Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Morris Ardoin & Hugo

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Morris Ardoin, a PR practitioner in New York City and writer in Cornwallville, a little town in the Catskill mountains. My pooch is Hugo, an 18-month-old Vizsla.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The only time that Hugo respects my humanly need for consumption without his begging is coffee time. He seems to get that he needs to let me fully awaken so I can devote the rest of my existence each day to his needs. So he lets my have my coffee in peace.

What's brewing?

I use a French press to brew my coffee each morning. Community Coffee, shipped from Baton Rouge, La. is my preferred brew, but when I run out of that, I like a blend of French and regular roast whole beans I get from the Russian market down the block from my apartment in New York. No matter the brew, I take my coffee with whole milk and sugar.

Any treats for you or Hugo on this occasion?

No treats for him or me accompany coffee time – it’s all about the coffee. On big-breakfast weekends, however, that rule goes out the window. And then anything is possible.

How were you and Hugo united?

We got Hugo from the same breeder that sold us our previous pooch, Moby. She only breeds vizslas. Hugo was one of 14 puppies. When we got there, there were only three of the siblings left. Hugo rushed right up to me (the other two were otherwise distracted) – and I said, “This one is Hugo,” and that was that.


How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

After having Moby for 13 years, we were very familiar with the breed; it’s quirks; attributes; and physical aspects. Those all played a part in our brainstorming for names that would work with such a dog. Hugo quickly rose to the top of about 25 names we considered. At first, when he was just a wee little thing, I called him “The Nugget” because of his rich golden color, but he soon owned the name Hugo – and has been called only that ever since.

Is Hugo more of a help or a hinder to your writing?

Unlike Moby, who sat attentively near me as I wrote my book, and genuinely seemed to be interested in what I read back to him, Hugo is aloof – he is not one to listen to reading. If he is not tired, he starts fidgeting pretty quickly, so he has been a bit of a handful to deal with while I write these days. But he’s a love, so I do my best.

You dedicated your new memoir to your late dog Moby? Please tell us about him.

Moby was wonderfully laid back and, like most vizslas, a “Velcro dog” – always clinging to my side. Moby was totally loyal and took commands very readily. It was very difficult to let him go when it was time. He lived 13 too-short years with us and I miss him every day.

Does Hugo have a favorite place to go for walk?

Yes – Hugo loves to walk around our pond in Cornwallville, New York. He actually prefers running to walking – so it is good that we have several acres of property for him to run around on up here in the Catskills.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

All of the above. He has not yet learned that he can’t jump up on the postman or delivery people. He has a knack, though, for putting them at ease with his friendly disposition. He does not come across as menacing. With cats, he’s very playful – but with birds, his hunting instincts kick in, so we have to keep an eye on him.

Who is Hugo's best pet pal?

Hugo’s best pal is Clover, a pit bull mix belonging to one of our close friends. The two of them can spend hours together without tiring. The mention of her name gets him jumping.

What is Hugo's best quality? What was Moby's?

Hugo’s best quality is his gregariousness. He loves all other dogs – has no issues with certain breeds, like some dogs can. He also loves humans. In a group situation, he tends to be the ring-leader. Other dogs love him.

Moby’s best quality was his quiet way of showing affection. He did not jump around like Hugo does; and he was very loyal – and took commands readily. That said, he could be very skittish around certain breeds of dogs.

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

I’m sure Hugo would love for me to quit spending so much time on my laptop – or on anything that takes my attention away from him.

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

Hugo would be voiced by Jim Carrey.

Moby would be voiced by Adam Sandler.

What advice would Hugo give if asked?

Lighten up and play more. Life is short!

Visit Morris Ardoin's website and learn about his memoir, Stone Motel: Memoirs of a Cajun Boy.

The Page 99 Test: Stone Motel.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Beth Morrey & Polly

Who is in the photo at right?

The human is me: I am a writer called Beth Morrey. My first book, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, is published by Putman on 7th April. In my previous life I was a TV producer, and nowadays as well as writing I have a podcast series, One Torn Every Minute, which is about childbirth, and also write a TV blog called Square Eyes. The dog is Polly. She is a labradoodle and she is 13 years old. Her occupation is lying on furniture, and going out for the occasional perambulation.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Polly and I like to stop at the café in our local park in North London. We sit outside on the verandah and enjoy the views, often talking to people and dogs we know who pass by.

What's brewing?

I like a very plain Americano with lots of cold milk. Polly prefers puddle water.

Any treats for you or Polly on this occasion?

The reason Polly likes going to this particular café is they do a very good sourdough toast. We usually cut it in half and share it, and she insists on butter and jam. The combination of butter and sugar makes her drool uncontrollably. Me too.

How were you and Polly united?

My husband and I got her from a farm in Chepstow in Wales. She was three months old when we met her, and it was love at first sight.


How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Her full name is Polly Wolly Doodle the Brave the Good and the True. We often call her Poll Woll for short, or the Pollster, or the Brave Doodle of Barking & Pawchester. She has many aliases and pays no attention to any of them.

Does Polly do more to help or hinder your writing?

She often occupies my writing chair when I want to sit in it. Or, while I am sitting in it, she paws me aggressively and barks until I get out and let her have it. So no, she’s not particularly helpful. And yet I credit her as my muse in my Acknowledgements.

In your work, have any actual dogs inspired the creation of fictional ones?

Yes – the character of Bobby in my novel was inspired by a handsome Australian shepherd we see in the park. He’s really gorgeous with vivid blue eyes. My husband and I refer to him as The Most Beautiful Dog in the Park because we don’t know his name. Oddly though, he’s not particularly friendly, whereas the Bobby in my book is a very affectionate hound. My dog also appears in my book, but it’s just a brief cameo for her fans, and she’s not named, to protect her privacy.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Polly loathes cats and does highly embarrassing howls whenever she sees them in the street. She’s not keen on squirrels and will chase them in a business-like way. She barks at the postman, but only in the sense that she barks at anybody who comes to the house – she’s not remotely threatening; more like a very loud doorbell.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Polly occasionally picks up sticks to chew them, but she would never chase a thrown stick as she’s too grand. She also used to love finding discarded tennis balls, but now she’s a more senior lady, she’s not so interested. She has always loved soft toys, and gets a new one for birthdays and Christmas. Her favourite is called Bob (oh my God, I’ve just realised that’s why I called the dog Bob in my book – duh!). Bob is a very large soft toy Labrador from Ikea. She often uses him as a pillow.

Where is Polly's favorite outdoor destination?

There’s a stretch of grassland alongside a row of houses in Highbury, where we live. It’s not very well-maintained, and there’s lots of rubbish and dubious substances left there. She loves it, and always tries to drag me over there when we walk past. Her favourite thing is to pick up and eat a discarded wet wipe. We tried one of those muzzle things, but it didn't work and she still managed to suck things up. She’s utterly vile.

Who is Polly's best pet-pal?

Polly doesn’t really like other dogs as she doesn’t see herself as one. But if she had to pick a BFF (Best Four-Legged Friend), it would probably be Baxter, a border-terrier owned by the guy who took my author photos. She deigns to romp with him occasionally.

What is Polly's best quality?

She is incredibly expressive, and doesn’t need words to communicate – you know exactly what she wants from her facial expressions. Her best physical quality is her fine lustrous beard, which is currently shaved because of a rather unpleasant mouth infection.

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

She would want me to be less affectionate around her – she doesn’t like being cuddled and would rather I stayed away. I am constantly mauling her.

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

What is it about filthy wet wipes that you love so much?

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

Ooooh! What an interesting question. My husband and I do impressions of Polly’s speaking voice and it sounds like no one on Earth. But I guess if I was casting, I’d choose Amy Poehler, make her do an English accent and then slow down the recording.

What advice would Polly give if asked?

Leave me alone.

Visit Beth Morrey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Kate O'Shaughnessy & Mo

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Kate O’Shaughnessy, a middle grade author, and in this picture I’m having coffee with my stalwart writing companion, Mo. She’s pretty lazy as far as writing assistants go, but at least she’s pretty cute. I’ve been obsessed with dogs my whole life—when I was twelve, I for some strange reason decided to memorize every dog breed recognized by the AKC to prove to my parents that I was ready for a dog—so this blog is totally my jam.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The first thing I do every morning is make a giant mug of coffee and take it to my desk, which overlooks our garden. Whenever I sit down, Mo joins me in the office in the big armchair directly behind me.

What's brewing?

On vacation in Big Sur this past October, my husband and I tried Verve Coffee Roasters for the first time and were immediately obsessed. Before we left, I made sure to write down the bean variety the hotel served (Seabright!), and the first thing we did on our drive back to Berkeley was a stop in Santa Cruz to pick up a bunch of bags. Our car smelled like coffee in the best way for two days, and we haven’t brewed any other kind of coffee since!

Any treats for you or Mo on this occasion?

As I write this, I have leftover cake in the freezer from The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane book launch last week. I just may have to reward myself with a slice if I get enough writing done today. As for Mo, we spoil her. She’s not really food-motivated, but the words “chicken” or “bone” will get those giant ears of hers to perk up.

How were you and Mo united?

We first spotted Mo’s profile on the website of a local rescue, and were immediately taken by her incredible smile. When we reached out to see if we could meet her, we were told that she was actually a part of their international program—and was located in Taiwan! At first we didn’t feel comfortable adopting a dog without meeting them first, but the rescue continued to send us videos of Mo and we fell increasingly in love with her. Finally, we decided to go for it—and picked her up at the San Francisco airport! It was a rough adjustment—she had a ton of trauma in her past, including abuse, abandonment, and the loss of her puppies—but with a lot of love and patience she’s completely bloomed, as you can hopefully see. The picture above left is Mo when she was first picked up off the streets and the second [photo right] is after about a year with us. We love her so much!

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

The rescue had randomly assigned her the name “Mona,” which we liked but didn’t love. So instead of giving her an entirely new name, we shortened it to Mo. We’ve also given her endless nicknames. She’s Mo, Mo Mo, Mosephine Dingus, but more than anything, we call her “Piggy.” She got that nickname because when she stretches out on the couch, she sort of thrusts her belly forward so she looks a little chubbier than she really is [photo left]. Sort of like a pig!

Does Mo do more to help or hinder your writing?

She’s a great help. I love her company—usually she’s sleeping in the armchair behind me—and when I’ve been sitting for too long, she jumps down to come nose me for pets and beg for a walk. She reminds me it’s okay to get up and stretch my legs every now and again.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The dog in The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Pickle, is definitely one of the most important characters. He’s a dachshund with special needs, and shows Maybelle that sometimes it feels good to take care of other people—which opens her up to letting other people take care of her. Pickle was treated badly and neglected by his previous owner, so while Pickle wasn’t inspired by a real life dog, he somehow inspired me to become ready to adopt one of my own. We got Mo about a year after I finished writing Maybelle.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

She loves to chase squirrels, the postman is her mortal enemy, and she’s extremely interested in but unsure about cats.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

None, sadly. When we first got Mo she had no clue how to play with toys. Now she only likes to play with soft things. Her favorite thing to do is to attack the tags on blankets. The most fearsome predator!

Where is Mo's favorite outdoor destination?

The beach!! Mo turns into the most joyful version of herself on the beach. She rolls in the sand, gets the fastest, most wild-eyed zoomies, and says hello to everyone there. She loves the sand but hates the water.

Who is Mo's best pet-pal?

There’s a dog in our neighborhood, Rufus, who Mo one day decided to become obsessed with. She can be standoffish with other dogs, but she just fell in love with Rufus—every time we see him, she cries, wags her tail, and strains on the leash to get to him. His feelings toward her are lukewarm, but Mo is persistent in her love.

What is Mo's best quality?

So many! She’s incredibly chill, and happy to relax on the couch for hours. At the same time, she’s always up for adventure.

My first book is about a road trip, because I love going on them—and luckily Mo does too! She’s the most loyal companion you could imagine.

If Mo could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

That we don’t live every second of our lives at the park, on a walk in the woods, or on a beach.

Mo lives for walks and doesn’t understand why people don’t take them 20-30 times a day instead of just twice.

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

Are you happy? And I hope her answer would be yes!

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

Given that Mo is originally from Taiwan, I would choose Constance Wu, whose parents emigrated from Taiwan.

What advice would Mo give if asked?

Don’t trust the postman. Or FedEx trucks. Or any delivery truck in general. Or people that walk by on the sidewalk minding their own business. They’re all up to no good. Stay vigilant!!!!

Visit Kate O’Shaughnessy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Richard Fifield & Frank and Oscar

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Richard Fifield, and I’m an author and a designer, and this is Frank. He’s a male, a basenji, and our best guess is that he’s eleven or twelve. He is an anomaly—he seems to be aging in reverse. More spry, no gray, and the vet was astonished that he had less tartar on his teeth than at his first examination, six years ago.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’ve taken my two dogs, the aforementioned Frank and my elderly chihuahua/dachshund mix Oscar on a walk to the gas station. Where I live, there are no coffee shops, and the streets are filled with feral rabbits, all black. We enjoy walking to the gas station, Frank and Oscar because of the rabbits, and me because of the gossip I get at the counter. Even though I keep both dogs on a tight leash, they pull in opposite directions, and the leads tangle around my legs so often that I’ve gotten used to stopping to unwind every block. There have been a few occasions where the tangle actually caused me to fall, but thankfully, never any injuries!

What's brewing?

At the gas station, the coffee is cheap and plentiful. I love gas station coffee, and at the tiny store, the owners allow me to bring Frank and Oscar inside with me. I must drink my coffee while I gossip with the cashier—walking two dogs on leashes and a cup of hot coffee is a recipe for disaster. Especially with wild rabbits dashing everywhere.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

I always carry dog treats with me—every coat (and I have a lot of coats) has a dog treat, even when I’m without my dogs. I’m like a mailman! Because Oscar is sixteen years old, I carry Milk Bone Pill Pouches, because they are soft and it helps when I need to give Oscar his medications every morning. For years, I tried peanut butter, but it was messy!

How were you and Oscar and Frank united?

Oscar and Frank are both rescue dogs—I adopted them from Animal Control, instead of the Humane Society. Animal Control takes the dogs that nobody wants to adopt. Except for me. I want to adopt the most unlovable, difficult cases. I think this is because I see myself in them.

You also had Blanche with you until very recently. Sixteen years is a good, long life for a dog, I know, but.... Are Oscar and Frank adjusting well enough with Blanche gone?

Last year, my third dog Blanche had to be put down. She was sixteen, and she was the first dog I ever owned. I adopted her as a puppy, and she was a bizarre mix of corgi and border collie, so she had a really long body and tiny legs. She had a personality like a disapproving grandmother, even early on. Border collies like to herd, and Blanche was always barking at her brother and sister for being rambunctious and not following her directions. Putting her down was not an easy decision, but it was the right one. Due to her long body and tiny legs, she had a lot of hip and spine problems, and the last year of her life, she had to be lifted to be brought outside to use the bathroom. It was an honor to take care of her, and an honor to be there with her when she was finally at peace. Oscar took it the worst, as he had spent the most time with her, and when I returned from the vet without Blanche, he was scared of me for an entire month. He was confused, and I completely understand. I was confused, too.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

I named Blanche after Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Oscar already had his name when I adopted him. Frank was a street dog, and didn’t have a home, but the people at Animal Control called him Klaus. I did not like that name, and had recently published my first novel, which featured a wild dog named Frank, who serves as the heart of the book. It seemed too much of a coincidence, so his name became Frank, and it suits him. My dogs always have nicknames—many nicknames, but the most used is “The Tank” for Frank, and because Oscar was covered in scars when I adopted him (he had a hard life), I call him “Oh-Scar.”

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

My dogs actually don’t seem to notice when I’m writing or designing. They are very autonomous creatures, and they do what they want all day. They are both burrowers, so you can usually find them at the bottom of a bed. I gave up making my beds a long time ago!

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

In my fiction, I’ve only featured one canine, the aforementioned Frank. When people meet the real Frank, they assume he inspired the fictional dog, but after spending time with him, they quickly realize that my Frank is not cut out for therapy.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

All of my dogs despise anybody with a package of any kind. They are very, very protective of their fenced yard, and mail delivery and I have an understanding. They leave packages outside of the fence. Just in case there is a new delivery person, I have a sign on my gate. Frank, despite years of obedience school and one-on-one training, goes for the ankle of any person he is unfamiliar with that dares enter the yard, carrying a package. Basenjis were the first dog breed, and pharaohs in Egypt trained them to take down lions, and were buried with their favorite hunter. That DNA is still strong in Frank. He also does not share—he likes to take things from the other dogs and bury them in the yard. We don’t have any toys as a result, just sticks. He can’t dig up the yard to bury a giant stick.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

My dogs love the forests around Montana, but they are both terrified of water. They prefer to walk on the streets of our small town, because they are fascinated by other lives and other homes. They are just like their owner.

What is each dog's best quality?

Oscar’s best quality is his devotion—he is the type of dog that follows you around (when he’s not burrowed in blankets) and needs to know where you are at all times. Frank’s best quality is his personality—I’m sure your readers picture a vicious little creature, but he is the most affectionate dog I’ve ever owned—basenjis are very much like cats, and they like to nuzzle your chin. He is unlike any dog on earth—every person that watches my dogs remarks on how strange Frank is. They all love him, and want to take him home, because he is such a mystery.

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

I would ask Oscar and Frank both to tell me about where they came from, and what their lives were like before they came to live with me. I’m sure they have stories. Both are fighters, and indomitable creatures.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Oscar, Frank and Blanche could speak, who should voice them?

Oscar would be voiced by Patrick Stewart, as he is very self-assured and proper.

Frank would be voiced by Billy Eichner, of Billy On The Street, as he is a comedian and instantly recognizable. 

What advice would Oscar and Frank give if asked?

I think both dogs would give the same answer—accept the love that is given to you, and have faith that you will be taken care of. It’s an honor to be their person.

Visit Richard Fifield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Elizabeth Atkinson & Obadiah

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Elizabeth Atkinson, a middle grade author, and here I am having my morning coffee with my writing partner, Obadiah, an adorable 10-year-old Australian Labradoodle. Obadiah insists we take refreshing walks during the day, listens as I read rough drafts out loud, and Skypes with me during virtual Author Visits… so I couldn’t work without him.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m usually in my bathrobe reading and drinking my morning coffee, but on this particular morning, I’m dressed early as I’m heading out on a school visit. Obadiah’s waiting for me to hurry up and finish my coffee so I can take him on a quick walk before I leave.

What's brewing?

I always look forward to my morning coffee! I grind my favorite beans from Little Wolf roasters in Ipswich, MA, then brew my coffee in a small Cuisinart coffee maker. I drink coffee only in the morning – later in the day I have a cup of green or herbal tea, and occasionally I indulge in Godiva Hot Dark Cocoa at night.

Any treats for you or Obadiah on this occasion?

In the top photo, you might spy a tiny treat waiting for him on the counter. A little something to give him after his walk and before I leave on the school visit for the morning. Obadiah would eat dog cookies all day if you could.

How were you and Obadiah united?

After our sweet lab, China, died almost 11 years ago, our family wanted to adopt another dog to be part of our lives. However, both of our kids and my husband had been allergic to China all the years she was with us. So we knew we had to find a dog that was guaranteed to be hypoallergenic. Someone recommended Barksdale Labradoodles in Magee, Mississippi to us and that’s how this hypoallergenic puppy joined our family.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Actually, that’s a funny story. At the time, we had an original portrait of my husband’s great-great grandfather, Obadiah Eames, hanging on the living room wall. He was a Mississippi River Boat Captain in the mid-1800s and the portrait had been passed down through the generations. Prior to our little puppy’s arrival, we had written down a bunch of possible names as everyone does. But when he arrived, there was just something about his eyes and expression that reminded us of our ancestor on the wall. And since they were both associated with Mississippi, we all agreed on Obadiah. His most common nicknames are Obi, Obes, Obester.

Does Obadiah do more to help or hinder your writing?

He’s almost always helpful, because I structure my writing schedule according to his schedule. The only time when he isn’t helpful is when he insists on a walk (according to his schedule) while I’m in the middle of a great writing streak and can’t stop.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The only actual dog inspiration appears in my new novel, Fly Back Agnes. The terrier mix, Tutu, is inspired by Toto in The Wizard of OZ. But I adore dogs and usually include them in my stories. Dogs provide companionship and unconditional love like no other living being, which kids really need. Dogs also help children develop so many important qualities, like empathy, responsibility, and patience. So I believe dog characters greatly enrich children’s literature.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Oh my, anything small and furry that moves fast. Six months ago, Obadiah tore his CCL (similar to a human ACL tear) chasing a cat – and even after he tore it, he kept chasing the cat on three legs!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

We have a basket full of beloved squeaky toys. Sometimes Obadiah will choose one to sleep with on his bed.

Who is Obadiah's best pet-pal?

To be honest, he’s more of people-dog than a dog-dog, because he loves cuddling. And my daughter is definitely his favorite cuddler. But his best dog pals are probably his dog friends at his doggy day care, which he attends about once a week to have fun. When he’s off leash at the local dog park, sometimes he and another dog seem to know each other, and then I find out the two dogs go to doggie daycare together. It’s funny to think your dog knows dogs you don’t know.

What is Obadiah's best quality?

He is very loving and loyal, but I have to say, his best quality is that he’s such an easy-going dog. We can take him anywhere! It’s wonderful and calming to live with such a relaxed, happy-to-be-alive creature.

If Obadiah could change one thing about New Englanders, what would it be?

People always like Obadiah but he loves people, so I know he wishes New Englanders would just stop what they’re doing, bend over and snuggle him, and then give him a treat. He lives for attention and dog biscuits!

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

I’ve been intrigued with Christina Hunger’s method of teaching her dog, Stella, to communicate using voice buttons and I follow them on Instagram. So I guess I would ask Obadiah, “Which words do you understand so far?” because we’re about to try the voice buttons.

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

Haha! We’ve kind of thought about this before… My son thinks Chris Pratt has Obadiah’s voice and I have to agree! Plus, I see a little resemblance.

What advice would Obadiah give if asked?

Love is all that really matters… and cookies.

Visit Elizabeth Atkinson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Rebecca Hodge & Tess and Kalen

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Rebecca Hodge, an author whose debut novel, Wildland, releases in February. I’m a veterinarian and have worked for the past twenty years in clinical research, focusing on drug development for metabolic disease in humans. The two crazy dogs who are ‘helping’ me unpack my Advance Reader copies of the book are Tess, the brown mixed breed, who’s twelve years old, and Kalen, the white mixed breed, who’s eighteen months.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Although I love the way coffee smells, I’m actually a hardcore tea drinker. It’s the way I start my day, and there’s usually a mug at my side when I’m writing. The dogs are my writing assistants and are generally underfoot at all times.

What's brewing?

My favorite go-to tea is Republic of Tea Vanilla-Almond Black Tea, but I also love their Golden Yunan.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

They’re very good at giving me long pitiful looks to get Milk Bones.

How were you and Tess and Kalen united?

Both dogs were rescue puppies. At Tess’s age, I was hesitant to add a second dog, but it was a great decision--- she acts five years younger with Kalen around to keep her on her toes.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Tess was named by my sons, and I picked Kalen’s name out of a baby name book. I occasionally mumble ‘idiot dog’ under my breath, but no true aliases.

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

One of the best ways for me to get unstuck in my writing is to go for a walk, and since these two are firm believers in long walks, I think I have to admit they help more than hinder.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

My fictional dogs are truly fiction, but since I’ve been around dogs all my life, hopefully their characters ring true.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

All elicit strong interest if they come close to the house, but what really gets things going is if they spot a deer out front. [photo left]

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Balls and stuffed toys that can be dismembered are the favorites.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

Shelley Lake, a nearby city park with walking paths.

What is each dog's best quality?

Tess is the calm snuggler, and Kalen is the high-energy spring-loaded crazy dog—except when sound asleep in bizarre pretzel-shapes. [photo right]

If Tess and Kalen could change one thing about North Carolina, what would it be?

Too hot in the summer!

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

What do you dream about at night?

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

Yeardley Smith, who does an awesome job with Lisa on The Simpsons.

What advice would Tess and Kalen give if asked?

They are not allowed on the furniture, so I think they’d advise it’s time for their own couch.

Visit Rebecca Hodge's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Arlene Gillo & Bruce Wayne and Jean Grey

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Arlene Gillo. I’m an acupuncturist for people and animals. But I’m also a writer of my Bruce Wayne books. The sweet boy with me is Bruce Wayne, age 9. He is an American Staffordshire or pit bull, and the main character of my book.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m here because I enjoy a good cup of coffee after taking these guys on a morning hike. We usually do at least 3 miles and then I get to relax with my coffee while Bruce Wayne and Jean Grey chill out with the treats and water that I bring for them.

What's brewing?

I’m having a cappuccino. I love a good cappuccino on special occasions, and today is a special occasion.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

The dogs will be having their beef jerky. My treat is the cappuccino...yum!

How were you and Bruce Wayne and Jean Grey united?

I adopted Bruce Wayne from the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation. I just fell in love with his adoption picture when I saw it on Petfinder. I adopted Jean Grey from the cattle dog rescue site. I wanted Bruce Wayne to have a sister so that the wouldn’t be alone when I went to work.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

When I adopted Bruce Wayne, he was just called Bruce. I told my boyfriend that his name was too ordinary. So, we thought of all the interesting people/characters named Bruce and we came up with Bruce Wayne. When I found out that Jean Grey was a red Merle, my boyfriend and I thought of a superhero who was a red head, thus Jean Grey from the X-Men. My last three dogs were also named after a superhero.

Please tell us about your book, Bruce Wayne Is Insane: Meeting Ninja Kitty.

It’s about Bruce Wayne, a young pit bull who is newly adopted and therefore, new to the neighborhood. He meets a cat in his backyard. They decide to be friends, and the cat ends up teaching him martial arts. It’s about acceptance, friendship and having fun while learning something new.

What is each dog's best quality?

Bruce Wayne is so patient and tolerant. He will let me do anything to him, i.e. brush his teeth, clean his ears, etc. Jean Grey won’t allow me to do those things to her. However, Jean Grey obeys the commands I give her. If I tell her to go outside, she’ll run out. If I tell her to wait, she will. Bruce Wayne won’t do that. He’ll look at me as if to say, “I’ll think about it.”

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy...?

Bruce Wayne isn’t into toys. Jean Grey loves squeaky toys and tennis balls. She can play fetch for a long time.

Postman, cat, squirrel...?

Bruce Wayne is a natural predator. He likes to chase the squirrels and birds. Of course, both he and Jean Grey bark at the postman, UPS guy and any person near the front gate.

If Bruce Wayne and Jean Grey could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They would want me to relax. They know I work a lot. And, possibly, Bruce Wayne would want me to vacuum only once a day.

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

I would ask Jean Grey if shares the food she finds on the kitchen counter with Bruce Wayne when I accidentally forget to put food away when I go to work. She jumps on the kitchen counter and sink when I leave for work to look for food. I’ve seen her do it.

Then I would ask Bruce Wayne to confirm her answer.

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

Seth Rogen would do Bruce Wayne, and Anne Hathaway would do Jean Grey.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

They would say, “Have fun...stick your head out of the car window some time and feel how good it is.”

Visit Arlene Gillo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue