Happy Friday friends! I feel like I’m cheating a little by sharing this, because the recipe is one I originally shared here last year. But we made these cookies again yesterday for an early Valentine’s Day treat, and since this upcoming week is V-Day week, I felt inspired to share again. I’ve actually tweaked a couple of things in the recipe since last year as well, so an update felt needed. I hope you love them as much as we do!
SunButter (or Peanut Butter) and Jelly Heart Print Cookies Makes about 24 cookies
INGREDIENTS 1 cup SunButter (for allergy-free recipe!) or peanut butter 1-1/4 cups gluten-free or all-purpose or flour 1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup granulated sugar 1/3 cup brown sugar 1 stick butter (softened) 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extra 1/2 cup jelly, jam, or preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, use a mixer to beat together the SunButter or peanut butter, butter, and egg, then beat in the sugars and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Beat in the flour mixture on low until well mixed. Roll tablespoon size balls on dough and place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart, the slightly press each cookie into a round shape (we dip the bottom of a metal measuring cup in sugar and then press onto each cookie ball). Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately use the bottom of a wooden spoon handle to make heart shapes in the center of each cookie while still hot. Fill each indentation with jelly, and allow to cool on a wire rack. Note: If you have a dairy allergy, you can easily substitute butter for a butter alternative. And if you have an egg allergy, use an egg replacer mix or 1/2 a mashed banana in place of the egg.
I must admit that I never really new sighthounds other than retired racing greyhounds until these past few months. I knew that Jenna had a special relationship with Zoom, her cream and white whippet, and when we moved in together, she had just brought in a brindle and white whippet puppet.
I figured that the puppy would wind up being her dog, and although I was quite aware that whippets were quite trainable dogs, I never really thought I’d become attached to one.
As Poet has matured, though, he and I have drawn closer to each other. It was he who made the first mood. A few months ago, he just sort of declared in his subtle sighthound ways that he was my dog, end of discussion.
And I’ve accepted the arrangement. I have found him to be as biddable as any golden retriever, and I have trained him to sit, heel, lie down, stand, and speak. He fetches the ball like a demon, which is to be expected. His father is a Frisbee nut.
He likes to go with me everywhere, and because he’s smaller and innocuous, I generally don’t have a lot of trouble taking him places. He is genteel and kind, but he is not demonstrative with strangers.
Through one family line I trace to the rugged counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the same counties that spawned the modern whippet as a rag racer. I suspect my Quaker ancestors in that part of the world may have had little greyhounds much like whippets, perhaps to fill the pot with rabbit stew on cold winter nights.
So we are now attached to each other. I have a nice little whippet with a show and coursing career ahead of him, and I now know the full appeal of this breed. Once they choose their person, you are it. No one else really matters.
And that is strange and moving feeling, especially when you’re used to golden retrievers that are so socially open.
Poet is my little boy. My little whip. And I am his person.
One of the great exercises on the internet among those who wish to be taken seriously as “dog people” is to say that dogs are not wolves. In one sense, they are quite right. Dogs are not wild canids, and they are certainly not the mostly fearful and reactive wolves of the middle latitudes of Eurasia and North America.
But in another broader sense, they are dead wrong. I’ve been following this debate for some time. At one time, there was a great emphasis on the so-called Canis variabilis that were contemporaries with Homo erectus at the Zhoukoudian cave system in China. The remains date to 500,000 years ago, and it’s quite a leap to say that Homo erectus began dog domestication.
So this idea that these Chinese specimens are ancestral to the domestic dog is quite faulty. Even if we were to say that Canis mosbachensis were the ancestor of dogs, we would have a real problem on our hands. The Mosbach wolf disappears from the Eurasian fossil record no later than 300,000 years ago, when it was replaced by modern gray wolves. The earliest domestic dog that has been proposed dates to 33,000 years ago in the Altai Mountains.
Somehow, you have to get a species that went extinct hundreds of thousands of years before the formation of the earliest domestic dog to become its ancestor. The chronology makes no sense.
So when you see someone claiming that Canis variabilis is wild Canis familiaris, just understand that this person hasn’t looked at the most recent literature on these Middle Pleistocene wolves. But I’ve seen this repeated enough that I do think I need a place on this blog where I can easily link to the problems with this assertion
The real problem with all of this is that in dogs, at least in the English speaking world, there is a real problem with phylogeny denial. So many people are caught up in this “dogs are not wolves” idea that they invest lots of mental gymnastics in trying to create another wild ancestor for the domestic dog.
Again, the gray wolf species is at least 300,000 years old, and no one has found a relationship between dogs and wolves that posits their divergence as being greater than 33,000 years. There is an old mitochondrial DNA estimate that is largely not accepted that puts their split between dogs and wolves at something like 135,000 years ago, but that’s still after the gray wolf existed as a species.
So let’s talk about why saying dogs are not wolves is an exercise in phylogeny denial:
One of the implications of our modern Darwinian synthesis is monophyletic descent. All organisms derive from ancestors, and it is impossible to evolve outside one’s ancestry. If we were to go back in time to see when the most recent common ancestor of dogs and gray wolves, you would have a hard time describing that ancestor as anything other than a form of Canis lupus.
Dogs have evolved through their Canis lupus ancestor, just as modern wolves have evolved through theirs. It is accurate to say that domestic dogs are not derived from extant wolves, but it is not accurate to say that dogs did not derive from wolves. It is also not accurate to say that dogs are a different species from Canis lupus, because dogs are still part of a Canis lupus lineage.
So dogs and wolves are continuing to exchange genes. They are not becoming reproductively isolated from each other in a way that would lead to speciation, even now.
I’ve never understood why this line of thinking has ever been popular, except that wolves people have indeed abused dogs under the assumption that their social systems are much like those of captive wolves. Further, it is quackery of the worst order to assume that dogs should be fed only full raw carcasses of meat because that is what wolves eat.
But those problems are not adequately addressed by promoting another scientifically dubious prospect. Dogs do behave somewhat differently from wolves, but that is because dogs are domesticated. Wolves behave differently because they are a wild form, and as a wild form, they have undergone a selection for extreme timidity and wariness as we have tried to wipe wolves off the face of the earth.
You may have noticed less posts than usual here this month, and that’s because my work-life balance has been majorly scrambled. January is always slower for work, which is honestly a blessing after the 60 hours a week I put in during the holiday season. But this month, my husband, who most of you know works for a band, has also been on tour for the last two weeks straight. In total, Robbie is gone about half the year, but he always come home once a week for two to three days, during which I work full time while he cares for our kids. When he is on the road, I have child care a couple of days a week to work, but the rest of the time it’s me being a (temporary) single parent, and I’m admittedly usually on the border of losing it by the time he arrives home. As much as I adore my kids, I’m more than ready to hand them off when he walks in the door. It can be a bit much for both of us at times, but over the years, we’ve created a routine that works well for both of our jobs and our roles as parents. But having him gone for two weeks (the longest in a row he’s been gone since before we had kids) and trying to work full time, get the kids to school and activities multiple times a day, get them fed and bathed and dressed, and taking care of stuff around the house, etc. without a break has been pretty freaking exhausting. I like to post here at least three times a week, but this month I just had to take a step back.
I will say that in the past, I probably would have stayed up until 2 AM to work, gotten four hours of sleep tops, and then pushed myself to run on fumes to get through each day. This year one of my goals has been to go easier on myself, and allowing myself some time to just breathe or meditate or watch freaking Netflix for a half hour before I go to bed (which has been by midnight every night) has definitely helped me operate on just more than survival mode during this time.
Essley and I stopped at a local forest preserve the day before Robbie left (back when it felt like early spring at the beginning of the month; it is 100% winter now), and I snapped these photos with my phone. When things have felt like too much over the last couple of weeks, I look at them as a reminder of how easy it is to take a moment to just allow myself to be free, like Essley. I mean, this girl is truly on the most free spirits humans I’ve ever met. It’s so easy to be inspired by that. It’s also kind of amazing how our little ones, no matter how much they push us to the edge, can be teachers to we adults, isn’t it?
Things will be back to normal here in February, both at home and here on Bubby and Bean. In the meantime, I’ll just going to do what I can, and keep looking at the photos as a reminder on the best way to be. I also want to give a major shout out to actual single working parents and those who have their partners gone for truly long periods (like those in the military). This shit is hard, man, and you are amazing and inspiring and strong.
Valentine’s Day may be a month away, but that didn’t stop my 5 year old from taping a Valentine’s banner to the fireplace literally the minute the Christmas decorations came down. This past weekend, she even asked if we could start making Valentines for her classmates. And while I gently assured her that we didn’t need to do it quite this early, it did prompt me to reopen the Bubby and Bean Art Shop shop after a short break following the holiday rush, with a bunch of Valentine’s Day cards., that I am now sharing with you all today. For those who didn’t know we had this little side business (I don’t talk about it much here, but I started it back in late 2010!), I create greeting eco-friendly greeting cards, every single one of which is printed, cut, scored, and folded individually by hand. If you’re thinking of sending or giving hip, handcrafted, earth-friendly Valentine cards this year, I’d love for you to check them out. Oh yeah, and you can take 25% of your order today through this Friday (1/18/19) with code LOVE19. Hurray!
The traditional understanding of coyote evolution is that coyotes are basal wolf-like canids. This understanding comes from the hypothesis that coyotes directly evolved from Canis lepophagus in North America alone. Coyotes look and behave a lot like jackals of the Old World, and because we know that the larger wolf-like canids evolved from jackal-like ones, we just assumed that the coyote was a primitive form.
No one thinks of dogs as basal forms of Canis, so it is possible for animals in this lineage to lose brain size, just as it is possible for a primitive lineage of canids known as coyotes to evolve a larger brain.
Please note that my discussion on brain size here isn’t really a discussion about intelligence, because the literature on which form is most intelligent is quite all over the map. Domestic dogs kept in Western countries in the modern way do appear to have social cognitive abilities that virtually all other species lack, while wolves are much better at working with each other to complete tasks.
But coyotes have proportionally larger brains than either wolves or dog do, and in this lineage, larger brains are generally a derived characteristic.
However, the really important data about coyote evolution is the discovery that they shared a common ancestor with gray wolves much more recently than commonly suggested. A genome-comparison study of various North American canids found that the common ancestor of both gray wolves and coyotes lived around 50,000 years ago. Because anatomically modern gray wolves replace the Mosbach wolf in the fossil record between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago, the ancestor of both had to have been a form of gray wolf from Eurasia.
The coyote is thus a jackal that has evolved in parallel out of the gray wolf lineage, which means it is not a primitive canid at all. It likely evolved this jackal -like morphology and behavior because the form of gray wolf that it derives from was unable to compete with the dire wolf, the American lion, the short-faced bear and the machairodonts as a top-level predator. It was forced to evolve a smaller body that could be fed on carrion and small prey.
We know now that there is a big difference in what prey predators target once they exceed 20 kg. Predators that weigh more than that mass target large vertebrates, while those that are smaller than that weight target smaller prey. Although coyotes do cooperatively hunt deer, they primarily feed on rabbits and mice. So by becoming smaller, coyotes were not directly in conflict with dire wolves or the other large predators of Pleistocene North America.
Only through analyzing full genomes of coyotes and gray wolves did we realize that our assumptions about their evolution were wrong. Earlier studies that looked at mitochondrial DNA alone found that coyotes fit within a basal position of the wolf-like canid lineage. However, recent full genome comparison of various wolf-like canids that looked at the role hybridization played in their evolution found something interesting. The lineage that leads to wolves, dogs, and coyotes experienced some introgression from a ghost species that was closely related to the dhole. The authors think that the reason why coyotes turn up so basal in these mitochondrial DNA studies but appear so wolf-like when their full genomes are compared is coyotes have retained a mitochondrial line that comes from that ghost species.
So the generalist coyote is a re-invention out of the gray wolf lineage. It is not basal to the wolf-like canids. It just merely resembles the basal forms in some of their ecology, in some of their behavior, and in their odd mitochondrial inheritance.