Human Health Irritations Due to Pets

Some people are unfortunate because they have allergies to dogs and will never be able to enjoy the love, devotion, and companionship a human receives from a pet dog.

The symptoms of dog allergies are very similar to the symptoms of other types of allergies or the symptoms of a cold. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, …
Dog’ Blog

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#LucyPet Shares Hurricane Evacuation Advice

This morning, I received an email from Lucy Pet Products with some great advice for those evacuating from Hurricane Irma. Lucy Pet Products and Lucy Pet Foundation have been here in Texas helping the…

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How do you submit a photo for the contest?

How do you submit a photo for the contest?

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As someone who raised a low content wolfdog from a…

As someone who raised a low content wolfdog from a poor backyard breeder, I know the challenges of pups like that. My Shiva was sold to me (then 18) as being mostly wolf. 8 years later I had her DNA tested through embark to go with online phenotyping. She's 25% wolf. The wolf content, plus pretty much being feral when I got her, made for raising a very challenging pup. She spent years terrified of new people, and men especially. She doesn't trust most dogs, is shy and skittish of people, an escape artist, not safe around small animals unattended, except for cats, which she absolutely loves.

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New species of black-backed jackal indicated through mitochondrial DNA analysis

cape vs east african

Cape jackal  (L) and East African black-backed jackal (R)

The molecular revolution in biology has caused a great deal of turmoil in the taxonomy of Canids. Long-time readers know that full-genome comparisons have recently found that the red wolf and Eastern wolf are hybrid between coyotes and wolves, and one implication of the recent origins of the coyote is that the coyote itself might be better classified as a subspecies of wolf. 

Mitochondrial DNA comparisons, though potentially erroneous in determining the exact time of divergence between species or subspecies, have also revealed that the “golden jackals” of Africa are much more closely related to wolves than Eurasian golden jackals.  Classifying African golden jackals is going to take more analysis of their genome, but they are either a species on their own or a subspecies of wolf. They have evolved in parallel with both the Eurasian golden jackal and the coyote.

We also know now that the red fox of the Old World is quite divergent from that of North America, enough that some authorities are reviving the old Vulpes fulva for the North American species.  Red foxes in the Eastern and Midwestern US are actually part of this endemic North American species and are not, as the folklore claimed, to be derived from seventeenth and eighteenth century introductions from England.

Recent mitochondrial DNA analysis also revealed that Eastern and Western gray foxes are perhaps separated by 500,000 years of evolution. 

So we’ve likely lost two wolf species in North America. The coyote’s validity is questionable. But we’ve gained either a wolf species or subspecies in Africa.  We have also potentially gained two species of fox in North America.

With all of these new findings in DNA studies, scientists are looking more and more closely at other long-established species.

Last week,  a study of the cytochrome b gene of black-backed and side-striped jackals revealed that these jackals, too, have some secrets.  Cytochrome b genes are part of the mitochondrial genome.

At one time these animals were considered part of Canis, but the current trend is to classify them in their own genus (Lupulella).* They are quite divergent from the rest of the wolf-like canids, much more so than dholes and African wild dogs are. If dholes and African wild dogs are in their own genera, then it makes sense that these two jackals should have their own genus name.

But if they are that divergent from the rest of Canis, then it’s very possible that there are other secrets, and this limited mtDNA study certainly raises some important questions.

The researchers found that the Cape subspecies and East African subspecies of the black-backed jackal (Lupulella mesomelas) actually diverged 2.5 million years ago.

I’ve always thought that there was a possibility of these two jackals being distinct species. The East African black-backed jackal has a shorter muzzle, comparatively larger ears, and usually lack the dense coat of the Cape jackal. The Cape jackal reminds me very much of Southwestern forms of coyote, with longer muzzle and thicker fur. What’s more is that the Cape jackal comes in a white and a golden phase that are not seen in the East African black-back.

If this deep divergence is confirmed in the full-genome or simple nuclear DNA studies that are very likely to be performed, then we likely have two species of what are called black-backed jackals now.

The researchers also found through this same analysis that the West African side-striped jackal diverged from the other two populations 1.4 million years ago, which certainly would raise some questions about its species status as well.

Again, we’re going to have to wait until full-genome analyses are performed, but I’ve always suspected that there are more than two species of endemic African jackal possessed some cryptic species.  I also have suspected that both side-striped jackals and black-backed jackals have hybridized a bit. This speculation could be revealed through the same full-genome or nuclear DNA studies that could examine the taxonomy within these supposed species.

Finally, the distribution of black-backed jackals is disjointed. The East African and Cape variants are separated by 800 miles. Several other small carnivorans have a similar distribution. The bat-eared fox and the aardwolf have disjointed distributions in which one population is in East Africa and the other in Southern Africa. It is very possible that similar deep genetic divergence exists within these species as well.

These potential cryptic species are worth investigating, and they certain put some of these “red wolf” controversies with in proper perspective.  If that 2.5 million-year divergence is upheld within the black-backed jackal populations, it really does become hard to justify the red wolf.  It is descended from two putative “species” that really aren’t that divergent at all by comparison.





*A bit errata:  I initially called the new scientific name of the side-striped jackal Lupulela adustus, which is just a modification of Canis adustus.  Most of the literature I’m corrects the gender to Lupulella adusta.

Natural History

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10 Vegetarian Recipes That Meat Eaters Will Love Too


I was feeling extra hungry when I sat down to post today, and I found myself scrolling through the blog looking back at the many vegetarian recipes I’ve shared over the years. It was fun and inspiring to read through them (I have a bunch I want to remake this week), so I figured I’d share some of my favorites with you guys today. If you’re a new reader, these are all dishes that meat eaters (my husband is one!) will love as well. And if you’re a regular reader, hopefully at these some of these are new to you (or at least reminders to try making one of them if you haven’t yet!). Just click on any image or link below it to see the whole recipe. Let me know what you think if you end up making one!

Autumn VEGAN Grilled Cheese 2 Ways
Guacamole and Black Bean Pizza (via Bubby and Bean)
Sweet Corn and Black Bean Quinoa Salad
Jasmine Rice, Lentil, and Red Quinoa Tacos
Vegan Black Bean and Salsa Soup
Southwestern Style Mac and Cheese // Bubby and Bean
Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Best eclipse ever

Not full in WV, but pretty darn cool!


Natural History

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Loose-skinned arctic foxes being bred in Finland

loose skinned arctic fox

The animal above is a super-sized blue phase arctic fox that is of a type being bred in Finland. The exposed haw is actually the result of being bred for super loose skin, a trait that those in the dog welfare community know very well. “Typy” shar pei and Neapolitan mastiffs are well-known sufferers from loose skin problems, but even a in breed that isn’t as exaggerated, like Clumber spaniels, this loose skin can lead to all sorts of eye infections.

This is a full-body shot of the Neapolitan arctic fox:

wrinkled fox

Why are arctic foxes being bred with such loose skin?

Well, that loose skin actually makes for a larger pelt and a larger pelt goes for higher price.  In nature, arctic foxes are quite small, much smaller than Boreal red fox subspecies, but the arctic fox in its winter fur is a much more valuable animal.

Both red and arctic foxes breed well in captivity, and they have been farmed extensively for their pelts. Captive red foxes come in many colors now, but the naturally-occurring silver phase was once the staple of fox pelt market. The arctic fox, especially its blue phase, is also quite valuable, but the smaller pelts mean they cannot compete with the silver phase reds.

These Finnish breeders have begun to produce large blue arctic foxes, some of which weigh 20 kg, and have very loose skin in order to make a much more profitable strain of arctic fox.

This development has several moral and ethical questions, as well as being something that those of us curious about dog domestication and evolution might find intriguing.

I should note that I am not anti-fur. I come from a long line of fur trappers, including my own paternal grandfather who used to trap red foxes to fund his union activities. He knew more about red foxes than anyone I’ve ever personally known, and he had a great appreciation for the species.

For some, the fact that these animals are being bred for fur is going to be the biggest ethical problem, but for me, it is the exaggeration in conformation that causes me greater worry.  When these animals are killed for their fur, it is done humanely. Finland is a leader in the humane treatment of animals, and killing fur-bearers on farms in a cruel fashion would not be allowed.  The standard practice is for the animal to be rendered unconscious, then electrocuted. (I don’t want to get into a long, drawn-out debate about these, because there are places where this practice isn’t followed. Finland isn’t one of them. )

But these foxes spent their entire lives with loose eyelids and a bulky conformation that puts an exorbitant amount of stress on their joints, and this truly is a welfare issue.

I see this as the main welfare issue of domestic dogs in the West. We’ve bred domestic dogs with such exaggerated conformation that we’re ultimately harming them, and the funny thing is these animal welfare sites that post shocking animal cruelty videos and images also generate web traffic with videos of cute little bulldogs and pugs with such shortened muzzles that they cannot breathe or cool themselves properly.

I find these loose-skinned arctic foxes appalling, in every way I find an extreme shar pei appalling.

And here I can agree with the animal rights activist. This is wrong.

But at the same time, my curious, scientific mind is intrigued. Fur farmed foxes are sort of parallel dog domestications.  Much has been written about the Belyaev fur farm experiments and what they might say about how dogs were domesticated, but the truth is virtually every fur farm breeding program for the various red and arctic fox phases is an experiment that could reveal some secrets about dog domestication.

It is amazing that we can selectively breed arctic foxes to reach the size of coyotes, and it is even more amazing that we can select for the loose skin in arctic foxes that we actively breed for in certain purebred dogs.

It would be interesting to get full-genome comparisons on these “monster foxes” and more typical arctic foxes.  Maybe the genetics are similar between these foxes and the super-sized and loose skinned domestic dog breeds we have produced.

If we are going to breed animals for agricultural purposes, we are going to have to do it humanely. I am certain the Finnish breeders of these foxes believe they have done a great agricultural improvement in much the same way their intellectual forebears in England in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries bred massive swine and beef cattle that could barely walk on their own hooves.

So yes, we have an ethical issue with these foxes, just as we have an ethical issue with the continued breeding of dogs with exessive loose skin and exposed haws.




Natural History

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10 Ways to Directly Help Those Affected By Harvey

10 Ways to Directly Help Those Affected By Harvey

I had a different post scheduled for today but I’m pushing it back, because I can’t just go about things as usual when several of my family members and friends – and many, many thousands of others – who live in Texas are experiencing pretty extreme levels of devastation right now. This blog and the Bubby and Bean social channels have a purpose that is light-hearted. They exist to give our readers and followers a break from “the hard stuff” by focusing on fun topics like design, family, food, and style. But (and I am so grateful for this), we have established a large readership over the years, which means this platform also has the potential to help others. And I want to do that today.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday doing research on what Texas residents really need, what programs will actually help them, and how to avoid scams. And I came up with this list. If you know of other organizations or ways to provide assistance that I am missing, please share in the comments.

1. Donate to GlobalGiving, the largest global crowdfunding community, which is attempting to raise $ 2 million for their Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. This fund will provide relief to survivors in the form of emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine in addition to longer-term recovery assistance to help residents recover and rebuild. All donations to this fund will exclusively support relief and recovery efforts from this storm.

2. Help animals being affected by the disaster. The Houston Humane Society, SPCA of Texas, and Austin Pets Alive! are all organizing efforts and/or accepting donations.

3. Send baby diapers, wipes, baby clothes, and blankets to The Texas Diaper Bank. (We are sending a box today.) Their address is 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, TX 78238.

4. Donate to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which was put into place by Sylvester Turner (Houston’s mayor) and connects donors with a network of nonprofits who are helping those affected.

5. Give blood via the American Red Cross, Carter BloodCare (local) or the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (local).

6. Donate to The LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund, which will be used to help individuals and families rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with food, furniture, housing and more. If you are local, you can also volunteer with them.

7. Supply shelf stable food, diapers, cleaning supplies, or monetary donations to the Houston Food Bank. If you are local, you can volunteer with them as well.

8. Help those with disabilities affected by Harvey by donating to Portlight Inclusive Strategies, which facilitates projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief work. They have also set up a hotline (800-626-4959) to refer people with disabilities who may be in the affected areas to locate services and resources they may need organization.

9. Donate to the American Red Cross via their website. You can also donate $ 10 just by texting HARVEY to 90999.

10. Choose an organization through Charity Navigator, who rates and identifies worthy charities, and is transparent about which ones donate most or all funding directly to those in need.

Seeing pictures of the disaster caused by Harvey and hearing stories from loved ones experiencing the devastation first hand is heart wrenching, and I am continuing to hold everyone affected in my heart – but that’s not enough. I wish I could pack up my babes and fly down there and do something more than just sending clothes and money, but right now, that is the best I can offer. If you live in Texas and are reading this, we love you and want to help, so if you know of better ways to do so, please let me know. Thank you all for reading and sharing this post.

Background photo in top image via NY Times.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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What I’m Wearing Now: August

Summer to Fall Style Essentials
  1. Linen V-neck Top, H&M  //  2. In the Loop Hoop + Stud Earrings Set, Free People  //  3. Printed Maxi Dress (similar), H&M   //  4. Silver Hoop Earrings Set, H&M  //  5. Love Bird Sunglasses, Free People  //  6. Linen Peasant Top,  J.Crew Factory  //  7Magic Braid Cross Body Bag, Lucky Brand (on clearance!)   //  8. Splash Gabi Sneakers, Minnetonka  //  9. The Perfect Jean Short, Madewell  //  10. Chuck Taylor All Star Low Tops, Converse  //  11.  Morocco Sandals in Brown, Minnetonka

I’m just gonna start off real honest like and say that if you read July’s What I’m Wearing Now post, this month will likely be pretty boring to you. Summertime is winding down, which means I haven’t purchased anything new for the season, and am wearing mainly the same pieces I was last month. And that’s cool – I cling onto summer with my fingertips until the bitter end (and beyond), and have been really loving getting use out of my most summery pieces. I’d be lying if I said they weren’t starting to feel a tiny bit old, but that doesn’t mean I’m even close to ready for sweaters or boots, man.

Lightweight dresses, tees, and cut-offs have once again prevailed – and for that I’m grateful. I’ve continued to wear sandals almost everyday too, but I have started wearing the occasional closed toe shoe – like a new pair of trusty classic Converse Chucks and these beauties from Minnetonka. Short summer dresses as well as maxi dresses from my beloved and oh-so-affordable Knox Rose line from Target have been on regular rotation as well. 

September usually starts to cool off a little here in Chicagoland, and stores are slammed with fall collections now, so we’ll see if next month differs at all in terms of wardrobe around here. But for now, I’m milking summer style for as long as I can.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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