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Dare is making herself at at home

Dare and big quest

So Dare arrived Monday evening. Quest’s breeder dropped her off, along with the Brown Puppy himself, who had been up in New York State winning a few more points towards his AKC championship.

She is a fire-cracker of a pup. She doesn’t scream in her crate, and she eliminates as soon as her feet hit the ground.  She’s not going to be tough to house train at all.

She is also quite interactive. She already looking me in the eye when I talk to her, and she’s also talking back with her cute little German shepherd moans.

Dare and questy

She and Quest are getting along very well. He never really has any problem with little puppies, and he generally likes other dogs. So those two won’t be much of a problem.

Dare has that German shepherd look in her eyes. It’s hard to describe, but it’s one of their hallmarks. They have deep piercing eyes that fully portray their intelligence.

dare at home

I think she will be an awesome dog. She’s already a super puppy.

dare gaiting

And yes, I must fully admit that I am no longer a golden retriever person. They are good dogs, but they don’t do it for me the way a German shepherd can.

I am so fortunate to know so many good people in the breed in this country. I want to thank Frank De Bem of Kysarah Shepherds in New Hampshire for giving us this wonderful opportunity, and I want to thank Brianna Burkhart, Pamela Martin, and Anya Dobratz for transporting her across the Northeast to get her out here.

So I am happy with this little black and tan pup.  I know that I am in the right breed community, and these dogs are so awesome.

 

 

 

Natural History

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A wild narluga has been identified

narwhal hybrid.png

a: beluga skull b. “narluga hybrid” c. male narwhal skull.

In the 1980s, an Inuit subsistence hunter in Greenland killed three gray whales that looked suspiciously like belugas at first. However, they were oddly gray. The fins resembled a beluga’s, while the tail looked like that of a narwhal.

The hunter kept one of the skulls, eventually donating it to science, where became the property of the Greenland Fisheries Research Institute. A scientist working for that institute, Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen,hypothesized that this skull came from a hybrid between a narwhal and a beluga.

It was only today that a study was released in the journal Nature that revealed that this whale was indeed a hybrid. The DNA analysis revealed that male beluga mated with a female narwhal to produce the creature.

The skull was quite strange. Belugas have 40 homodont teeth. Narwhals are toothless, except males. The males have one really long canine tooth that sticks out as a tusk. Sometimes, they have two, but most have only one true tooth. It is spiraled like what is expected form the mythical unicorn. They do have only a few vestigial teeth.

The hybrid had 18 teeth, many of which were pointed out horizontally and spiraled like the vestigial teeth of the narwhal.

Isotopic analysis also revealed that the hybrid had a different diet from either parent species, both of which catch fish or squid in the open water. The beluga hunts fish at depths of up to 500 meters, while the narwhal hunts fish or squid at depths exceeding 800 meters. The isotopic analysis revealed that the narluga was eating mostly benthic prey, which means it was eating mostly shellfish from the sea floor.

So this study raises so many questions. Analysis of the narwhal genome revealed that gene flow between the two species stopped between 1.25 and 1.65 million years ago. The initial split happened around 4 million years ago, and that study thought that an viable hybrids would be unable to reproduce. However, the authors of the study cautioned that a larger sample size of individual narwhal and beluga genomes from across their range might reveal more recent dates on when gene flow stopped (if it did at all).

So it is not entirely clear that this hybrid would have been sterile, but we also have no further evidence of hybrids anywhere else.  It is quite possible that these hybrids could be fertile, and if they are, climate change could cause the eventual genetic extinction of the narwhal.

The morphology and feeding behavior this odd whale might point to the origins of the narwhal. Perhaps the ancestral narwhal was a benthic feeding whale that later lost its teeth to become a whale that hunts squid and fish at great depths with an almost toothless mouth.

Having teeth like the hybrid is a great adaptation for this particular diet, because the forward pointing teeth can poke around and dislodge shellfish more easily.

If these hybrids are fertile, then one could see the eventual development of a hybrid whale species that has its own niche as a benthic feeder in the arctic.

It is an amazing find, and chances are there will be more discovered. Further, as scientists examine genomes from belugas and narwhals from a wide geographic distribution, we might see evidence of some hybridization.

Hybridization could also increase genetic diversity in narwhals, but if these hybrids must eat a fundamentally different diet than narwhals do, it might become difficult for these hybrids to add their genes to narwhal populations. They just cannot hang out for extensive periods of time, before they have to split off and engage in divergent feeding behavior.

So this discovery does generate lots of speculation and raises several important questions that need to be addressed.

Pretty cool.

Natural History

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Watermelon and Feta Guacamole

Watermelon and Feta Guacamole

I initially shared this recipe here a couple of years ago, but it has become such a summertime staple in our house, and I’ve made some subtle changes to it along the way, so I decided to share this updated version. This guac is simple to make and incredibly refreshing. It’s become one of my go-tos for both everyday snacking and to serve at summer gatherings.

Summertime Watermelon and Feta Guacamole Dip

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
3 large, ripe avocados
1 cup watermelon, cut into cubes
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
6-8 fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
1/2 lime
salt
pepper

Cut avocados in half, remove pits and skin, and swash with a fork or masher in a medium size bowl to desired consistency. Cut and cube watermelon. Slice the basil into strips. Combine the cubed watermelon, about 3/4 of the basil strips, and the crumbled feta with the mashed avocado. Squeeze half a lime over the top, add a little salt and pepper, top with the remaining basil, and serve!

Summertime Watermelon and Feta Guacamole Dip
Summertime Watermelon and Feta Guacamole Dip

If you try this, let me know what you think! Do you have a favorite guac recipe for summer?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Where Can You Shop with Your Dog?

Summer temperatures are already climbing up to 100 degrees on some days here–and that means we’re looking for cool activities for Tiki and Barli. One of our favorites: a little…



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DogTipper

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Some Thoughts on Time

Coloring Outside the Lines // Family Boho Shoes

I recently came across these photos from two summers ago and was so emotionally moved by them (it doesn’t take much with me, but still) that I felt compelled to share. Talking about how quickly time passes when you’re watching little ones grow is the ultimate parent cliche, but guys, it’s freaking true. I’m baffled by how different E and E look now, just two years later. And when I think about how much their personalities have evolved, I genuinely feel a sense of overwhelm; not in a bad way, but in a way that sort of takes my breath away. For real.

My daughter is already at an age (5 going on some unrecognizable level of preteen) where she’s so independent and busy that precious time with her is beginning to feel scarce, and even my 3 year old son, normally so clingy and emotionally connected to me, is starting to prefer friend play time over hanging with his parents. This is why I’m really making an effort to spend as much quality time as possible with them this summer, even if it’s not as much time as I wish it could be. We’re heading to a mini lake getaway as a family later today and I’m going to savor every second of it, mark my words.

For those of you with kids, does it seem like each year speeds up? Is there ever a point where it doesn’t feel like sand slipping through your finger tips? How do you savor the quality moments?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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The head of a massive 40,000-year-old wolf discovered in the Yakutian permafrost

yakutian megafaunal wolf

The Siberian Times reports that the head of a massive wolf was discovered in the permafrost in Yakutia (Sakha Republic of Russia).  The head includes much of the soft tissue, as well as its golden-colored fur. The head is 40 cm (15. 7 inches long), which is pretty large when compared to modern wolf specimens.

Researchers in Russia and Japan will be examining the DNA from the soft tissue to see where it fits in modern wolf and dog phylogeny of which there are still many questions.

This wolf is a good example of what have been termed “megafaunal wolves,” very large gray wolves that lived during the Pleistocene. Robert Wayne of UCLA, a leading canid molecular geneticists, thinks that some form of Pleistocene megafaunal wolf is the progenitor of the domestic dog.  These wolves would have been expert hunters of large bison, reindeer, and horses, and they may have been semi-nomadic, following large herds of ungulates across the steppes and taiga. These semi-nomadic wolves would have been quite easily attached to humans, who were hunting and traveling in much the same way.

Also of note, this wolf has golden colored fur.  In 2015, I postulated a speculative hypothesis that the original Pleistocene wolves were more often golden in color, rather than gray.  When humans started hunting wolves extensively during the Neolithic and into modern times, wolves that were gray were selected for because they could more easily hide from human hunters. Gray color in the dead of winter in many European and Western Asian forests would have been great camouflage against the winter tree trunks and undergrowth of the forest.

Some wolves, especially tundra wolves from northern Russia and Finland, are still often golden in color, as are those in Central Asia.

Golden sable color is quite widespread in domestic dogs, but it is far less common in wolves. So it is quite possible that this coloration is so dominant in domestic dogs because the wolves that gave rise to them were this color.

This massive wolf with golden fur certainly adds some credence to my speculations, but only time will tell what this ancient, massive wolf’s head has in store for us.

But is an amazing find. No doubt about it!

 

Natural History

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Win an Aromatherapy Car Diffuser!

It may not officially begin until later this month but summer is definitely in full swing here. Hurricane season started with the arrival of a rainy tropical wave–and, as soon as it exits our…



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DogTipper

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Dogs Riding in Truck Beds

You may have seen my post yesterday about how dangerous it is to leave your dog inside a hot vehicle and asked, “Would it be okay to put the dog in my truck bed?” If your dog rides to wherever inside your truck cab, then you tether him in the bed while you go into … Continue reading Dogs Riding in Truck Beds


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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I will never learn to live in God

no god

I don’t believe in the supernatural.  The natural is fantastical enough without needing some anthropomorphic figure that controls all forces of nature and also justice.  The more I see of humanity and nature, the less I believe that such a figure is likely, and such a figure could not be contained in the ancient edicts of scripture and clergy. It is not that I am rebellious or angry. It’s that I can no longer be illusioned.

To not believe and live in Norway is a lot different than to be in the same theological position and happen to live in West Virginia.  I no longer do, of course, but when I did live there, I felt that I always had to keep my mouth shut.

I no longer feel so constrained. I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God or the Devil.  I came to this conclusion in my 20s, though by the time I was 16, my own version of Christianity had a deist divinity and the Christ figure was but a metaphor.

I never was “born again,” but when I was younger I pretended that I was. Maybe, it was all like make-believe in the literal sense of the two words. Maybe if I just made myself believe it would all work out.

I knew things were going to be strange when I was the only student in my tenth grade biology class who believed that humans resulted from evolution. Most of my classmates either believed in creationism, but the more enlightened ones had some belief that all other organisms evolved. Humans did not. Humans were still a special creation of God.

Christianity and I were never good fits. I remember getting in trouble for praising God for my new pet duck when the pastor asked for praises at the beginning of worship service. I was told that this was not something one praised, but when you’re in the first grade and crazy about animals, there couldn’t be anything to be happier about, right?

My parents were uncomfortable with me leaving my dinosaur figurines behind the rear glass of their car.  They were okay with evolution. We even went to a church that was okay with evolution in terms of doctrine, but lots of people who went to that church were not okay with it.  Some of them may have doubted whether dinosaurs existed at all  and would think that my parents were doing me a great disservice.

I tried really hard to be a Christian and remain curious and skeptical about the world. I found that I could not reconcile the things I found out about nature with the cosmos as described in the Bible.

Further, I came to resent Christians’ hateful obsession with homosexuality. Though I am hetero and cis, I realize that both these things are not of my own choosing. I don’t remember when I chose to be into girls or why I am okay with being stinky old man. I had an epiphany in the eight grade that whatever God I worshiped could not damn people for their sexuality. That would be like damning someone for the color of their skin.

I spent my adolescence trying to reconcile my values and knowledge with Christianity. I wound up discarding lots of Christian doctrine. And then I realized that I should discard the whole thing.

Finding values based in secular morality has not been tough for me. However, realizing that others could not see that their own morality was ultimately secular– they wouldn’t kill  or rape someone because God told them to– was one of the hardest things to deal with.

At one point in my life I was active in the Democratic Party. As an undergraduate I campaigned hard for John Kerry. I had been told that West Virginia was in play, and that I should be doing all I could to get people to vote Democrat.

It turned out that West Virginia had undergone a political sea change in the years in which I was maturing into a young activist. For most of my childhood, no one would admit to being a Republican for fear that you’d be cast in league with Herbert Hoover, the great villain of the 1930s.  But in those years in which I was becoming an adult, the state shifted hard to the right. Fundamentalist Christianity and a dying coal industry were working hard among the rural populace.

I attended college with many kids who were first generation college students. I was aghast at the Iraq War, and many of them were too.

However, when I asked them to vote Democrat, they would say something like “Bush is a Christian.”  I got that answer so often that I wondered if there would ever be any hope for humanity if people could use that religious identification as a justification for political choices.

I was growing more and more skeptical about the world.  And I realized at one point that I needed to let it go.

And I was a quiet atheist for several years, but one day, while perusing the new Youtube on my laptop, I came across Kent Hovind’s lecture “Dinosaurs and the Bible.” The man was an obvious huckster, a true flimflam man from the days patent medicine, who also sold his own patent medicine in the form of laetrile, a supposed cancer cure that is actually the cyanide in the seeds of fruit-bearing plants.

When I finished watching that monstrosity, I was certain that I could never be brought into believing again. I would have to hide my atheism, but at some point, I did become more public with it.

I am not ashamed that I don’t believe in God and that I never will again. As time marches on, my nation is becoming more and more secular, just like the other formerly majority protestant countries in Europe.  It has just taken the US a lot longer.

The fact that so much of Christianity is now tied up in the worship of Trump pretty much means the eventual downfall of the institution in the United States. His are the politics of the old and angry, stilling holding onto a world that will never exist again.

I will never learn to live in God. I will instead learn to live with the reality that my time is finite. In that finite existence, I must be who I want to be and nothing else. If this is offensive, then you stand to be offended. But I will not hide what I am and what I seek to be.

Someday, I will cease to exist. The same goes for the oak tree that grows tall on a distant ridge. Its acorns feed the deer, the squirrels, the turkeys, and bears. It will live through many generations of its beneficiaries then on some windy day in March, the great wooden edifice will come crashing down. It will decompose into the leaf litter, restoring its elements to the soil from whence it came.

I am no more significant in the grand scheme than an oak or the squirrels that bury its acorns. We are all biotic beings, produced through the great story of evolution.

Who could need anything else? Why invoke some supernatural thing, when the natural explanation is so wondrous and so complete?

And that’s where I fall on that great question. I wager this, because I cannot live in the unlikely wager that the Bible is correct, when it is wrong about so many fundamental things. Not just wrong about biology or cosmology but wrong about moral questions too. Slavery is not condemned in the Bible nor is genocide. Indeed, both are commanded at  various books.

So this is where I stand. A heathen but an intellectually honest one.

 

 

 

Natural History

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