Thursday, April 28, 2016

Stephanie Kate Strohm & Lorelei Lee Strohm-Lando

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Stephanie Kate Strohm, young adult author (The Taming of the Drew) with Lorelei Lee Strohm-Lando, female, age 7, Coton de Tulear.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I stopped into Flirty Cupcake in Lincoln Square, because I am incapable of walking by without getting a cupcake, and got a tea to accompany it. Lorelei and I walked through Winnemac Park on our way home post-cupcake.

What's brewing?

A hot raspberry herbal tea – it may be April in Chicago, but it’s only 30 degrees! Not quite iced tea season yet.

Any treats for you or Lorelei on this occasion?

I had a pineapple cupcake with coconut cream cheese frosting. Someone in a different store offered Lorelei a Milkbone, but picky eater that she is, she declined.

How were you and Lorelei united?

We met in Vermont, and it was instant love.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Lorelei was named after Marilyn Monroe’s character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a sassy showgirl named Lorelei Lee. When Lorelei was a baby, she had very blonde ears. She also loves to perform!

Does Lorelei do more to help or hinder your writing?

Help! She likes to sit next to me on the couch or under my chair at the table while I write. She’s also very good about reminding me to take breaks! I think I get some of my best ideas while we’re walking.

Has Lorelei inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

There’s a dog in Confederates Don’t Wear Couture, but he couldn’t possibly be more different than Lorelei! She really acts more like a pretentious toddler than a dog.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel! Cats are too scary and postmen are friends.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky-toy – preferably one that looks like a little stuffed animal.

Who is Lorelei's best pet-pal?

Honestly, she does not prefer the company of other dogs. Thorin, our friend’s jack russel mix, is the main dog in her life, but I’m not sure I would describe them as pals. The only activity that unites them is a shared love in sitting in front of the window and barking at passersby.

What is Lorelei's best quality?

She is extremely affectionate to all people, especially kids. She’s probably the friendliest dog I’ve ever met (except to other dogs, whom she mostly ignores.)

If Lorelei could change one thing about Chicagoans, what would it be?

They don’t drop nearly as many pizzas on the sidewalk as New Yorkers do!

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

Can we get a second dog, or are you too happy being an only pup?

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

I frequently pretend to speak in Lorelei’s voice, and she sounds just like Elmo.

What advice would Lorelei give if asked?

All of life’s problems can be solved by cheese.

Visit Stephanie Kate Strohm's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taming of the Drew.

My Book, The Movie: The Taming of the Drew.

Writers Read: Stephanie Kate Strohm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 25, 2016

Paula Treick DeBoard & Baxter

Who is in the photo at right?

This is me, Paula Treick DeBoard, with my dog, Baxter. He’s a ten-year-old purebred beagle, and we’ve had him since he was six weeks old. His life is slightly more relaxed than mine. I write novels (my latest, The Drowning Girls, is now available) and teach writing at the University of California, Merced, which is a nice drive from where I live in Modesto.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is morning coffee before the world (or we) are fully awake. Usually we sit on the couch together and read the news while we’re getting it together for the day. My husband and I have another dog, LG—but she’s a late sleeper, so she’s not pictured here.

What's brewing?

Home brew! It wasn’t possible to hold both Baxter and my mug of coffee for this picture, but I’m drinking Tully’s Coffee, Breakfast Blend. It has to be seriously hot before I switch to iced coffee—I hate to water it down!

Any treats for you or Baxter on this occasion?

This is right before breakfast, so it’s just a morning snuggle. Baxter knows that in a few minutes, we’ll be going outside, and when we come inside, he’ll be fed, and then after another half hour or so, we’ll be on our morning walk. So he’s in his getting-ready-for-the-day phase here.

How were you and Baxter united?

Baxter was a gift from my in-laws, who had been listening to me talk about getting a dog for years. My sister-in-law had a friend with two beagles and a litter on the way, and I was promised my pick. I got to see them when they were just a few days old and a squirming mess of adorable puppiness, but I spotted the one for me immediately. The owners said I could come back to visit any time, but they seemed a bit surprised to see me take them up on that offer—I went back at least once a week to take pictures for six weeks. It was amazing to see how Baxter grew between visits.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

At the time, I had a student whose last name was Baxter, and that stuck in my head as a great name for a dog. I grew up with a beagle named Bailey, and sometimes I do confuse the two names. Baxter’s remarkably adaptable; he responds to his name, as well as Baxto (the way my niece pronounces his name) and Bax and Honey.

Does Baxter do more to help or hinder your writing?

He definitely helps. On our walks, I’m usually thinking my way through a story, so I use that time for brainstorming or working through a plot hole. Also, I tend to proofread everything I write out loud, with Baxter sitting next to me. He seems appreciative.

Have any actual dogs inspired the creation of fictional dogs in your books?

I’ve had dogs in each of my novels. In The Mourning Hours, the family adopted a dog named Kennel, who is completely loyal, but bears the marks of a previous abusive owner. In The Fragile World, the family has a basset hound named Heidi. And in The Drowning Girls, there’s a dog named Virgil who becomes a symbol of the way that things go wrong in the story. I love dogs, and I explore the intricacies of family life in my writing, so it seems natural to have a dog wandering through a scene.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Not cats so much anymore, although as a puppy, Baxter would chase after every cat he could (including the two in our house). Every day, without fail, he gives the postman a few ferocious howls. And we’ve only ever seen one squirrel in our neighborhood, but he’s a feisty little guy who has hung around for years. Baxter either doesn’t notice him or has made his peace with him at this point.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

He used to love his giant rope toy, but now he seems to have outgrown it. He will chew on any type of rawhide he can get his paws on, and he loves to dig through the bathroom trash. It’s not unusual to walk through the hallway and follow a trail of shredded Kleenex to find him.

Who is Baxter's best pet-pal?

Baxter has a little “sister,” LG, our adopted rat terrier. He likes her quite a lot, but she’s not the most friendly dog in general. He knows all the dogs in our neighborhood who are walked on a regular basis. His favorite is Howser, a terrier mix. Baxter can smell her from half a block away, and immediately starts whining to see her. Their exchange of deep sniffs is one of the highlights of his day.

What is Baxter's best quality?

He has the best temperament of any dog I know. He loves to be petted, and when I’m sitting on the couch, he’ll jump up right next to me. (My husband and I had this brief, idealistic fantasy that we wouldn’t allow pets on the furniture, but that went out the window with Baxter.) In the mornings, he’s up a few minutes before my alarm clock every day, nudging my with his wet nose. Once I’m up and we’ve cuddled, he starts on my husband. I think he just likes to have us around, and the feeling is mutual.

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

Baxter loves his daily walks, so I think he would encourage people to exercise with their dogs. We pass a lot of homes with dogs barking and whining behind fences, and I bet they would give just about anything to join us.

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

He’s getting a bit older now, and sometimes it takes him a while to find the right place to situate himself. I wish he could tell me when he was comfortable, or explain specifically what was bothering him. I hope we have a good, long time together ahead of us.

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

That’s a tricky question, since he’s a medium-sized dog with a large-sized bark. I’ll have to give more thought to this, but my on-the-spot answer would be Morgan Freeman, for no other reasons than I love his voice, and there’s a certain amount of dignity and gravitas that matches Baxter’s character, too.

What advice would Baxter give if asked?

He would definitely tell me to relax. He’s got that down, and I’m wound somewhat tight.

Visit Paula Treick DeBoard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Karen Odden & Rosy

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Karen Odden, freelance editor and writer; my Victorian mystery novel A Lady in the Smoke was just published as an e-book by Alibi. And this is Rosy. She’s a true beagle—one of the smaller, 13” variety—and we’re not sure how old she is because we got her as a rescue. The vet took a look at her teeth and guessed she was five; so Rosy is probably around twelve years old now. You can see the white of her muzzle. But she’s still spry! And she’s so darn cute that a few weeks ago, a stranger stopped me and asked if she could take a photo of Rosy for her grandchildren. Really.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Rosy and I have our daily routine. The mornings in Arizona are just stunning—in the 70s and breezy, for another few weeks—so we usually walk then. I have a Keurig, and after I get the kids off to school, I make some flavored coffee (hazelnut, pumpkin spice, or vanilla) and put it into my reusable mug. Then I say, “Rosy, do you want to go for a walk?” She bounds around, ears flapping. I say, “Paws,” and she rolls onto her back, so I can put on her harness. Coffee in my right hand, leash in my left, we head out for a three-mile walk that she knows by heart.

What's brewing?

My favorite fancy drink is an iced vanilla latte if I’m out, especially as it’s beginning to heat up in Arizona. But I usually just make myself my Keurig cuppa with milk and a bit of French Vanilla creamer in the morning.

Any treats for you or Rosy on this occasion?

Oh, yes. When we return, Rosy gets her Greenie Bone. If I forget, she follows me around until I get the message.

How were you and Rosy united?

It was all my daughter Julia’s doing. I have never had a dog growing up, never had a roommate with a dog, never really understood the charm of dogs, although I have met some nice ones. But Julia Wanted A Dog. Being eight years old, she launched a clever and persistent campaign. First, she recruited her father to her cause. Next, she started taking quizzes with him on-line to find out what sort of dog would do well with our family. Then she started sending me pictures of cute beagles. Then my husband found out about BeagleFest. (Who knew there were enough beagles in Arizona for a three-day festival?!) Well, we went down to Tempe; Julia found the Beagle Rescue Society booth; and somehow I found myself with a clipboard that had papers on it, and a pen in my hand … and … well … Rosy was perfect. A week in, and I was charmed. She’d hike with me, curl up on the couch with us to watch TV, never howled annoyingly, and made my son Kyle feel like he was no longer the “baby” of the family. Kyle was five, and he’d measure her food very carefully and earnestly, to be sure she was getting just the right amount, as (he would soberly remind us) beagles have a tendency to gain weight. Yes, Rosy kicked out the walls of all our hearts to make a spot for herself.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Rosy was the name she came with. No aliases. She would no doubt travel incognito because it’s more glamorous, except that she gets carsick.

Does Rosy do more to help or hinder your writing?

Oh, she definitely helps. She sits in the chair in my office and offers moral support. And I’m in the habit of working out scenes and characters’ back-stories while I walk. She’s a good listener.

Has Rosy inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet, but she may!

Cat, postman, squirrel...road-runner?

She’ll bark when there’s someone at the front door, but it’s just a lot of noise. She’s a nose-down road-runner herself. Someone told me beagles are noses on four legs. It’s true. Sometimes she’s like one of those Iditarod dogs, nose to the ground, tearing along.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She turns up her small black nose at them. They’re undignified.

Who is Rosy's best pet-pal?

Probably Henry, my friend Cindy’s dog. (In the photo [left], you see the pair of them suffering the indignity of Santa outfits in December. Their third friend, Benji, offered to call PETA on their behalf.) But Rosy has never really connected with other dogs. She’s more of a people dog.

What is Rosy's best quality?

She’s totally game. For hiking. For walking. For sitting on the couch. For following us from room to room. For trying new foods. Salmon is a current favorite.

If Rosy could change one thing about Arizonans, what would it be?

She probably wouldn’t change anything about Arizonans; but she’d change the heat of the summer pavement that burns her paws.

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

What makes you happiest?

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

Abigail Breslin! Love her.

What advice would Rosy give if asked?

Wag more. Bark less. Pay attention to the people around you. Always be ready for a walk. Relish soft pillows. And don’t be afraid to show someone your underbelly. Usually they will rub it.

Visit Karen Odden's website.

Writers Read: Karen Odden.

The Page 69 Test: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Lady in the Smoke.


--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tracy Walker & Skylar

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Tracy from Austin, Texas, by day I do PR and community outreach for a radio station and by night I write about the sweet things in life including my puppy and food!

Skylar is my sweet ‘puppy’, although she turns 9 this month she’ll always be my puppy. She’s a beagle and I adopted her 5 years ago from Austin’s Hound Rescue.

She’s my first dog as an adult. She has changed me in so many ways and I am forever grateful to her.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

What’s not to love about pancakes and coffee?

Skylar and I love to go to an Austin landmark eatery called Kerbey Lane CafĂ©. If you visit Austin you must be sure to visit Kerbey Lane (head to the original on the actual Kerbey Lane). They’re open 24/7 and serve breakfast all day and they have a dog friendly patio. Skylar’s a big fan of pancakes and so is mom!

So we frequently have coffee and pancakes at Kerbey Lane!

What's brewing?

I’m so old school. Mr. Coffee meets Gevalia. I don’t subscribe to the Gevalia club, although I once did. Ssshh don’t tell anyone.

I’m segueing into tea, yes chai tea. I’m moving towards giving up coffee and it’s a slow process. I’m not going down easy. There’s lots of kicking and screaming happening in our household.

When we’re grabbing coffee out, it’s regular coffee with hazelnut cream. The best.

Any treats for you or Skylar on this occasion?

On outings we always take a snack pack for Skylar with peanut butter cookies or cheese sticks (a doggie treat)…all natural of course.

We never leave home without her popup bowl.

How were you and Skylar united?

Austin’s Hound Rescue brought us together. She was my third try. After two dramatic failed attempts with other beagles they brought this older gal over to my house.

She immediately took to my side while walking. Of course trained already, the girl was mild and easy going. Just like me.

The more we’ve been around each other I’ve discovered we’re more alike than I realized. We’re both head strong. Stubborn actually. Skylar likes things her way, and well, so do I. Either she can’t hear or pretends not to hear. And I can’t hear. Not as well as I used to. Maybe it’s too many concert promotions that I’ve been a part of.

Even at her age and mine for that matter, we’re both athletic and love to run sprints.

She’s got a set of wheels on her and so do I. Mine are from years of teaching dance and fitness classes as a hobby. Hers are genetic.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

I adopted Skylar and kept her original name. At first, I was disappointed she didn’t have a ‘normal doggie name’.

Weeks passed and I realized why in the world would I have wanted to change her name? She’s perfect in every sense. She’s more than I could have ever have hopped for in a dog, in a companion, in a friend or a confidant.

I love her just the way she is. She’s precious in every way, just like me. This is one of the greatest things Skylar has taught me.

Skylar has so many nick names it’s a wonder she’s not confused all the time.

“Baby Bug”, cause she’s a love bug, a snuggle bug all in one!

“Biddles”, cause one day I combined two terms of endearment, Little & Bug somehow came out Biddles.

Does Skylar have a role at your blog's headquarters?

Skylar’s my co-pilot in every thing. She’s the head of creativity and actively participates in the imaginative brainstorming process. Many times she provides the content. Skylar is the ultimate networker among people and can be a real self promoter when she’s on her game.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Neither. She doesn’t chase anything. I’m not sure of the environment she was raised in. But she is kind, sweet, gentle, and she loves me.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Skylar is ‘no toy and all snuggle’. She’ll take a blankey, a pillow or mom’s goose down comforter any day.

Who is Skylar's best pet-pal?

Skylar’s her own girl. She keeps to herself and she likes it that way. Her best pal is the bunny in the yard. His name is Rockey. She’s happy go lucky even when he’s in the yard.

What is Skylar's best quality?

She is oh so affectionate. So sweet.

Where is Skylar's favorite outdoor destination?

Any restaurant with a patio, especially one that serves queso.

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

She has changed so much in me by showing me who I really am; precious just as I am, lovable, and worth it.

I know she would like me to be around more. She would change my schedule. I work a full time job and teach fitness classes some evenings.

The ultimate situation would be a dog friendly work place. She’s great in the office, she’ll lay under my desk at my feet and snooze.

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

What was your childhood like? I’d love to know about her siblings and her living situation, what made her as she is today.

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

Jody Foster. She’s tough, she stands on her own, is smart and in good shape. She’s reserved and not altogether outgoing but sweet as can be, gentle too.

She can be a force to reckoned with and relentless. She likes to know the lay of the land.

What advice would Skylar give if asked?

I will take care of you no matter what. Our God is a big God and He is capable of mighty things. There is a Heaven. So please don’t worry one second because worrying is useless and wasteful. Even when we part, we will be together again.

Visit Tracy Walker's blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cheryl Isola & Emma Jean and Buddy James

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello, I am Cheryl Isola and I am the proud founder of Team Healthy and Happy. Our mission is to help busy, working moms find more balance in their lives through healthy habits (which helps themselves and their families). Our motto is "You must take care of yourself before you can care for others."

I invite you to visit my blog and read more about my story.

Since I was a little girl I have always been a huge dog lover, and treat my pups as members of the family. On the left is my beautiful Basset Hound, Emma Jean, age 13, and on the right is my handsome Labrador, Buddy James, age 12. They live with me, my husband, Jim, son, Erik (17), and daughter, Kelly (13).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We just finished a short walk in our neighborhood on this cool, brisk Spring Day. The dogs love to "chillax" with me out on the front porch. Buddy and Emma love to be outside.

What's brewing?

I am a drinking an ice cold Cafe Latte Shakeology shake, delicious to drink and loaded with nutrients.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Buddy and Emma love to have their special "cookies", all natural, yummy treats from the Blue Dog Bakery.

How were you and Buddy and Emma united?

We adopted Emma on Valentine's Day in 2004, when she was around 1 year old from Tri-State Basset Rescue. She was found as a stray eating out of a trash can. We adopted Buddy at age 7 from Centre County Paws- his former owner had filed bankruptcy, was forced to move in with family, and would not allow dogs in their house. Buddy was not always good with other dogs so the workers at Paws were not sure how he would do around Emma. It was amazing- Buddy loved her right away. It was like he knew this was his ticket to have his "forever home". Emma and Buddy are quite an odd looking couple but they are happily bonded. Last Spring we had a scare with Buddy when his stomach turned. He was rushed to the emergency vet for surgery, and did not come home for 2 days. Emma was lost without Buddy, and spent the whole 2 days sleeping in his bed....soooo sweet!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

We actually just kept their rescue names, but they each have a couple of nicknames. We call Buddy, "Good Boy", "Budrick", "Buddy James" and we call Emma, "Joan" which was derived from her middle name, Jean. When she is in trouble, we call her by her 1st and middle name, "Emma Jean" (and if you know anything about Bassets, she gets in trouble more than her mellow, yellow, brother, Buddy. Bassets can be stubborn, and Emma is no exception- she is quite the Diva.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Emma and Buddy both do not care for cats, and will bark at the postman and the UPS man. Buddy's bark is way worse than his bite. Emma is beginning to lose her hearing so she sleeps through some of the normal outside sounds these days. The hound in her still has an incredible sense of smell. Beware of leaving any small snacks in tote bags around the house- she will find them.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Buddy and Emma are not too much into toys any more, but back in the day, Emma loved to play tug-of-war with her rope, and Buddy loved to chase after a tennis ball in the yard. Buddy does have a brown pillow (used to be the one on our couch- ha!) that he holds in his mouth, like his security blanket. He also "retrieves" it for us when we return home, or before he goes out in the morning.

What is each dog's best quality?

Buddy is the protector and the guardian of our family. Emma is dependent and loyal. She includes herself as a "human" in all of our family activities. Emma would never want anyone to feel left out.

If Buddy and Emma could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They wish I would stay home with them everyday, all day!

If Buddy and Emma could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

You are both getting older now, what is on your "bucket list"?

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

I would definitely choose Jennifer Lopez to play the voice of Emma (since she could really nail her diva personality).

I think Will Ferrell, could play the voice of our Buddy. When he was Buddy the Elf he was kind and loving, just like our Buddy.

What advice would Buddy and Emma give if asked?

Family is everything- always stay with the pack!

Visit Cheryl Isola's Team Healthy and Happy blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 11, 2016

Con Lehane & Lola

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Con Lehane, a mystery writer. I live in Kensington, Maryland. But my books are set in New York, where my heart is. My pal here is Lola, an almost eight-year old Rottweiler, whom my son acquired when he was in college. Even so, she’s been with me over the past eight years more than with anyone else, since I’ve been retired and writing full-time for almost as long as she’s been around. We take a walk around the neighborhood early in the morning after everyone else in the household—except for the cat and the chihuahua—have gone to work and gotten out of the way. She’s friends with the kids at the bus stop and most of the dogs in the neighborhood. She’s picked up a touch of arthritis since she’s gotten older and doesn’t play in the park or with her friend the lab next door as much as she used.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We have coffee at home after the walk, at least I do. I feed her and the rest of the crew and then me breakfast. After breakfast, I finish the newspaper and my coffee, and Lola chews a rawhide strip. Then I get to work and she goes to sleep.

What's brewing?

Free trade French roast coffee, black, no sugar.

Any treats for you or Lola on this occasion?

Her rawhide and an occasional dog treat.

How were you and Lola united?

My son got the dog near the end of college and began leaving her here as he traveled (to law school for three years, for example). I was actually worried when he got a Rottweiler, based on their reputation as fearsome dogs, so I demanded that everyone in the family get to know her really well when she was a puppy, so she knew her place when she grew up to be ninety pounds or so. She turned out to be the sweetest dog imaginable, as I said, friends with kids, dogs, everyone but the mailman.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

My son named her Lola.

Does Lola do more to help or hinder your writing?

When things get bogged down in my writing—fairly often—I like to walk. Lola’s pretty good at helping with that. We’re both the poking along, as opposed to the brisk, sort of walkers, though she does a lot more sniffing than I do.

Has Lola inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Actually, in my latest book—not Murder at the 42nd Street Library, which comes out in April—the one I just turned in, the second in the series, a dog enters the story near then end and he’ll stay around for future episodes.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Lola lives with a cat. She used to chase him once in a while. He’s an older, ornery sort and put her in her place early on. They’re not friends but they get along. The chihuahua has more battles with the cat. The cat’s pretty much undefeated in those also.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

She did all those in the old days, not so much these days. She’s content with her rawhide.

Who is Lola's best pet-pal?

I mentioned the lab next door whom she played with as a puppy. Later on, she fell in love with a really big lab named Murphy, who visited the neighbors frequently. She’d always know when he arrived next door. She’d run to wherever I was, whimpering and hopping around. At first, I had no idea what was going on with her. After a couple of times, I realized she only acted like that when Murphy arrived next door. Sure enough, I’d look out the window and there would be Murph, the true indomitable spirit. They’d growl and snarl and throw each other around the (neighbor’s) yard for hours. Fortunately, everyone—the neighbors, Murphy’s owner, me—was okay with their friendship.

What is Lola's best quality?

She’s absolutely loyal and amazingly protective, as gentle and sweet as she is. She’s also a peacemaker among dogs. Next door or in the dog park, if a couple of dogs start going at each other, she jumps on them and breaks up the fight. She’d make a good bartender.

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

She would have me give her more treats, more often and have me go the way she wants to go when we’re walking, rather than the way I want to go. The way she wants to go is always through the park and up the street to Petsmart, where she gets treats from the cashiers.

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

Does something hurt? Where does it hurt? She never really lets on if she’s in pain. You sort of have to figure it out because she’s being quieter than normal or something like that.

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

I really don’t know on this one, maybe Kate Winslet.

What advice would Lola give if asked?

Be nice to everyone, sort of walk softly and show them your big teeth.

Visit Con Lehane's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Kiera Stewart & Casper

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm on the left. My name is Kiera Stewart and I'm an author for teens and tweens. Casper's on the right. He's a 14-year-old mutt whose main ingredients are yellow Lab and White Shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It's a sacred and honored daily ritual for us. There are no exceptions.

What's brewing?

Taylor Maid Farms (local to Sonoma County). I tend to go French Roast, whole bean, and I grind them in overly loud, insanely short-corded bean grinder that I found at Goodwill. The cord is so short that you actually have to hold the grinder about three inches from the wall socket, but every obnoxious second is well worth it. I drink it with half-and-half only -- the real thing, never the fat-free version.

Any treats for you or Casper on this occasion?

I think he got a few cucumber slices, which are extremely high-ranking in his treat list.

How were you and Casper united?

Twelve years ago, I adopted Casper from Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA), an organization in Northern Virginia that provides temporary homes for shelter dogs/cats until they can find families. Casper has an interesting past -- he came from an animal hoarder in West Virginia. Whoever this person was, I believe he/she was a good-hearted person who meant well but perhaps got a little carried away, because Casper has been a gentle little spirit from the start. He was about two years old when I adopted him, but I often daydream about what he must have looked/been like as a puppy.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He came to us pre-named. My family and I did try to come up with something else we could agree on, just because the name Casper sounded way too "friendly ghost." I wanted to go with Cassius, but I was outvoted. We couldn't agree on anything else, so the name stuck. After a while, it became apparent that he was always sort of a Casper anyway. Still, that doesn't stop me from trying to change it from time to time. He may or may not occasionally answer to Capicola, Swedish (Meatball), and Chico.

Does Casper do more to help or hinder your writing?

I actually credit Casper with the fact that I'm published at all. I was writing at the time we adopted him, but wasn't have much luck getting past very bad rough drafts. But once he became part of the family, I found myself interested in lots of dog-training programs -- Animal Planet and National Geographic Channel had some really good ones at the time. The shows got me thinking about what would happen if you used adaptations of some of these dog-training techniques in social settings, particularly the most challenging ones. Like middle school, which I remember all too well. This sparked the idea behind Fetching, which landed me a wonderful agent and a book deal with Disney-Hyperion, and has allowed me to continue writing middle-grade books. My second novel, How to Break a Heart, came out in December 2015, and my third novel, Summer of Bad Ideas, with HarperCollins Children's Books, is expected to release in 2017.

Has Casper inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Yes! Oomlot (intentional misspelling) is the Fetching version of Casper.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Believe it or not, none of the above or anywhere else. Casper chases nothing. He's pretty much been an old man since he was a puppy.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

He also chews nothing. Sometimes I'm sure he thinks he's above all of those normal-dog urges. Except occasional discreet humping attempts at the small dog park.

Who is Casper's best pet-pal?

He's more of a people-person than an animal person, but he did seem to like Delta, a puppy pal, who came for a recent visit. Of course, they had to work out some issues first. They may look pretty innocent in the picture here [photo right], but this photo was taken shortly after both peed on the rug.

What is Casper's best quality?

Consideration. In his fourteenth year, he's started becoming a little weaker in the bladder. But amazingly, he more often than not finds his way to the shower stall when the need strikes. So, I'd say he scores very high the category of being a considerate pet.

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

They would be Northern Virginians or Metro-DCers. He still hasn't really forgiven me for moving him across the country.*

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

What sort of vital and important messages do you give/receive through the whole 'marking your territory' business?

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

Rex Harrison. If you're wondering what he sounds like, just think of Stewie's voice from Family Guy.

What advice would Casper give if asked?

* Don't get into that crate.

Visit Kiera Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue