The Tragedy of the Dog

Dogs are blessed and cursed by their co-evolution with our species. They are blessed in that their numbers greatly exceed any wild canid species. Many of the ones in much of the developed world receive better access to heath care, good food, and clean water than the poorest people on the planet.

As animals relating to people, dogs go more than half way in trying to communicate with us.  They go even further in how tightly they bond to us.

But this ease of relationship has certain negative consequences. Because dogs are “almost human,” as goes the cliche, we tend to think their entire existence is much like ours.

However, these assumptions are often faulty. We forget that they are still very much carnivorans, very much wolves. Yes, modified by domestication and co-evolution but still they are of that lineage, that natural history. And we cannot deny this simple reality.

We live in world that is increasingly alienated from nature.  The West is heavily urbanized. and fewer and fewer people understand other beings in ecosystems or even in agriculture.

So many people now get dogs without understanding the full context of the animal.  It is the only large carnivoran that most will ever see outside of a zoo, and it will certainly the be the only one that most will ever know on an intimate level.

And herein lies the problem.  The dog’s co-evolution with us gives it special status in our society, but we are largely operating on an understanding that dogs are just like people.

So we have “fur-kids” and “fur-moms” and “fur-dads.”  People are afraid to correct their dogs. They are afraid to train them. They are afraid to cut nails. They are afraid to understand them.

At the same time, the transient nature of modern society has alienated us from each other, and dogs become that ersatz human connection, and this problem compounds with the previous one.

So when I see someone attempting to walk a dog on a harness with a retractable leash, I see two beings in conflict. I see the human, who is seeking to have some sort of communion with the dog, and I see the dog, which has no idea about what is expected in proper society. It is craving essential communication, but this communication it will never receive. If it had received it, it would have learned to walk on the lead attached to its flat collar.

But the retractable leash gives the dog the illusion of freedom, a freedom that it does not seek as much as it would like to know the person on the other end of the line.

The person on the other end, though, either does not know or does not want to know that the dog is not a child. It is no way Homo sapiens.  To confront this reality is too difficult for some, for to admit such a thing is to admit the horrors of modern existence, all alienated from human connection and the natural world from which we sprang.

But there is a profound egocentrism in this convenient anthropomorphism. It is saying that no only does the world revolve around us, even our companion animals must fit our narrow paradigms.

This is the tragedy of the dog in the modern era. It lives better than ever in so many ways, but in so many ways, it is removed from what it is at its core, every bit as much as we are.

Yes, it is weird that I feel a sadness when I see a dog in harness being walked on one of those horrendous leashes, but the sadness I feel is justified.

Because I know dogs for what they are, and I love them for it. I try to give them what their animal side truly needs. The best I can anyway. For I am also short of the Pleistocene hunter-gatherer’s skillset and privilege, but I can try.  Yes, I can try.




Natural History

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The problem with scenthounds

dick's dog.png

I grew up in rural West Virginia. One of the most common types of dog during my childhood was the scenthound. People had beagles for running rabbits.  The hardcore houndsmen kept coonhounds and foxhounds, and the really die-hard ones kept what were always called “bear dogs,” usually Plott hounds or really sharp strains of coonhound, that were used to tree bears.

A beagle was put in the playpen with me when I was of formative years. The first dog that was ever designated as mine was a beagle. Unfortunately, he came home with a bad case of parvo, and in those days, that disease was a death sentence.

5-to-10-year-old me was a fan of the hound. But I noticed something early on. Most of the coonhounds and foxhounds that I knew never were kept as pets. They were usually kept tied up to oil drums or dog houses or they were penned up in the back.

The reason for this husbandry was simple. These dogs were never kept to be obedient pets. Their job was to run the trails of the quarry, give tongue, and maybe tree it or run it aground.

The dogs themselves were usually quite docile.  But they were bred to make lots of noise on the trail, and many of them made lots of noise when tied up or penned up at home. Some houndsmen broke their dogs of this behavior. Others didn’t care.

But it was deeply instilled within me that large scenthounds usually don’t make the best pets. Beagles could make decent enough pets, but one had to make allowances for their baying cries and the simple fact that they were not biddable dogs.

As I have moved on from that world, I have seen a big problem that is not being widely discussed in the dog world. Currently, adoption groups and shelters in the Northeast and West Coast are in agreements with Southern and Midwestern shelters.

In some rural parts of the country,  scenthounds make up a large percentage of the dogs available, and they then get shifted to the more urban environments, where they are usually offered for adoption pretty quickly.

Most of these dogs are quite docile and social, which makes them quite attractive to potential adopters.  However, the staff at urban shelters often have no idea about these dogs. For example, I know of a dog that was offered for adoption as a greyhound mix when he is actually a Tennessee Treeing Brindle, which is a sort of standardizing Plott cur.

Greyhounds don’t make much noise at all. They don’t have much activity level either. But this dog loves to bay and bark, and he needs a lot of exercise.

If adoption groups and shelters are not familiar with traditional American scenthounds and the potential problems in owning one, they will be doing the dogs and the adopters a disservice.

I ran into a older woman on Facebook. We were in agreement in politics, and she liked a lot of what I had to say about various issues.  She friended me, and it was all fine.

Until I saw that she had taken in two Trigg foxhounds from Mississippi as foster dogs. They had been found wandering the edge of a swamp during hunting season, and they were taken to a pound, where they wound up going to New Jersey as potential pets. The woman was excited because the dogs would “never be forced to hunt again,” and they would love living with her small dogs and cats.

I left a comment on her page that I didn’t think this would be a good match.  I told her that those dogs were never forced to hunt. They were probably going to miss not being run around the pine forests and swamps down there, and they might not be the best friends with her cats. And they might not be friends with her little dogs either.

But, of course, she didn’t want to hear it. And our short little “friendship” ended.

We see lots on social media about the problems with pit bulls and poverty and pit bulls and neophyte owners.

However, the same sorts of issues apply to hounds. I remember hearing stories of  someVirginia deer hunters who would go into the West Virginia “dog trades” and buy up all the incorrigible deer running beagles.  In West Virginia, dogs are not allowed to chase deer during the season, and many hardcore deer hunters will shoot a dog if they catch it running deer. In Southeast Virginia, running scenthounds on deer is a time-honored tradition, but not everyone does right by the dogs.

Beagles are a dime a dozen in much of West Virginia, and selling them to Virginia deer hunters is a good way to get rid of a dog that is no longer wanted.

But at least, Virginia deer beagles get to live lives doing something very much like what they were bred for.

Foxhounds and coonhounds in apartments and suburbia could be quite disastrous.  It is one thing to have an AKC-registered black-and-tan coonhound, which you got as an eight-week-old puppy. It is another to get a Treeing Walker that has been started on raccoons or even bobcats or bear and expect that dog to fit in nicely in civilization.

The amount of exercise such a dog requires is not trivial. The sound it will make will annoy the neighbors, and if it is really been trained on the raccoon or bobcat, it will probably not be safe around cats or possibly small dogs.

These dogs not make good pets for the average dog owner. They simply don’t.

You make think I hate these dogs, but I have seen enough people trying to make adopted scenthounds into tractable pets.  And no, they don’t have the potential issues that one might get into with pit bulls and BBMs.

But there are issues.

Now, a lot could be done on the supply-side of this problems. In some parts of the country, there are too many hounds being bred and offered to people who will not do right by them. If a foxhound or coonhound fails as a hunter, it is going to be a hard dog to pet out. No two ways about it, and it is incumbent upon people breeding and training these dogs to find these homes.

And no, the racing greyhounds are not equivalent. Most racing greyhounds transition better as pets than large scenthounds do.  Most of them will lie around the house all day, and if you ever hear one bark, you will be lucky.

These scenthound problems go even deeper than this adoption problem. Once a large scenthound breed loses its quarry, it isn’t long before it becomes defunct. Otterhounds are one of the rarest breeds in existence.  Virtually no place with otters allows them to be hunted with dogs anymore.

The dogs do have their devotees.  But they have the problems of all large scenthounds.  They make the noise. They aren’t particularly biddable. They have a lot of need for exercise.

How you adapt such a breed into modern existence is a good question. Either new quarry is found for the dog, and for a time, they were used on invasive American mink in the UK. But then the UK banned most forms of hound hunting, and the dogs became truly obsolete.

North American houndsmen have generally avoided all griffon hounds, such as the otterhound. All of the traditional American hounds are smooth-coated. Maybe if the dogs were found to be good at hunting coypu (“nutria rat”), they might have a future as a North American hound.

But that is an uphill battle.

The truth of the matter the otterhound’s problem is the problem of all these scenthounds. They are hard to fit into modern society.

And yes, there are people who love their dogs of these breeds, but just because you love your dogs and have no problems doesn’t meant that most people will have no problems with these dogs.

They just aren’t easy, and we need to be honest about them. Nice, docile dogs, yes. But they have real challenges.




Natural History

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Why Spay and Neuter?

An important reminder on the benefits of spaying and neutering. Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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Stacking practice

Dare got some practice being stacked. She looks pretty good for four months old.

dare stacked 4 months

Natural History

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Getting better at sheepdoggin’

Dare is getting a little better at working sheep. She is extremely confident with these Cheviot cross lambs. She’s only four months old, but she has the extinct. Learning to work the sheep has done marvels for her confidence and drive, too.


rounding up

black sheep dare.jpg

sheep dare 2

dare herding

out of corner

sheep dare.jpg

on sheep





Natural History

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Friday Funny: Teefers!

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

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Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways

Plant-Based Lunch Kabobs

This post is in partnership with Daiya Foods, but all opinions are my own. 

It took a while, but I think I’m finally (sort of) getting into the swing of things in terms of having a little one at school all day everyday for the first time ever. Because I work from home, I had visions of both my productivity levels soaring and myself feeling more rested one Essley started Kindergarten because I’d have more free time; but the truth is that things like having to get a 5 year old who likes to sleep in up and ready every morning, getting to the bus stop on time twice a day, driving to and from activities after school, and packing lunches every single day can take some getting used to. (There is also the fact that Essley’s little brother, who doesn’t start back at preschool until next week, no longer has his summertime playmate all day and is in sudden need of excessive and constant attention… but I’ll save that for another day.)

I will say that the task I most dreaded about this new school routine – packing lunches – turned out to be something I actually enjoy. While I may not be an over-achieving Pinterest parent who cuts every sandwich and piece of fruit into intricate shapes perfectly arranged in a Bento box, I do get creative satisfaction out of coming up with unique ideas to incorporate into Essley’s lunches. And it’s even more fun when I can challenge myself to keep as much as possible in each lunch plant-based. Essley isn’t a vegetarian like I am, but she often prefers plant-based foods. I make her a lot of plant-based sandwiches using vegan bread, Daiya Slices, and guacamole, but sometimes I just like to think out of the (lunch) box.  I recently came up with some fun shish kabobs using Daiya Cheeze Sticks and other ingredients, and they ended up being a huge hit. I make two versions: a savory sandwich version, and a fruit-filled ‘dessert’ version. Now we include them in her lunch several days a week, per her request.

Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways
Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways

Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways
Serves 1

1 Daiya Cheddar Style Deluxe Cheeze Stick
Vegan Bread (many breads are vegan and/or plant-based; just check the ingredients)
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
Romaine Lettuce

1 Daiya Mozzarella Style Deluxe Cheeze Stick

Cut both Daiya Deluxe Cheeze Sticks into cubes. Cut bread into small squares and romaine lettuce into small, foldable pieces. Cut tops off strawberries and tomatoes in half. For the sandwich-kabob, layer Cheddar Style Cheeze Stick cubes, bread, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce onto a skewer and repeat until filled. For fruit kabobs, layer Mozzarella Style Cheeze Stick cubes, strawberries, and grapes until filled. So easy, cute, tasty, and fun!

Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways
Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways

You guys already know how much I adore Daiya and their seriously delicious, better-for-you plant-based comfort foods, so it’s probably no surprise that we’ve fallen in love with their new Deluxe Cheeze Sticks as well. Whether I’m making these kabobs or just throwing one in Essley’s lunchbox, Daiya Cheeze Sticks are the perfect school lunch staple. Available in Cheddar Style and Mozzarella Style flavors, they’re great for a quick snack on the way to activities too. They are also dairy, soy, and gluten-free, and a good source of calcium. And most importantly, both of my kids love them. (So do their parents!)

Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways
Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways

If you guys haven’t tried Daiya Cheeze Sticks yet, head over to your local grocery store and grab some now. No really, do it! You can thank me later. You can find them – and items from Daiya’s other yummy plant-based line (their Shreds, Slices, and Pizzas are other favorites in our house) – at more than 25,000 grocery stores in the U.S., including Whole Foods, Kroger, Meijer, Safeway, and Publix, as well as most natural food retailers.

Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways
Plant-Based Lunch-Kabobs, 2 Ways

If you try these fun lunch-kabobs, I’d love to hear what your kids (or you!) think!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Win $5,000, 1,000 pounds of food + more for your favorite shelter! #RememberMeThursday

“All of the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” A time to take the words of Saint Francis of Assisi to heart, Remember Me Thursday is a day to light the…

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Dare on sheep

Dare met sheep this week. She loves to herd!

Natural History

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Tofu Chocolate Pudding (Our New Favorite After School Snack)

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

Thank you House Foods for sponsoring this post.

It is official: I have a Kindergartener. Essley started preschool when she was two, so school itself isn’t new for us. But the whole drop her off at the bus stop and watch it drive off with her somewhere inside, then spend all day everyday at school thing feels like a whole new world. So far, Essley absolutely loves every minute of it. It’s still an adjustment though, and she is definitely more tired, more hungry, and more in need of snuggle time with mama when she gets home than she ever was during preschool.

One of the things I most remember about elementary school afternoons from my own childhood was coming home and making after school snacks with my mom. There was something truly comforting about it, and I decided this was just the thing Essley and I needed to start doing after her long days at Kindergarten.

Yesterday, we decided to make a recipe we hadn’t tried yet from the children’s ebook The Tales of Tofu from House Foods, for Tofu Chocolate Pudding. The Tales of Tofu is an endearing story about a superfood named Tofu who learns about how he can be anything he wants to be (by easily mixing with other foods), and we love to read it together. (You can download it yourself for free right here!) The Strawberry Papaya Tofu Smoothie recipe from the book is a regular in our house, and I can already tell the Tofu Chocolate Pudding will be as well. It’s easy to make, delicious to eat, and it’s packed full of plant-based protein thanks to the tofu (a favorite in our family that we incorporate into many meals and snacks). Making (and eating!) it together is also a wonderful way for us to spend quality time together after school.

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

SERVES: 6 | PREP TIME: 10 min | COOK TIME: 0 min

1 pkg. House Foods Tofu Medium Firm
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
¼ cup soy milk

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave until chocolate is smooth and silky. (If using a microwave, microwave chocolate chips for approximately 15 seconds at a time, stirring frequently in between, until smooth). While chocolate melts, add the tofu, vanilla, and maple syrup to a food processor and blender, and blend until smooth. Slowly add in the chocolate and soy milk and blend until mixture is well combined and smooth. Divide among bowls or pudding jars and refrigerate for at least one to two hours before serving. Top with whip cream, chocolate shavings, or your choice of toppings.

We eat tofu several times a week in our house, in everything from tacos to stir fry to breakfast scrambles to smoothies. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15 years old, and it’s always been my favorite (and the yummiest) way to get protein. It’s truly one of the most versatile ingredients, and because it can so easily and quickly be prepared and incorporated into so many different recipes, it’s a staple in our fridge. Tofu is also something that my kids both love to eat and to help prepare, which makes it a lifesaver during back-to-school season when things are especially hectic. We’ve especially been loving the recipes from The Tales of Tofu (which House Foods partnered with Melissa Rauch to create!). The book itself is so wonderful to read together, thanks to its empowering story and the fact that it so creatively shows little ones the endless way that a truly good for you food can be prepared and combined with other foods to make everything from snacks to meals. Tofu forever!

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

If you try this seriously scrumptious Tofu Chocolate Pudding, I’d love to hear what you think. If your little ones are in a new school year or heading back soon, it’s the perfect after school snack to make together. Enjoy!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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