Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tracee de Hahn & Alvaro and Laika

Who is pictured in these photos?

I’m Tracee de Hahn and I live and work in an old Victorian house in Virginia. Many times I can be found on my front porch with Alvaro, our nine-year-old Jack Russell, who isn’t always a fan of being cuddled. His sister and litter mate, Laika, is always willing to be held…. particularly in this photo [at right], when we were waiting for the vet prior to her cataract surgery (which was a great success…. all the better to see distant squirrels).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Who needs a reason! They are with me every day almost all day long. They love walking into town for a coffee.

What's brewing?

At home I drink tea – Lady Grey by Twinings. Out of the house I treat myself to a cappuccino.

Any treats for you or Alvaro and Laika on this occasion?

Absolutely – I’m having a scone. Laika isn’t at all interested, she’s more focused on the squirrels (which look like a tasty snack to her). Alvaro [photo left] knows that he will get a doggy treat. He’s very food motivated and waits patiently for his reward.

How were you and your dogs united?

Alvaro and Laika were true life savers. We had a pair of Jack Russells and the girl, Sabatchka, died. She was the sweetest dog in the world and her brother fell into immediate depression (as did my husband). I found a girl puppy all the way up the coast at the top of California (we were living in the center of the state) and we drove there right away. During the seven hour drive we kept saying ‘them’ and not ‘her’. And sure enough we just couldn’t leave the final pup (a boy) there. For many years we had three Jack Russsells and I’m convinced that once our older dog was accustomed to them, they were the mainstay of his life for the next seven years.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Our boy dogs are traditionally named after famous architects. Alvaro is in honor of Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. The girls have Russian names – in honor of my love of Russian literature. Laika was the first dog in space. The terrier who went up in Sputnik.

Do Alvaro and Laika do more to help or hinder your writing?

That depends on their mood. Many days they sit nearby in their bed or on a chair looking out the window, waiting patiently until we have a walk. Other days they want to be closer, which means I must abandon the desk and sit on a sofa so they can cuddle nearby. Occasionally Laika is only content if she is literally on my lap – with my computer or notebook balanced on top of her.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The Great Dane in Swiss Vendetta plays a critical role. He is based on a Great Dane I met once in Franklin, Tennessee. A gorgeous harlequin.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Laika wants to be friends with the neighborhood cats, but they aren’t very willing. Perhaps because they see how desperate she is to catch the squirrels.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Alvaro love his toys, particularly tennis balls, but really any toy. Squeaky toys lose their squeak after five minutes but that’s five minutes of pure joy so it’s worth it! Now he’s nudging me as a reminder that the rats from Ikea are his favorite. Intended for human children, they don’t have squeakers but they are fun to carry and sleep with.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

They have always been together so the bond is strong. With each of our pairs of dogs, the female bonds with my husband and the male with me.

What is each dog's best quality?

Laika – when not obsessed with the squirrels – is very affectionate. Alvaro is playful and loyal.

If Alvaro and Laika could change one thing about Virginians, what would it be?

They love everything about the state. The weather – love that snow! – and how friendly people are. Plus there are lots of dogs, which makes them feel at home everywhere.

Laika was particularly happy when we moved here two years ago because she had terrible skin allergies in California and had to wear a shirt to prevent scratching. Horribly embarrassing for her.

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

What could we do to make their routine even better.

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

Kate Winslet for Laika, because of her beautiful voice with a bit of spunk.

Alvaro might be Matt Damon, good humored but also serious.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

To enjoy every day, that’s their attitude toward life and I think it’s working out for them.

Visit Tracee de Hahn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cat Urbigkit & Hud

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Cat Urbigkit, and I’m a writer who lives on a working sheep ranch in western Wyoming. I’m in the truck with my husband Jim, a lamb, and Hud, the herding dog looking on from the back seat.

Hud is a six-year old herding dog. He’s a cross between a bearded collie and an Australian shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with Hud every day.

What's brewing?

I’m a big fan of Peet’s Columbia deep roast coffee, made in a stainless steel percolator.

Any treats for you or Hud on this occasion?

No treats for me, but Hud always gets a nimble of my husband’s breakfast bacon.

How were you and Hud united?

We already had one bearded collie, Abe, and as he began to age, we were able to obtain a pup from the same working dog lineage. It was a stressful time in my life, and when I talked to the breeder, I told her I didn’t need to select a puppy from the litter, but asked her to give me the pup that no one else wanted. Of course that meant that I would end up with the pup that was meant to be with me!

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My best friend, Sheri Hudson Nolan, had just passed away at a relatively young age from cancer, so I wanted to honor her. Hudson was a perfect name for a pup – shortened to Hud, which was also the name of an old western movie starring Paul Newman.

Please tell us about your new book, Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs.

My new book is my celebration of another type of working dog – livestock guardian dogs that protect livestock from predators.

Does Hud do more to help or hinder your writing?

Hud helps my writing because he often lounges under my desk, providing a soft, warm place for my toes.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Prairie dogs - they have a unique bark and chatter that drives Hud crazy!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Hedgehog. Hud believes that one of his jobs is to remove the squeaker.

Who is Hud's best pet-pal?

Hud is friends with all our guardian dogs, but his best pals are always the lambs that end up in our ranch yard for special care. Hud licks their noses and takes naps with them, and even as the lambs grow and become adults, he maintains a close relationship with them.

What is Hud's best quality?

Hud is very kind.

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

For me to get off the computer and come roll around in the snow (or manure) with him more often.

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

Hud is such a great communicator already, but the one question I would ask is “How are you feeling?” because he is so stoic about going about his work even if he isn’t feeling well.

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

Hud has a smooth, deep voice, so Morgan Freeman would be a great match.

What advice would Hud give if asked?

Find the fun in every day.

Learn more about Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs and visit Cat Urbigkit’s Paradise Sheep website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cat Urbigkit & Rena.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lisa Gardner & Annabelle and Bowie

Who is in the photo at right?

The little brown brindle is Annabelle, a four year old cairn terrier poodle mix. She loves swimming, hiking, chasing squirrels and believe it or not, paddle boarding (summer is her favorite season). The fluffy white dog is Bowie, our one year old blue merle sheltie. He loves snow shoeing, snow flake chasing, and snow eating (winter is his favorite season).

I’m Lisa Gardner, a novelist, specializing in crime thrillers, many of which have involved savvy dogs to help save the day.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Years ago, I gave up coffee for herbal tea. But the dogs will tell you some days it still takes caffeine to get through the afternoon. I like to stop by J-Town Deli, in Jackson, New Hampshire, which is dog friendly. Annabelle and Bowie run immediately to the front counter and wag their tails furiously until cookies are produced. I’m not sure the dogs even know or care I’m getting coffee. In their world, a stop at J-Town is all about them.

What's brewing?

Mocha latte. Chocolate and coffee all in one cup. Mmm…

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

They are all about the dog cookies. And Annabelle likes being fussed over by the staff and other customers. She’s a social butterfly. Bowie is less convinced. He takes his cookie, then hangs out with me.

How were you and your dogs united?

We found Annabelle through a friend who also had a cairn terrier. We were looking for a smaller dog, but still active and outdoorsy, given that we live in the mountains of New Hampshire. Annabelle is happy to spend her days hiking the mountains or swimming in the lake, and her nights snuggled up on the sofa.

As for Bowie, we’ve always loved shelties. Our first pair passed away two years ago, leaving a significant hole in our lives. We returned to the breeder where we got our first sheltie, Murphy, who will always be the great love of my life. Bowie is a completely different dog, but still a joy to have around. He’s a total goofball, which is a nice fit with Annabelle, who is much more dignified.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Our daughter named Annabelle, thinking she would be called Annie. But Annabelle is Annabelle. Somehow the longer name suits her. We got Bowie right after David Bowie died. Given his one blue eye, it seemed appropriate to name him in the singer’s honor. If you ask our thirteen-year old daughter, however, he was named after the knife; she doesn’t do seventies pop stars.

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

Annabelle is a great writing companion, content to sleep at my feet.

Bowie is a youngster. As long as I’m just sitting there, surely I could throw a ball. I end having to bribe him with a chew bone if I want to get anything done. But writing is generally followed walking to work out plot problems. Bowie approves of that part of the process.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

My latest book, Right Behind You, features both a retired police dog, Luka, and a search dog, Molly. Luka is fictional, but Molly [photo right] is a real dog, a pit bull mix rescued by the Conway Area Humane Society. Abandoned and emaciated, Molly still managed to give birth to seven fat, healthy puppies and did an incredible job nursing them before finding her forever home with the shelter’s operations manager Deb Cameron. They are real heroes, deserving of a role tracking a spree killer in the wilds of Oregon.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel. Definitely squirrels, and we are surrounded by them!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball. Bowie will fetch forever. Until Annabelle becomes frustrated, steals the ball from him and lays on it.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Bowie worships the ground Annabelle walks on. Whatever she does, he does. Basically, he’s the annoying little brother, but he loves her so much, she puts up with him.

What is each dog's best quality?

Annabelle is a complete snuggle bug. She loves to sleep with her head on my lap, or curled up in a ball, tucked under my chin. There is no amount of snuggling that is too much.

Bowie is the best dog I’ve ever had off leash. He returns the moment he’s called, sits on a dime, will do whatever you want as long as you take him with you. He’s definitely a work dog—always looking to make sure the humans are happy and always ready for the next adventure.

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

New Hampshire has mountains, lakes and tons of dog-friendly people and businesses. Nothing to change, other dogs should come visit.

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

What is the secret to happiness?

Honestly, they greet each day, each moment with such enthusiasm. Being a moody writer type, I’d love to know their secret.

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

Annbelle should be voiced by Kate Hudson, feminine, energetic, beautiful.

Kevin Hart would make an excellent Bowie. Big loveable goofball. Perfect!

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Start every day with a tail wag and cookies will follow!

Visit Lisa Gardner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sally J. Pla & Leo

Who is in the photo at right?

Why, hello. It’s me, Sally J. Pla, debut author of The Someday Birds, with my golden doodle, Leo. He is large. Almost 80 pounds of large. A bit of a jumbo doodle. Let’s call him a Venti.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Leo jumps heavily onto the foot of my bed every morning. Then he drags me downstairs for coffee, a scoop of kibble, and a wee. Me, I’d rather slide straight from REM sleep right into writing, but it is never to be. So the occasion, here, is our every-morning routine…coffee in the kitchen.

What's brewing?

Bella Donovan roast, ordered online from Blue Bottle, in a Bodum French press, with cream and sugar. Leo always asks to lick the cup. I don’t usually let him.

Any treats for you or Leo on this occasion?

There’s a French café/bakery down the road; on weekends, I’ll head down for a croissant to go. They have a raspberry almond variety that’s darn fine. That, on a Sunday, with The New York Times and the sun streaming in the kitchen, is a pretty optimum coffee-with-canine experience.

How were you and Leo united?

When my son was 10, he campaigned like crazy for second dog. We resisted, until the day he developed acute appendicitis. They wheeled my son into the OR, still pleading, hands clasped, suffering, angelic. “All this would be better if I only had a puppy!” he moaned. What monster would say no to that?

We got Leo soon after. And as the two homebodies of the family, Leo and I… bonded. Deeply. It happened almost from day one – while Leo loves my son, he has always been ‘my’ dog, somehow. I feel closer to him than to many people.

Several years ago, I was bedridden for a month after major surgery. Leo never left the foot of my bed. He never left me. My son had to pull him by the collar to get him to go downstairs to eat. Leo guards my bed every night, and is never more than an arm’s reach away from me at all times. When I leave to run errands, he parks himself by the front door until I get back. I can’t even go to the bathroom without him standing guard. It’s really a little ridiculous. But his loyalty and devotion is heart-melting. I’d do anything for that dog.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He was carefully and lovingly named by my son.

Does Leo do more to help or hinder your writing?

He helps and hinders. He’s missed plenty of walks because I was too deeply in thrall to a scene, too immersed. He is infinitely patient, slumped nearby, sleeping, awaiting the Magical Sound of the Closing of the Laptop. When he hears it—no matter how softly I close that MacBook—he scrambles up quickly in exasperated anticipation: “Are we finally going to do something now?” he’ll asks me. (Yes, he talks.)

Has Leo inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

There’s a bit of Leo in the three-legged stray, Tiberius, that Charlie and his brothers rescue in The Someday Birds. And Leo’s goofy side is in Albert Einstein, the world’s least intelligent golden retriever of my second middle-grade novel, John Lockdown is in the Building (HarperCollins 2018). I cannot imagine writing a novel without a dog in it. Dogs rule!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cat-phobia. Squirrel-perplexion. Postal workers incite frenzied love-attacks.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

He’s a heavy chewer. The only thing that stands up is an elk horn or Galileo Bone, heavy as a rock, and when Leo chews on it, the whole house shakes.

Who is Leo's best pet-pal?

Although Copper, the neighbor’s teacup Yorkie, is fairly well tolerated, Leo’s not a dog’s dog. Leo thinks he’s a person. A timid person. At dog parks, he hides behind my knees like a kid on the first day of preschool.

What is Leo's best quality?

Could it be the intelligence and emotional honesty in his eyes? The warm leathery feel of the inside of his ears? How his floofy feet are the size of dinner plates? Could it be the unconditional mutual love? Seriously, it’s a problem how much I adore this dog.

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

He’d tell them to give homes to more real dogs, not those tiny spoiled yippy purse-toys.

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

Are you comfortable and happy?

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

Some magical meld of Jemaine Clement, Robin Williams, and Greg Kinnear.

What advice would Leo give if asked?

He’d say: “Stop obsessing about the pet hair on your leggings. Concentrate on the good stuff, on treasuring our every moment. A dog’s life is fleeting. Don’t forget to stop and smell the coffee.”

Visit Sally J. Pla's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Valerie & Pippa, Amy, Charlie and James

Who is in the photos at right and below?

I'm Valerie, 25-years-old and living in Belgium, with my four beautiful dogs - Pippa, Amy, Charlie (the white Labrador) & James (the brown Lab). Shortly after we adopted Amy (age 4), my beloved Doberman, Zita, passed away. A few months later, Pippa (3), a Greek stray dog, joined our little family.

In December that year, we decided to become a foster family and welcomed Charlie (3) to our home. Charlie is rescued from a pound in Serbia by a local organization. It didn't take long for him to concur my heart, so we decided to adopt him.

Last, but not least, James entered our lives and made our family complete. He is a purebred Labrador I bought from a befriended breeder.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My dogs love to play in the yard or go for a run in the park. But when it comes to Coffee with a Canine, Pippa is my partner in crime. Whereas my other dogs don't have enough patience to join me for coffee and some casual shopping, Pippa loves those mommy-and-me moments.

What's brewing?

I love to treat myself to a Starbucks Caramel Machiatto! Yum!

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Unfortunately not. My dogs are not allowed to have 'human' food because it's bad for their health. But I always have some delicious dog treats on hand! If I know I'll take a while, I'll bring a chicken wrapped dog bone, to keep her busy.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

My boyfriend decided on most of the names, haha! I picked 'Amy', because I love The Big Bang Theory and Amy Farrah Fowler is my favorite character! I told her on Instagram, but she hasn't responded yet, haha!

Pippa [photo left] and Charlie were instantly decided, it was just a match. But we couldn't agree on James' name for over a week! He was just 'Puppy' for a while because we couldn't decide! But in the end, it all came together, and I think 'James' is just the perfect name for him.

Do your dogs have a role at Puppy Tales Studio headquarters?

Of course! They are the inspiration behind everything. When it comes to dogs, there is just so much to learn and to talk about. How to properly care for them, recognize signs of illness, wellbeing and mental exercise, puppy training..

Since three of my dogs are adopted, I hope to inspire people to consider adoption before they buy a dog. There are so many dogs in shelters, looking for their forever home and it breaks my heart to know that many of them will spend their life in a shelter. And if people do want a purebred dog, I want them to search for a responsible breeder. Owning a dog is a big responsibility; it's something to think through before you buy or adopt.

L to R: Amy, James, Pippa, and Charlie
Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cat! Pippa was in the 'cat' section of the pound, so she has some cat-like behavior. But recently, she loves to chase them. Next to hunting down flies in the house, annoying cats is the next best thing!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky-toys all the way for Charlie and James!! Amy is more a stick kind of dog!!

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

In Oudenaarde, Belgium, we have 'de Donk'. It's a large recreational area with a lake. My Labradors love to swim, and Pippa and Charlie can run for miles and miles!

What is each dog's best quality?

Pippa's patience, Amy's loyalty, Charlie's clingingess and James' playfulness!

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

I think they would make me quit my job so that we could spend all our time together!

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

I would ask them if they would change anything about our daily routine to make them happier.

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

Haha, that's difficult! For James, I would pick Seth MacFarlane (the voice of Brian from Family Guy). I know Pippa is a girl, but she is such an old soul so Morgan Freeman would be amusing! For Amy, I would search for someone with a soft high pitched voice, very girly and gentle. Maybe Paris Hilton? And for Charlie, Kunal Nayyar, Rajesh from The Big Bang Theory. The accent would really suit his foreign background.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

To spend all your money on treats! It's the best investment possible.

Visit the Puppy Tales Studio website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Rebecca Meluch & Jeremiah

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Rebecca Meluch. I write science fiction as R.M. Meluch. My first novel was Sovereign, a Signet paperback, in 1979. Goddess empress Sheila Gilbert was my editor then and now.

My dog is Jeremiah, a/k/a JDog or JDawg. He's seven years old, born in Ohio. He's Shepherd mutt. (Best not look too hard at his parentage as long as we're living in New York. He's part abominable snow beast.)

We are a blended family, so I must also introduce my husband, Stevan Apter and his little bitty doggies, Muggsy, who is an American Bulldog, and Gigi, a petite little Rottweiler who managed to keep her tail. The boys don't get along, but we never worry about break-ins into this house.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I'm back in the USA and I got a book release today from DAW. It's the latest incarnation of Jerusalem Fire. We are joyous.

What's brewing?

Coffee. In any guise.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Chicken jerky, stuffed into a Kong to slow them down.

How were you and your dogs united?

Well, Stevan is the virtuous one. Gigi and Muggsy were Stevan's rescues before he and I ever met.

My first dog was a beautiful darling purebred Doberman princess who had every genetic flaw of the breed. She died in my arms. I was devastated. I could not live without a dog. So I bought the sturdiest creature imaginable. Jeremiah filled the bill. And Jeremiah did the match making. Stevan came down to Mexico where we (me and Jeremiah) were living. Stevan got out of the car. JDog was instantly all over him, tail wagging, whole body wagging, licking Stevan's face off. Didn't think I'd ever marry again, but that was the one.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Stevan's rescues have the names they were saddled with when he rescued them. My Jeremiah's name came from the Three Dog Night song. You know, Jeremiah was a good dog...

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

Well, I put dogs on the space battleship Merrimack. Gotta say they're a help.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Yes. Inga is on board the Merrimack. Inga the doberman ate the Sargasson ambassador.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Nope.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Nope.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Gigi and Muggsy are a set. JDog is my appendage, though he adores Stevan too.

What is each dog's best quality?

Love. Loyalty. Goofiness.

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

They would have unlimited treats. (Not happening, guys, not from me anyway. Go ask your father.)

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

Tell me if you're in pain.

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

Andre Braugher for JDog.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

More treats, please.

Visit R.M. Meluch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Zana Fraillon & Tishkin and Moomin

Who is in the photo at right?

That is me (Zana Fraillon) with my two gorgeous Golden Retrievers, Moomin and Tishkin (Moomin is the one lying quietly and calmly). I write books for kids, so I am lucky enough to spend the day working with my dogs at my feet. Taking them for a walk along the river is also a sure fire way to overcome writer’s block. Tishkin has just turned one, so we are hoping he is just about over his destruction phase (it is a phase, right?), and Moomin is 4. She is far more sensible, although has a thing for carrying shoes around – this has caused many a late morning when at least one of us will have to rummage in the garden for the missing shoe…

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee is an essential part of my day, and sitting on the front porch is the perfect place to have it. The dogs always join me – both for the morning tea titbits which often find their way into the dogs’ mouths, and for the lovely morning sun that soaks the porch. We have all sorts of wild birds around here (including the rather bossy cockatoos who tear up the wood on our porch when the neighbours have neglected to fill their bird feeder) so the dogs are on lookout for intruders. Of course, they are a little scared of the cockatoos (they are huge birds), so bark from a safe distance.

What's brewing?

A latte is my coffee of choice. We usually use beans from our favourite café – Everyday Coffee in Collingwood – which at the moment is a blend of Colombia La Playa and Colombia Yancanquer.

Any treats for you or Tishkin and Moomin on this occasion?

I did enjoy some lemon syrup cupcakes left over from the kids’ lunchboxes, and shortly after this photo was taken the dogs both enjoyed their daily bone in the back yard. They have recently worked out that they can both enjoy their bones if they stick to separate spots in the garden, which makes for a much more relaxing morning.

How were you and your dogs united?

Moomin was the first Golden Retriever we have ever had. We bought her from a woman who wanted her dog to have just the one litter (and despite us pleading to have more after we bought Moomin, she stuck to her promise). We bought Moomin when our previous two dogs had reached 13 and 12 years of age. Moomin re-energised them both, and made the transition from ‘old dog’ family to ‘young dog’ family as smooth as it can be.

We knew after the success with Moomin that we wanted another Golden Retriever, and searched Golden Retriever Rescue for a long time. Most of the dogs there though were old and ‘needed a quiet life’ or interstate and unable to travel. With a fairly young dog already and three young boys we decided to go for a puppy instead. We found Tishkin through a reputable breeder and have really enjoyed watching him grow up with the kids.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Both the dogs are named after book characters. When we first got Moomin, she looked exactly like a Moomintroll – fat, white and fluffy. She also made a noise that sounded a lot like Chewbacca, so for a while we couldn’t decide. In the end we decided that if we called her Chewbacca she would get Chewy for short, which would surely only cement her desire to eat everything. As it is, she gets Moomy and Moom (or Moomin Troll Fraillon when we are being formal) and doesn’t chew a thing.

Tishkin was named after the character Tishkin Silk. This is a book by the wonderful Glenda Millard, and just a beautiful story. We had all read the book and loved it, and Tishkin suited the pup straight away. Funnily enough, he ended up with the same middle name as Moomin, so he gets Tishkin Troll Fraillon, which makes no sense at all.

Do Tishkin and Moomin do more to help or hinder your writing?

They definitely do more to help me write. Dogs are wonderful for bringing people back to the important things in life, and their daily walk is one of the best parts of the day. They have also taken me to explore places I wouldn’t otherwise have ventured to, and these places inevitably end up in my books.

Have your dogs inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet – although they have inspired the creation of characters of different species. Undying loyalty and unconditional love are the hallmarks of dogs, as well as their ability to know when something is wrong without you having to say a single thing. They are perceptive and know exactly when to cosy up for a snuggle, or when what is really needed is a good game of fetch (which, by the way, they are both hopeless at. They chase the ball, they pick up the ball, then they drop the ball where they are and wait for me to come and get it. I guess they haven’t cottoned on to the ‘retriever’ part of their gene pool…)

Cat, postman, rabbits...?

Both Tish and Moom love chasing rabbits. I always wonder what would happen if they were fast enough to catch up to one – I suspect they would run away. They do also enjoy chasing cats, but only to play with. They look quite offended when the cat in question takes a swipe. The postman seems largely irrelevant to the dogs, although parcel deliveries which make it to the front door are always met with waggy tails and the hope of a pat.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Anything, especially if it is in the water. They both love swimming and taking them to the beach is wonderful. It always makes me wish we could live near enough to a beach that I could take them swimming more regularly. We have a river near us, but the risk of snake bite means we can only swim the dogs there for about 4 months of the year.

Who are Tishkin and Moomin's best pet-pals?

Each other. They love meeting new friends down at the park, but invariably end up charging around with one another, while their bemused new friend looks on.

What is each dog's best quality?

Moomin’s best quality is her calm nature. At some stage I will do some therapy dog work with her, because she is so in tune with people and so calm. I have taken her to the kids’ school where she has been surrounded by 50 excited, yelling 6 year olds, and she just sits in the middle of the circle and lets them pat her.

Tishkin is also wonderful at adjusting his play - he will lie down as soon as a baby arrives at the house, or when he meets a small dog. He is also fiercely intelligent so very easy to train. Of course, this does mean he can get bored if we are out for the day, but who wouldn’t?

If Tishkin and Moomin could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Not having enough time in the day. They are both very chilled dogs, and as I speed around trying to fit everything in, they do look at me wearily. If only life was one big holiday, we could all live as happily as dogs.

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

I would ask Tishkin why he always steals the newspaper from the table and the tea towel from the oven door, even though he knows he shouldn’t…and I would ask Moomin what they actually do when we are out. I can tell by the look on her face when we return that they haven’t been sleeping quietly in the sun...

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

Oh that is so hard! My old dog Trapper, I would have said Clarke Peters (Lester Freeman from The Wire) but he is too old for Tishkin’s voice…If we could go back in time, I would choose Wayne Rogers (Trapper from M*A*S*H) for Tishkin, and Carrie Fisher for Moomin (because who wouldn’t choose Princess Leia to be their voice, right?) – although really I can’t imagine them having a voice at all. I have a feeling if they could talk, it would totally change their character. Things are much wiser when you can’t understand them…

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

‘Ladies and Gentlemen take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice…’ (The dogs are both huge M*A*S*H fans as well…)

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My Book, The Movie: The Bone Sparrow.

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--Marshal Zeringue