The Alien World

I went on a long hike yesterday in the back country at Beaver Creek State Park.  I had many encounters with aliens.

The most amazing encounter I had was with a leafhopper and an inchworm that both landed on my wrist. They seemed to be confused about the substance on which they landed, and they were equally vexed about each other.

leafhopper and inchworm

The leafhopper soon grew tired of the scene and hopped onto more satisfying greenery, but the inchworm stayed for a bit longer.


I let the inchworm loose a leaf of green foliage, and I continued on my way.

As I marched along, I came across several iridescent green damselflies.

green damselfly

green damselfy 2

They were quite hard to photograph. It was as if they saw my camera as a predator staring hard at them with one unblinking hard-staring eye.

Later on, I came across a scene of predation. Some ants had caught a hapless inchworm and were carrying it to their lair.

ants kill inchworm

This is a world that is not mine. I am profoundly ignorant about entomology. I was into insects as a boy, but I grew out of that fascination.

My essential mammalness means that I feel a stronger comradeship with other vertebrates. Indeed, I feel that I can glimpse some knowledge the tetrapod world, but the insect and spider and crab world is beyond me– profoundly so.

No being on earth has a society as tightly organized as ants do. Not even our own species has a society that is so well-checked, but maybe someday we well will.

Their worlds are not ours, but theirs is more holistic, more complete. It exists without our profound intellect. It exists with their violence, their dramas, their instincts and drives.

It is beyond the reason of my supposedly reasoning species. It shall remain so, forever untouched.


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Natural History

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Christmas in July Giveaway–Over $550 in prizes!

Each prize is sponsored by and shipped by the sponsor. All statements and opinions are our own. As I look out at the thermometer reading over 100 degrees, I know that, yes, the weather outside is…

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On Redwolves

red wolf

I don’t know a damned thing about football. I have hated it my whole life.  I cannot carry on a halfway decent conversation about it. Taking me to a football game for me to enjoy it is about like taking a dog to the Louvre and expecting him to appreciate the art*, and I will remain happily ignorant about the subject until my dying day.

Currently, the US is going through some great historical reckonings about racism, which I must admit that I do fully support.  There is a lot of controversy about taking down statues and renaming streets, and it’s all horrendously gut-wrenching and difficult.

Among the changes that is happening is that the professional football team in Washington, D.C. is getting its name changed. For decades, various groups affiliated with various Native American organizations have been trying to get the name changed. It has been called the Redskins, and as someone who doesn’t care about football, I think it’s kind of silly that we have a name like this for anything.

But all the recent events have finally led to decision to change the football team’s name.

And although we don’t know the new name. The current favorite is “Redwolves.”

Well, that’s a different controversy!

And no, I’m not saying the systematic racism and oppression of Native Americans is an any way comparable to a big taxonomy kerfuffle, but it is controversial.

As long time readers of this blog know, I generally reject the “red wolf” paradigm. I base this rejection upon really good genome-wide analysis. I also reject the ancient North America-only origins for the coyote, and I believe that both the red wolf and coyote are offshoots of the Eurasian gray wolf.  Indeed, I have proposed that the coyote is a form of gray wolf in the same way the domestic dog is , and that it should be recognized as Canis lupus latrans.  The red wolf is a hybrid between relict gray wolves that lived in Louisiana and Texas and the coyote.

One unusual discovery about gray wolves, coyotes, and “red wolves” is that all three populations are about as genetically distinct from each other as humans from different continents are.

And this discovery might tell us thing or two about racism in our own species. At one time, the various races of humanity were often classified into different species. Some people resisted this notion, which popular in the nineteenth century.

However, among them was the Rev.  John Bachman, a Southern Lutheran pastor, who also ministered to the slaves. He defended the institution of slavery, of course, but he did not think that African Americans were a different species from Europeans.

Bachman also believed the wolves of North America represented one species, and this idea was very much expounded in Aubudon’s The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Bachman and Audubon worked closely on the text, and although Bachman and Audubon are credited with documenting the red wolf as a species, they were very clear that were the same species:

“The Wolves present so many shades of colour that we have not ventured to regard this [the red wolf] as a distinct species;  more especially because it breeds with those of other colours, gangs of wolves being seen in which this variety is mixed up both the grey and the black” (243).

Bachman and Audubon’s initial idea that the “red wolf” was just a color phase has since been revealed in the genome-wide analysis of wolves, coyotes, and red wolves are so closely related to each other that it would almost make sense to classify them as one really diverse species. Bachman and Audubon were certain that the coyote was a very distinct species, but it likely diverged from the gray wolf within the past 50,000 years. And a gene flow still exists between coyotes and gray wolves across the continent.

Humanity is so caught up in labeling, and now, we’re trying to undo some of the damages that were done through our pseudoscientific labeling in the past.

And Confronting past and present racial discrimination is the current zeitgeist.

I reject racism very clearly and definitely. I don’t want to have teams with racist names or have statues of Confederate generals on public property.

I am what some people would call “left wing scum.” I wear the badge with pride.

But I wonder if much of my rejection of Canis rufus is also my rejection of racism. I think the evidence is strong that the species should not be considered valid, but I wonder if my strong aversion to the classification of this species is part of my deep anti-racist ideology.

Maybe it clouds how I view data.  Ideology does drive a lot of scientific understanding. Philosophy underpins so much more than we’re ever willing to accept.

I know that I have intellectually made the case to myself.  It makes me look like I hate endangered species to some poor readers out there.  Or that I want some sort of whole-scale blood letting among the red wolves.

But I don’t think that this species was defined correctly. It wasn’t even defined when wolves were commonplace in Texas and Louisiana, and the genetic data that was used to identify them as a species in the 1970s was rather primitive. Indeed, much of their defining characteristics were based upon what they looked like, and as Peter Steinhart pointed out in The Company of Wolves, it was not unusual for 75-pound “red wolves” and 25-pound “coyotes” to appear in the same litter. The founding population of red wolves consisted of only 14 individuals, and when they were released in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, it was assumed they would keep coyotes out and not interbreed with them.

Indeed, what happened was they started interbreeding with Eastern coyotes as those smaller canids began colonizing the red wolf release area.

Believing that coyote blood contaminates red wolf blood has resulted in several litters of pups being euthanized. The coyote cannot sully the blood purity of the red wolf, even when the genome-wide analysis shows that the red wolves are themselves admixtures of of coyote and extinct Southern gray wolf.

We have defined these animals so rigidly before the law that the wolves cannot choose their own mates.  If they pair with a coyote, they have created a mongrel.

It is this level of stupidity that I reject when it comes to nature and simple ethics. These animals cannot be thought of as truly wild and natural if they must be maintained only by keeping the coyotes from mating with them.

It reminds me so much of the racial purity nonsense that was once so prevalent in the United States and still exists, though often is never explained or articulated in this fashion.

And when wildlife management apes this sort of buffoonery, I have to reject it. I am not saying that red wolf advocates are racist, but the way they describe them and the crosses between coyotes and red wolves truly sounds so eerily similar to our antiquated ideas about blood purity that I am instantly repulsed by it.

So yes, let’s rename the football team.  Lets oppose racism in all its forms.

But renaming the team by this name is not without its own controversies. Indeed, it echoes and rhymes so much with the ones facing the human world that one cannot stop and marvel at the folly.


*Stolen from Julie Zickefoose.



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Natural History

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Mrs. Kravitz and Friends

Are you old enough to know who Mrs. Kravitz is? Gladys Kravitz was a recurring character on the ancient Bewitched show. She constantly had her nose stuck out of her curtains, and knew absolutely everything that went on in the neighborhood. My dogs are definitely the same way, except when nap time intervenes. Until next … Continue reading Mrs. Kravitz and Friends Dog Blog

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8 Ways Our Family Helps to Conserve Natural Resources

8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources

This post is sponsored by Georgia-Pacific; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The commitment to live an eco-conscious lifestyle and to appreciate nature is ingrained in me. My parents taught me about sustainability and ways to respect the earth from a young age. I went on to be the president of my high school’s environmental club and then interned with a large environmental non-profit throughout college. After school, I worked full time as a designer for an eco-friendly clothing label for 14 years. And since becoming a parent, I’ve consistently sought and practiced ways to teach my children about different ways we can help our earth. I’m certainly not a perfect environmentalist by any means, but I make the effort to do my best.

A big part of living a lifestyle that helps (rather than hurts) the earth is to focus on conserving natural resources. In simple terms, natural resources are resources that come from that nature that people can utilize. Basically, anything not made by humans is a natural resource – water, forests, air, land, fossil fuels, minerals, sunshine, animals, soil, etc. The only way to preserve a healthy environment is to use these natural resources sustainably and responsibly. Today, I want to share some of the ways my family and I try to do this in our daily lives.

8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources

1. Get outside and experience nature.
Getting out and enjoying nature may not be a direct way to conserve natural resources, but it is probably the most important step for teaching kids (and reminding ourselves!) why it is important. When you love and appreciate something, you want to take care of it. We live in an urban environment in the midwest, but there are still so many ways for us to experience the wonderful natural parts of our planet. Our favorite is walking and hiking throughout our local forest preserves, as can be seen in the photos throughout this post!

2. Choose sustainable products for your home.
We always make an effort to purchase products that are earth-friendly, from reusable water bottles to hemp clothing to recycled goods to organic foods. When it comes to paper products, we are big fans of Georgia-Pacific. They not only continuously work to reduce their impact on the environment as a company, they also make products with the earth in mind. We love their Aria® Earth-Friendly Toilet Paper, which is made from responsibly sourced trees with 100% renewable power, and comes in 52% plant-based, recyclable packaging. (Their paper towel and napkins come in 94% plant-based packaging.) Aria also plants 3 new trees for every single tree used, is manufactured in North American/US, and is Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified.

8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources

3. Plant trees.
When we moved into our home two years ago, there wasn’t a single tree in our yard. We have planted one so far and plan to plant as many as possible over the years. Trees give us oxygen, prevent soil erosion, provide habitats for wildlife, and maintain our ecosystem. This is another thing we love about Georgia-Pacific – they commit to planting trees, with a 1:1 philosophy. This means that for every one tree they use, they plant at least one more in the U.S. Their Aria line plants three new trees for every tree used.

4. Conserve water at home.
This is such a simple, easy way to do our part and can be implemented in small ways. We turn off the tap when brushing our teeth and washing our hands, we take short showers, we reuse water from our kiddie pool to water the garden, and we use a washing machine that uses less water and only wash full loads, in cold water.

8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources

5. Recycle.
Even after all these years, recycling continues to be one of the best and easiest ways to conserve natural resources. When an aluminum can is recycled, it uses 5% of the energy that it takes to make a new can. 60,000 gallons of water are saved for every ton of paper that is recycled. And recycled products greatly reduce greenhouse emissions. (Yet another reason I love Georgia-Pacific is that their GP Harmon Recycling subsidiary purchases more than 6 million tons of recovered paper annually to be recycled.)

6. Eat less meat.
I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15, and even though my husband and kids do eat meat, most of our family meals are vegetarian. We talk to our kids about how eating meat a few times a week rather than everyday helps conserve natural resources. Just one pound of beef, for example takes 2,400 gallons of water. We also try to buy meat from local farms when we can.

8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources

7. Reduce electricity use at home.
Just like conserving water at home, conserving electricity is an easy way to make a difference. We always turn off lights when we leave a room. (It’s a rule in our house!) We also use Compact fluorescent lamps, LED lightbulbs, and Halogen incandescent lightbulbs, which last longer and use 25% to 80% less energy than regular incandescent light bulbs. We also open windows rather than using the AC whenever possible, and unplug chargers and appliances when not in use.

8. Support brands who do good.
Finding brands who do their part to conserve natural resources and reduce their environmental impact is crucial in my family’s commitment to be eco-conscious. For example, we appreciate and support GP‘s efforts to do these things by re-planting trees and restoring forest ecosystems, supporting conservation initiatives, contributing to the protection of endangered species, and promoting wildlife diversity. They do good beyond just environmental responsibility too, by working to help individuals and communities in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting underfunded local fire departments with their Bucket Brigade Program, and supporting communities through volunteerism organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources
8 Ways to Help Conserve Natural Resources

These are just a few ways that we make an effort to help conserve natural resources as a family. If you have other ways you do the same, I would love to hear about them!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Review: Animo Dog Activity and Behavior Monitor

We received an Animo Dog Activity and Behavior Monitor for review. All statements and opinions are our own. We’ve all seen activity trackers for humans. You strap it on, and it tallies how…

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The History of Bulldogs, Part 1

Brehm bulldog

Bulldogs of various types have been all the rage. In my immediate area, the most common dog for people to own is some sort of pit bull or American Staffordshire sort of dog, and it well-known that various offshoots of this basic type, called “bullies” are selling at very high prices. The French bulldog is currently the most registered dog in the United Kingdom’s Kennel Club, and the breed is wildly popular in the US as well.  The Sourmug bulldog, which is known as English bulldog or the bulldog, is also quite popular. Boxers, which are type of German bulldog, are also pretty common.

These dogs are popular as pets, but their origins are not well-understood.  Most people understand that bulldogs were used to fight bulls, but the origin of these dogs goes much deeper than late Medieval and early Modern British history.

The beginnings of the bulldog start with big game hunting.  Europe at the time of the Romans was far less densely populated than it is now. Lions roamed the Balkans and Greece.  Moose were found well into Central Europe, and brown bears were common throughout the continent.  Massive wild cattle called aurochs roamed freely, as did herds of European bison. Red deer were far more widespread than they are now.

Europeans used various sorts of dogs for hunting game. Dogs of the laika or elkhound were the aboriginal European hunting dog by the time of the Mesolithic, but the breeds began to diversify over time. Sighthounds became quite prized in much of Europe during the time of the Roman Empire, but it was the arrival of some dogs from the East that would revolutionize big game hunting.

The Alani or Alans were a Scythian people who wandered a vast region from Central Asia. They were skilled horsemen and hunters. They knew animal husbandry quite well, and they produced excellent horses and working dogs.

By the 1st Century AD, they were a major force in the Caspian Sea region. By the 2nd Century, they were in the Caucasus and were raiding the eastern parts of the Roman Empire. They also developed a complex relationship the Huns, a similar westward expanding nomadic pastoralist people from Central Asia.  In the 4th century, their relationship with Huns collapsed, and vast numbers of Alani migrated deep into the Roman Empire. Large numbers settled in Gaul, and with them, they brought their dogs.

The dogs they broad were relatively long-headed and powerful and very adept at gripping and holding dangerous game. The closest thing to these dogs that exists today that I can imagine is something like a Dogo Argentino, though some were more robust and more mastiff-like.  Some of these dogs might have been livestock guardians, while others were big game hunting catch dogs.

In the 5th century,  the Alani in Europe joined forces with a Germanic tribe called the Vandals, and the two peoples raided all over Europe. The Alani left behind some of their dogs, which were crossed with sighthounds, scenthounds, and perhaps livestock guardian dogs. The dogs became famous for their abilities in hunting boars and bears and for gripping aurochs and bison.

Over time, various regional European dogs with this Alaunt dog blood began to develop.  One of these was the Alaunt boucherie, which the English called the Alaunt butchers. It was this dog that became known for controlling half wild and fully feral cattle at butcher shops, and the skills with which these dogs worked the cattle eventually evolved into the wagering games of bull-baiting.

By the Medieval Period, the aurochs and bison had become rare, as had the brown bear.  In England, the boar was extirpated through much of the countryside, and the only real use for these dogs was in butcher shop working and holding recalcitrant cattle and swine.

It is here that we reach the beginning of what we call bulldogs. On the continent, the dogs were still used to hunt big game, while in England, they were used for a very particular purpose that had little to do with hunting. In some ways, the Alaunt dog working and holding the cattle must have reminded them of the days when the English hunted big game with these dogs.  This simple work then evolved into the spectacle of bullbaiting, which was almost certainly a re-enactment of the ancient aurochs hunt.

The Alaunt dog is probably not only the root-stock for the bulldogs. It is also a much more likely source for the mastiff breeds, and here, I’m sure that I’m going to sound quite controversial.

The classical history of the mastiff breeds is they derive from the dogs of the Molossians. This idea can be traced to Linnaeus, who classified the mastiff of England with the dog of the Molossian people.  Linnaeus was not a dog expert or historian by any means, but his classification became the accepted truth of the origins of mastiffs for centuries. Indeed, this idea is so pervasive, that the term “Molosser” is used to describe virtually every broad-headed mastiff-ish dog.

I do not use this term for two reasons. One is that it is based upon bad scholarship.  Col. David Hancock recounts that the Babylonians were hunting with large broad-mouthed dogs, as did the Persians. The Alani were of a people who spoke an Iranian language and were related to the Persians, which may have been where they obtained at least some of their dogs. Hancock contends that the Molossians had two dogs, a livestock guardian and a large boarhound. Hancock conjectures that this boarhound is the ancestor of the Great Dane, but most sources believe that the Great Dane came about through crossing mastiffs with the original Irish wolfhound. However, it is very possible that this sort of dog is the ancestor of the original large wolfhound that spread through Europe and may have indirectly led to the Great Dane. The livestock guardian of the Molossians did become celebrated in Roman times, but it seems that this breed is the ancestor of something more like the Maremma and other livestock guardians.

The second is that we have good DNA studies on dog breed phylogeny now. Bulldogs and European catch mastiff share a common ancestor, which means they form a clade.  The most recent one also disagrees with Hancock, placing the Great Dane as early offshoot of the bulldogs and catch mastiffs that is a sister breed with the Rhodesian ridgeback. So the Great Dane is also descended from the Alaunt dog, if we assume that the Alaunt dog is the ancestor of this bulldog and mastiff clade.

Further, all the various broad-headed dogs that are called “Molossers” are not related to each other. The Newfoundland dog is much more closely related to Labrador, golden, and flat-coated retrievers than to any catch mastiff or bulldog, and the Great Pyr, Kuvasz, and Komondor fit into another clade. The Great Pyr is not the sister breed to the Komondor and Kuvasz. Indeed, these dogs fit into a clade that includes the Pharaoh hound, the Afghan hound, and the saluki.

So if historical scholarship and genetics are pointing in the same direction, then the bulldogs and catch mastiffs derive from the dogs of the Alani.

I know that such an assumption needs more verification, but it seems pretty likely. All of these dogs clearly do derive from a common ancestor. Perhaps we will have better DNA studies soon that also include a molecular clock and samples from ancient and Medieval dogs that are of the mastiff or bulldog type, and this question can be fully answered.

However, for the purposes of this series, I will point to the Alaunt dog as the ancestor, and the dichotomy between the butcher dogs of England and catch dogs of the continent as the focal point for the next part of this series.

So this piece may not have reached the true bulldog yet, but we are almost there.




It has been a long time since I have writing a comprehensive breed history series, but I have decided that it is time for me to return to some subject matter that generated lot of readership and discussion in the past. This first part will be released free and published here on the blog, but Part 2 will be released as part of my Premium Membership program. Starting in August 2020, members will receive two exclusive blog posts that will not appear on the main page for at least six months. To get these exclusive blog posts, subscribe to the Premium Membership plan. It costs only $ 2 a month, and it helps produce quality content on this blog. All your information will be held in confidence through Stripe

Natural History

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Friday Funny: Gluten-Free

A delicacy! Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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Help! My Dog Stops Walking and Won’t Move

Have you ever had a problem on a walk when your dog stops walking and won’t move? If so, you’re not alone. Today we have a guest post from animal behaviorist Dr. Diane Pomerance with one…

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Listening, Learning, and Taking Action

The cover of this week’s Time magazine. This soul crushingly powerful artwork is by Titus Kaphar, an American artist whose work examines the history of representation.

Last Tuesday, I posted about how I would be taking a break from posting Bubby and Bean content here and on my social media channels, in an effort to make room for Black voices (who deserve to be heard; now and always), spend time researching, learning, and listening, and start to more actively make a difference. I also consistently and frequently shared (and continue to share) resources and amplified Black voices on my Instagram Stories. (If you go to my Instagram account, click on the “BLM” highlight on my profile to see what I’ve shared. It will remain there indefinitely.)

I lost hundreds of Instagram followers over this past week, simply for speaking up about what is right. And I am relieved and grateful that these followers left. I have also, in the past, had agencies I work with tell me to shy away from getting political (which this is not anyway; this is human decency) or sharing any sort of “controversial” content. I won’t be working with these agencies anymore. I have always considered myself to be vocally anti-racist, but I have learned so much over this past week about how much better I need to do.

This past week of being muted may be over, but things are not the same. Am I going to stop posting my usual lifestyle/design/parenting/home related content to focus solely on social justice? No. That is not my expertise, and for 10 years, Bubby and Bean has been lifestyle based, and will continue to be. (My next post will be about my kids, and sharing an end-of-school-year interview you can give to yours. ) Am I going to continue to do what I can to show my support for BLM on social media? Yes. Am I going to make more of an effort to include Black and other People of Color here and on social media? Absolutely. Am I going to continue to share resources on ways to learn about systemic racist and to take action against horrific injustices? YES. This is only just beginning. I encourage my friends and followers to continue this momentum. We have to create substantial change. Period.

Amplifying Black voices and taking action against horrific injustice should not and must not be a temporary trend. I may lose more followers, and I may lose campaigns, and I may lose money, and I am good with that. Again, I hope my fellow non-Black friends and followers will join me in continuing this fight. We have a responsibility, and it doesn’t end today.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for doing something.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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