Thursday, March 26, 2015

Judith Claire Mitchell & Josie

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Judith Claire Mitchell—Judy—novelist and professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where I teach creative writing and direct our MFA program. The dog is Josephine Mitchell-Friedlich—Josie—a white highland west terrier. Josie is seven years old, but is generally assumed to be much younger given her toned physique, her endless capacity for sprinting, and her puppy-like attitude toward life.

What's brewing?

Today, as we do most mornings when I don’t have to be on campus, Josie and I are spending some time at our local coffee shop, Cargo Coffee. Brianna, Stephanie, and Candy, the baristas there, know us so well that they often begin making our drinks as soon as our car turns into their lot. My usual is a 16 oz. nonfat latte with one Sweet ‘n’ Low (my carcinogen of choice). Josie, who is caffeine-free, prefers a small ice water. But because today is a special occasion, maybe she’ll order a small decaf hazelnut roast. I’m figuring hazelnut is as close to peanut butter as we can get. Josie is a big fan of peanut butter. [Note jar of Jif in photo right]

Any treats for you or Josie on this occasion?

Along with our drinks, Josie has enjoyed her usual complimentary slice of cucumber.

How were you and Josie united?

After our beloved cat Ruby died, my husband and I planned to adopt another cat. But then Don mentioned that shortly after Ruby’s passing, the headache he’d had for the entire fourteen years she lived with us had gone away. That’s when we realized we could not continue owning felines. We decided to adopt a hypo-allergenic, non-shedding dog instead. Westies fit the bill, so we got in touch with a small family breeder and adopted the one puppy they had left: our Josie. Don’s headache has not returned. However, the bit about non-shedding turned out to be a big lie.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

We had a hard time coming up with her name. We called her Rosie for a couple of days, then switched to Josie. We still aren’t sure the name suits her, but she responds to it, so now we’re all stuck with it. Don tends to call her Josie-Bear. I tend to call her Mouse.

Does Josie do more to help or hinder your writing?

It depends on her mood. If she’s feeling mellow, she’ll often lie by my side or on my feet when I’m writing, which is a great help: since I don’t want to disturb her, I wind up spending more time writing than I otherwise might have. But if she’s in a frisky mood and wants to play, then she’ll hit the back of my laptop’s screen with her paw until I stop what I’m doing. She once ruined a computer doing that. But who could get mad at that face?

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

There’s a golden lab named Beef in A Reunion of Ghosts, but he’s not based on any real dog. However, I did swipe his name from my former dental hygienist’s basset hound.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

We live in the woods and have to walk up the road to get our mail, so Josie hasn’t actually met our postman. And because there are coyotes in our neighborhood, the local cats tend to be kept indoors, so she rarely gets to hang with cats, either. However, Westies were originally bred to rid farms of small critters, and because I cannot convince her that we do not live on a farm, Josie cannot be dissuaded from trying to kill any rodent who makes the mistake of visiting her pen. The squirrels know to keep out, as do the chipmunks, but she has, I’m afraid, done in two bunnies. In addition, many a possum visiting our yard has learned the value of playing dead.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Definitely ball. The first time she spied a ball as a tiny puppy she wanted to learn how to catch it. This is not typical terrier behavior, but she was clear—we were to throw her that ball over and over again until she’d mastered the fine art of grabbing it between her teeth. These days she prefers balls that are bigger than she is. She’s very small for her breed—she weighs only 12 pounds—but she can nose a basketball around a room like nobody’s business.

Who is Josie's best pet-pal?

Although Josie adores people, especially children, she’s not really into other dogs. The one and only dog she has ever loved was the late Holly Barrett, a bichon who used to live a few houses down. Our theory is she has never gotten over the loss of Holly, who was, indeed, an exemplary dog and charming neighbor.

What is Josie's best quality?

She’s a genius. I’ll give you an example. Once, she came downstairs where I was watching TV and began barking. I thought she was asking to go outside, and I reminded her that she’d just gone out a few minutes before and she was not going out again. She thought about what had transpired, then trotted into the adjacent bathroom and gazed into the toilet. Then she looked at me. She did this twice more—looked into the toilet, looked back at me—until the light dawned. “Do you want water?” I asked. She recognized the word “water” and cocked her head, the universal Westie sign for “Hallelujah, you finally got it, you dolt.” We went upstairs and sure enough, there wasn’t a drop of water in her bowl. Now, is that brilliant or what?

If Josie could change one thing about Madisonians, what would it be?

Madisonians are very sporty and are always zipping around on bikes and skateboards and rollerblades. Josie is morally opposed to those kinds of wheels—if God wanted us to get from point A to point B via wheels, why would he have given us paws?—and she does not mind loudly sharing her point of view.

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

How can we help you be at peace during thunderstorms?

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

I think Josie should sound like Butters on South Park. So Matt Stone, I guess.

What advice would Josie give if asked?

When life hands you pills, wrap them in peanut butter. (Josie would mean this both literally and metaphorically. But mostly literally.)

Visit Judith Claire Mitchell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015

Elisabeth Crisp & Jazzy

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Elisabeth Crisp. I blog everyday at crisplyspoken.com. I’m also writing a novel.

My dog is Jazzy, a four-year-old female miniature schnauzer.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Jazzy and I have coffee almost every day at our favorite park. We eat. We walk. We sit in the car or at a picnic table while I write.

What's brewing?

Dark French roast, topped with Nestle’s Quik and soy milk. The Quik addiction started when I wasn’t able to get to the supermarket. It’s good. You should try it.

Any treats for you or Jazzy on this occasion?

Breakfast tacos for me. Milkbone Mini’s for Jazzy.

How were you and Jazzy united?

Jazzy was a two and half pound puppy when I scooped her out of a litter, living in a Rubbermaid container in a residential backyard. She fit in the palm of my hand.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Her official name is Jasmine Tea, named after my favorite green tea blend. It’s the beverage I drank while grieving over the loss of her predecessor, also a schnauzer.

When she was a puppy, I called her Hoover. She hoovered up things she shouldn’t, just like a vacuum cleaner.

Does Jazzy do more to help or hinder your writing?

Jazzy is a typical schnauzer. Her day job is barking. She talks to the mailman, the neighbor’s cat, our abundance of squirrels, the blades of grass blowing in the wind. It drives me nuts until she’s gone to the groomers. Then, the house is too quiet. So, Jazzy helps me write, but her help is annoying.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

There’s a little dog, who climbs mountains, in my current work in progress. Taco was inspired by Jasmine.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

She trees the squirrels in my backyard. She caught one once, so they give her room. She’s very quick.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

She loves toys. When I come home, she meets me at the door with a her plush monkey or pink pig. She follows me around until I toss it for her to fetch.

Who is Jazzy's best pet-pal?

She loves other dogs. She's friends with a Great Dane, Thalia. They meet at the park, and Jazzy isn’t intimidated by their size difference.

What is Jazzy's best quality?

She loves me with persistence.

If Jazzy could change one thing about Texans, what would it be?

Their politics. Jazzy is a liberal.

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

Where is my missing black loafer?

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

Emma Watson. Jazzy sounds like Hermione Granger when she barks. She’s also very smart.

What advice would Jazzy give if asked?

Quit sitting there pretending to write and take me for a walk. It always helps.

Will that advice work for you?

I should listen to her more often.

Visit Elisabeth Crisp's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Neelima Shah & Lucca

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Neelima Shah. I’m a program officer at the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation. We are a regional foundation working to protect the vitality of natural ecosystems by building sustainable, healthy, vibrant, equitable, and prosperous communities. Our geographic focus includes the major metropolitan areas in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

My dog’s name is Lucca. She’s an eight-year-old half lab and half golden retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

At the Bullitt Foundation every day is “take your dog to work day.” Lucca comes to work with me on days that I don’t ride the bus or my bike. She especially loves to attend big meetings where she can socialize and love and be loved by a lot of people.

What's brewing?

Homemade chai tea with lemongrass and ginger.

Any treats for you or Lucca on this occasion?

Lucca’s favorite treats are apples and pears, but she’s a lab so she enjoys eating anything. I do keep peanut butter dog treats from Trader Joe's at the office so other people can give her treats.

How did Lucca get her name? Any nicknames?

My husband and I both love Italy and each have a very close friend that live in Northern Italy. We love the food and the wine. We were brainstorming things that reminded us of Italy and we came up with Lucca – a city in Tuscany (also a major wine producing region).

How were you and Lucca united?

Our good friends introduced us to Lucca. Their dog Lana is Lucca’s sister from a previous litter. They have a friend in Twisp, Washington with a lab and a golden retriever that had a few litters of puppies. We fell in love with Lana and then in love with Lucca. They are both very friendly, smart, and athletic dogs (retrievers that live for retrieving).

What are Lucca's chief duties as Chief Comfort Officer (CCO) at The Bullitt Foundation?

Lucca’s job is to make sure everyone in the office is happy. Research shows that just being around and petting a dog reduces people’s heart rate and blood pressure. Lucca ensures that staff feel good. She does this by greeting, licking, playing and begging. She attends large and small meetings. She starts the meeting by visiting with attendees and then relaxing right next to her owner. When we’re not in meetings, Lucca has free reign of the office. She spends a good deal of time visiting with different staff, begging, and generally making people feel good.

My old colleague always told me that being a good program officer requires having excellent judgment. Lucca, like many dogs, is a very good judge of character – so she helps me with my job.

Before the Bullitt Foundation moved into its new space at the Bullitt Center, Lucca came to work with me. I think she inspired the Bullitt Center’s dog-friendly policy.

Who is Lucca's best pet-pal?

Lucca is absolutely in love with two giant breed Leobergers -- Oden and Thor --who live down the street. She loves playing with them, even though we’re always afraid she’ll get crushed. They are about 3x her size, but she always gets the last word (or pee as the case may be).

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Lucca loves anything that she can retrieve… but especially half deflated soccer balls.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrels for sure. I love the look of Lucca when she on the hunt for a squirrel.

What is Lucca's best quality?

I can’t pick just one because she is the perfect dog. She is beautiful, smart, well behaved, loyal to end, loving and athletic. She’s my companion and I can take her anywhere. In addition to work, I’ve taken her to Bullitt Foundation board retreats, acupuncture and massage appointments, wine tasting, the bank, dog-friendly coffee shops and restaurants, and to parks for children.

Kids at the park absolutely love her because she is doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.

Lucca is my best friend and companion. I trust her unconditionally and love her with all my heart.

If Lucca could change one thing about Seattleites, what would it be?

Let dogs go more places and off leash -- especially the beach!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Lucca could speak, which actor should do her voice?

The character “M” from James Bond played by Judi Dench. Lucca is so smart, I think she could lead a spy agency – maybe the DIA – the Dog Intelligence Agency.

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

Did having a little sister (our two year old daughter) ruin your life or make it better?

Or: Do you know how much we love you?

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cheryl Massey & Coco

Who is in the photo at right?

The human is none other than Cheryl Massey, aka Cherdo. "Cherdo" (pronounced share-dough) comes from a little guy who could never say Cheryl; the name stuck with a certain boyfriend I had who later became my husband.

I'm a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. Though trained as a nurse, I left the workforce years ago to homeschool my sons and dabble in creativity. I write, draw, teach, research (genealogy) and cause general mid-life mayhem with sub-optimal levels of female hormones.

My blog is called Cherdo on the Flipside. The name comes from my personal theory that everything looks different on the flipside of fifty; I tend to say what I think a little more often and put up with crap a whole lot less. Consequently, you never know what will be on the Flipside, but most of the time it will be slathered with humor, snark, bad art and tongue-in-cheek commentary.

My family members are Hubzam, Juggernaut, Magoo and Gonzo. Of course, that's not their real names; but when your family members don't want their names used, I get to pick the alias. It could have been much, much worse.

The cute one is Coco, my six-year-old chocolate toy poodle who currently needs to visit the groomer. I'm a dog person through and through. Fortunately, Coco has enough personality and energy for ten people. I'm just trying to keep up.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Dear Coco and I have a standing date for coffee every morning. If I forget the time, she wakes me. After I rise, we go through our regular shtick of outdoor run, paper retrieval, dog feeding and then: java. Ah, the best part of the morning.

Coco will throw a ball in my lap the whole time I read the paper; she is obsessed with playing ball.

What's brewing?

Here's the part where I'd love to spout off some exotic coffee blend that I roasted myself from beans I picked in my South American themed greenhouse. I'd like to say that, but I'd be lying. We love your basic mild coffee. I believe this happens to be Eight O'Clock brand that just happened to be fresh off the Keurig trail. Add a little cream -- Nirvana ... steaming wonderful Nirvana.

Snore if you must.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

We were partaking of some homemade granola with Chia: it made us feel fancy. Also, it made Coco roll on the ground and act psychotic as she tried to get the Chia seeds out of her mouth.

How were you and Coco united?

My previous dog was Cleo, a buff colored mixed breed (predominantly terrier). Cleo passed away after eighteen and a half years of doggie love and loyalty. It was a heartbreaking void in my life, so I looked for another small dog and found Coco through a private breeder.

Any treats for Coco on this occasion?

Any day of the week, Coco is up for a treat. She loves rawhide chew treats.

How did Coco get her name? Does she have any nicknames?

Coco got her name from her beautiful chocolate brown color. She's blessed with several nicknames: Coco Loco, Coco the Wonder Dog, or her superhero secret identity, Annoya. She has the super power of endless ball fetching and annoying persistence at getting her way.

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

Ball, ball, ball, ball, ball, stuffed blue dog and ball.

Postman, cat, squirrel...?

Geese and rabbits are fair game, though she has never caught them. Where geese are concerned, she's fearless. She'll chase thirty of them without blinking. At first, they act like they are going to stand their ground -- till they notice that she is picking up speed. She even follows them as they take flight.

I may have to get her a goose for Christmas.

Where is Coco's favorite place for an outing?

We've got a pretty big yard (over 3 acres) and she likes to run around our property. If given her way, she will occasionally run up the long driveway and visit the neighborhood kids.

Who is Coco's best pet-pal?

All her pals are human. Whatever human is visiting, that's her favorite.

What is Coco's most endearing quality?

Coco is just so stinking cute.

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

She truly wishes that I would bend to her will and provide any and all of her dog desires. And quickly. As it is, I just convert a significant portion of my cash into veterinary wages.

What is Coco's proudest moment?

Coco always got along with all of our farm animals: goats, chickens, and a donkey. Eventually, we decided to pare it down to just chickens; specifically, Chinese silkies. We had a beautiful flock of white silkies and I'd let them out for extended periods of the day. Coco was just a pup and she loved to stay on the porch. The silkies would join her and drink out of her bowl and eat her food -- which scared her, but she never barked to bothered the chickens. In fact, she'd come to the door and look in and cry!

Duchess, the mother hen, had a huge bunch of baby chicks that year. She put up with those tiny, tiny chicks moving in on her territory for a couple of weeks. Then one day, she thought to herself, "Hey, these chicks remind me of something."

She gently picked up a chick and threw it in the air! She was so proud. She'd created a toy. And the bonus was that every time she threw one in the air, I'd scream "No, no, stop! You're going to hurt them! Stoooop!"

I believe seven or eight chicks went airborne before I got a hold of her. She was so proud and happy.

We got rid of the chickens soon afterwards.

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

Olympia Dukakis, using her Moonstruck accent.

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

1) If I buy you the goose, will you let me sleep in on the weekend?

2) When you sort through your food, what are you looking for? And why do some of the pieces not make the cut and get set on the floor? Have you noticed they are all the same? It's called a factory, and it makes the food -- all the food -- exactly the same size and shape.

Visit the Cherdo on the Flipside blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Elizabeth Halt & Atlas

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Elizabeth Halt, and my best friend Atlas on our 11 year anniversary hike in the Porcupine Mountains.

I'm a former engineer turned artist, storyteller, reiki person & part-time barista. Atlas helps me with everything.

Atlas is a weimaraner who will turn 12 this month. He is much larger than the typical weim. He started out as a show dog but then he grew too tall and neither of us minded.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I had a morning shift at the cafe, so I brought a drink home with me.

What's brewing?

Big Water Coffee Roasters espresso, in the form of a caramel latte.

Any treats for you or Atlas on this occasion?

The latte was my treat. Atlas had some peanut butter dog cookies.

How did Atlas get his name? Any aliases?

Atlas was named after one of my favorite books, Atlas Shrugged, and the Greek myth. I thought that Atlas held the world on his shoulders and, even before I got my weim - I had the name before the dog - I knew I would adore him to pieces, so the name felt appropriate.

How were you and Atlas united?

This is really two stories. Story the first: how I went from not-a-dog-person to uber-dog-person. Story the second: how I found my very own weimaraner. But the short version is - it was fate.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

The great loves of Atlas's life, in order of importance: cats, food, and me. (He is somewhat famous for his obsessive love of cats.)

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Atlas does not care about toys. He likes sticks; they are good for eating. (As are toilet paper tubes. He can sniff them out no matter where they're hidden.)

Where is Atlas's favorite outdoor destination?

Atlas just likes to be outside, regardless of the destination.

What is Atlas's best quality?

If I had to narrow it down, it would probably be his incredibly sweet + loving nature and his ability to be fully present.

If Atlas could change one thing about Yoopers, what would it be?

Humorously, he would probably have them move somewhere where there is less snow in the winter.

This is his second winter in the Arctic (his words) and he is not entirely a fan.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Atlas could speak, which actor should do his voice?

I know who has the perfect voice for Atlas! It's not an actor but a singer -- Leonard Cohen.

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

What can I do to make your life better?

What advice would Atlas give if asked?

You can never take too many naps.

Will that advice work for you?

Unfortunately not. I do love naps, but more than one (and sometimes even one) can disrupt my night-time sleep.

Visit Elizabeth Halt's website and Twitter perch, and follow Atlas on Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 9, 2015

Marilyn Pond & Gracie and Trudy

Who is in the photo at right, and in the one just below?

My name is Marilyn Pond, a mom, a grandmom, and a widow. I retired early in life after knowing how precious life is. I doubt anyone says at the pearly gates "I wish I would have worked more." After retiring I took up quilting and it became my passion.

My two fur babies, Gracie (an eleven year-old Poochon - half Poodle and half Bichon) and five year-old Trudy (a Miniature Schnauzer), let me live with them.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Our mornings always includes coffee for me, a snooze for Gracie, with Trudy keeping a watchful eye out for squirrels.

What's brewing?

Peet's K-Cup.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Gracie needs a couple of meds each day which are neatly tucked inside a flavored pill pocket. Trudy gets a piece of the pill pocket--just because.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Gracie was rescued after being in an abusive situation. She was given to the shelter which was told to put her to sleep because she nipped at the children. A small dog rescue group held her for 6 months and called me to see if I would take her because they were having trouble placing her. She was fearful especially around the face. We instantly connected. I renamed her Gracie thinking of the saying "There for the Grace of God go I."

My Mini Schnauzer is Trudy because she is German and Trudy is short for Gertrude.

How were you and your dogs united?

Gracie is a rescue; Trudy is from an acquaintance who breeds Mini Schnauzers.

How do your dogs help--or hinder--your quilting?

My girls love to spend time with me in my quilt room. And all my quilts are approved by one or the other before moving on to their next home.

Cat, postman, squirrel....?

Yes.

Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?

Squeaky toy. It's all about finding and destroying the squeak.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

Any place that has smells telling a story.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

I don't have snuggle buddies; but, they always want the other nearby.

What is each dog's best quality?

Gracie is extremely loyal; Trudy is a love bug.

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

What's to change? Well, maybe to use less water.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Angela Lansbury for Gracie; Jennifer Garner for Trudy [photo left].

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

What are those neighbor dogs telling you?

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

That I should give them more table scraps.

Visit Marilyn Pond's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Meg Donohue & Cole

(photo credit: Alex Wang)
Who is in the photo at right?

This is a photograph of me with our dog, Cole.

My name is Meg Donohue. I’m the author of All the Summer Girls and How to Eat a Cupcake. HarperCollins will release my latest novel, Dog Crazy, on March 10th, 2015.

How were you and Cole united?

Cole is our seven-year-old rescue dog. We adopted him through an organization that brings homeless dogs from Taiwan to San Francisco. He was billed as a Taiwanese mountain dog, but he looks to us like a German shepherd mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine? What's brewing?

This is just a typical workday. Cole is my constant writing companion.

My other constant writing companion is coffee. Lately, I’ve been drinking Nespresso luongo with a splash of vanilla almond milk.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

We named Cole after Cole Valley, which is our neighborhood in San Francisco. We thought it might help him feel welcome after his long travels from Taiwan. He has countless nicknames though—Coley, Coley Molely, Cole Bear, Colbert Report, to name just a few.

How much have actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?

The dogs I’ve loved and lost have served as tremendous inspiration in my writing, particularly in my latest novel, Dog Crazy. The experience of adopting a rescue dog resonates through the novel, which is about a pet bereavement counselor who comes undone following the loss of her own beloved dog. Dogs have meant so much to me in my life, and I was excited to write with honestly, respect, and humor about the human-canine bond. I hope dog lovers will enjoy the book and feel they are reading about the experiences of a kindred spirit.

Visit Meg Donohue's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: How to Eat a Cupcake.

My Book, The Movie: How to Eat a Cupcake.

The Page 69 Test: All the Summer Girls.

My Book, The Movie: All the Summer Girls.


--Marshal Zeringue