Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tracey S. Phillips & Jack and Mimi

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Tracey S. Phillips, debut author of Best Kept Secrets. I write psychological fiction about dark female characters. I live in Wisconsin with my husband and 2 dogs, Jack [right] and Mimi [left].

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning I wake up early to write. So it’s always take your dog to work day at my house. After feeding them, I take my warm cup to the lower level where Jack always lays by my feet or on the couch beside my desk while I’m writing. Mimi joins us when she feels like it. She’s more the fickle female type. She goes where she wants and does what she pleases.

What's brewing?

It used to be 2 cups of dark roast coffee but lately I’ve switched to Irish Breakfast Tea. Coffee made me too jittery after writing tense, scary scenes. I had to scale back the caffeine intake. (laughs out loud!)

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

The dogs get treats all the time! I’ll tell you a funny story about Jack. When he was a puppy, we had a long and very cold winter here, like there are never long cold winters in Wisconsin. He was a very active dog (still is for a 12 year old) and we needed to keep him busy. So we spent time teaching him tricks. He learned how to sit up, roll over, shake, pound it (with a fist), speak, and even play dead. If you shoot him with your finger and say “Bang!” he falls over, dead. He’s very treat motivated so he’ll perform these tricks any time for a handful of Charlie Bears. Funny thing about him though, we could never teach him to come when he was called. Now, they get treats for coming in the house every time. It works!

How were you and Jack and Mimi united?

Jack and Mimi are our angel dogs. Jack was 6 weeks old when my mom-in-law bought him. At the time, my dad-in-law was dying of cancer. Little Jack was way too much dog for them to care for so they couldn’t keep him. My kids were 11 and 14 at the time, and they were delighted to take him. A few months later, my dad-in-law passed away.

Mimi was my mom’s dog and she was a rescue. We don’t know much about her past, only that she lived on the street and had at least 2 litters. She a tough chick and she’ll let Jack know when he’s crossed some invisible line. Mimi came home with me last October after my mom died in hospice care. In those last few days, I went to visit my mom (who lived in Indianapolis) with the intention of bringing Mimi home. I have some amazing stories of Mimi around that time. She absolutely knew what was happening and once I arrived, she wouldn’t let me out of her sight.

Right after my mom passed away, family members lined up at her bedroom door to say their goodbyes. I hugged each person before they entered and at the end of the line, Mimi stood up on her back feet. She needed a hug too. Of course, I picked her up and held her.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Not for Mimi, but Jack was named after some of my favorite fictional characters: Jack Skellington, Jack Bower (24) and Captain Jack Sparrow. He has many, many nicknames and I’m pretty sure he knows them all. We have called him Bug, Buggie, Bugswell, Butthead, Jackson, and Jack-alope. Together they are the Mups as in muppet-pups. They remind me of Dr. Seuss creatures and when their hair gets long, they get Grinch feet.

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

I think they know when I’m writing. Mostly, they are quiet and respectful right up until it’s time to go for a walk. They have an internal clock or something that goes off about 10 AM. Then they get fidgety and restless. Jack will paw at my leg and Mimi whines. Her whine sounds like whale-talk. My husband calls her Orca sometimes.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

My other job is teaching piano lessons from my home. The dogs love it because of the constant parade of students. And it means more attention, and treats. They do tend to bark at everyone as they come into the house. No one seems to care though. Jack and Mimi are just saying hello.

Sometimes Jack sits on my lap while I’m teaching. They both like listening to the music.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

That has to be my neighbors house. Tom and Phyllis always have treats for the neighborhood dogs. We can’t walk past without the dogs pulling me toward their door.

What do they eat?

Jack and Mimi can attribute their good looks and longevity to a healthy diet. Aside from Iam’s mature dog food, I make lean turkey burger and they get frozen peas added to their meal. For snacks, they eat pears, orange pieces and apples. Jack likes banana chunks but Mimi won’t eat that. She absolutely loves cucumbers and mushrooms. I could toss anything to Jack and he would swallow it whole, even his pills!

If Jack and Mimi could change one thing about Wisconsinites, what would it be?

The dogs love people, so that isn’t an issue for them. I think they would change the local weather though. They don’t like the long winters here, but neither do I.

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

I would ask Jack why he is such a nervous dog. He has polydipsia—a condition where he tends to drink way too much water. We have to ration it, ½ cup at a time or he finishes it all. When he’s upset, he asks for water often. I think it’s like a pacifier for him.

If you look into Mimi’s eyes, you’ll think she is very wise. I’d ask her what her life was like before my mom. You can tell she’s been through a lot.

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

Bill Murray for Jack! No question and Meryl Streep for Mimi because she needs a mature, wise voice.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

These two give me enough inspiration. And I try to put a dog in every book. You’ll notice Morgan Jewell’s boyfriend Rob has a German shepherd named Gretta. Gretta gets a good amount of page-time in Best Kept Secrets.

Visit Tracey S. Phillips's website and view pictures of Jack and Mimi on Instagram.

My Book, The Movie: Best Kept Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: Best Kept Secrets.


--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Lisa M. Miller & Daisy

Who is in the photo at right?

The sweet pup to the right is Daisy. She is a three-year-old West Highland Terrier who is as friendly as she is cute. My name is Lisa M. Miller, and I write books that make you want to sleep with the lights on. I help readers face the unknown from the comfort of their reading spaces.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The morning routine consists of French press coffee with Daisy by my side. It's not the smell of fresh ground beans that motivates Daisy, but the sound of the toaster.

What's brewing?

Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend Dark Roast in the French press.

Any treats for you or Daisy on this occasion?

Daisy is enjoying a pumpkin treat from her favorite gourmet shop, Three Dog Bakery. We splurged on some fancy snacks, it is her birthday month after all!

How were you and Daisy united?

A few years ago, we surprised our sons with a huge Christmas present. As they opened a box for an Xbox gaming system, out jumped a ten week-old Westie.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

She is named after Daisy Buchanan, without all of the Gatsby drama.

Does Daisy do more to help or hinder your writing?

Before I settle in to write or edit, she needs to go for a walk or play with her basket of toys. If not, I will find a pile of stuffed animals at my feet or barking directed towards her leash.

Please tell us about your new novel.

My new YA Thriller, My Skull Possession, released on October 15th, the same day as Daisy's birthday.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

She gets along with cats, greets the postman, but she loathes squirrels. She has a daily race along the fence, hoping her nemesis loses his balance as he scurries along the top of the posts.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She loves her nesting toys. A small plush stump with, what else, little squirrels inside.

Where is Daisy's favorite outdoor destination?

Daisy has visited the beach a few times. She is not a fan of the water but loves hanging out with her family.

Who is Daisy's best pet-pal?

Daisy has a doppelganger who lives down the street from us. She and Mia are good pals.

What is Daisy's best quality?

She is a delightful little dog with a great disposition. But if she senses something is wrong, look out. She'll protect her family with a big dog attitude.

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

Less screen time. More fresh air and green time.

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

Do you know how unbelievably cute and loved you are?

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

Michelle Williams. Her response when told she gets to go for more walks, “Oh, how gorgeous!”

What advice would Daisy give if asked?

Life is short. Take the trip. Eat the cake. If you don't, I will.

Watch a trailer for My Skull Possession.

Visit Lisa M. Miller's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Katy McQuaid & Grace

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Grace with me, Katy McQuaid. I’m the author of a children’s book series, "Everybody Loves Grace." I am also the founder of McQuaid Corporate Performance, LLC, and my goal is to support people and organizations in experiencing successful, meaningful, and empowered transformations. Grace is a 12-year-old Finnish Lapphund who came to live with me when she was four years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Grace and I recently went on a road trip to Boerne, Texas to release her third book, Everybody Loves Grace: An Amazing True Story of Grace’s Adventure to Texas. While there we met for coffee with LeeAnn, a dear friend, who used take care of Grace’s big brother Tinto when I lived in Texas. We met at a new coffee shop in Fair Oaks Ranch called The Spotted Deer.

What's brewing?

I’m a pretty simple coffee drinker, just the house drip and I take it black.

Any treats for you or Grace on this occasion?

Ha, that’s a great question. I ordered a delicious egg sandwich on a homemade bagel with pesto, cheese and bacon. It was yummy and I shared some of my eggs with Grace.

How were you and Grace united?

Grace came to me when she was four years old. I was looking for a companion for Tinto who was my 15-year old Finnish Lapphund at the time. Tinto advised me it would be okay to get another dog as long as it wasn’t a puppy and it was a female. He also said it would be best if it was another Lappie. Armed with his request, I went on a hunt for an adult female Lappie that needed a home.

It turns out there was a family on a farm who needed to find a home for Grace. They offered to put her on a plane and send her to me. I met Grace for the first time at the Denver International Airport in May 2011.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Grace came to me with a different name and I called her by that name for two years. Finally, after two years of my veterinary doctors telling me her name wasn’t really Malia, the name Grace kept popping in my head. I decided while sitting in my veterinarian's office one day that I would change her name to Grace. I later learned that her mother’s name was Amazing Grace.

Grace has all sorts of nicknames such as Bear, Sweet Pea, and Lover Bear. I have to say, she truly is one of the most graceful dogs you’ll ever meet. Her name suits her perfectly.

Does Grace do more to help or hinder your writing?

Grace is a huge help with my writing. I just let her know it’s time for me to write and while I write she goes into “her office” which is the guest bathroom. She is truly amazing. Without fail, Grace knows when I’m finished writing and she emerges from her office, greets me, and asks to go for a walk.

In addition to supporting me when I’m actually writing, she gives me wonderful material to use in the "Everybody Loves Grace" books, blogs, and articles. She gives me so much material to write about just in our daily walks. Grace brings love to everyone she meets, and she makes a difference in people’s lives every single day.

Please tell us about your "Everybody Loves Grace" series.

The “Everybody Loves Grace” illustrated books are true stories told from the perspective of Grace. While they are written in a fun, light, and humorous tone, they also address some of the most challenging situations people encounter in life.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Grace is very curious about cats. She loves to look at them and watch them from a distance. She is very respectful of other animals and their space.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Her favorite toy is a soft pink bone. She loves to run down the hall with it on our way to the elevator.

Where is Grace's favorite outdoor destination?

Anywhere that involves a park, hike, mountains, or a road trip. Grace is an amazing traveler in the car. She likes our quick trips to the mountains outside of Denver as much as our long road trips to Texas and the East Coast.

Who is Grace's best pet-pal?

Grace’s best pal is Aunt Carol who watches her when I have to be out of town or travel for my consulting business. She loves to sit by Aunt Carol’s feet as she works at home on her computer. She also loves to take Aunt Carol to Ace Hardware on her walks so she can get treats from the salesclerk.

What is Grace's best quality?

Grace’s most endearing quality is her ability to look deeply into someone’s eyes and all the way into their heart. Grace reminds us that "Everybody Needs Grace" and her gift of presence is her greatest gift.

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

Grace would ask me to have more fun, not take life so seriously, and to take her on more road trips. She has asked me on more than one occasion to let my light shine for people to see.

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

Where do you want to go on our next road trip?

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

My vision is to have Grace’s story made into a movie or cartoon series. Drew Barrymore would be the perfect voice of Grace.

What advice would Grace give if asked?

* Simple acts of kindness can have a profound effect on others; they can even change lives.
* Have the courage to move forward through life's changes and trust that things will turn out well.
* We can choose to turn uncertain situations into positive experiences.
* Every day is an adventure and the journey is an important part of every adventure.
* Good things can happen on the “trail less traveled.”
* Moving to a new place is a chance for new beginnings and the opportunity to make new, special friends.

Visit the Everybody Needs Grace website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Lincoln Mitchell & Isis

Who is in the photo at right?
Photo credit: Randi Klein

The photo is me, Lincoln Mitchell, and my beloved Isis. I am a consultant and writer who works on a number of different projects. I write a great deal about politics, baseball and San Francisco. When possible, I try to write about all these things together. I also evaluate US foreign assistance projects in different countries and teach political science at Columbia University. Isis is a nine and a half year old female goldendoodle. She is an extraordinarily mellow, sweet and even tempered beast.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I like this neighborhood café because they have great WiFi, good non-dairy drink options and mostly because they love dogs. I can come here to get out of the house for a few hours without having to leave Isis at home. Isis does not like being alone, so I try to take her with me as much as possible.

What's brewing?

Hot chocolate made with almond milk. I try to avoid dairy as much as possible, but love chocolate. Isis drinks water.

Any treats for you or Isis on this occasion?

I gave Isis her favorite fish treat, before we left the house. I think she might be part seal as she loves fish so much.

How were you and Isis united?

When my younger son was five, he asked if we could get a dog. He then asked every day for three more years. We finally gave in and said yes. I had never had a dog before, but decided that if we were going to get a dog, I would try to throw myself into the experience. My younger son and my mother are both allergic to dogs, so we had to get a hypoallergenic breed. It may have taken a full 45 seconds after meeting Isis before I fell in love with her. She and my younger son remain extremely close. That five year old boy is now a 6’3” high school senior, but he still sleeps with Isis in his bed many nights. My mother also adores Isis and brings her a bone every time she comes to New York from San Francisco to visit.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Well, if you name your dog Isis this question comes up a lot. She got the name Isis because my older son was 11 and studying Egyptian mythology in school when we started talking about dog names, so he proposed Isis. The rest of us thought it was a cool name and agreed. I also thought of the Bob Dylan song “Isis” which is a great tune. We call her a number of nicknames now because sometimes yelling “Isis!” in Central Park can create some problems. I call her Icy or Icicle a lot. Sometimes I call her Fierceness, for the same reason you call the bald guy curly.

Does Isis do more to help or hinder your writing?

She is a fantastic writing assistant. She is very quiet. She has never once barked when I am on a call or doing an interview. Every now and then she pokes her head between my arm and my chest when I am writing so I can pet her, but that is hardly a problem. Isis also forces me to get out of the house every 4-6 hours when I am writing no matter the weather. She loves the New York City winters unless it drops below ten degrees. However, she falls asleep on the job pretty much every day.

I'm aware Isis merits mention in your new book. Please tell us about San Francisco Year Zero.

San Francisco Year Zero is about San Francisco in 1978, but rather than focus on only the assassinations and Jonestown, I also examine the role of the nascent punk rock movement of that time and take a close look at the Giants 1978 season, when they were in first place for three months and for much of the year were the big story in the city. San Francisco Year Zero does more than just describe that extraordinary, tumultuous, exciting and tragic year. I also argue that the roots of the San Francisco of today, where social tolerance and some radical politics coincide with a real estate and tech driven economic boom that has created massive income inequality and myriad challenges related to that, has its roots in the events of 1978.

The book is well-researched, drawing on numerous sources including dozens of interviews with people ranging from Hank Greenwald to Jello Biafra to Allen Bennett, the rabbi at Sha’ar Zahav (the San Francisco synagogue Harvey Milk attended), but it is not academic in tone. Rather, it is an accessible non-fiction style that also has elements of first-person narrative as I grew up in San Francisco.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Isis loves to chase squirrels. Sometimes when I take her to Central Park for her midday walk, I let her go off-leash to chase squirrels, even though she is supposed to be on a leash at that hour. Tourists often stop and photograph this. Isis have never caught a squirrel and would have no idea what to do if she did.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Isis will occasionally play with a ball, but she seems much more interested in her human and canine friends.

Who is Isis's best pet-pal?

Isis’s best friend is another goldendoodle with the unlikely name of Wrinkle Hot Dog Astronaut. Wrinkle’s family are very close relatives of ours, so the two dogs see each other a lot. Whenever one family goes out town and cannot bring the dog, the other family takes care of both dogs. Wrinkle is higher energy than Isis, but they have a lot of fun together.

What is Isis's best quality?

Isis has many fantastic qualities. She is very sweet, even tempered and playful. However, her best quality is how attuned she is to the emotional state of the people in her life. Twice since Isis has been part of our lives, I have lost close relatives. On both occasions, for days afterwards Isis was reluctant to leave my side and was extremely supportive of me and my family.

If Isis could change one thing about New Yorkers, what would it be?

I just asked her that question and she looked up and wagged her tail, so I have to try to interpret that. I suspect Isis would like New Yorkers to slow down a little bit so that they could pet her more when she goes out for walks. A lot of people stop to pet her, but amazingly, they all have things to do and cannot spend hours petting a dog they just met.

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

I would ask her if there was anything I could do to make her life happier. I assume that because she is mellow, healthy and affectionate that she is happy, but I would like to know that for sure-and do what I could to make her happy if she is not.

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

Dame Judi Dench would be great to voice Isis. I have learned that if you name your dog after a goddess, she acts like one. Dench’s imperious tone, but also comic timing, would reflect how Isis expects the world to come to her.

What advice would Isis give if asked?

For my son’s tenth birthday, Isis went to the pet store and bought him a dog tag that said “Be Here Now” on one side and “Roll With The Punches” on the other. That was Isis’s advice then. I suspect it is the same now.

Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Maria Goodavage & Gus

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Gus, on one of our first coffee dates back in 2016. As I had done when my human child was a puppy (she’s now 22), I brought Gus something comfy and some toys to keep him occupied. I live in San Francisco, which is full of dog-friendly eateries with outdoor tables, so I wanted him to get used to chilling out with me at these places early in life.

The other person is me, Maria Goodavage. I’m a journalist, formerly of USA Today, who long ago started writing about dogs. My previous three nonfiction books, Soldier Dogs, Top Dog, and Secret Service Dogs, made the New York Times bestseller list, which made my tail wag. The books are about the brave, faithful, smart, good dogs who protect and save lives alongside their handlers in the military and the Secret Service. My next book comes out October 1, and I’m really excited about it. It’s called Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine. Gus is no doctor dog, but he appears in the book as kind of a representative of the “everydog.”

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I got up early for a taped radio segment about Doctor Dogs. Being on the West coast has many advantages but interviews with people on the East Coast in the morning can be a bit early for my night-owl brain (today’s was at 9:30 Eastern, so 6:30 Pacific). Coffee politely but firmly ushers the sandman out of my brain.

What's brewing?

I graduated into the world of coffee only a few years ago, and for a long time I needed my coffee to taste like melted ice-cream, with loads of cream and sugar. My coffee esthetic has matured slightly since then, but I still prefer a gentle brew, nothing too dark or robust, and have about one-third the amount of cream and sugar as I used to.

Today I’m enjoying “House Blend Wind & Sea” from Andytown Coffee Roasters, which has three shops in my neighborhood near the beach. The description on the little bag: “Sweet, bold, and best paired with a foggy day,” and indeed it’s a foggy morning so far! I grind my beans and do a pour-over. I’m drinking it with a little half and half and honey (ran out of sugar!) in a big “Dutton” mug, which was a holiday gift a few years ago from the publisher I’ve had for my last four books. In the background, the foghorn bellows.

Any treats for you or Gus on this occasion?

I recently got back from a month in rural Japan, and I miss it, so I’m enjoying a couple of flavorful rice crackers. Gus had breakfast and a brisk off-leash walk at the beach after my radio interview, so he’s snoozing. No treats needed.

How were you and Gus united?

I’ve adopted my previous dogs, but Gus has a special story. He is a “Kory Wiens and Cooper memorial puppy” – a living memorial to a fallen soldier and his military working dog. Gus was given to me by the father of Army dog handler Kory Wiens, who was killed by an IED along with his yellow Lab, Cooper, in Iraq in 2007. I didn't have the fortune of knowing Kory, but he was an important part of my book Top Dog. After Kory’s death, his dad, Kevin, started taking in yellow Labs to feel as if some part of his son was still with him. Kory used to call his dog Cooper “my son” because they were so close, and having these Labs literally surrounding Kevin when he sat in his EZ chair in his doublewide mobile home in Oregon made him feel less empty.

Kevin and I kept in touch after our interviews. It turned out one of his dogs was an unspayed female, and he asked some people who were special in his life if they would like to have a memorial pup if he could find a good dog dad. I was very moved when he offered me a pup from the memorial litter. Our dear yellow Lab, Jake, had passed way in January of 2015, and I was finally thinking about adopting another Lab, so the timing was excellent – except for the fact that he would enter my life when I had about one month to go on a book deadline. I don’t recommend that timing to anyone, but Gus was worth it.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

About 20 years ago when we were staying at a cabin near Lake Tahoe for the holidays, a giant shaggy dog, mostly Lab I think, walked into our cabin when the door was open. He made himself at home by the hearth, next to our Lab, Jake. I looked at his tag to see who this fellow was, and it said “GUS.” On the back, where the phone number would normally be, it read, “Just say ‘Go home Gus’ and he will.” We thought that was pretty cute, and it turned out he lived really close and knew his way around. The name “Gus” fit him perfectly, and I decided that if I get a dog who is anything remotely “Gussy,” that’s what I would name my next dog. Our Gus’s name is perfect for him. He’s a big, happy guy, always smiling, very friendly and very Gussy.

Does Gus do more to help or hinder your writing?

When I first got him, he was nine weeks old and I had a month to go on a book, so that was not ideal -- to put it mildly. It was almost like having a newborn on deadline. I’d get up two or three times a night to let him out, and when he slept during the day I’d try to be productive, but when he was awake and chewing everything he could get his mouth on, my productivity plummeted. I managed to get the book in on time, but wow was I tired! These days he’s a joy to have near me as I write. And because of him I’m forced to pry myself away from my computer in the morning and in the evening when no one else can walk him, and to go to the beach or the park, which clears my head. When I return to my desk, I’m usually re-energized.

I enjoyed the one-minute Doctor Dogs book trailer. Please tell us more about your new book.

I’ll let my press materials describe it, if you don’t mind! “This groundbreaking book is an in-depth and engaging investigation of the cutting-edge science behind how dogs are able to detect disease and aid people who suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, including cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, sleep disorders, autism, and schizophrenia. Doctor Dogs is Goodavage’s most personal book to date, as she has a difficult-to-diagnose cancer threat in her own family. Dogs have been shown to be able to detect this cancer in laboratory samples in its earliest stages. The dogs’ primary tool for their medical feats? Their astonishingly sensitive noses, which can sniff in parts per trillion, as well as in 3-D.”

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Raccoon. Our backyard seems to be part of the Raccoon Superhighway. Every night there’s inevitably a raccoon or two or five walking along the top of our wooden fence. Gus does not like this. At all.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Yes! (He is a Lab, after all.)

Who is Gus's best pet-pal?

This is absolutely his sister Kaia. My friend whose dog Gracie – my old dog Jake’s previous “girlfriend” – had died the same month as Jake – was talking about the fact that she and her family were almost ready for a new dog around the same time Gus was born. I asked Kevin if Gus had any brothers or sisters who were not spoken for yet. He decided that Gus should have a friend in San Francisco, and ended up giving one of his sisters to my friend, who lives ten minutes away. She was over the moon. Gus and Kaia see each other all the time, and Kaia often spends the night here.

What is Gus's best quality?

His loving friendliness and his happiness. And not just at home with loved ones. Almost everyone is a loved one as far as Gus is concerned! He makes so many people smile just by bouncing down the sidewalk with a smile on his face and a wag in his tail whenever someone looks at him.

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

The lines people wait in to get coffee. He would make them longer so as we walk by he’d get even more love and attention from people who are just standing around staring at their cell phones.

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

Please describe in rich detail a day in your life in the world of scent. Bonus question: Do you know I’m coming home when I have to go away on long trips?

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

Long ago we had Ed Asner play the voice of our old dog Joe for a children’s video called Here’s Looking at You, Kid. He was perfect. But for Gus, I’d have to say maybe Chris Evans, of Captain America fame. His voice is kind of gentle, but youngish, and has a positive yet thoughtful feel about it.

What advice would Gus give if asked?

Be here now. Be present.

Visit Maria Goodavage's website, Facebook page, Instagram home, and Twitter perch. Find Gus on Instagram, too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Melissa Payne & Max

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Max and he’s a fun loving, squirrel chasing ten-year-old mutt with perhaps a dash of Belgian Malinois. His human is me, Melissa Payne, debut author of The Secrets of Lost Stones, and a life-long writer with a penchant for telling stories and a love for all things dark and mystical.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s just another day for Max. After he helps me get the kids to school, then it’s our time to get some serious writing done and for Max to give me story suggestions every so often in the form of a whine or a bark or two. His ideas generally involve squirrels or peanut butter so it’s a bit limiting, but I do enjoy the collaboration.

What's brewing?

Freshly ground drip coffee, black, light to medium roast and whatever brand my husband buys because he’s the true coffee lover in the family.

Any treats for you or Max on this occasion?

I always have a handful of almonds with my coffee and almonds happen to be one of Max’s favorite snacks. He can hear me bite down on one from outside. So, the deal between us is I get one almond then Max gets one almond and so on. He sits patiently, drooling, by my side until the handful is gone.

How were you and Max united?

Max was a rescue dog and I found him just after the rescue organization had pulled him from a shelter where he was scheduled to be euthanized. Once I saw his picture on their website, I knew immediately that he was the right one for our family. And when we met him in person we quickly loaded him into our car before anyone else could adopt him.

How did your dog get his name?

His name at the shelter was King but we decided to call him Max, like King Max from Where the Wild Things Are. And it’s a perfect name for him because Max’s nature is one of curiosity and adventure with just a dash of stubbornness.

Does Max do more to help or hinder your writing?

This is my favorite question. Writing is a solitary pursuit that doesn’t lend itself toward much socialization during the working hours. But with Max I have a work partner whose only requirement is that we go on epic hikes and that he gets belly rubs whenever he rolls onto his back. He makes my day.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Oh, yes! I have a work in progress about a former military working dog. The research I’ve done for this book has left me even more in awe of dogs and their amazing abilities that combined with such loving and dedicated spirits make for just about the most perfect pet. (Please don’t let my cat read this or I’ll have to deny all of it.)

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel, always the squirrels!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

A Kong filled with peanut butter.

Where is Max's favorite outdoor destination?

A long hike on any of the trails around our mountain town.

Who is Max's best pet-pal?

Lucy, his only cat friend who weighs about as much as his paw yet rules the roost.

What is Max's best quality?

He has so many! He’s loving and kind to others and always on alert, ready to protect his kids from wild animals, if needed. And he’s the most content when he is with us, whether that’s at home, on a walk, or his favorite, in the car on the way to a camping trip.

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

He would want me to stop talking to the cat. He prefers when I use that tone of voice with him.

And almonds. He’d prefer I’d give him the whole handful at once.

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

Do you feel loved?

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

Patrick Warburton.

What advice would Max give if asked?

Don’t growl unless you have a really good reason, like a bear is prowling the yard. See the good in everyone, even the cat. Always chase squirrels. And never pass up an opportunity to jump in the car and go somewhere. Life is meant to be lived, even if it means a trip to the vet instead of a camp site.

Visit Melissa Payne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 23, 2019

Evan Ramzipoor & Lada

Who is in the photo at right?

The human one is me, Evan Ramzipoor. I write novels like The Ventriloquists, but also essays, blogs about cybercrime, and short stories. The photogenic one with the angsty bangs is Lada, a Portuguese Podengo*/terrier hybrid of some sort. I swear “Portuguese Podengo” is a real breed and not a style of dance.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning after my wife takes Lada on a run, Lada and I sit down for coffee. Well, Lada sits down for breakfast crumbs. The coffee is just a bonus.

What’s brewing?

I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, so I’m huffy about my coffee in a way that my East Coast friends find both unreasonable and endearing (I hope). I brew Philz coffee in my AeroPress, I take my coffee with oat milk, and I’m perfectly fine being a stereotype. My Philz blend of choice is Silken Splendor. Also, I aerate my coffee—which sounds complicated, but it really means I pour the coffee back and forth between two cups to introduce air. It creates smooth coffee and makes me feel like a mad scientist.

Any treats for you or Lada on this occasion?

Lada lived on the street for a year, so as far as she’s concerned, anything is a treat if you put your mind to it.

How were you and Lada united?

A few years ago, we learned there was going to be a massive adoption fair in Marin: goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, cats, and dogs. After my wife vetoed goats and chickens, we made a list of pups we wanted to meet. They were mostly large, sturdy dogs we could take running and hiking. I was especially interested in a stately specimen named Charlie.

We got to the fair twenty minutes before it officially opened. While walking to meet the first dog on our list, my wife stumbled across a little scruff-ball in a crate. I drifted away to try and woo an aloof spaniel. When I returned, my wife was holding this a strange, fuzzy alien with a long body and curly tail. I knelt down, and the pup snuggled into my arms. Ten minutes before the fair opened, we left with Lada.

I hope Charlie found a good home with appropriately stately owners.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

We adopted our pup while I was working on my first novel, which features a mischievous smuggler named Lada. After a failed naming brainstorm session, my wife suggested we use “Lada” as a placeholder until we figured out something less…self-serving.

Three years later, I’m starting to believe it’s no longer a placeholder.

Does Lada do more to help or hinder your writing?

I like to refer to Lada as my muse. She has a knack for picking up her squeakiest, slobberiest toy and bashing it into my knee when I’m in the middle of a great writing session. But something about breaking that flow ultimately helps my writing.

Yes, Lada did answer this question for me. No, she’s not taking any further questions at this time.

Has Lada inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Dogs are so wonderful; I’m not sure my writing could do them justice.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Oh yes. And bus. And skateboard. I’m actually not sure whether she adores skateboards or despises them. For Lada, these emotions manifest in the same way.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

All of the above. She fetches tennis balls inside the house, but she won’t fetch outdoors. At the dog park, she will try to fetch other dogs who are fetching.

Where is Lada's favorite outdoor destination?

Lada loves going anywhere with people or food, preferably both. She thinks eye contact is an invitation to be best friends, so she’s constantly interrupting our walks to abscond with a new human.

Who is Lada's best pet-pal?

Who isn’t?

What is Lada's best quality?

Lada is the friendliest, most open-minded creature I have ever met. In her eyes, every human, dog, cat, turtle, and squirrel is a potential friend. There’s no adventure too small for this pup.

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

Every person who gets on public transit with us has gathered specifically to pet Lada, right? No? Then that’s what she would change.

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

Lada was a stray for about a year before I met her. I’m dying to know what kind of mischief she got up to during that lost year. It sounds strange, but people often say she’s the most charismatic dog they’ve ever met. I want to know where this charisma comes from and what kind of misadventures led her into my life.

Or I’d ask her why she’s so deathly afraid of plastic bags.

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

I know we’re a few decades late, but definitely Lucille Ball.

What advice would Lada give if asked?

The vacuum cleaner is extremely dangerous and should only be approached by trained professionals.

Visit E.R. Ramzipoor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue