Sunday, November 11, 2018

Abbi Waxman & her dogs

Author Abbi Waxman answers a few questions about her dogs, Daisy, Jasper, and Wilbur.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I don't really need an occasion. I pretty much mainline coffee and dogs all day. The three we have, plus one that comes over to visit a lot, plus my brother-in-law's dog who often comes to stay... there's always fur everywhere and a lot of noise, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Of course, that might explain my need to mainline coffee, but correlation is not causation, right?

[photo right: Wilbur]

What's brewing?

Drip coffee: Peet's Major Dickasons, at home, although I don't like the way they make coffee in their coffee shops (sorry, Peet's). I work at a Le Pain Quotidien near my house, and there I drink either lattes with cinnamon or mochas.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Yes, always treats, although mostly for me. I'm a cake whore.

How were you and your dogs united?

Two of them came from the pound, and one from a small family breeder (it's a long story, adopt don't shop, etc).

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

The kids named Wilbur and Daisy, I named Jasper [photo left]. They wanted to call him Huckleberry, but I put my foot down. We call them all kinds of names, all the time; Jasperilla, Wilberto, Wilberino, Daisy D. Dog...the list goes on.

Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?

Help. They're an excellent distraction and excuse not to work. The picture of Jasper is his idea of a subtle interruption to my work.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

There are lots of dogs in my work, they're my favorite characters to write. They're all an amalgam of all the dogs I've ever had, although Frank, the dog who appears in all three of my novels, is based on a labrador mix we had years ago, whose name was Milo. He was a great dog.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

They ignore cats, largely, because we have several, and they're nice to the mailman. However, they are driven to distraction by the squirrels in our yard, and there's kind of a running battle. We have two or three squirrels who regularly taunt the dogs and sit up in the trees and chatter and hurl invective down at them. Jasper falls for it every time. He's a sucker.

[photo right: Daisy]

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Daisy, who is a pug mix, doesn't think she's a dog, so she tends to hang out with me. Jasper loves Wilbur, because when Jasper came to us as a puppy Wilbur was already grown. He looks up to him. Wilbur loves whoever has food. All of them love my youngest daughter, Kate, who is a dog whisperer and animal fanatic.

What is each dog's best quality?

Daisy has a commitment to sleep that I envy. Wilbur has a commitment to food that I appreciate. And Jasper is the most enthusiastic dog on the planet. He is up for anything.

If your dogs could change one thing about Angelenos, what would it be?

They would encourage them to drop more food.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

What can I do to make you happy?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, who should voice them?

Well, currently we have three dogs, two cats, a leopard gecko and 7 chickens, so I think they should all be played by Meryl Streep, just to give her a challenge.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

You should take a nap. And snack more. Snack and nap, over and over again.

Visit Abbi Waxman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 21, 2018

Paula Munier & Bear

Who’s in the photo at right?

That's me, Paula Munier, and Bear.

I'm an author, an agent, and a writing teacher. My dog's name is Bear. He's a male, probably about three years old, a Newfoundland Retriever mix as far as we can tell.

Every morning we have coffee together. I drink coffee, he drinks water. Bear is a morning person, I am not a morning person. That’s why Bear has to wait for me to get my act together and come outside and sit down and drink my coffee. We live in New England in a big old 18th-century Colonial—19 acres of Sugar Maples and a lake, and lots of wildlife all around.

What's brewing?

What's brewing is coffee, black. I never drank coffee as a young woman. I drank Pepsi. When I got my first job as the only woman reporter on a tough-guy staff of a business magazine back in the 80s, they made fun of me. They said that real reporters drank black coffee. So I learned to do it. They taught me to curse, too, but that's another story.

Any treats for you or Bear on this occasion?

Bear always get a treat. If we're having bacon and eggs, he gets bacon and eggs. If we're having peanut butter toast, he gets a little peanut butter toast. He's spoiled. What can I say?

How were you and Bear united?

We adopted him. He's a rescue from Alabama. He'd been hit in the head (probably with a shovel) and abandoned. Double Dog Rescue found him, fostered him, and brought him up to New England for us. He's a lovely dog in every way.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

His name was Bear already when we got him. But I call him Yogi Berra because he's the same goofy, profound kind of character that Yogi Berra was. If you see a fork in the road, take it….

Does Bear do more to help or hinder your writing?

Bear is a great help to me in my writing. He served as the inspiration for Susie Bear, one of the dogs in my K-9 mystery, A Borrowing of Bones. She’s a Newfoundland Retriever mix like Bear. She works as a search-and-rescue dog with Vermont Game Warden Troy Warner. Like Bear, she’s friendly and cheerful—and a very good swimmer.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

We have a rescue cat, a torbie tabby named Ursula. Bear chases her, but only with the aim of persuading her to play with him, which she naturally refuses to do. He really needs a pal, and we're on the lookout for another rescue dog to be his playmate.

Ball, squeaky toy, stick?

Bear doesn't show much interest in fetching, although he’s a very smart dog. He's done very well in obedience training, and we’re doing some agility and nose work now. (When we train him, we use treats as a reward.) We've taught him to go kayaking with us in our tandem kayak, and to jump up on my paddleboard with me when I go out on the lake, which is great for me because it adds almost 100 pounds to my workout.

What is Bear's favorite outdoor destination?

Bear likes to go anywhere anytime. He loves to go with rides from Michael in his truck, especially to Home Depot because he knows that every Home Depot run usually ends in a stop at McDonald's for a cheeseburger or a breakfast McMuffin depending on the time of day. (We are remodeling the house, so there are a lot of trips to Home Depot.) He likes to go on walks with me in the woods. He likes to go swimming in the lake. He likes to go anywhere and everywhere. He's always ready to have fun.

What is Bear's best quality?

I would say his best quality is his ability to live in the moment. He had a very rough beginning in Alabama. When we rescued him, he showed up with half of his upper teeth missing and it was apparent from the X-rays that his skull and facial bones had been fractured. Our vet removed the roots left from those missing teeth, and he seems to be fine now. But you’d never know that he’d had such a tough past. Our vet calls him The Happiest Dog in the World. He’s living large in the present. A good lesson for all of us.

If Bear could change one thing about you, what would it be?

That's a really funny question. I'm stricter with Bear than anyone else in the family, because I do the training with him. So, he'd probably like it if I let him get away with more at home. And he’d probably like our walks through the countryside to be even longer than they already are.

If Bear could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

I'd ask him to tell me a little bit more about his past so that we'd understand him better. Or maybe I’d take a cue from his “Be Here Now” philosophy and just ask him what kind of playmate he'd like to have, now that we are actively looking for another rescue. (Or two or three or...after all, we do have 19 acres now.)

If Hollywood made a movie about your dog, in which Bear could speak, who should voice him?

I would say Yogi Berra, because he reminds me so much of Yogi Berra in that zany Zen monk kind of way. But since Yogi Berra is no longer with us, Bear will have to settle for Tom Hanks.

What advice would Bear give if asked?

I think Bear would advise us to lighten up, have fun, and live for the moment. He'd also tell us to take care of one another. He's a very protective and loyal dog. And he pays very close attention to everything we do and say. I think he'd remind us to pay attention to the people we love. Just like he does.

Visit Paula Munier's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Borrowing of Bones.


--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 14, 2018

Andrew Peterson & Gia, Lilli, and Fiona

Who is in the photo at right?

My wife, Carla, me, Andy Peterson, of course and our dogs – all female. The one out front is Gia, she’s a Spinone Italiano and is 1 year old. The proud black Giant Schnauzer is Lilli – she is definitely high energy and 2-1/2 in the photo. The big girl is Fiona, an Irish Wolfhound also one year old. We’re photographed at an open public preserve along the central coast of California. It’s a great place to walk our dogs

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s a routine event with me! Every day I’m up with my pooches by 5:30am, with the coffee maker already brewing on auto. After adding half and half and squirt of Stevia, I’m out the back door into our fenced patio area with my girls. We live remotely in southern Monterey County surrounded by beautiful oak-covered hillsides and native grasses; lots of pines too. Here’s our morning view looking north on a clear day [below, left].

What's brewing?

Home prep includes a Cuisinart drip coffeemaker as my brew master. Yes, it’s that simple. I like a light roast that I purchase from the Naga Café, a local coffee house about 20 miles away near Lake Nacimiento. If you’re ever in the area and drop in, tell Tony I sent you. When I’m at Naga my order is a hot, triple shot, 16 oz latte with whole-milk and one Splenda. Okay, sometimes two Splendas.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

No, not really. Carla keeps our girls on a pretty healthy diet. Since childhood, we’ve always had dogs in our lives. We’re not really strict with their diet, but when we give treats we use glucosamine chewies, chewable vitamin C or something I’m eating - you know the last bite of my sandwich, a chip, etc.... Life without dogs is no life at all – at least that’s true in our home.

How were you and your dogs united?

We made an earnest effort to find the best breeders in the western states. We don’t mind supporting breeders working hard to keep improving their breed of choice. All of the breeders screened us with a telephone interview and written questionnaire – which we appreciated. We also traveled to the National Spinone Specialty dog show in Seattle to familiarize ourselves with the breed and meet a few breeders. It was a fun trip and we met some very interesting people and learned a lot.

Lilli, our Giant Schnauzer, came from Skansen Kennel in Sebastopol which is about an hour north of San Francisco (we’ve owned 2 other Giant Schnauzers from this breeder). Fiona our Wolfhound came from Taryn’s Kennel in Gainesville, Texas, and Gia’s from Alla Festa Kennel in Rapid City, South Dakota.

In case you’re wondering, we drove over 4,000 miles to pick up Fiona and Gia. Lilli went with us on the trip. Traveling by car with three dogs isn’t as bad as it sounds. We all survived!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

We usually try to name our dogs after their ethnic origin. Lilli is named Lillith, a very old German name. Lilli’s also known as the “Monster” and “Gomer Girl.” Gia’s breed originates from Italy. She’s also referred to as “Peanut” and “Brown Sugar.” Fiona is an old Irish name and I especially like it because I love Princess Fiona in Shrek! She’s also referred to as “Lanky” and “Big Dog.”

Do Fiona, Lilli and Gia do more to help or hinder your writing?

It’s really a mix of both. I love being at my computer with all three of the girls at my feet – asleep of course. After a few hours they stir and remind me that I’ve been sitting too long. So I get up, walk them down two flights of stairs, grab another cup of coffee, and take them outside for some playtime. Of course, the day is a little different when Carla’s home.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Absolutely! The working dogs of law enforcement agencies and the military inspired me to include them in my series. Nathan McBride, the hero of my novels, owns two Giant Schnauzers who are trained tactical dogs. I chose the Giant Schnauzer breed for a couple reasons. First of all, we owned 2 at the time I was writing First to Kill. Secondly, in Germany (as well as other countries), Giant Schnauzers are used right along side the German Shepard and Doberman as police dogs. If you ever see one in person you’ll understand why. The Giant Schnauzer commands a presence that makes a person pause before approaching. It must be something about their size, posture, color, and those high pointy ears. Their absolute fearlessness is another great characteristic when it comes to tactical work. To see Lilli jump in the air – like a Frisbee dog – is a sight to behold. Giant Schnauzers are not only athletic, they’re incredibly strong.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above for these three. Fiona can destroy anything made of rubber, including Kong toys. She loves to chew on hard toys that taste like wood. Gia loves to prance around with a toy football in her mouth. She also loves the hard wood-tasting toys. Lilli just wants to run, chase the ball. Her favorite thing to grab is a dirty sock out of the hamper – fortunately, she just carries it around and doesn’t eat it. Gia, on the other hand, eats just about everything. We’ve avoided serious vet trouble – so far…

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

With Lilli it’s literally anything that moves.

Gia’s all about birds – after all, she’s a hunting dog breed. [Gia "pointing" hummingbirds; photo left] It’s funny to note that she doesn’t like getting her feet wet. Go figure. I guess she’s high maintenance.

Fiona watches yellowjackets and butterflies, but she’ll chase down anything and anyone running away from her. She also focuses on Black-tailed deer moving through our property in the early morning and late evening.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Carla is everyone’s best pal – she takes care of all of us!

When it comes to the dogs, Gia loves to wrestle with Lilli, Fiona loves to chase Lilli. And even little Gia will take on big Fiona at times. I refer to Gia as little, but she’s a 73 pound dog. Lilli weighs about the same, but is taller and much more athletic. Fiona weighs in at 140 pounds – we’re very thankful she’s a gentle giant.

What is each dog's best quality?

Lilli – Alert. Protective. Loyal. Affectionate. Wants to please and doesn’t shed!

Fiona – Gentle, but watch that tail. It’s at the perfect height to inflict major damage to a certain body part, or should I say “two” body parts! She’s super affectionate, but independent and very quiet. She hardly ever barks.

Gia – Goofy. Docile. Smart. Very tactile (she always want to be touching you, leaning on you, or resting her head on your foot, etc…) But she also stubborn!

If Fiona, Lilli and Gia could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

I believe my girls would want people to be better stewards of their pets. Care for them properly. Don’t let them get overweight. If you don’t have the time to spend with dogs, don’t get any!!! Also be mindful of your dog’s activities, especially when they’re in public places. In other words, please pick up after your dog!!! Be responsible! The reason so many places don’t allow dogs is because people don’t act responsibly.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

What do you dream about?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, who should voice them?

Wow, this is a tough question. Since I have female dogs this is especially hard. I guess my fall back position will again be based on ethnic origin. Gia would be good with Sophia Loren’s voice. Even though she’s Danish, I’d pick Brigitte Nielsen for Lilli’s voice. For Fiona I’d go with Saoirse Ronan (Atonement and The Lovely Bones); she’s not only Irish but is known for her excellent grasp of performing many accents. I’m thinking a couple of my choices definitely show my age.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Wag more, bark less!!

Visit Andrew Peterson's website, and learn more about the latest novel in his Nathan McBride Series, Hired to Kill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Margaret Mizushima, and I write the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Please allow me to introduce you to our pack—from left to right we have: Hannah, a German shorthaired pointer; Bertie, also a GSP; Lily, a yellow lab; and Tess, a border collie. Our eager beaver Tess thought this photo shoot was loads of fun, while Hannah…not so much. Though she’s never liked to have her picture taken, she was a bit more relaxed for the picture in the chair.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My drink of choice is herbal tea, and I have a cup in hand every morning when I go upstairs to my office to write. The dog who likes to follow me is Hannah, because we’re attached at the hip. Tess and Bertie go with my husband to work at his veterinary clinic, and Lily, who is quite elderly, likes to sleep.

What’s brewing?

My favorite is a Yogi brand tea, Egyptian Licorice. It’s spicy, naturally sweet, and it tastes like licorice. Yes, licorice is one of those flavors that you either love or hate, and I happen to love it. Inherited that trait from my dad.

Any treats for you and your dogs on this occasion?

Treats come at breakfast time, and Hannah barks at us if we forget. When she was a pup, we taught her to sit on the stairway for a treat. Now, at seven years old, she perches on the steps and watches us until she gets one. If we don’t respond to the silent begging, she barks for our attention.

How were you and your dogs united?

My husband is a veterinarian, and he seems to need a pack of dogs to be happy. His work provides him with many opportunities to adopt a new pet. We’ve been married thirty-six years and have shared our space with dozens of dogs and cats, the occasional tank of fish, and an exotic bird or two.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Lily was soft and sweet as a puppy, which reminded us of a flower. Hannah came next, and she got a name that I love because it reminds me of someone who’s kind-hearted and dear, which Hannah is to a fault. Tess is a cattle dog, and we needed a short name that we could use for her training; it’s also the name of Cole Walker’s assistant, the vet character in my Timber Creek K-9 mysteries. (Both the dog Tess and the character Tess assist their vets at work.) And Bertie just seemed like a good name for a rollicking puppy.

Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?

They all definitely help my writing. I’ve spent years observing dog behavior, traits I utilized to develop Robo, the K-9 German shepherd in my books. I think that dog behavior is interesting, and I try to stay true to dog nature when I write. Here is one reviewer’s take on characters Mattie and Robo in Killing Trail, the first book in the series: “Winning heroine…strong debut…a realistic view of how a K-9 team works, treating Robo as an important character, but never stooping to anthropomorphism. And it’s impossible not to fall in love with Robo.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Cat, postman, squirrel?

Birds and mice. We live in the country, so a postman doesn’t come to the door. Our dogs have grown up with cats, so cats are just part of the pack. We don’t have squirrels in our yard, but we have plenty of birds and mice. Our bird dogs—Lily, Hannah, and Bertie—point birds in the trees, and Hannah even pointed an airplane in the sky when she was a puppy. Tess, our border collie, loves anything that moves, and going after mice in the grass is a favorite pass-time.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick?

All four love squeaky-toys. It sounds like an orchestra warming up when they’re all chewing at once.

What is each dog’s best quality?

Each one is sweet and they all make great companions, but I’m fascinated with the propensities associated with each breed. If you watch the foursome play in the yard, the bird dogs will be pointing and flushing sparrows in the bushes, the cattle dog will be circling the sprinkler snapping at the droplets, and the water-dog retriever will be rolling on the wet grass or picking up the sprinkler head to carry it around while the water sprays in her mouth.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

What’s keeping you girls from learning how to cook dinner?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, who should voice them?

This is a fun question! Lily would need someone old-fashioned and blonde—Doris Day comes to mind. Tess needs a voice from someone who plays characters that are tough and brave, maybe Sigourney Weaver. Bertie is a clown—how about Goldie Hawn or Kate Hudson? And Ashley Judd should play our sophisticated and regal Hannah.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Eat food that’s good for you, enjoy your work, and take a walk every day.

Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 31, 2018

Sejal Badani & Skyler

Who is in the photo at right?

My Teacup Morkie, Skyler. She's nearly 7 years old and the baby of the house.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Skyler sits at my feet while I write, so naturally when I head out she assumes we're in it together.

What's brewing?

Venti Decaf Soy Cappuccino. I live on them.

Any treats for you or Skyler on this occasion?

I always take a treat with me for Skyler. She has a sensitive stomach so anything random that goes in I'm paying for later.

How were you and Skyler united?

She is really my daughter's dog but we're keeping it between Skyler and me that her loyalties have shifted.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

It was between Queens (my husband hails from New York) or Skyler. My husband was outvoted.

Does Skyler do more to help or hinder your writing?

Writing can be a lonely venture so definitely help except when she spots a squirrel and barks suddenly which makes me jump and interrupts any creative flow.

Has Skyler inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Rokie's loyalty in The Storyteller's Secret was definitely based off of Skyler. Though barely ten pounds she'll stand nose to nose with anyone out of a desire to protect.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel definitely and cars - her two nemeses.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Bones and lots of them. I know this because I'm always stubbing my toes on the little hard pieces she leaves behind.

Where is Skyler's favorite outdoor destination?

The backyard. She believes it her kingdom.

Who is Skyler's best pet-pal?

My socks. She loves them like an imaginary friend.

What is Skyler's best quality?

Her sweetness. She's really the nicest dog I've ever had.

If Skyler could change one thing about you, what would it be?

The hours I spend on the computer during a deadline. Many a walk is either missed or shortened.

If Skyler could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Does she know how loved she is?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Skyler could speak, who should voice her?

Melissa McCarthy. I am a huge fan and absolutely love everything she does.

What advice would Skyler give if asked?

Chill out. And if that's not possible chew on a sock - it just makes everything better.

Visit Sejal Badani's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2018

Robert Fieseler & Chompers

Who is in the photo at right?

Featured in this photo is myself, Robert Fieseler, and Chompers, my thirteen-year-old male Cairn Terrier. My husband Ryan calls us Chompers 1 and Chompers 2 – with me, of course, being Chompers 2. I’m a nonfiction book author who recently published a work of queer history entitled Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, and Chompers is my familiar, in the spiritual sense, and my writing companion.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I write in a secret nook of the Boston Athenaeum, a private membership library hid near the State House, on a hilltop overlooking Boston Common. As the Athenaeum is an historic institution still frequented by elite Brahmin families, the library has several unique rules that are important only to weird people like writers and rich old ladies: 1. Coffee is always permitted in a closed container and 2. One well-behaved dog is permitted with each library member. Thus, Chompers comes with me virtually every day that I spend at the Athenaeum, which I utilize as my office and place of work. I wrote all of Tinderbox in this magical setting—mostly with Chompers dog-napping underneath the oak table that I think of as my desk.

What's brewing?

Generally, an espresso or Americano prepared at Café Marliave by an exceptional barista named Andrew, who can and should win awards for his coffee artistry. I am lucky in that Marliave is within walking distance of the Athenaeum and, like my library, is dog friendly. Chompers is always pleased to see Andrew, who gives him one or two treats.

How were you and Chompers united?

It’s a long story that involves a sad breakup, but I’ll condense the drama and just say that Chompers became my sole responsibility in 2006 at the end of an acrimonious yet unofficial gay divorce. My ex, a good person who spearheaded our getting a puppy from an online breeder somewhere in Arkansas, was unable to care for the animal when we separated.

Thus, I got Chompers in the divvying up of emotional belongings. I still feel bad when I look back on that time, but the reality of most gay breakups is that one person gets the dog or that packs of dogs get separated. Visitation, or co-ownership, doesn’t really work, as it’s best for everyone to take the breakup seriously and make a clean start.

So, at age 24, I became another one of those overgrown Peter Pans with an untrained dog counting on me for everything. Like the movie Three Men and a Baby but instead called One Man and a Poochie. Predictably, this small, stubborn little creature somehow trained me in adulthood—teaching me responsibility, forcing me to set a schedule for walks and feedings, compelling me to plan for his daily happiness and my future. He became my world.

I shudder to think who I’d be without him. My mother reminded me, much later, how my favorite childhood film was The Wizard of Oz and how I’d always begged her for a little dog like Toto, who it turns out was also a Cairn Terrier. I have vague, blurry memories of crying my five-year-old eyes out just wishing for that dog. Life is so weird, not just in that a spate of almost unbearable acrimony can sometimes be one’s destiny but also in that blessings can manifest out of the utmost difficulty.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My ex and I had the name Chompers picked out for about a year prior to us acquiring the real Chompers – the puppy who somehow magically and instantly embodied the title. I just loved the idea of a tiny dog being associated with a ferocious name. Come to think of it, I think it’s an homage to the teacup dog that Karen had in the show Will & Grace!

Of course, Chompers has acquired an evolving set of nicknames over the years: Lomps, Lumps, Lompeers, Peers, Lomping, Baby Lomping and Plumpers. These nicknames reached a crescendo around 2012 and finally resolved into Ping or Mr. Ping, which is what it’s been ever since. Don’t ask me why. He responds by any of these nicknames on call.

Does Chompers do more to help or hinder your writing?

It’s a privilege and a joy to write with him. He’s an indelible part of my creative process, in the sense that I plan my day to engage creatively at certain stages and in certain places, usually at the Athenaeum. As Chompers is now a thirteen-year-old senior, he usually finds a patch of sun and falls asleep at my feet. Much like a cat at a bookshop.

When I get listless or I get too stuck in my head after hours of donning the mental armor to do battle on the page, I look up at him…and he’ll look up at me in that instant. And I’ll read, by his body language, if it’s time for a snuggle session on the floor or time for our usual stroll in the park. There’s not a lot of pulling on the leash anymore, but I’ll walk him, and he’ll walk me simultaneously. We guide each other through Boston Common and explore the various smells and sights.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

As Cairns were originally bred to be mousers, the common squirrel is Chompers’ menace—his instinctual and natural nemesis. I wish I had a relationship so clear and pure. Even at thirteen, with arthritis, he chases them at top speed. The rustle of a squirrel tail across grass is enough to make him sprint. Thankfully, he doesn’t catch them anymore and bring them back to me deceased.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball, of course. Ball, always. Except when he’s napping, when he’s not to be disturbed, there is not a time of day that couldn’t be improved by one or three tennis balls bouncing in a hallway or open space.

Where is Chompers's favorite outdoor destination?

We live near a sprawling green meadow in an arboretum with many flowers, and Chompers loves to run about this place, unleashed, around dusk. Considering that scent is his most powerful sense, I think he finds aroma of the wildflowers to be invigorating. It’s hard to face this reality, but I think that when Chompers eventually does leave my side, if there is a reward to be had in an afterlife or even an afterlife at all, he will return there or a place like there in his imagination.

Who is Chompers's best pet-pal?

Chompers, like his daddy, tends to be choosy when it comes to deeper friendships. He only has a few. But I will share that Chompers nurtures a special love-hate bond with Jade, my parents’ miniature dachshund (his dog-cousin), that verges on profound. He and Jade were both puppies at the same time, so they are birds of a feather generationally—pooches of an era. They’ve seen equivalent sights and both grown slightly crabby, yet wise, and I think they’ve earned each other’s mutual respect.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Chompers could speak, who should voice him?

This will sound so egotistical, but Chompers and I are so connected that it would be strange for me to hear anything but my own voice. The only other voice I could accept would be the voice of his stepdad and pack-mate (a.k.a. my husband Ryan).

What is Chompers's best quality?

His devotion to his family. He’s incredibly loving and diligent in seeking moments when it gets to be just you and him in the universe. It’s therapeutic, the way he forces you to disconnect from tasks that seem so important in the moment but, in the great scope of things, are complete bullshit.

If Chompers could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

In the next life, if there is a next one, can we change places? Can I be your dog this time?

Visit Robert W. Fieseler's website.

The Page 99 Test: Tinderbox.


--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Janna King & Melvin and Olive

Who is in the photos in this entry?

I’m Janna King and I’m an author, screenwriter and playwright who, on rare occasions, directs. I’m with my dogs, Melvin, a 4-year-old Husky/Staffordshire Terrier/Shepherd mix and Olive, an 8-year-old English/American Bulldog mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

They are my writing partners. In our photos together, I’m chatting with them at home where I work. We’re discussing my debut novel, The Seasonaires, and I’m letting them in on some upcoming projects. Mel is never impressed. Olive has no idea what I’m saying, but she’s a good listener.

What's brewing?

I’m indulging my two-a-day almond milk latte habit, brewed and frothed by my beloved Nespresso machine in mugs made with my kids (now 19 and 21) at Color Me Mine. I plunk in two heaping teaspoons of sugar. I affectionately blame my coffee sweet tooth on my Grandma Honey who used to make me “coffee milk” when I was a kid: a teeny bit of coffee, the rest milk and a whole lot of sugar.

Any treats for you or Mel and Olive on this occasion?

Mel is also not impressed by treats, but he does like carrots. Olive’s mouth doesn’t allow her to chew carrots. She covets Greenies, but they don’t really help with her pungent dog breath.

How were you and your dogs united?

My daughter volunteered at a Los Angeles pet rescue and she fell in love with siblings Olive and Sully. The rescue didn’t want them separated, so my ex-husband adopted Sully and I took Olive. That way my kids could be with both dogs. I dogsit Sully on occasion so brother and sister can hang out together.

I was looking for another rescue pup and leaning towards German Shepherds because I had one I adored, Teddy. When we saw Mel, we thought he would grow to be Shepherd size, but he stopped about halfway there. He’s a handsome fella in his own right and knows it.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

I can’t remember their original names when we adopted them. The kids are in charge of naming pets and tend towards very human names for pups. We call Melvin “Mel,” unless he’s in trouble, and then I use his full name. My daughter also calls him “Mooey," so we’ve all taken to that.

Olive is “Lady” because she’s such a pretty lady!

Do Mel and Olive do more to help or hinder your writing?

Writing can be very solitary, so they keep me company. They are usually pretty chill unless the doorbell rings or dogs pass by the house or the mail carrier comes or Amazon delivery or... Mel gets very antsy when I’m on the phone, but that’s probably because I’m antsy when I’m on the phone.

They distract me sometimes because I love to take their photos, often for their Instagram account 2bulliesandaroo, which they have with Olive’s brother Sully. The “roo” refers to Mel, who we think looks like a kangaroo and can jump about as high. When Mel made the Boop My Nose Instagram feed, I was more excited about that than pretty much any accomplishment.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

I have a bulldog in the book I’m currently writing. But I imagine this one being more like my first bulldog (over two decades ago), Stella, who was so fat that she looked like a plump seal lolling on the beach. This novel takes place in Malibu, so that seemed appropriate.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Mel goes after the squirrels and crows. Olive barks at anything that moves.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Mel is pretty good at catch. We take him to the park and he’s fast, but in short bursts. Then he plops down in the dirt and lets the other dogs take over.

Olive likes rope toys. The two play tug-of-war, which is an entertaining distraction.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

They love each other. Sometimes they bicker over food we accidentally drop during dinner. I’m not crazy about that. They also get along great with Sully, who is The Man!

What is each dog's best quality?

Mel is the sweetest dog ever! He just wants everyone to love him. But he also has some ‘tude and often looks at us like he thinks we’re dolts.

Olive is just plain goofy. She is the best "Saturday morning snuggies" for my daughter Izzy, when Izzy visits.

If Mel and Olive could change one thing about Angelenos, what would it be?

Mel would like Angelenos to stop looking at their cellphones on our hikes and say “hello” to him instead.

And Olive feels like drivers should chill out with the road rage.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

I would ask Mel, “What’s the secret to life?” because he’s so confident and content.

To Olive I would ask, "What are you thinking about right now?” because I always want to know that when I’m looking at her face.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, who should voice them?

Christian Slater = Mel
Aubrey Plaza = Olive

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Mel would say, “You be you."

Olive would tell me that I need to take naps and drink more water.

Visit Janna King's website.

Check out Mel and Olive on Instagram.


--Marshal Zeringue