Thank you so very much for the crit! I definitely do tend to shy away from a great deal of contrast, but as you say I definitely think it would have helped to define those parts you mentioned, and I'll keep that in mind for next time (or if I go back to this one, which is likely--I want to add drool anyway, lol). I'll try to remember not to be so afraid of contrast too in the future, because as you imply it definitely makes things look better/more impressive.
Thanks so much for the encouragement, too!! That means so much to me, and really helps!