Canine Cuisine

Once upon a time on an aisle in a grocery store,

Debby Martin searched for the healthiest dog food and treats, wanting only the best for her Dorkie (Dachshund and Yorkie mix) Kirby. Then, one Thanksgiving, after Kirby became sick from eating dressing from the table, Debby was determined to find out what dogs should and should not eat. Her discoveries surprised her – not about table food, but about commercial dog food.

“It’s been proven that some commercial products have tiny bits of the drug used to euthanize pets.” There can also be poisons and pesticides, said Debby. “I think over the years this builds up to the cancers we are seeing today.”

Thus began Debby’s seven-year journey from grocery store aisle to the kitchen. Questioning every ingredient in her canine’s diet, she researched holistic veterinarians and other websites on healthy food ingredients. In turn, she developed her own website to inform and educate others and to provide tried and trusted canine recipes.

“I started making Kirby’s treats and now he eats about 90 percent homemade. I just love creating the recipes. Kirby is very picky and won’t eat just anything.” 

Realizing, however, that one day her website might be gone, she wrote the canine chef cookbook to provide people with the same information and recipes on her website. The book includes sections on Wholesome Canine Nutrition, Recipes, and The Pantry. Within these sections, she includes pertinent information on healthy and harmful ingredients, food colors, tips and tricks, tools in the kitchen, and much more. Her ultimate goal: Pay attention to what your dog is eating. 

Take spices, for instance.

Holistic veterinarians consider garlic very healthy and safe for pets, but certain ingredients can be very dangerous, especially if your dog has health issues. 

“For example, Rosemary is beneficial for dogs, but if your dog is epileptic, it can cause seizures, whereas Nutmeg is extremely toxic for a dog,” said Debby. Always check with your vet first about the ingredients before cooking for your dog. “If you have any reservations about any ingredient, leave it out.” Table foods are fine as long as you know what’s in it.

Debby’s passion and concern for other people’s pets most likely grew when Kirby got sick. Sugar, Debby’s dog before Kirby, lived to be 15 years old. Though Debby did buy dry dog food, Sugar ate mostly table scraps from carefully prepared family meals that were low in sugar and fats. 

“So Sugar was really eating some very good food, said Debby. “He ended up living a long life and never had any illness.”

There is no moisture in kibble and a dog’s diet should be 70 percent water, explained Debby. Food that dry overworks the kidneys to reconstitute and break down that food. Over time, this can lead to kidney failure.

“Would you eat the same dry food every day?” she asked. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. As humans, we try to avoid fast foods. It’s healthy for your pet to eat fresh foods, just like you.” Even if you don’t prepare every meal for your canine, make treats and supplement the dog food. Juicing is healthy for you and your pet, so pour a topper over your pet’s dry food. 

When Debby provides foster care to neglected and abandoned animals, she feeds them the same food Kirby eats. She admits to being an advocate for healthy pet diets, saying, “I keep a list on my refrigerator of things Kirby can and cannot eat so everyone knows.”

Kirby knows not to take treats from people because Debby doesn’t know what’s in that treat and a well-meaning bite can be dangerous.

“Your dog is a member of your family, so you want them to live longer. Think about what you are feeding them,” said Debby. “You feed your kids well so they will grow up healthy. Feed your dog with the same attitude.” 

BREAKOUT BOX:  –  All recipes in the cookbook are on the website for people who can’t afford the cookbook.  Debby responds to all emails and contact.

the canine chef cookbook is available on Amazon, the Book Store on Main street and at Animal Medical Center, Starkville, Mississippi.


This article originally published in Town & Gown Magazine.


The Winter Blues


Outside, overcast skies hide the afternoon sun.

Summer’s vibrant green and the kaleidoscopic colors of fall have long vanished, leaving only fallen leaves to sweep across a cold, barren ground. Winter in the south may be relatively short, but its colder and shorter days can still bring in the winter blues.

Seasonal depression, otherwise known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder),

strikes up to 6% of the U.S. population and usually occurs the same time each year. Hormones, genes, age, body temperature, and overall mental state all play a role in SAD with symptoms including depression, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness, social withdrawal, oversleeping, the inability to concentrate, appetite changes, weight gain, and the feeling of heaviness in arms and/or legs. As reported by the Mayo Clinic, SAD can affect children, teens, men and women, with more teens being affected than children and women being four times more likely to experience SAD than men.

Dr. J. Michael Nanney, Meridian, Miss., explained that there are two common types of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the fall onset and the summer onset, with fall being more common.

“[Symptoms of SAD] are a little bit different than we usually experience with depression,”

said Nanney. For example, during SAD episodes, people tend to sleep more and gain weight. “Also, [SAD sufferers] are more sensitive to rejection during that particular time.” Nanney added that although the cause of the winter blues is unknown, decreased amounts of natural light during the winter months might certainly be a contributing factor.

Light affects the body’s circadian rhythm (24-hour cycle internal body clock),

which also controls how much melatonin the body produces. Levels of melatonin usually begin rising in mid to late evening, remain high through most of the night, and begin dropping in the early morning hours. Winter’s shorter days can cause the body to produce melatonin earlier or later in the day, which can trigger symptoms of SAD.  With age, natural melatonin levels slowly drop and some older adults actually produce little or no melatonin. Therefore, light therapy (phototherapy) consisting of a special fluorescent lamp that emulates sunlight can be beneficial. When this therapy works, depression usually improves within 3 to 4 weeks.

In addition, changes in the brain’s serotonin levels can alter a person’s mood.

While it’s perfectly normal to feel down on some days, a prolonged period of depression that has you abstaining from normal activities should be taken seriously.  Psychotherapy and medication may be necessary to help you through this period.

Children who seem to have a poor attitude may actually be struggling with SAD.

Since other medical problems, like mononucleosis, hypothyroidism and hypoglycemia, have similar symptoms, parents should seek professional medical guidance for a careful evaluation of their child. Open discussions about SAD will help children understand the reasons for their mental and physical changes.

“Taking a walk outside will help, as well as increasing light in your home,” said Nanney.

‘Set timers on your lights so that when you wake-up, the lights are already on.” Purchasing your own light for therapy can also be helpful, Nanney explained. Costs run from 200 to 500 dollars with light intensity varying between 2,500 to 10,000 watts. Light therapy, as prescribed by a physician, can require 30 minutes to two hours a day.

Currently, there is no medical test for SAD,

so a doctor depends on the patient to be upfront about symptoms and how long they have persisted.  Other exams and tests may be required to rule out other medical disorders. While symptoms often improve with the change of seasons, SAD can develop into long-term depression. If you repeatedly experience seasonal depression, seek medical counsel to learn the best steps for prevention.

To determine if you are experiencing SAD, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I had a change in appetite?
  • Have my sleep patterns changed?
  • Do I feel hopeless and heavy?
  • Have I lost interest in things I usually enjoy
  • Have I thought about suicide?
  • Have I become a loner?
  • Am I turning to alcohol for relaxation and comfort?

 “As with all mood disorders, [symptoms of SAD] are not character problems,” said Nanney.

“They are chemical problems. People shouldn’t feel guilty about seeking help and doing something about it.”

by Richelle Putnam

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), a hormone found in the pineal gland, blood platelets, the digestive tract, and the brain, acts as a chemical messenger of nerve signals between nerve cells and also causes blood vessels to narrow.


Melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain, helps control sleep and wake cycles.



Stepping into a New Year


“Solvitur ambulando—it is solved by walking.” –Saint Augustine

With a new calendar on my wall and thoughts of resolutions, I know I must put on my walking shoes again and get this body moving. The first step out the door after over-indulging through the holidays is the hardest for me to make.

While wishing to be back in my cozy corner sipping cocoa, I’m inspired by my friends, Nancy Ellis and her dad, Sonny Evans, who get up at 4 A.M. on week-day mornings several times a week to exercise at the gym before going to their places of business. I’m thinking that if they can do that, surely I can manage to drag myself out of bed at sun-up and get back on a schedule of walking on the gym treadmill at least three times weekly.

I’m told that physical exercise also benefits mind as much as body.

According to an online article produced by AARP, “How Walking Buffs Your Brain,” research shows that, “Aerobic activity releases hormones like adrenaline in your body. These hormones are key players in your nervous system and in boosting your mood. Endorphins also release in your body during activity. They help relieve pain and create a sense of well-being.

Many people believe that a brisk walk can also help you tap into your creative side, boosting your power to think of new ideas and to solve problems. Author, Julia Cameron, who has written more than a dozen best-selling books on creativity, considers her daily outdoor walks a necessary discipline for both creativity and peace of mind. Cameron says, “It is on these walks that my best ideas come to me. It is while walking that difficult clarity emerges. It is while walking that I experience a sense of well-being and connection, and it is in walking that I live most prayerfully.”

In her book, Walking in this World, Julia Cameron shares:

“It was during a time in which my life felt directionless both personally and creatively that I discovered the solace and direction to be found in walking. I would walk a forty-five minute loop. As I walked, emotions would wash through me. I was grieving a lost marriage and the death of my father. I would walk and pray for guidance. A day at time, a walk at a time, even a simple step at a time, my sad and tangled life began to sort itself.”

Creative writing instructor, Brenda Ueland, advised her students who were suffering from writer’s block: “I will tell you what I have learned myself. For me, a long five-or six-mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day.”

The American Heart Association recommends:

“Walk more, eat better, and live a more healthy life.” They tell us that exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day can reduce our risk of heart disease. 

I need new ideas and problem solving techniques. I need to stretch my legs, stretch my mind, and gain new strength for my body. So, here I go, stepping into a New Year, walking in this world.

by Virginia Dawkins


Photo “Runners On The Street During Adidas King Of The Road 2012 Run…” courtesy of Sura Nualpradid and freedigitalphotos

The Nature of Life

Teaching natural childbirth classes wasn’t a profession Elizabeth Steele had planned.

It was after the Marine Corps transferred her husband to Meridian, Miss. in 2005 and she became pregnant with their second child. Since she had had natural childbirth with her first, she began researching natural birth options for her second.

“I found one natural childbirth instructor in the whole state and no doulas,” she said. “I was floored, and knew that I needed to be a part of the solution to help Mississippi mothers know that they had options in childbirth.”

In 2007, Elizabeth earned her certification with the Bradley Method as a childbirth instructor and doula.  

“Women literally traveled from all over the state to take the classes,” said Elizabeth. “I had couples coming to Meridian from Jackson, Hattiesburg, and Columbus/Starkville every Tuesday night so they could know the logistics of how to give birth naturally.”

Then in 2012, when Elizabeth’s family moved to Hattiesburg, women signed up for her classes and hired her as their doula. Realizing the tremendous need in this area of childbirth, she formed Hattiesburg Natural Birth. Less than a year later, she added a DONA certification to her expertise. However, Elizabeth’s experience in natural childbirth includes much more than certificates.

“Having given birth naturally five times using all types of providers, both in hospitals and at home, gives me a unique perspective on knowing options,” she said. “I have had a long, hard labor, an easy breezy one, and ones that I consider in-between.” These experiences stir Elizabeth’s passion about moms making informed decisions. “It is an incredible privilege to serve women as their doula to physically help them achieve their goal as of a natural birth.”  

Elizabeth’s Bradley classes provide mothers-to-be information on birthing practices and their options before, during, and after labor. “Currently, 86.1 percent of my Bradley moms have given birth without medication. But the ones who had either an epidural or a cesarean did so knowing that was the best option for them.”

Though epidural or a cesarean might be the best option for some, women were designed to give birth. Therefore, they need to seriously consider whether or not they are healthy, low-risk women.

“Pregnancy is not a disease that needs to be cured,” said Elizabeth. “It’s a normal, healthy part of life for the vast majority of women.”  

The Bradley Method focuses on a low-risk diet, exercise, relaxation techniques and practices, while providing in-depth discussions, Elizabeth explained. Women gain a deeper understanding of the normal birth process and the options available to them during labor.

“It’s also incredibly helpful to be in a group of people striving for the same thing,” said Elizabeth.

Yes, Elizabeth is passionate about her work, but research reveals her passion to be more than justified. Dr. Michael Odent, according to Elizabeth, said that women who birth naturally have higher levels of natural oxytocin, which influences the natural bond between mother and child. In addition, Dr. Sarah Buckley believes that when women are given adequate time for labor, a cocktail of labor hormones creates an overall sense of satisfaction during and after labor.  The studies of Dr. Lennart Righard indicate that newborns breastfeed better after an un-medicated labor. Other contributions in the study of normal, natural birth have been conducted by Doctors Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin, and Doris Haire.

She suggests these five tips to help prepare for natural childbirth:

  • 1- take a Bradley class
  • 2- hire a certified doula
  • 3- keep healthy through diet and exercise
  • 4- stay surrounded by encouraging women with positive birth stories and affirmations
  • 5- believe woman are designed for natural childbirth

“The part I love most, though, is that it is a team effort. The mother and her coach are working together toward a common goal of a healthy baby.  The husbands/coaches who take my classes are genuinely involved with the moms, which gives [moms] the emotional fortitude to make it through labor.”

And a woman loved and supported during labor is a strong woman!

Hattiesburg National Birth

5001 Hardy Street,

Hattiesburg, MS



The documentary: The Business of Being Born (2008) Available on YouTube

DONA International


By Richelle Putnam

Photo courtesy of “Wonderful Pregnant Woman And Her Children” by hin255 at

Dynamic Dyslexia Design

In 2008, Dynamic Dyslexia Design; The 3-D School and Evaluation Center

in Petal, Miss. opened its doors to 24 children. Today, as a state accredited non-public, special purpose school for children with dyslexia, it serves 106 children (grades 1-5) in a full day program designed specifically for dyslexic children. A staff of 20 includes dyslexia therapists, speech pathologists, and support teachers.

“In 2005, my colleague, Dr. Trudy Abel, assisted me in identifying and evaluating students for learning disabilities in a local private school,” said Dr. Cena Holifield, Executive Director of the 3-D School. “We became alarmed at the number of students that we were identifying as dyslexic, and surprised as to how many were also gifted.”

Also, alarming was the lack of appropriate intervention services for dyslexia in the schools. Thus began their mission for a transitional two year intervention program targeting the unique learning needs of dyslexic children. The goal was to remediate reading, writing, and spelling skills so students could return to their regular schools as stronger students.

“Research tells us that early intervention is critical and children with dyslexia need daily specialized multisensory instruction over a two to three year period,” said Dr. Holifield. “We also know that children with dyslexia require 500 to 1500 repetitions of this instruction in order to build the memory of critical reading concepts and spelling rules.”

Because regular classrooms are not designed to provide this specialized instruction, dyslexic children fall behind in the regular classroom setting. Many experience feelings of inadequacy. The 3-D School and Evaluation Center provides a safe environment and licensed dyslexia therapists who provide daily one-hour Orton-Gillingham based dyslexia therapy to students in small groups. In the classroom, explained Dr. Holifield, they receive language arts instruction with repetition and application of critical reading concepts.  

“When they become functional readers,” said Dr. Holifield, “they can achieve in the regular classroom with a teacher who makes appropriate accommodations for them.”  

Not all children with reading disabilities have dyslexia. The 3-D diagnosticians, Elesha McCarty, CCC-SLP, CALT, and Dr. Jane Herrin, evaluate children in grades K-12 and then guide parents to the appropriate services addressing the learning needs of their children.

Each year during the holiday season, the 3-D students participate in a community project. Past projects have included The Salvation Army Angel Tree, Christian Services, and Edwards Street Mission, the Shoe Box Ministry, and Pennies for Africa. This year the children collected food items for the Petal Children’s Task Force.

“Children with dyslexia are very sensitive to the needs of others,” said Dr. Holifield. “We teach them that each of them is being prepared by God for a special purpose in life that includes serving others.”

Other information:

The 3-D School works in collaboration with William Carey University to train teachers to become dyslexia therapists through an International Dyslexia Association (IDA) accredited Master’s Degree program in Dyslexia Therapy.

Donations and the funds received by MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program) funds helps to supplement tuition fees for parents. The 3-D School offers scholarships to families with financial needs and does not turn away children due to the inability to pay tuition.



by Richelle Putnam

Stand Up For Someone Today

On December 10th, the world will celebrate the Universal Day for Human Rights.

Adopted in 1950, it proclaimed a common standard towards which individuals and societies should strive. It states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; that fundamental human rights shall be universally protected, covering all aspects of a human life – civil, cultural, economic, political and social. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was a shout across the world stating loud and clear that no matter where we live, what we believe, or how we love, we are each individually deserving of the most basic fundamentals of human needs from food, shelter, and water to access to free and uncensored information.

The responsibility to protect and respect Human Rights falls on all segments from States, international, national, state, local and our covenant with one another. As individuals, you and me – while we are entitled to our own human rights – have responsibilities for respecting the human rights of others.

Today, poverty prevails and so does the way we often look at and treat the other.

Both are grave human rights challenges in the world. Combating poverty, deprivation and exclusion is not a matter of charity, and it does not depend on how rich a country is. By tackling poverty as a matter of human rights obligation, the world will have a better chance of abolishing this scourge in our lifetime… Poverty eradication is an achievable goal.

With information taken from the website of UDHR this year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights! It is everyone’s responsibility to uphold human rights. Every one of us should take a stand. Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, an indigenous person, a child, a person of African descent, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence. Or, I might add, hunger.

With the upcoming of our season of giving we may consider advice from a man who gave us many laughs and heart warming lessons. Dr. Seuss once wrote: “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” The Grinch had to learn the lesson the hard way, but at this time of year, are we guilty of the same? There  might be another way of giving, wrapping it in love than in paper.

What’s a person To Do?  

  • Get out there and make a difference, whether it’s holding open a door, making it easier for someone who is using a wheel chair to enter or refusing to listen to jokes or negative messages about groups of people.
  • Look around your neighborhood and see what you can do. Stand between a bully and a child who is being mistreated because of his or her size, looks or disability.
  • Read to a child or offer to shop for a neighbor who has problems getting to the store.
  • Make a donation to one of the dozens organizations that work to make people’s lives better or start your own drive to help organizations who are fighting the the rights of people and against hunger and poverty.
  • Pick up the trash that’s collecting on the street. Better still, make sure none of it’s yours.
  • Giving care packages of toothpaste, shampoo and other necessities for people who are without a home can go a long way to help fill human needs and change quality of life for someone.
  • Give time and money to organizations that work globally to help others or organize a donation drive of your own to help fight the good fight.
  • Most of all, if you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.

 Just a few ideas, but you get the point.


Dr. Rachell N. Anderson

Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives in Tunica and writes with the Tunica Chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website for more articles and books.

Choosing Gratitude

On the book table at Anderson’s Oncology Center,

I find Nancy DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude. Paging through, I see a heart-rending story: In a New Delhi slum, a three year old boy is leaning against the cot of his dying mother. The boy’s eyes are hollow, his stomach is distended, and his face is fly-infested.

     “Standing there in that slum,” says Paul Tripp, “I felt all complaints I had ever spoken as if they were a weight on my shoulders.” Later, when Mr. Tripp returned to his home in America, he asked a church leader from India who had come to the states to study, “What do you think of Americans?” The man from India answered, “You have no idea how much you have, and yet you always complain.”

As I read, I become ashamed of my self-centered grumbling. I am nudged to give thanks for “common mercies,” such as bath soap, toothpaste, hot water, air conditioning, and so many other things that I normally take for granted.

I also give thanks for the great big things, such as excellent medical care, kind, caring people who treat me with dignity in my most vulnerable moments, smiles, encouraging words, books that elevate my thoughts, and prayers.

Nancy DeMoss also brings up the matter of giving thanks to God for those people who have touched our lives and who need our expressed gratitude.

Pastor William Stidger wrote a letter of thanks to his English teacher who had first inspired in him a love for literature and poetry, preparing him to become a writer. In return mail, he received a feebly scrawled note from his former teacher:

     “William, I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, lonely, like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years.”

Some time ago, my husband, a retired Air Traffic Controller, felt an urge to write a thank-you letter to someone who had touched his life:

“Colonel Sam, you had a great influence on me when I was a young man. Before entering air traffic control school, I would be required to pass a physical exam. I failed because I was underweight. However, they told me to gain weight and come back in a few weeks. You flew me to Keesler Air Force Base in the summer of 1954 for the second physical, and perhaps you looked at me and thought I was still too skinny to pass the test. When we were air borne, you handed me a sack of bananas and said, “Eat these and you will weigh more.” I passed the physical, and that opened the door to my future.”

Colonel Sam Forbert responded with a phone call, saying that someone had done the same favor for him when he was a young man.


Virginia Dawkins is a newspaper columnist. Her personal experience stories and devotionals have been published in a series of Cup of Comfort books. She and her husband live in Meridian, Mississippi.