Idle privilege


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The dogs get to be lazy when I’m not.

20140723 Warm day

I’ve been ruminating lately on how good lives take hard work. Some labors are more visible than others, which doesn’t make them inherently more or less valuable, just different.

During SPARCS2014, Ray Coppinger spoke of how he finds it cruel and freakish to reduce dogs, with their evolutionary history as working animals, to the lazy lifestyles of modern pethood. When you take the “work” away from the working dog, the drive always remains, as a matter of biological coding. Apparently, there’s no such thing as true retirement either when your existence is valued on the basis of your work. Even Coppinger has remained awfully busy as an emeritus professor. Yet I’m keenly aware of his age and accompanying stature because I don’t think he’s allowed his thinking to change much in light of emerging research, scientific and historical.

As the meaning of “work” has changed over the course of anthropological history, we need to rethink canine labors within the context of cynological history, too. I’m not arguing that human or canine laziness is actually laborious, or anything nonsensical like that. But I must acknowledge the complexity of human-animal relationships by admitting that dogs’ roles are at least as versatile as the human conditions to which they are attached.

As I currently work largely from home or outside in spaces where dogs are not free to enter, pet inactivity is necessary to enable this kind of productivity, which does end up mutually beneficial. My lifestyle, my worklife — similar to that of many people the world over — is compatible with the comfortable idle of these dogs. I rest assured that the Bows are equipped to age, change, and adapt to these pet roles, just as so much of canine-human evolutionary history has been about how these two social species develop in accordance to each other.

Playing possum


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When a possum wandered into the backyard this weekend, I learned something about Bowdu’s prey drive.

20140713 Bowdu and possum

Bowdu and possum

Specifically, his prey drive doesn’t kick in if the creature doesn’t dart and just huddles in place, hissing and making ugly faces. The worst that Bowdu did to the hapless opossum was bark and “play” bow, occasionally starting forward — but he did not make physical contact.

Bowdu and possum

After a while of the same expression from an otherwise motionless creature, he lost interest.

Bowdu and possum

Or maybe he was confused, especially when I brought out the camera. He kept staring back at me, as if wondering why I want to take a picture of that ugly ol’ thing?

So we just had a backyard visitor...

Better than cleaning up bloody possum shreds!

Off and on and intercepted


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Bowpi can be a pretty flexible pile of puppydawg when in rest…

20140614 Liquid dog

… and in action.

Adventures of liquid dogAdventures of liquid dog
Adventures of liquid dog

Adventures of liquid dogAdventures of liquid dog

The pit bull’s owner was very conscientious about how rough her dog was playing with Bowpi, due to her size. “Is this okay? Can your dog play like this?” she kept asking. I forget sometimes that many people see Basenjis as “small” dogs, because they don’t display the kind of frailty one associates with toys and minis.

Bowpi does get overwhelmed by larger dogs pretty quickly, particularly during chase. She’s good at outrunning them in short bursts, but can’t quite match their stamina when they keep pursuing and eventually catch up and knock her over. This pit bull was just charging in on her terms though, persisting in roughhouse instead of actual chase. Yet, it seemed she was holding back and playing rather loosely, as far as I could tell from watching bullies play before. And to my surprise, Bowpi was actually reciprocating.

Like I told the pit bull’s owner, Bowpi can handle her own until she doesn’t want to anymore, and then she’ll make it clear when she’s had enough.

Adventures of liquid dog

On that day, I realized that when Bowpi gets overwhelmed, one of her strategies (as a reader once suggested) really is to deliberately lead the overly exuberant pursuer into Bowdu. I used to think his refereeing was obtrusive, that he was being the killjoy to her chase games.

Time out!

Well, I think Bowpi has figured out Bowdu’s habits, just as he’s learned to relax a bit when she wants to play chase. And they have learned to cover for each other, developing something that might be called effective teamwork.

When Bowpi started to have enough, I could see her breaking away, but this prompted the pit bull to start chasing instead. When she caught up, she’d try to roughhouse again, throwing all her weight into a galloping headbutt. Bowpi wasn’t having that anymore, so she led her straight towards Bowdu, who jumped right in to intercept the pit bull. After a few moments of all sorts of communicative microsignals that I couldn’t fully observe from my angle, Bowpi was able to slink away without being tailed again.

Adventures of liquid dog

It was some good playing, and a good finale.

The Cost of things: June 2014


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20140622 Peeps and Doobs

This is my fourth year of tracking pet finances at the House of Two Bows. This is an ongoing effort to get a practical sense of what it costs to keep two 20 ~ 30 pound adult dogs in an area of the US with relatively high costs of living. Previous posts in this series can be found under the category of finances.

The Cost of (Pet) Things for June 2014:

  • Food: $21 [previous month, $194]
  • Treats: $6 [previous, $41]
  • Grooming: $0 [previous, $0]
  • Vet & Medical: $0 [previous, $0]
  • Accessories and misc: $0 [previous, $0]
  • TOTAL: $27 [running average for 2014: ~$139/month]

Last month’s food total was horrendously high, so I made a conscientious effort to pace things out this month. I didn’t meet my single-digit spending goal, but I’m satisfied with the numbers anyway. That amount included a couple pounds of sardines, turkey tails and necks, chicken livers, and a whole roasting chicken. When roasters are on sale, they’re extremely economical, hacked up and apportioned as dog food for the week. I even saved a breast for myself, which lasted several meals given the way I portion my own meat intake.

Treats also consisted of raw fare, chicken hearts chopped up and thrown into the dehydrator.

I’m not expecting such a low total next month, as Bowdu is due for another vet appointment — his periodic thyroid check.

June Gloom comes to a close



This is the year I learned the meaning of the term “June Gloom.”

20140604 June fog

Supposedly, we in NorCal aren’t as susceptible like they are in SoCal.

20140601 Marin Headlands in the fog

The above photo was taken the first of the month. The picture below was taken today, on the last day of the month.

20140630 More fog

On a clear day, you would see populated hills climbing up the horizon.

Not this June though, or at least not in this summer fog.

There’s a deep metaphor you could extract from this weather, I’m sure. But I’d rather leave it behind — onward and forward to next month!

THK giveaway winner is a Taiwan dog


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So busy lately! Finally here to announce the winners of our last Honest Kitchen giveaway!

Our runners up, receiving sample packets of Perfect Form, are as follows:

  • J. in Nevada, with Leo the dog
  • Joy H. in Kentucky, with Paisley, Drover, Sookie, Abby, and Cali the dogs
  • Kelly M. in California, with Pud — our first feline prizewinner on the House of Two Bows!

Our main prize winner is Mio in California, who will be receiving a two pound trial box of Love, THK’s beef formula!

THK Winner

Mio was lucky number one, the first commenter to jump right on the giveaway. First is just as eligible as last, according to the whims of I’m especially pleased to announce Mio as the winner because I know she’s a Taiwan dog, and despite what cranky critics of international street dog rescues might say, is quite fortunate to have the life that she does here in California.

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

We’ve never met Mio, though she’s apparently a local-ish tugou. We did, however, get a chance to meet several other Taiwan dogs at a meetup last month. Like I said, I’m waaay behind on my blogging… so I’m finally getting around to posting the pictures now.

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

The park had a very strange layout — relatively narrow in width, a long stretch of unshaded, woodchipped land with most people concentrated right at the gate, near the drinking fountains.

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

Knowing that this kind of setup gets claustrophobic for Bowdu in particular, I didn’t mingle as much as I would have liked. I was keeping an eye on my dogs to make sure they weren’t getting bored and acting out.

Unimpressed FMD 5.31.2014

Not that many of the dogs were as thrilled to meet me as I was to meet them. That’s a cool and guarded Formosan dog attitude for ya. They just buzz by with minimal interaction, doing their own thing.

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

I was fascinated by their body language of hesitance, caution, curiosity, anticipation — some consistent expressions seen amongst the group.

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

Those are two different brindles similarly craning to get a careful sniff of Bowdu. Maybe it’s something about Bowdu that brings that out in other dogs, no matter the end of approach.

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

And then there was mighty Bella, petite tuffstuff.

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

FMD Meetup 5.31.2014

Bella’s person is a reader of this blog, and tipped us off about this meetup which was hosted in honor of Mary, a prolific Taiwan dog rescuer whom I had a chance to meet when I was last there. Like her dogs, she sometimes travels across the Pacific, and was in town for ongoing dog training education. Mary’s commitments are exemplary, and part of why I continue to feel that international dog rescue for Taiwan dogs in particular is justified, critics be damned. Not only does she send her dogs abroad, she shares her knowledge and experience which flows in both directions.

Such international, transnational communities of dogs and their associated dogpeople were on my mind during the presentations at SPARCS 2014 this year. I doubt I’ll get around to a proper recap of the conference though it will continue to filter into future writing. But that’s the point of education — knowledge accumulates, changes, flows. Most importantly though, knowledge belongs to those who continue to feed themselves on steady diets of the new and fresh, whether it be food or information.

SPARCS 2014 now through Sunday


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Just a quick update here. I’m firing up all the social media for the 2014 international conference of the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science, or SPARCS. I have been up since 6am California time to catch the live presentations in Rhode Island streaming free via

20140620 SPARCS with the Bows

The participatory aspect of this online conference is part of what made it one of the most awesome canine events of 2013. The House of Two Bows is engaging this year on Instagram, Facebook, and even my seldomly used Twitter. Oh yeah. That’s how you know it’s serious. But it’s also fun.

This morning’s talks by Patricia McConnell, Ray Coppinger, and Simon Gadbois were well worth the early rise. Julie Hecht and Mia Cobb of Do You Believe in Dog? are running great post-presentation interviews. Check out the schedule of speakers for much more!

p.s. Winners of the Honest Kitchen giveaway to be announced later this weekend. Thanks to all who entered!

REVIEW: The Honest Kitchen Force w/ GIVEAWAY (inc. Perfect Form)


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20140602 The Honest Kitchen Force

Product: The Honest Kitchen Force
Quantity: 2 lb. trial package
Price: $21.99 via THK online*
Ingredients (all dehydrated): Chicken, organic flaxseed, potatoes, celery, sweet potatoes, apples, organic alfalfa, organic kelp, honey, pumpkin, green beans, cabbage, bananas, papayas, basil, garlic, tricalcium phosphate, choline chloride, zinc amino acid chelate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, iron amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate
Guaranteed analysis:

  • Protein, 24.0%
  • Crude Fat, Min 0.85%
  • Fiber, 6.5%
  • Moisture, 8.5%

Country of origin: Manufactured in the United States; ingredients sourced from various locales, no ingredients from China
Company information: The Honest Kitchen; 145, 14th Street; San Diego, CA 92101
Web Presence:, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and elsewhere

* Complimentary box received in exchange for our honest review. Please check out the bottom for details on a how to win a FREE trial box of THK!

In a long term relationship, one sometimes falls so deeply into familiar routines, questions start answering themselves. It’s hard to step outside that halcyon lull when everything just feels fine. And why should you want to? Steadiness, reliability, and that constant source of assurance can be exactly what makes any long term relationship so desirable.

But then one day, your old familiar partner walks through the door with a wild new hairstyle or decked out in a sharp new wardrobe, and you think…

Hot new packaging

Woah. Hot!!!

For it’s a mistake to equate stability with stasis, or a lack of change. The desire to package and present yourself anew can itself be endearing. So long as we’re not talking drastic measures like, say, face tattoos without prior notice, and all the intrinsically lovable traits remain intact, some element of surprise does wonders to keep a relationship fresh.

And that is how I feel about The Honest Kitchen’s new packaging, designed by Natalya Zahn, unveiled a few months ago and introduced via a lovely care package delivered straight to the doorstep at the House of Two Bows.

The Honest Kitchen care package

Inside was a wooden crate containing all kinds of literature reintroducing the brand and the product, including a lavishly photographed recipe book full of healthy dog- and human-friendly meals. Of immediate concern to the Bows was the box of Perfect Form, a digestive supplement that we sometimes use, and a trial size box of Force, the grain-free chicken recipe that is already a part of the Bows’ regular meals.

Goodies from THK

I’m cataloging the contents for full disclosure that yes, we did get free stuff from THK in exchange for our honest review. No other compensation was received. But the Bows’ and THK already go way back to July 2011, when we first started feeding it regularly. I had no idea back then that we would use THK products on a near-daily basis. Indeed, as sometimes happens in long-term relationships, we’ve come to take their products for granted. So the surprise package was a welcome invitation to recall why we fell in love in the first place.

THK meal  Untitled
  Today's bowl: two sardines (about 2-3 oz apiece) on a bed of #TheHonestKitchen Preference and raw scrambled egg (to mask the taste of the Comfortis hidden in the mix)20140509 Honest Kitchen Day 1

Some of the many ways we prepare THK: topped with raw chicken gizzards and hearts, mixed with shredded carrot and topped with raw chicken’s foot, topped with raw chicken liver and mixed with herbal skin and coat supplements, rounding out a meal of smallish raw chicken drumsticks, blended with raw ground turkey, topped with raw egg, with raw sardines and scrambled raw egg, with a hunk of raw chicken thigh

The new, two-pound trial size box is available in four dog-specific recipes (Force, Embark, Love, and Keen) and one cat-specific recipe (Prowl). Each box makes about eight pounds of food, which lasts about three to four weeks when fed for one of the two meals at the House of Two Bows. Thus, it’s a fitting amount for a proper food trial, both in terms of volume and time. The previous one and three-ounce packages only give a shallow impression, basically letting you know if your pet will bite… or not. To get a better idea of potential benefits, you gotta have enough to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the affair a bit.

So let me now take this opportunity to explain the top three reasons why I have stuck with The Honest Kitchen over the years:

  • They’re just my physical type. Of all the different types of dog food — kibble, canned, raw, rolled, etc. — I find this dehydrated form to be the most versatile and portable. Every recipe is fully balanced on its own, but I like to add extras to bump up protein content or just to spice things up (also very easy to hide medication, as necessary). Meanwhile, rehydration adds necessary moisture, and that can be adjusted too.
  • Ground turkey and Preference
    When switching formulas or countering mild digestive upsets, I add Perfect Form to the mix. Pictured is THK Preference (meatless base mix) with ground turkey, topped with Perfect Form before mixing.

  • They have a strong personality… insofar as one can speak of a company possessing a personality. I’m not referring to a cartoon mascot or hired spokesperson. I mean that the company visibly embraces specific food production values which overlap with lifestyle philosophies, all of which they forefront with abundant detail. Now, I don’t claim to be in complete alignment, but I feel like we’re on the same page on a lot of flashpoint issues inclusive of dogs and cats and also extending to matters of broader social import. There are too many examples to list here, but the thing is you don’t have to dig too deep to find out where the company stands on quality control, sustainable sourcing of ingredients (the tag “nothing from China” is even printed on the box), and even social issues like the balance between animal rescues and ethical breeding, etc.
    Honest Kitchen is clear about where all their ingredients are from, even if internationally sourced. All recipes are domestically manufactured in the US. Source: THK blog,

    Honest Kitchen is clear about where all their ingredients are from, even if internationally sourced. All recipes are domestically manufactured in the US. Source: THK blog,

  • Third, they know how to communicate. They’ve been pretty social media-savvy from the start, especially on Facebook. Not only do you know about it when they’re adjusting recipes, they even solicit feedback in the course of making product changes. There’s a lot more they do to maintain integrity with their customer base. Again, too many examples to list here, but suffice to say, their presence and outreach efforts befit their status as a 21st century pet food company, both in the office and on the product shelves.

You think you're lucky?

Finally, The Honest Kitchen is generously sponsoring a GIVEAWAY for one box of any of their 2-pound trial boxes:

  • FORCE, free range chicken (grain-free)
  • EMBARK, cage-free turkey (grain-free)
  • LOVE, Midwestern beef (grain-free)
  • KEEN, turkey with organic oats
  • PROWL, free-range chicken for CATS

That’s right! Cat owners are invited to participate, as well. The only rules are that 1) you are committed to a long-term relationship with your pet(s) — so please tell us who you’re entering for, 2) you reside in the continental United States, and 3) comment on this post simply stating which recipe you would like to try out.

Deadline is Wednesday, June 18th at 11:59PM Pacific Standard Time, at which point one winner will be randomly chosen to receive their preferred two-pound box; three runner-ups will be chosen to receive sample packets of THK Perfect Form, a digestive supplement suitable for both dogs and cats. Because I will be personally mailing out the packets of Perfect Form, “runner up” winners can be from anywhere in the world — so international participants are welcome to comment, though you’ll be ineligible for the main prize.

Have at it, and good luck!

The Cost of things: May 2014


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Don’t look now… it’s that time of month again.

20140219 Don't look now...

This is my fourth year of tracking pet finances at the House of Two Bows. This is an ongoing effort to get a practical sense of what it costs to keep two 20 ~ 30 pound adult dogs in an area of the US with relatively high costs of living. Previous posts in this series can be found under the category of finances.

The Cost of (Pet) Things for May 2014:

  • Food: $194 [previous month, $15]
  • Treats: $41 [previous, $12]
  • Grooming: $0 [previous, $0]
  • Vet & Medical: $0 [previous, $0]
  • Accessories and misc: $0 [previous, $0]
  • TOTAL: $235 [running average for 2014: ~$161/month]

Another high total bumping up the monthly average, unfortunately. This month I splurged on a couple sales and bulk orders.

Placed another food order with Creston Valley Meats, a practice which I only seem to manage about once a year. This round included a 12-pound box of ground turkey meat and bone, which I mix with Honest Kitchen Preference at about a 2:1 ratio (heavy on the meat), and about 7 pounds of chicken’s feet at $1.50 a pound, sold as “all natural, home grown, most fed on organic feed.” This is slightly cheaper than the local Asian groceries, and apparently better quality (from what little I can tell by visual inspection). Given the way I stagger meals, this supply should last through the rest of the year.

20140527 Ground turkey and Preference

Also on the pricey side, I threw down for more Honest Kitchen products since the local Pet Food Express chain was running a promotion: buy one, get one half off. I snagged a 10 lb. box of The Honest Kitchen Force for an additional $20 off because the packaging was damaged (though the contents were unaffected), so I matched that with a 7 lb. box of Preference at discount. That amount of Preference has lasted about a year before, perhaps a bit less.

20140601 The Honest Kitchen
10 lb. box of THK Force (old packaging) vs. 2 lb. trial size box (new packaging)

Not sure if the sale was because the store wanted to clear the shelves to make way for THK in its new packaging (shown on the 2 lb trial size box that Bowpi is licking). Review preview: You will hear more about The Honest Kitchen Force and their new packaging in the next post…

For kibble, the Bows got a 15 pound bag of Acana Pacifica, probably the most expensive kibble in their rotation (and thus only appearing about once a year), because I managed to comp a small bag of Acana Grasslands with a special order.

Finally, there was one last 4 lb. bag of Zignature Wild Trout recipe at half off. We’ve tried a couple Zignature formulas before. Since then, the retail price on the small bag at my local pet store was adjusted to $12.98 a bag, which makes it comparable to Taste of the Wild. I’m not convinced that it’s a better kibble, though at less than $7 a bag, it’s totally worth another chance.

So that was a lot of food that should allow us to aim for a single-digit food total next month…

For treats, restocked on The Honest Kitchen Beams at buy 3, get 1 free (went for the small size this time). Also eight raw pig’s ears, hacked up and thrown into the dehydrator. Lots of crunchy bits to get us through the month…


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