Thursday, June 23, 2016

Frances Caballo & Dixie

Who is in the photo at right?

The beautiful dog is Dixie, a rescued Labrador retriever. I’m Frances Caballo, the other person, and I run a social media marketing business.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee or tea with Dixie every day. I run my business from a home office so Dixie always goes to work with me and takes breaks when I do.

What's brewing?

Normally, I drink tea although there are times when I go to a favorite coffee house – Aroma Roasters in Santa Rosa – and get a decaf latte with either soy or almond milk. I stay away form the big brand coffee shops.

Any treats for you or Dixie on this occasion?

Dixie loves cooked vegetables and she loves to lick peanut butter from my fingertip. I like gluten-free treats.

How were you and Dixie united?

I’d been fostering for Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue for several years and Dixie came to me as a foster. I couldn’t believe it when I saw her. She weighed 100 lbs. (she’s now at 58 pounds, which is her ideal weight) and could only walk one-quarter of a mile. If she tried to jump, she’d collapse. Now she runs and jumps easily.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Dixie was eight when she came into my life so I didn’t want to change her name at that point. She has quite a few aliases: Dixie Chick, Dixie Cup, Dix, Dizarrella, Dixie Mae, Dixie Pixie, and when I want to get her attention, Dixie Trixie.

Does Dixie have a role at Social Media Just for Writers HQ?

Absolutely! People see her in Google Hangouts and on Skype, and she’s on my website in the About section and in the banner image on my Facebook profile. Plus, I created a card I used to send to clients that has Dixie’s picture on it. Finally, she stays in my office while I work. My job would be boring and more stressful if I didn’t have Dixie with me.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Dixie doesn’t have an aggressive streak. She loves everyone and everything, including cats.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Dixie was used to breed puppies and was crated a lot. Consequently, she doesn’t know how to play or retrieve a ball or stick.

Who is Dixie's best pet-pal?

Eddy, a basset hound, is her best pet pal.

What is Dixie's best quality?

Do I have to select just one? She’s loving and sweet, never barks, and loves everyone.

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

There would be an end to backyard breeding.

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

How did you become so loving toward everyone?

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

Meryl Streep.

What advice would Dixie give if asked?

Take more naps. You’ll feel better.

Visit the Social Media Just for Writers website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lisa Tener & Sophie

Who is in the photo at right?

The cute one is Sophie, our Labradoodle. I'm the other one--Lisa Tener, and I am a book coach. I help people write and publish their books.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

A relaxing warm drink in our yard for me while watching Sophie chase bunnies. She never catches them, fortunately for all involved.

What's brewing?

Neither Sophie nor I drink coffee, though I love the aroma. What's brewing is some local loose nettle and clover tea made using an old fashioned strainer, originally blended by "The Herb Wyfe" of Belmont Market -- Leslie Wooler.

Any treats for you or Sophie on this occasion?

Yes. Sophie loves to chew on carrots. In a few more weeks, though, we'll both be savoring raspberries from our yard. Sophie sometimes picks her own, but she also likes to show off her catching skills.

How were you and Sophie united?

A lady on Long Island was giving away her 8-month-old labradoodle because her neighbors told her the dog cried incessantly when she traveled. The woman wanted a home where someone would be home most of the day. My husband and I work from home, proving ideal. However, I told the woman we could not come to see the dog until the weekend. She had 2 or 3 people lined up to see the dog before then.

[photo left: Sophie in her youth]

I told her about the list we had made two years prior--true story: labradoodle, good with kids, white coat, about 9 months old and potty trained. Sophie was everything on our list. That clinched it. "I think this dog was meant to be yours." She offered to cancel the other appointments if we were very serious, which I assured her we were. We traveled from Rhode Island to Long Island three days later and my husband, 6-year-old and I fell in love with that sweet dog.

The baby of our family was 2 days younger than Sophie. People thought we were crazy to adopt a dog with a baby who was just about to start walking, but it turned out her antics made him hardy. He played a bit roughly with Sophie and often pulled her tail or hair but she proved exceedingly patient. However, she did enjoy leaping over him while he sat up, and she often missed the mark and knocked him over from his seated position. Passive aggressive?

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

She was already named Sophie when we got her. Coincidentally though, if I had given birth to a baby girl we had planned to name her Sophia.

Does Sophie do more to help or hinder your writing?

Help. She loves to sit by me on the couch or bed as I write by hand in notebooks. And she'll lie in her bed by my computer when I type.

Who is Sophie's best pet-pal?

Henry, my mother-in-law's cockapoo. He's the older of the two but of course, he looks like the baby being so much smaller. You can definitely tell they are "family" and people remark that they look alike.

[photo left: Sophie, Lisa, and Henry]

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Bunnies of all sizes.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Bunnies of all sizes.

What is Sophie's best quality?

Whenever people meet Sophie, including animal intuitives, they always use the word "sweet." She takes sweetness to a new level.

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

She'd get them outside more.

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

What's your secret to such a happy disposition?

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

Gwyneth Paltrow.

What advice would Sophie give if asked?

Best exercise regimen ever--chase bunnies. Also, she'd probably tell us to chill and wag our tails a little more.

Visit Lisa Tener's Book Coach website and Writing and Publishing blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Steven Rowley & Tilda Swinton

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Steven Rowley, author of Lily and the Octopus. With me is Tilda Swinton, a terrier mix my boyfriend and I adopted in January 2015. Like many rescues it's impossible to know her actual age, but we guess she's around 8 years-old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

When I sit down to write each morning, I always do so with a cup of medium-roast coffee, one Stevia, a little cream. Tilda joins me for the first few sips, but quickly loses interest and finds a good spot for a morning snooze. (Without caffeine, I'd probably join her.)

Any treats for you or Tilda on this occasion?

A treat for us both is an afternoon walk and an iced coffee later in the day.

How were you and Tilda united?

My boyfriend (Byron Lane, creator and star of the award-winning web series Last Will and Testicle) and I found Tilda at The Lange Foundation here in Los Angeles. The Lange Foundation takes dogs out of LA city shelters with immediate medical needs that make them more-or-less unadoptable. They pay for medical treatment and then house them until they can be placed in well-screened and loving homes. When Lange found Tilda, she had been shot repeatedly with a BB gun -- someone had obviously used her for target practice. She lost an eye and had two ribs broken in her ordeal, but she knows nothing but love now.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

When we met Tilda she was called Sofie, which didn't seem quite right. She's shockingly blond, is tough as nails and has a steely aloofness. To us that screamed Tilda Swinton. She's Tilda mostly, but also TSwint, Baby, and Monster. My previous dog, Lily (the inspiration for the dog in my novel Lily and the Octopus), had dozens of aliases -- there's a whole chapter in the book devoted to them. But Tilda is a serious girl and nicknames aren't really her style.

Does Tilda do more to help or hinder your writing?

Tilda helps my writing by napping a lot while I'm working, and being game for walks whenever I get stuck or need time to clear my head or work through a problem. Also, novel writing is such a solitary occupation, it's comforting just to have the company. I like to glance up from my desk and watch her sleep, to see her chest rising and falling, knowing that I am not alone.

Has Tilda inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet, but I'm working on an idea. After all, it worked once! My dachshund Lily, who I raised from puppyhood into old age before she succumbed to cancer is absolutely front and center in my debut novel.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Mild interest in squirrels, but oblivious unless they pass in sight of her remaining eye.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Bully sticks. This girl likes to chew.

What is Tilda's best quality?

After Lily passed away, I was wary of getting another dog. I was ready to open our home, if not 100% my heart. Tilda was ready for a safe home, but maybe not 100% ready to trust new people after her ordeal. We gave each other a wide berth. Tilda's best quality? She is authentically herself. She doesn't try to be like Lily, or take her place in my heart. She has allowed me to develop my own relationship with her that is separate and special.

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

What was your life before we met? Tilda is harboring secrets, and as a writer (and someone who loves her) I'm dying to know what they are. Did she know kindness in her previous life? Was there only abuse? Who was her family? She was found dumped in someone's backyard, but she came house trained, so I know she lived with someone else once. I want to know everything. Alas, on these subjects she is silent.

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

Here's the thing: since the day we brought her home she hasn't made a peep. Occasionally she'll whimper in her sleep and it saddens me that she may be reliving something awful. But she never barks -- not even at the mailman -- so it's hard to imagine her speaking. That said, it would have to be the actual Tilda Swinton, no?

What advice would Tilda give if asked?

Everyone, relax. Like, actually relax. Naps are everything.

Visit Steven Rowley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Lily and the Octopus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 13, 2016

Meredith Mennitt & Watson

Who is in the photo at right?

There's Meredith Mennitt (F/30s/English German mutt) and Watson (M/3/long-haired dachshund). I, Meredith, am a book editor and artist. I especially love painting and printmaking! Watson is my muse and artistic director.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Mid-walk stop at an outdoor cafe. Little dachshund legs need lots of breaks during hot summer walks.

What's brewing?

An iced coffee with milk for me and a bowl of water (sans ice) for Watson. If there's ice in the water bowl he will try to dig the ice out and make a mess.

Any treats for you or Watson on this occasion?

No, but we'll probably hit up Mr. Softee on the way home for a small vanilla cone to share.

How were you and Watson united?

I wanted a dachshund since I was a kid and a couple years ago the combination of my birthday and a breakup (cliche, I know) made me go for it. Fantastic decision!

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I wanted my dog to be my city sidekick & who's the ultimate sidekick? Dr. Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame! It suits him & I like the literary nod.

His nickname is "The Little Prince" because he constantly demands attention, admiration, and liver snaps. Also "Wats" and "The Doge."

Does Watson do more to help or hinder your art?

Definitely help! He has posed for portraits [left] and often reminds me to step back and take breaks when working.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Postman = pure evil! If it weren't for Watson, Linda, our lovely postwoman, would have murdered me for sure.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball, preferably one filled with a liver snap.

Who is Watson's best pet-pal?

Fiona, my cat. He loves her and she (barely) tolerates him.

What is Watson's best quality?

He can always make me laugh! He's very smart and I swear we have the same sense of humor.

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

That they slow down! Everyone is in such a hurry!

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

Oooh tough one! Maybe a silly voice Hank Azaria would dream up.

What advice would Watson give if asked?

"Supreme confidence always!"

Visit Meredith Mennitt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Brooks Benjamin & LeeLoo

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Brooks Benjamin. I'm an author and a fifth-grade teacher. The adorable ball of fur beside me is LeeLoo. She's a thirteen-year-old German Shepherd mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

On the weekends, I always make Cuban Coffee. It's a guilty pleasure of mine and LeeLoo always thinks she's going to get a cup even though she never does.

What's brewing?

That Café Cubano I mentioned. It's Café Bustelo espresso mixed with a healthy heaping of Zulka Morena sugar. There's quite a process that goes into making it, but it's totally worth it.

Any treats for you or LeeLoo on this occasion?

The coffee itself is a treat, really. But I always enjoy some toast and jam with it. For LeeLoo, there's a rawhide strip--her absolute favorite treat.

How were you and LeeLoo united?

My wife and I found LeeLoo at Petco when they were showcasing rescued animals for adoption. We knew we wanted a dog and when she ran (waddled, actually) up to us, she attacked us with licks and cuddles. That was when we knew it was meant to be.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

She's named after Milla Jovovich's character from The Fifth Element. Sometimes we call her Poops. You probably don't need to ask why.

Does LeeLoo do more to help or hinder your writing?

Oh, she's more of a neutral contributor. When I'm writing, she enjoys lounging by my feet. There's the occasional bark, but I'm sure she's chasing off some disgusting monster, so I can't really be too upset.

Has LeeLoo inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet, but there's always the potential. She's a pretty fun character in real life, so I'm sure she'll eventually make it into one of my books.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

LeeLoo loves cats, hates the postman, and is incredibly intrigued by squirrels.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

LeeLoo's not much of a chaser, but she loves a good game of tug o' war, so I'll have to go with the squeaky toy built for two.

Who is LeeLoo's best pet-pal?

Our next door neighbor's dog, Maverick. I like to pretend they're dating. Although I think she's more into him than he's into her.

What is LeeLoo's best quality?

Her affection. LeeLoo never passes up a chance to show us love and we never pass up the chance to show her some, either.

If LeeLoo could change one thing about Tennesseans, what would it be?

She'd definitely tell them to love more. Also to stop throwing trash out their car windows because that's just plain rude.

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

I'd ask her how we could make her life better. LeeLoo's basically our daughter and there's nothing we wouldn't do for her.

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

Alfre Woodard because her voice is the auditory embodiment of warmth and compassion.

What advice would LeeLoo give if asked?

Never come home without a pack of rawhide strips. Even if there are some already in the house. They're that important.

Visit Brooks Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights.

Writers Read: Brooks Benjamin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ruth Carter & Rosie

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Ruth Carter – lawyer and writer in Phoenix, AZ and the loving dog parent to Rosie, the 8 year-old basset hound. She was diagnosed with glaucoma and lost an eye in 2015. This was our last picture together before her diagnosis. She will eventually go blind. I want to give her the best life possible, including letting her see as much as she can while she still can.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Rosie and I spent a long weekend in Flagstaff, AZ. We rented an Airbnb at a house owned by two artists. It was a great place to get away to relax and recharge. We loved the pellet stove. We started and ended each day in front of the fire.

What's brewing?

Our Airbnb had a kitchenette with a coffeemaker and mini-fridge that was stocked with coffee and cream. I don’t know what brand it was, but it was delightful.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I made myself oatmeal with brown sugar, chopped almonds, raisins, and almond milk.

How were you and Rosie united?

I adopted Rosie from the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue when she was 4. We just celebrated 4 years together. I knew the moment I saw her at our meet-and-greet that she was my dog.

Any treats for Rosie on this occasion?

She just finished her breakfast kibble and chopped baked chicken. She slept on the couch next to me while I finished my breakfast.

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

Rosie’s original name was “Roxy.” When I saw her sweet face and her big brown eyes, I knew she was really “Rosie.” It took her less than a week to adjust to her new name. Her full name is Rose Louise Carter. Louise was my grandmother’s middle name.

Rosie has a few nicknames – “Baby Girl” and “Waddles” are the main ones, but her godfather also calls her the “Potato Sack,” which shortens to “Tater Sack” and “Sack.”

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

No toys today, though she’s a fan of sticks. Sticks are the only chew toys that stand a chance with her. No “long-lasting” chew toy has last more than 10 minutes with her, but actual sticks stand a chance. She loves to break them into pieces. When she finds a stick during one our walks, she proudly trots home with it in her mouth, her wagging tail waving triumphantly upright.

Postman, cat, squirrel...?

Anything that moves is interesting and everyone is her friend. When we went to the dog beach in southern California last year, she would walk up to strangers and plop down on their blankets as if to say, “You may pet me now.”

Who is Rosie's best pet-pal?

We live in a great neighborhood with lots of dogs. Her best pal is a 12 year-old German shepherd named Zavvy. They enjoy the mellow life of sniffing the ground, relaxing in the grass, and occasionally playing with the whipper snapper dogs.

What is Rosie's most endearing quality?

She is so pure. Her eyes tell an entire story. You never have to question how she feels because it’s emanating from her. Even though she had a rough start before she was rescued, all she wants is to love and be loved.

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

Make more dog-friendly places. She’s too stubborn to be trained to be a therapy dog and she likes to go with me when she can. I negotiated her into my work contract so she can come to the office where my co-workers love on her.

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

Shirley MacLaine! She's so much like Weezer (Ouiser Boudreaux) from Steel Magnolias.

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

I love you and I want you to be happy. Is there anything more I can do to make sure you know you’re loved every day?

What advice would Rosie give if asked?

Do what you love and enjoy the simple pleasures. And don’t be afraid to use your devastatingly charismatic eyes to get what you want. If you believe they can’t resist you, they’ll believe it too.

Visit Ruth Carter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Helaina Hovitz & Wiley

Who is in the photo at right?

Helaina Hovitz, social good journalist and editor, animal lover, nonprofit enthusiast, co-founder of the new site Headlines for the Hopeful, and author of the forthcoming memoir After 9/11, One Girl’s Journey Through Darkness to a New Beginning.

Wiley is about four years old, we think, a male Chihuahua Mix and a rescue—some people think he’s mixed with Corgi, but I think Jack Russell Terrier, and mama always knows best!

Did Wiley play a role in bringing your upcoming memoir to readers?

Wiley is a publicity machine. He has been working around the clock to try and help me get it out there!

In all seriousness, I believe Wiley and I understand each other in a special way because we both had it pretty rough during our early, formative years, and we are both very resilient. We came together at a time where we both finally feel safe in the world. He knows we’re a family and that I’m not going anywhere. Writing about him helped me realize just how similar rescue dogs and rescued humans really are.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Wiley just finished his first behavioral therapy session for the curious bouts of aggression that he sometimes experiences while on his walks, and for the doorbell anxiety/barking. I wish he could explain his history to me so I could understand what happens in those moments. I was there as a teenager, too—I wanted to connect with others, but had a hard time interacting socially and tended to become defensive very quickly. Sarah, our trainer at BarkBusters explained that he experiences the fight or flight response while on the leash, and since flight isn't an option...there you go. She also explained that he feels anxiety that causes him to feel the need to protect me and exert control, and that his adrenaline response is automatic and will take a while to unlearn. Turns out he just needs mommy to be more of a leader. I may or may not have cried during the training when his tail went between his legs, but it’s for the greater good of helping him feel safe in the long run! It's like watching myself do CBT therapy all over again.

What's brewing?

Flavored coffee from our trusty Keurig. Wiley brought it to me at my desk today with flavored Almond Joy creamer and Stevia, the way I take it every morning.

Any treats for you or Wiley on this occasion?

So many treats, all day, every day. Wiley’s “likes” include turkey based treats, human food, 4-5 walks a day, more treats, snuggles, sitting on mommy’s lap, more human food, and pooping on cobblestones. While we’re at it, his “dislikes” include apparel of any kind and when mommy and daddy try to have “alone time.” He also despises any form of transportation, and when anyone besides grandma and grandpa come to the door.

How were you and Wiley united?

Wiley is a special case, because we are his fourth home. He was found as a stray by Friends with Four Paws Rescue in Oklahoma, was fostered there until he was sent to Brooklyn where he was fostered again, then was adopted out to a family in Yonkers, who, after a year, had to give him up because of “allergies.” We had filled in applications for other pooches, and a Chi Mix was not one of the breeds I was falling in love with through their photos. After I met with one of the rescue’s other adoptable pets and wrote an email about how I didn’t feel the connection but would love to keep trying, the animal rescue's president, Leah, gave me a call and we struck up an instant bond.

The next day, she texted me and told me they had an emergency situation, and a rare one: they had a “return.” She sent me Wiley’s picture, and I just had that feeling. I took it as a sign. So, we went to pick him up from his old home and bring him to ours without meeting him first. He was nervous in the car and left a little present outside the building after the car ride, but he adjusted phenomenally and almost immediately, like he was still a puppy and we were his first set of parents. It was like he instantly imprinted on me. We signed the adoption papers two days later.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

We actually aren’t sure, the people who had him before us named him and we decided not to change his name and further confuse him. But we’re guessing it’s because he thinks he’s a tough guy, like Wiley coyote. I’ve been known to call him Cookie, Tough Guy, and my fiancé calls him Wikey, derived from my mother’s autocorrected texts referring to him as such.

Does Wiley do more to help or hinder your writing?

Oh boy. Sometimes he makes little crying noises when I’m really on a roll, impatient to go out, so that is definitely a hindrance. But he’s also kept me glued to my desk at times that I want to break away because he’s a very heavy lap-sitter, which has resulted in me powering through at times when I may not have, so that’s a big help.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?


Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Fingers. Only fingers. He doesn’t bite hard, so he doesn’t understand why we keep gently tossing toys in his direction.

Who is Wiley's best pet-pal?

He would like it to be Gucci, my first dog who is now 14 and lives with my dad, who was always his favorite. But Gucci makes a break for it as soon as Wiley heads into the apartment. He’s like, “I’m way too old for this, get him away from me.”

What is Wiley's best quality?

His ability to love and trust despite everything he’s been through. He is a total mama’s boy and makes a great shadow.

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

That I have to leave the house. Ever. For any reason.

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

Why are you such a sweet bundle of puppy with some dogs, and what makes you get so mad at other dogs who behave the exact same way?

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

Definitely someone with a low, gruff voice, maybe even with an accent. He is a lot tougher and more worldly than he looks. I have a voice I do for him on the daily (working from home doesn’t make you crazy, right?), but it can’t be replicated by any other human. So, let’s go with Clint Eastwood.

What advice would Wiley give if asked?

Get yourself a family like mine if you can. They give me first dibs on bed space at night, let me sit at the dining room table sometimes, and spend hours fussing over me like I’m an infant, even though we’ve been together for over a year and I’m, like, 30 years old in dog years. I did well for myself with these guys.

So, if you’re a dog still waiting to be adopted, hang in there. Lots of good people are out there waiting to give you a good life.

Visit Helaina Hovitz's website, and learn more about After 9/11, One Girl’s Journey Through Darkness to a New Beginning.

--Marshal Zeringue