Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: Wolves and Men by

Is anyone else looking for something not-quite-horror to read this fall? Because I have a little something for you. Natasha Wittman's Wolves and Men delivers sufficient creepiness, action, and nature scenery (which for some reason I always associate with fall) to keep you feeling frisky and leave you with a satisfying read.

One of my very favorite things about reading books is seeing characters that like books as much as I do. For me, it just adds a whole new level of intimacy with the main character and I have also discovered a lot of new reading material by seeking out books that my favorite protagonists had read. This might be why I ultimately enjoyed Natasha Wittman's work. In Wolves and Men, the protagonist is a brainy, highly troubled poetry major who not only uses the wilderness to sort out her problems, but frames her experiences amid the myriad books she has read and loved over the years. This is a novel that is rich in literary allusion, and no slouch when it comes to a well-built character and a sense of suspense. 

Right off the bat Wittman begins building mystery, surrounding her main character, Charlotte, in vague memories of a painful past, as well as a strange and secluded physical landscape that takes the form of the Ouachita mountains. Charlotte has been sent to a remote woodland cabin to contemplate the issues—among them the death of a friend and a subsequent eating disorder—that led to her taking an imposed break from college. Yes, there are references to Thoreau, and yes, the descriptions of the landscape are beautiful and poetic. It is in these descriptions that Wittman really hits her stride, establishing Charlotte as a woman at a loss. A young woman who has been pushing herself to the limit in an effort not to deal with what is really troubling her, and a woman who will be forced to confront much more than the demons she brought with her.
Because there is more than just gorgeous scenery in Willow's Bend. A strange disease caused by the imposed interbreeding of wild dogs is infecting the residents and leading them to acts of staggering, inhuman violence. Charlotte is forced to flee for her life with the few people not infected, and in the process, she must run straight into the arms of her inner problems. By learning to trust Roden, the only man not infected, and a man with a painful past of his own, Charlotte is able to finally articulate what exactly brought her to Willows Bend in the first place. 

All that being said, this is a novel that does a lot of things well, though a reader needs to be on his toes to keep on top of reality. Wittman incorporates elements of a mix of genres, and while the story itself ends up meshing, the novel treads a fine line between action and chaos. Taken at face value, Wolves and Men may seem like a simple horror/survival novel about an outbreak of a mysterious and threatening illness, the truth is much more gratifying. Instead we are treated to a fairly realistic portrayal of how rabies affects human beings, and a highly relatable personal journey to healing and redemption. The more touchy-feely moments are juxtaposed nicely with the brutality and callousness of disease outbreak and quarantine.

There is no denying that it is a pleasure to read about Charlotte. She is a character with incredible insight into others and eventually, into herself. She is practical and easygoing, and it is certainly easy to see how readers, particularly young, female ones, would relate to and even admire her. As she struggles just to stay alive amid the chaos that is thrown unceremoniously into her lap, we see her grow, and we see her learn just what humans are capable of when pushed to the breaking point. That is, she is able to see the thinnest line that separates humans from animals and fights to stay on the human side of the line. And all this is accomplished through the eyes of a voracious reader, one who is able to put her incredibly harrowing experiences into the context of fiction, and move forward into the reality of her future. Through Charlotte, Natasha Wittman has created a poetic landscape, full of lush, vivid detail, and a thoroughly romantic character through which to enjoy it. This is a novel for fans of many genres, but particularly those readers who are most concerned with character growth.
Bottom Line: This adroit little novel will provide pleasing page turning and leave the reader feeling satisfied.

***Natasha will be having a book signing on October 24 at the Hastings in Norman. There will also be a chance to win a Hastings gift certificate! Definitely go check it out. You won't be sorry.***

On the Horns of a (Grain-fed Dairy Cow) Dilemma

Where I found the photo.
Caveat: In this post I am discussing veganism, a topic that a lot of people have passionate opinions about. I am genuinely looking for informed advice and commentary, so please try to remain civilized and refrain from judgmental, self-righteous, or over-generalized statements. Instead of arguing, let's strive for genuine understanding. I'm looking for perspective here. Thank you in advance. 

I find myself on the horns of a true dilemma. Earlier today I was reading a health-oriented blog I follow and a post popped up about how Anne Hathaway mentioned in an interview that she gave up being a vegan. The comments on that post threw me into complete turmoil. They were all very vehement, and very poorly spelled, and  I am positive that I would not want to be in conversation with any of these people in real life. But the most vitriolic of the comments did get me thinking.

See, I have been on the fence for a while now, debating about whether I really should be vegan. I am very passionately against the inhumane treatment of animals, and am very aware of the severe shortcomings in our country's meat production industry. Seriously, it's horrible. For everyone involved.  But I have never felt that eating meat (or animal products) was inherently inhumane. So, as a particularly angry vegan advocate compared eating animals to practicing murder and slavery (there is even a word for this among certain vegans---speciesism), I began to have an absolutely epic back and forth in my head, which raised some questions on the philosophy of being vegan. I am hoping that you all can bear with me and shed some light on these issues, because I am feeling pretty wretched.

So, firstly, one of the vegans said that humans are animals and we need to stop murdering other animals and being speciesist toward other animals. So, okay, I agree that humans are animals. But I wonder, How do vegans feel about other carnivorous predators? I am sure vegans hear from people all the time, talking about how humans have evolved to the top of the food chain, and we are predators and have a right to eat what we want (something that I feel is a pretty valid argument, really) and I have no idea what the typical response to that is. But I presume that most humans do not take issue with, say, a polar bear eating a seal. Or a shark eating a seal. Or a bear eating a shark. It seems contradictory to me to say that humans are just animals so we shouldn't be eating other animals, and yet also believe that wild predators should be allowed to eat whatever they want? Yes, humans have access to a great variety of non-meat food, (though, to bring up bears again, some other predators also have access to non-meat food and continue to be omnivorous) due in large part to agricultural processes we have developed over millenia, often with the use of animals and animal products as help. But again, humans might be considered the top predator, so, as such, are we not entitled to kill and eat lesser species?

And if you say no, we are not, then How do vegans differentiate between species? What is the biological hierarchy and how does it work? How does one animal set itself higher than another on the food chain? And where, if we are not predators of other animals, do humans fit in? Some vegans would say that any infringement on animals is wrong, including destroying natural habitat, zoos, and even owning pets. They equate animal ownership with slavery. So, I have to wonder how far this goes. Do these people allow rodents, snakes, insects, spiders, and all other manner of what would normally be termed pests to live in their home? Do they allow racoons to root through their trash? Do they let moles and squirrels into the foundation and the roof? If the answer to this is no (and I know to some it is, because I have read accounts of humane relocation for said vermin), then how can you claim any higher morality against the so-called speciesist? Should these animals not be allowed to live where they please? After all, we are in their habitat, not the other way around, right? I'm just wondering how far this extends. And, #sorrynotsorry, but I just can't believe that having pets is the same as slavery. I just can't. I don't know about you, but strictly speaking, my animals do exactly zero work for me. They spend about 22 hours a day lying around napping and the other two hours eating and begging for more food. I just do not think this life experience is at all comparable to what plantation slaves endured 150 years ago. And I also have a hard time imagining that a domesticated animal is better off in the wild or on the streets rather than in a loving home. But this does bring me back around to the idea of whether killing animals at all is inhumane, or whether there can be a distinction between humane and inhumane killing. For vegans who also house pets, when they reach the end of their life and are, say, riddled with painful cancer, or their liver shuts down, or they can't eat anymore, do you euthanize the pet? To me, right now, it seems to me that the more respectful and humane way to treat an animal is to say goodbye and put it out of its misery, especially since it is a quick and painless death. But if you truly believe that an animal dying at the hands of a human is wrong by any means, then what do you do with your pets in the end? And with that level of compassion, how can you bear to just watch them be in pain?

If you are willing to euthanize pets, then how can you say that killing an animal to eat is inherently wrong? If, in theory, a farm animal could be slaughtered completely quickly and painlessly, is that really so much different? I suspect that the response, (another thing that was mentioned in the comments of the article I read) is that slaughtering animals is murder (on par with murdering a fellow human) because those animals are happy  and they want to live. Okay, I can go along with that ideology I suppose, but How do you measure an animals happiness or desire to be alive? Is there a scientific process that is able to determine whether an animal prefers life or death, or for that matter, that animals like cows can even conceive of the difference between the two states? Right now, I personally find it doubtful that livestock are existentially aware of their being. And if that is the case, then how can it matter to them whether they continue to live or whether they die? Pain thresholds in different animals have been studied, and it has been found that different animals, even different humans, feel pain differently.  So, with that in mind, how do we know that, say, a cow is actually suffering, when it may not even be capable of suffering the same way we are?

Again, I want to be nice to animals. I want to be respectful of whatever their existence is, but I have a hard time believing that they experience things the same way humans do, so I also have a hard time believing it is wrong to not treat animals like humans. And this is the dilemma about becoming a vegan at all. As I said earlier, industrial meat production is often inhumane. Grossly so. But does this mean that meat production in itself is wrong, or that it simply needs to be regulated? If we halted all meat production, would we have beautiful roaming herds of wild cattle? Or would those domesticated species simply die out? And if you believe animals and humans are equal, can you be okay species extinction? If enough people stop eating meat, would the meat industry change its practices? Or again, would the animals just die off? This is plaguing me. I want to do the right thing, but I am not sure in this case what I actually believe the right thing is.

Please, please leave your (*respectful*) comments and help me sort through this muddle!

*Also, if you are only vaguely aware of how the meatpacking industry works, please click the links and/or watch the many documentaries about it on Netflix. It's some serious business.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Be a Good Running Buddy

Sunday was a very important day. It was the day of the Runtoberfest 5k and Beer Bash, and was also the graduation race from the Red Coyote Newbie Running Program, a couch to 5k program that I signed up for a few months ago. I had started this same program a few years ago, but ended up stopping about halfway through when I got pregnant. So this time I was happy to sign up and see it through to the end. And not just because I did not get pregnant this time.

Hard earned beers after the race!
This time, I had running buddies. Two of my best friends agreed to do this with me, (or rather, Blair and I agreed to do it with Sheridan) and this could have gone disastrously wrong. Trying to do sporting activities with your friends is like undertaking any big challenge with people you love. It can completely ruin the relationship and reveal horrible things about people you once thought you held in high esteem. It takes patience, fortitude, and several other key components to ensure that your friendship survives the ordeal. Especially when one of you, (ahem, Blair) doesn't think she maybe wants to do it in the first place, but has graciously succumbed to peer pressure because she knows it will make you happy (but she loves it now!)

This Sunday, we ran the Runtoberfest together, and we had a blast (after we got done moaning and gnashing our teeth through the incredibly hilly for a 5k course). So here are the three things that made these girls so great to train with, and what you should do it you want to be a great running buddy:

1.Don't Compete
Being competitive is a good thing. It's good to have something driving you to succeed. But when it comes to training for a run in a group, you just have to put aside that need to pass everybody and concentrate on what is going on with you. Being a good running buddy means not trying to constantly beat your partner, but instead do your best and encourage them to do the same. You guys are on a team: Team Survive This Run. And you can't do that if you are always trying to one up each other.

2. Don't Hold Yourself Back
It is inevitable that one of you will be faster than the other one. One of you will have an awesome run while the other has a horrible one. But you can't ever have an awesome run if you have swung too far away from competitiveness and are worried about leaving your friend behind. It needs to be about improving your own pace, and that means sometimes one of you will be in front or behind the other. Everyone needs to agree from the outset that they will run how they run and not force themselves to stick with the group. I am so thankful that my friends did this, because if I'm faster it's a pain to have to slow up, and if I'm slower, I feel like a tool for making my faster friends hang back. So just let it be.

3. Understand That Socializing Might Have to Wait
This is what I typically look like during a run.
Sometimes runners, especially new runners, get completely out of breath all the time when they run. They say, of course, that if you are in shape, you should be able to hold a conversation while running steadily. But in reality, some of us need to just huff and puff our way through the run and can barely heave out a "Left!" when passing someone. So just run. It's enough to know that you have somebody else running alongside (though not necessarily literally alongside) you, wishing you the best. Chatting is for after the run, when you are at the coffee shop eating a muffin and congratulating each other on your athleticism. For the actual running, just put in your ear buds and let your friends do the same if they want.  It's the right thing to do.

Fortunately for me, my besties were the best running buddies a girl could ask for. They did everything right. And that is how our friendship has lived on, and is going on to the 10k training program! I'm just so happy to have these ladies jogging by my side!

Food for thought: How do you other runners feel about being greeted by someone running the opposite direction? Do you wave? Smile? High Five? Duck your head and hope they just leave you alone? What's the etiquette there?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bacon Beer Bread

Time for another delicious, perfect for fall recipe! Although I will admit that I did not conceive of this during the fall. I made it for the first time in July and have since been making and eating it so fast that I haven't had time to post about it. 

I have dear friend who attends Catholic Seminary, and when he was home this summer he mentioned that they have delicious bacon bread there. He had me at bacon bread. I immediately decided I had to figure out how to make bacon bread of my own, and my first stroke of genius was what if there were actual pieces of bacon in the bread!  I decided that a good basis for starting this recipe would be a basic beer bread. First of all, if you have not ever made beer bread, you must. It is special and delicious all on its own; great with soup or for breakfast or just snacking. And it's incredibly easy, even for a quick bread! 

So. I began with this recipe for beer bread. It calls for 3 cups sifted flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup sugar, 12oz beer, and 1/2 cup butter. However, I used self-rising flour (King Arthur brand), so I did not need to add baking powder or salt. Just so you know. 
But first, it's vitally important that you cook some bacon. I dice 8-9 slices of thick-cut bacon and cook it in a skillet until it's fairly crispy. 
Use a slotted spoon to drain all the pieces and set them aside to cool. I mean, I don't know if they really have to be cool, but they do need to be set aside until the end. 
Do not get rid of the bacon grease! Leave all that deliciousness in the pan! Keep it on the stove (with the stove turned off) until it's needed. It needs to stay liquid. This is very important. 
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. As mentioned before, all I am using is the self-rising flour and sugar. But if you are using all purpose flour then you need to add the salt and baking powder. 
It was here that I had another stroke of genius. What goes great with bacon? MAPLE SYRUP! So throw in 1/4 cup. It doesn't make the bread overly sweet, just adds a tiny bit of mapley flavor and a more moist texture. I like my bread moist. If you don't, or if you don't like maple syrup, just leave it out! (This is another case where, if you are going to use it, it must be the real deal! No pancake syrup, please!) 
Time to add the beer! This is what makes it beer bread. In this case, I used Boulevard Wheat. You can use whatever. I have used darker beers, i.e. Sam Adam's Winter Ale, and I prefer to go as dark as possible. But then again, I prefer to drink darker beers too. So just use whatever beer makes you feel good. Pour the whole bottle in there and panic a little at the way it foams up. Then calm back down. This is totally normal. 
Stir everything together! The dough will be very, very thick, and quite wet. And it will. Smell. Incredible. 
Then stir in the bacon pieces! Make sure they are well incorporated. You want them all inside the dough so they don't scorch in the oven. It will be hard to stir, but you must persevere! It's worth it. (And frankly, a little arm workout might be in order given the main ingredients we are using here.)
Spread it all out in a bread pan. You will have to use your spoonula to make sure it reaches the corners. This is normal. Just make it look like you want it to look. You are the master of the dough!
Now, remember that bacon grease you were saving? Well, now is the time to use it. This is not for the faint of heart. You are going to use a full 1/2 cup of bacon grease. If this is already giving you palpitations, I'd advise you to cover your eyes for the rest of the post. 
Now pour that 1/2 cup of bacon grease over the top of the dough and just let it sit there! No stirring! Now, I always get pretty much exactly 1/2 cup grease from the amount of bacon I used. But if you don't have enough, or if you want to skip the grease altogether, you can supplement with melted butter (salted butter. come on.). 

Put this in a 375 degree oven and bake for 1 hour. The bacon grease will keep the bread nice and moist and will create a kind of nice, salty crust on the top of the relatively sweeter bread. It's a phenomenal thing. You'll see. 
Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before taking it out of the pan. Then take it out and let it cool all the way, or immediately slice it up and begin eating it! 

I am not sure if it is required or not, but I store it in the fridge. Please, please give it a try! It's so good. But share it. One person should not be eating that much bacon grease. No matter how much she may want to. 

Happy Fall, again! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Fall and Apple Pie Waffles

This morning I awakened to bright, golden sunlight and crisp, sweet smelling air. It just felt like fall outside. So it seemed like the perfect time to make a hot, delicious fall breakfast, which was a welcome respite from the cold yogurt and chia pudding that we have been consuming all summer. So what could be more reminiscent of fall that waffles with apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar? Nothing, that's what. So here are my easy-peasy Apple Pie Waffles:

First, core and slice two medium apples. Or one big one. Whatever you happen to have in your fridge. I can't even tell you what kind of apples I am using here because I just have a big miscellaneous apple pile in my crisper drawer. I use one of those corer/slicer tools to cut up the apple, and then peel and dice like this:
 Use a paring knife to cut the skin from each slice.
Put the slice core side down on the cutting board and cut it in half lengthwise.
Turn the now two slices on their flat side and slice in half lengthwise again.
Then cut the double-halved slices into little cubes. This is important. You want small, mostly uniform pieces because they will evenly distribute throughout the batter, and also because they will cook through better when they are in the waffle iron. If you like your apples crunchier, feel free to make bigger chunks. My taste testers just happen to prefer their apple pieces fully cooked, or, mushy.
Then make the batter! Start with the basic Bisquik waffle recipe. I have often thought about creating my own waffle recipe, but when this one is so simple and so adaptable, why would I bother? So I'm not going to make you bother either. Step 1: 2 cups of Bisquik and 1 1/3 cup milk. We are a whole milk house. But use whatever (lesser) kind of milk you like.
Then add 1 egg! Also, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. I didn't add a picture of that because it didn't show up very well, and also, I figured you probably know what vegetable oil looks like. So that's the basic Bisquik recipe. Now we are going to get a little crazy!
Add in a tablespoon of pure vanilla. NOT imitation. You shouldn't even have imitation vanilla in your house. They shouldn't even sell it in stores. Just, don't. Also, you can add less vanilla if you don't like it as much (or more, if you are even more wild for vanilla that I am).

Then add some ground cinnamon! Like, quite a bit of ground cinnamon actually. I don't measure, I just sprinkle it until it has made a thing filmy layer covering the entire bowl. It's probably like 1-2 tablespoons. Use your judgement. You can also add other spices like nutmeg, or clove, or just a pinch of salt if you like. But this is all I use.
Then I add 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar. You could use light brown, if that's what you're into. But I must strongly suggest that you do not use white sugar. Use the brown stuff. It's good for you.
Then mix it all together! I use my spoonula from Williams Sonoma, but you might prefer a whisk, or a wooden spoon, or whatever floats your boat. I'm just super in love with the spoonula.
Mix until it is nice and smooth. You will be able to smell it all now, and it will smell like apple pie. And you will debate whether it would be weird to lick waffle batter off a spoon. And decide it probably wouldn't be. Anyway.
Time to add the apples! Just dump 'em on in there!
Stir them in so they are well incorporated. It will be very chunky, but that's okay.
Time to cook the waffles! Get a waffle iron nice and hot. I just put mine to maximum heat and let it heat up for about ten minutes while I'm making the waffle batter. I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the batter, and I usually end up putting somewhere between 1-3 scoops per waffle. I don't know why I do things this way, but it has just always seemed to work better using the smaller scoop. So, dump some waffle batter on your waffle iron.

And cook until it is brown! Then rinse and repeat until all the batter is used.
 While I am cooking the waffles, I also like to make bacon, because, well, what goes better with waffles than bacon? I use the thick cut, regular smoked bacon. I like the thicker pieces better. My friend Kalyn taught me to make bacon like this: lay pieces out on a cooling rack placed on top of a foil-covered baking sheet. Then cook in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes. All the fat collects on the foil, and you can just let it solidify and then throw the foil away! No draining needed. And the bacon turns out perfectly crispy and delicious.

And here is the finished product! Delicious waffles and bacon! It may seem like a lot of steps, but it is actually very fast and easy. What I normally do is cook the first few waffles all the way to well done and those are the ones we eat. And then all the ones after that, I cook just a little under done. Then I tear them in half, wrap them in foil, put them in baggies, and freeze them! Then whenever we want a waffle, we can just take them out and pop them in the toaster! The halves fit perfectly in my toaster, and by the time they are finished they are crispy and cooked to perfection. Definitely a great make-ahead breakfast.

Also, these are sweet enough to eat without syrup. We usually just fold them up in a paper towel and eat them like a piece of toast. No butter or maple syrup necessary! Great for a breakfast on the go.

Go make waffles!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Okie Poutine

Quite a while ago I wrote a review of a local restaurant called The Mule. You will notice that I did not love everything about my dining experience there, but there are several things that this restaurant does really well. One of those things is an appetizer they called "Okie Poutine."

 In case you are unfamiliar, poutine is a Canadian dish that literally translates to "mess," and is comprised of french fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy.  At The Mule, they have made it a little more regional, using Watonga cheese curds (Watonga being a town in Oklahoma that is known for its cheese) and cream gravy (because brown gravy just isn't a thing here). It. Is. Delicious. You might balk, thinking that cheese and gravy have no place in the same dish unless the eater is supremely hungover, but don't be so sure! It turns out that cheese and cream gravy are actually best friends.

So I became determined to make this dish at home, and that's exactly what I did, and what I am going to encourage you to do in the comfort of your own home.

Start with french fries. I used Ore-Ida crinkle cut fries, but if those aren't your bag, then use whatever you like. Just make sure you cook them so that they are nice and crispy on the outside, because they are going to have to support quite a bit of other stuff.

While the fries are in the oven, make some cream gravy.

Start by melting about half a stick of butter (1/4c) in a saucepan.

Add about 1/2 cup flour and stir it around. I didn't strictly measure the flour, I just sprinkle it in while stirring until it's combined and absorbed but not so dry it will burn. You'll know when it's the right amount.

Let this mixture brown for a minute, but watch it closely. When it's ready it will smell kind of like baking sugar cookies, but slightly less sweet. You'll know it when you smell it, because it's delicious smelling.

When the roux is browned, pour in the milk. I used about 1-1 1/2 cups, though I don't strictly measure. I just add in some milk until it looks like I will get the amount of gravy I want.

Give everything a good stir and add some black pepper; a pretty good amount.

Then add some salt.

Then some seasoned salt. Feel free to eyeball those amounts because you will want it to taste the way you like it.

From this point on you are going to have to keep an eye on things. You don't necessarily have to stir constantly the entire time, but if you leave it alone to cook too long, it will get lumpy and gross. I recommend using a whisk. You will also want to keep the heat at medium-low. My knob is 1-10, and I keep it at around 4.

So it will thicken as you stir. Cook it long enough to make it good and thick, because you don't want it running all over the place. And remember that it will thicken as it stands.

So when you fries are ready, pull them out of the oven and cover them with these. Cheese curds, fresh from Watonga! Yay!

I am super vigilant about grouping my fries together and making sure each fry has some cheese touching it. I like cheese on my fries.

Put the curd covered fries into the oven with the broiler on low. DO NOT LEAVE THE KITCHEN! I don't know about you, but my broiler is very intense, and food will go from browning to completely burnt in about a millisecond. Keep an eye on things and watch as the cheese curds melt into the fries. YUM.

Now, when you pull them out and the cheese is all melty, feel free to go ahead and just eat delicious cheese fries. Cheese curds make delicious cheese fries because they maintain really great texture. They don't get soupy or crusty. They melt and get all stringy and mostly stay that way, so they cling to the fries and provide maximum cheesiness. Sublime!

But we are going to add gravy to ours.

And this is the finished product! Eat it while it's piping hot and revel in the richness.

This is in no way a healthy dish. But if you share it with friends you will understand why I felt compelled to create it myself so  I don't have to get gussied up and go to a restaurant to have it. Enjoy!  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

National Dog Day and a Look at My Furry Guardians

Good morning! It's National Dog Day today! If you know me even a little bit, you know that I am an avid (to put it mildly) dog lover, and I am so happy to be able to take a whole day to celebrate the canine loves of my life!

First, let me introduce you to my pups:

Keeley, my sweet girl.

She's my pound puppy! Actually, I adopted her from the Pet Adoption League in Tulsa, way back in 2009, when she was approximately four years old. She is (as best we can guess), a cross between a German shepherd, and a basenji. She looks more like a shepherd, but definitely has the personality of a basenji. She is my special girl. So loving and sweet and 100 percent neurotic. Her interests include tearing apart small stuffed animals, avoiding the human baby, and sneaking off to take naps in places she is not supposed to go. She is loyal, cuddly, and protective, and goes nuts is she is separated from her baby brother.

McFly, being skeptical.
Marty McFLy: 
He's our chubby little Pembroke corgi! We got him when he was just a wee pup, from a retiring breeder who lived out in the country. Before he came to our house, McFly ran around with a peacock all day. Now, four years later, he runs around with our two year old. Marty is all corgi, all the time. He is a cuddler, and is the tattle tale and rule enforcer among the pets (and kid). He is definitely the pack leader, or would be, if Norris and I weren't around to outrank him. He has trouble at the dog park, because he likes to herd the other dogs, but nobody likes to listen to him when he tells them how they should play. He is sweet, tolerant, cheerful, and talkative and his interests include napping, bossing everyone around, and eradicating squirrels from the back yard. But mostly napping.

So those are my dogs and I love them. And I would be lost without them.

My husband has a job that takes him out of town off and on, and due to my love of crime dramas and thrilling movies, I am completely paranoid about being in the house alone while he is gone. Fortunately, I know without a doubt that my loveable dogs would ferociously protect our house and family if the need ever arose, and that helps me sleep at night.

Where does your dog fall on the spectrum?
For National Dog Day, the security company Dropcam has put together a personality profile of what kind of protectors different dogs are (see image), and I can definitely tell you that both my dogs fall into the Bouncing Buzzer category. I am not even kidding, our neighbor two doors down will get out of his car, and the sound of his car door makes our dogs bark and run to the window to see what shenanigans these people are up to. (Sorry neighbors, I know you're probably not up to any shenanigans.)

Marty is more vigilant at night, and often growls softly at noises I haven't heard, which serves the dual purpose of terrifying and reassuring me, since I am worried he is hearing a serial killer, but reassured that I am getting advanced warning about the killer entering my home.

One more pic of my pups!
Keeley, on the other hand, definitely also displays behavior consistent with The Bouncer. If she hears a noise of any kind outside, she gives a thorough barking and then goes to sit by the front door in case anyone has the audacity to try to enter the house. If someone rings the doorbell, she not only barks hysterically and ensures she is with me when I answer, she shoves in front of me to make sure she greets the person on the porch and checks them out before they come in.

At night, she sleeps at the foot of my bed, facing the doorway to make sure whatever comes into the room has to face her first. Marty is her lieutenant, sleeping in the living room usually, and making the rounds to check the rest of the house. It's really fascinating to see what a well coordinated security team they are. And I love them so much for caring about the family that way. We are really a tight-knit pack.

So what about your dogs? Why do you love them? What kind of security dogs are they?

Happy National Dog Day everyone! Go hug your pets (or adopt one if you don't have one)!

*As a side note, I do want to include a link to my local pet adoption agency, The Central OK Humane Society. They work very hard to provide good, loving homes to as many animals as they can: they are 100% no kill, all pets adopted through them are neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped, and they even have a service that rounds up feral cats and neuters them so that the city doesn't become overrun with homeless animals. If you can't adopt or foster a pet, please consider donating money or time to this organization. I have worked with them, and I can tell you absolutely that every person  I have met through them puts the animals first and cares so much about their welfare. It's truly a worthy cause. Thanks for listening! 

*Also on a side note, I was approached by DropCam and asked to assess my dogs' security prowess. However, I am not being compensated or asked to overtly advertise in any way. And I leaped at the chance to talk about my little furry friends.