COVID-19 – Revisited Five months after the outbreak began, COVID is still very much in the news. None of us could possibly have imagined the magnitude of impact this virus would have on our daily lives, financially and on the world over. First were the questions: could people catch COVID from their pets, and vice

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Halo Pets Blog

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Dog Is My Copilot

From our friends at CBS Sunday Morning: Correspondent Conor Knighton takes to the skies with Wyoming pilot Peter Rork, a retired surgeon and pilot who’s found a new purpose in life by helping dogs in need find homes, flying animals to adoption centers through his non-profit, Dog Is My CoPilot. Kudos to Dr. Rork! Until … Continue reading Dog Is My Copilot Dog Blog

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Dead Blue Crayfish

One of the mysteries of the day is why there was a dead blue crayfish on top of my garbage bin this morning. I don’t know the species or how it got there.  Still vexed.


crayfish 1

Natural History

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Back-to-School Caprese Sandwiches

Mini Caprese Sandwiches

It’s back to school week around here! My 6 year old starts first grade today (what?!), and my 4 year old starts Pre-K in less than 3 weeks. School is going to be a very unique “adventure” this year, so we’re trying to make it equal parts exciting and “normal.” (Lots of quotes happening, and for good reason.) 

Whether your kids are starting e-learning, homeschool, or going back in person, it’s fun to try to get them pumped with small everyday things like special food. We made these sandwiches yesterday that I shared with you last year, and it seemed like the perfect time to share again.  

You might remember the tofu caprese salad recipe I shared a couple of weeks ago. It is so easy to turn that recipe into a sandwich and just replace the cheese in the recipe below with tofu if you’re plant-based or just want to try something different. 

Dinner Roll Caprese Sandwiches

Simple Mini Caprese Sandwiches
Serves 1

1 dinner roll or bun
1 tomato slice
1 slice fresh mozzarella (or tofu; see note above)
2-3 pieces of fresh basil
olive oil

Cut dinner rolls or buns in half. Drizzle top of bottom half with a small amount of olive oil, and add a sprinkle of salt. Layer fresh mozzarella,  tomato, and basil leaves. Done! Add a fun back-to-school themed toothpick topper or message.

Mini Caprese Sandwiches

⁣Sending lots of good B-T-S vibes your way. (If you have any to send back here, we’ll take them!)


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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What is a German Shepherd? The answer from the genomic data

Sagan German shepherd

If you were to ask the average person how to classify a German shepherd in terms of dog breed taxonomy, most would say it’s guard dog, putting it somewhere with the Rottweiler and the boxer. Others might think it’s a primitive breed and might classify it with the Siberian husky and the malamute.

Those with a bit more dog knowledge would p lace it with the Belgian and Dutch shepherds.

Indeed, if you were going to ask me where I’d classify German shepherds ten years ago, I would have placed them as the German variant of what became distilled from a German-Belgian-Dutch prick-eared, black-masked herding dog landrace.

DNA studies have changed quite a bit of our understanding of dog breeds and their origins. In the initial attempts to classify dog breeds using only mitochondrial DNA found that German shepherds clustered with the mastiff breeds.

However, more recent genome-wide analyses have revealed something rather unusual. German shepherds are not directly related to the Belgian herding dogs at all. Instead,  one study found that they they are most closely related to the Berger Picard, the Chinook, and the Peruvian and Mexican hairless dogs.

Initial studies of regional Italian herding dogs using microsatellites suggested a close relationship between those dogs and border collies.  However, more recent genome-wide analyses have placed the Italian herders much closer to the German shepherd dog. Indeed, the German shepherd is very closely related to Italian prick-eared herding types, such as the Lupo Italiano and the Cane Paratore. These Italian herders and the Berger Picard all fit in a single clade with the German shepherd.

These findings upturn our assumption that the Belgian and Dutch shepherds are that closely related to German shepherds– at least in the bulk of their DNA.

However, the initial genome-wide study that found a relationship between the Berger Picard and the GSD also found that there was some GSD in the various Belgian herders, including the Bouvier des Flandres.

That means that at some point in the development of those breeds, German shepherds or proto-German shepherds were crossed into them. Crossing German shepherds with the Malinois isn’t an uncommon practice in some working dog circles even now. Apparently, this practice was done more frequently when the breeds were not so defined as they are now.

And it should be noted that only tiny ancestry blocks from German shepherds into the Belgian breeds. The bulk of their DNA derives from very distinct dog stocks. The Belgian herding breeds are more closely related to British herders and Western sighthounds than they are to German shepherds.

These genome-wide studies have lots of interesting findings, including that xoloitzcuintli and Peruvian hairless dogs are almost entirely derived from European herding dogs and that their sister breed is the Catahoula. Because of this relationship to these Latin American dogs, the Catahoula is probably more derived from Iberian herding breeds than from French ones. It is likely that the hairless dogs of the New World are the originators of their hairless trait, but because it is conferred via a semi-dominant allele it was easily transferred onto a population that consists of dog of European origin.

The relationship between German shepherds and Italian herders is easily understood. German shepherds are heavily derived from Bavarian and Swabian sheepdogs, and Bavarian shepherds were often grazing their sheep in the Alps during the summer, as were the Italian shepherds. The dogs exchanged genes in those high country meadows, and their pups went onto found populations on both sides of the mountains.

This story fits the genomic data, but it make the Berger Picard a bit of an anomaly. Picardy is in the northeastern France, a long distance from the Alps. It would make more sense for this breed to be more closely related to the Belgian shepherds and the Bouvier, but it is not. The North European Plain is easier for dogs and their genes to flow across, but the Berger Picard is very close the German shepherd breeds and its Italian cousins.

I do not have a good answer for why this anomaly exists. I don’t know much about the Berger Picard or its history. Maybe it became a very rare breed and was interbred heavily with German shepherds, or maybe the region is very connected through markets to the Alps or Bavaria or Northern Italy.

Maybe someone can answer these questions for me.  It seems weird that the Berger Picard is so closely related to dogs that have origins in Southern and Central Europe rather than adjacent Belgium.

The evolution of herding breeds is complex. Apparently, having a dog with a wolf-like phenotype is useful for herding flocks. The Belgian shepherds apparently evolved their type independently of the German shepherd, the Berger Picard, and the Italian prick-eared herders. Perhaps sheep just respect that look more, and it has some advantage in their management.

As we have seen, dogs can evolve very similar physical traits in parallel with each other, which is why we must always be careful when creating an umbrella classification for different breeds.

Just because they look alike and have similar functions does not mean they are that closely related.


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Natural History

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Protected: History of Bulldogs, Part 2

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Natural History

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Mushroom Poisoning

Important news from CBS in Philadelphia regarding your dog and mushrooms. Write this down and hang it on your refrigerator or inside a kitchen cupboard door: ASPCA ANIMAL POISON CONTROL 888-426-4435 Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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Deadly Blue Green Algae: Keeping Your Dog Safe

Update: Warnings are up in our area once again about deadly Blue-Green Algae. If your dog swims lakes, rivers or ponds, please be sure to read about this Cyanobacteria and how you can identify and…

[[ This is a summary only. Click the title for the full post, photos, videos, giveaways, and more! ]]


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A Different Kind of Summer “Trip”

Because I know many of you are in the same boat (or, maybe more literally, lack of boat) that we are, and have had to cancel summer travel plans, I thought I’d share our fun staycation day from last week. Since March, we have canceled a trip to Iceland (for my husband’s work), a vacation to Disney and Clearwater Florida, and even our annual two day trip up to a lake in Wisconsin. It’s been disappointing, but we felt like it was, for our family, the right thing to do.

As a family that devotes a lot of our life to travel, we were starting to really feel cabin fever though. So I took a Friday off work a couple of weeks ago, and we spent the entire day driving to various forest preserves that had creeks, rivers, and waterfalls. We live in a semi urban area in the midwest, so spots of natural beauty are few and far between. But we sure did find them. We all got in the water and just had fun together all day long.

It’s been a really bizarre, challenging five months. But we are healthy, and that is ultimately all that really matters. We’ve also been able to find our own joys and bliss, in ways that don’t cost a lot of money or require travel at all. And that’s a pretty incredible life lesson – one that we choose to carry with us beyond these uncertain times. 
P.S. Emmett is 4 years seizure-free today! In case you’re not familiar with it, you can read his story here

Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Wear Your Muzzle, Save A Life

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

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