health you should contact your veterinarian. If you have no reason to suspect disease, but have been concerned by the media surrounding this issue, there are some practical steps you can take to evaluate whether the diet you are feeding your companion is likely to be high risk or not:

1) Check the packaging for an AAFCO (North America) or FEDIAF (Europe) statement of nutritional sufficiency. It will read something like:

This dog food has been formulated in accordance with AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance or This dog food has undergone feeding trials in accordance with AAFCO.

If the diet does not have an AAFCO/FEDIAF adequacy statement, or the adequacy statement is not for the appropriate life-stage (puppy growth, adult maintenance, or pregnancy/lactation), it may not be nutritionally complete and balanced or appropriate for your dog. 

2) Call the company producing the food and ask them some questions about their practices and about nutrients of particular concern. Some examples from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Global Nutrition Committee include:

  • Who formulates your food, and what are his/her credentials?
  • If the adequacy statement was based on formulation and not on a feeding trial, were the nutrient levels based on the recipe’s formulation or analytical testing of the finished product?
  • What are the levels of total dietary fiber, methionine, cysteine, carnitine and taurine in this diet?

In order to start to evaluate the appropriateness of the diet for your dog, you first want to know that the company uses a nutritionist with extensive experience in the industry, or else academic merit or a veterinary specialist background. More importantly, pet food companies should be testing their finished products to ensure that the nutrient content of the finished product reflects what was formulated. This ensures that your dog is indeed receiving all the nutrients in the quantities you expect them to. The company should be able to provide you with measured values for most nutrients – in relation to DCM: total dietary fiber, methionine, cysteine, carnitine and taurine are of the most interest.

3) If you do not feel satisfied with the answers you receive from the pet food company, yet you would like to avoid changing diets, there are laboratories which perform nutrient analyses on pet food products. Your veterinarian or closest veterinary college may be able to provide you with information on how and where to send samples. These services are typically costly, but provide independent measures of nutrient content in food samples.

I hope this has provided some clarification and alleviated concerns regarding the potential association between dog food and DCM. Remember, if you have any concerns about your companion’s health, call your veterinarian. Otherwise, call the producer of your pet’s food, as they should be able to provide you with all the information you require to make an informed decision about whether the diet is suitable for your dog and whether to continue feeding their product.

Take care of yourself and your furry friends,

Dr. Sarah

Dr. Sarah DoddDr. Sarah Dodd is a veterinarian with a special focus on companion animal nutrition. Her studies have taken her around the world living in England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, the United States of America and Canada – where she currently reside with her three happy rescue dogs Peppa, Dottie and Timmy.

She graduated from veterinary school in 2016, since then she has pursued her passion in nutrition with a clinical nutrition internship and a Master’s degree at the Ontario Veterinary College. She is currently completing her nutrition residency with the European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition and enrolled in a PhD studying plant-based diets for pets.

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