Thursday, April 23, 2015

Graham Westerson & Wicket

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Graham, and I’m a writer and freelance graphic designer. With me is little Wicket, a male Australian Shepherd mix, no more than a few months old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

He’s always my helper in the kitchen, but today I need the extra cup to keep up with his care.

What's brewing?

Just Folger’s Instant today! A little instant, black coffee gets the job done.

Any treats for you or Wicket on this occasion?

No treats for him today, he’s on a strict diet.

How were you and Wicket united?

My girlfriend and I found him wandering the busy city street outside our apartment. He had no collar, and was far too small to be away from his mother. No one claimed him, so we took him in.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

We canvassed our friends for names, and one thought that, with his belly and stubby legs, he looked like Wicket, the lead Ewok from Star Wars. He’s also referred to as “Love Bug”, “Our Little Sausage” and, recently, “Lumpy”.

Please tell us about Wicket's health issues and how readers might help.

Wicket is just about old enough to get his shots, but before we could do that, he contracted the Parvovirus. Parvo is a very serious gastrointestinal disease, and most puppies don’t survive without treatment. [Editor's note: Wicket's treatments are quite expensive. Graham & his girlfriend have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise the funds to help defray the medical costs. Check it out.]

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Anything he can chew on! He still has his milkteeth, and loves to chew on bones and hooves.

What is Wicket's best quality?

Wicket has boundless energy, and loves to make friends with everyone he sees.

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

Less vegan food. Wicket loves meat!

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

What’s happening in those puppy dreams? They look like too much fun.

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

Comedian Aziz Ansari. He’s got the same manic energy and crazy eyes that makes Wicket so special.

What advice would Wicket give if asked?

Make new friends and explore the world, but don’t forget to treat yourself to a nap.

Check out the GoFundMe campaign to help Wicket beat the Parvovirus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 20, 2015

Silvie Goldstein & JD, Wendy, Silvieon4 and Cosmo

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Silvie Goldstein. I am a retired lawyer and rescue volunteer and I share my life with JD, a Male 12 year year old Bichon, "The" Wendy, and 11 year old female Bichon, Silvieon4, an eight year old Bichon girl and our latest, Cosmo, a male Bichon, age unknown, but we are guessing between 4 and 5 years old.

[photo right: Slivieon2 and Silvieon4]

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We live very busy lives and each day we try and carve "special time" with each dog. As it so happens, Silvie on4, is my breakfast buddy and we usually share a morning cappuccino. She is fond of foam and I am fond of the coffee.

What's brewing?

Our usual is brewing in my Pasquini espresso machine, a blend of Harrar, Ghimbi, and Sidamo coffees from Ethiopia. I was born in Eritrea and my taste in coffee is firmly seated in that part of the world.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

I am what my husband describes a "serial baker" so there are always goodies in the house. Right now my cookie jars are filled with pumpkin biscotti, which we bake and sell for rescue at rescue events, frittelle, and apple chips. Silvieon4 is fond of pumpkin biscotti and will share. But her absolute favorite is the foam that I skim off my coffee.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

JD- He was a sickly puppy who arrived at our home the same day my daughter was accepted into law school. Ours is a family of lawyers. My husband is a federal judge, my son is a lawyer, and my daughter is a lawyer. At that point we realized that this puppy would be the only one without a "JD" [Juris Doctorate] so, of course we gave it to him as his name. Lots of people speculate that JD stands for many other things- but they are wrong. JD is also known as "The King". He rules this house with his tiny paw, demanding a seat at the dinner table, his own glass, and lots of little perks that other dogs would never expect. He is the king.

Wendy- renamed Wendy after her rescue. She is the magical Wendy. Earned the "The" Wendy when she learned to trust us. Hers has been a journey of redemption. We had to show her that humans could be good. Her past had shown her that humans were greedy, mean, unfeeling and painful. While she fears women, this year she showed me that she does love and trust her momma. We were at the vet. My husband and daughter were present and we were all trying to comfort Wendy who was scared. I anticipated that she would go to my husband and feel comfort. But The Wendy surprised everyone and she bypassed everybody and came to me. I was in shock. I have been working on Wendy's trust issues with women for 8 years. My baby girl is finally at home. She has my heart. She is The Wendy.

Silvieon4 was named Silvie by Tidewater Bichon Frise Rescue. I am told that she was named Silvie because she is small and mouthy...which is how I am often described. She was puppy and I fell madly in love with her under bite and feisty personality. Of course she had to come home. She has been a blessing in every way. She forced Wendy to come out of her shell, she taught JD to be a dog, she broke every single boundary and challenged every bit of conventional wisdom about dogs. She "talks" she is known to be a mad cuddler, and she loves fiercely and completely. She is a diva who loves the camera, loves clothing, loves shopping and loves wearing a crown. She is empress for life and dismisses all princesses. She hates grass, loves elevators and prefers to swim without wearing a life vest.She has a blog- Silvieon4.com and rescue is her platform. For some reason she responds to the name "Baby" and anything said to her in Italian or French sends her melting.

Cosmo. We have only had Cosmo for about 2 weeks. We have no idea why he was named Cosmo. But so far what we noticed is a happy boy who is always hungry and who loves, no loves to cuddle and be held. I have been calling him Limo, because he is so long in his torso. He is proving to be a real sweetie.

How were you and your dogs united?

Tidewater Bichon Frise Rescue! All of our dogs are rescued. We love TBFR. We work and support the incredible mission they have been performing for over 20+ years.

Cat, postman, squirrel.... ?

Easy: yellow cat. We have no idea whose cat it is. It roams the neighborhood and occasionally invades our backyard. It is a big, older yellow cat who loves sauntering by and tormenting the dogs who will bark all manners of threats. As far as the squirrels, a truce of some sort was brokered apparently. There used to be mutual hate. I think age mellowed everyone. The dogs ignore them and they ignore the dogs. But the real excitement happens every spring when we open the pool and the ducks arrive. Ever see a Bichon blitz around the pool while the ducks leisurely float? It is epic. And apparently duck poop is to be rolled into. So, yes, lots of baths and lots of grooming...

Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?

Splish Duckworth- a white stuffed duck that each dog got from TBFR. Wendy and JD are really not into toys. Silvie is a hoarder of toys, but she only really plays with a pulley monkey. Cosmo... he is toy obsessed and will suckle his Splish while rocking as he falls asleep. He does this every single night.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

The boardwalk. They love going to Virginia Beach and walk the boardwalk. They love the ocean, the smells, the beach, the variety of "petters" and they love sitting in the outdoor restaurants having a snack.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Wendy and Silvie are bonded. Silvie also adores JD who is really into showing her he is boss. The Wendy worries about everybody. She is a little momma. So far Cosmo has been crazy playing with Silvie who pretty much has been using him to make JD jealous.

What is each dog's best quality?

JD is a "cosmopolitan" well-traveled dog who loves meeting new people. He simply does not understand anyone who does not stop and pet him. He actually gets this "What the heck?" look if people simply walk by without acknowledging him.

The Wendy wears her heart on her paw. She will find the person who is most broken and simply sit by them and give them quiet comfort. I call her the heart healer.

Silvieon4. She thinks her job is to cuddle and she is terrific at her job.

Cosmo. He'll eat anything, will fall asleep at the drop of a hat, if you can hold him. The interesting thing we have seen is how each dog learns from the others. With Cosmo, we have watched him watch and learn how to fit in our routines. He is a fast learner!

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

They would have me "calm down" and not freak out when one of them swallows a live frog, which ends up hopping all over my bedroom, once it is regurgitated... or not completely lose it when they bring me a dead bird as a "gift"... or cry when one of them is limping because they pulled a muscle.

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

JD - Sean Connery. He has that edge to him.

The Wendy - Annette Bening.

Silvieon4 - Drew Barrymore.

Cosmo - Robert Downey Jr.

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

What can I do to make your life better?

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Make the moments count, It's about the relationships not about things, place, stuff....

Visit the Silvieon4 website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lisa Acciai & Lady and Muffin

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Lisa Acciai, a pet portrait artist, and at right, is my dog Lady and her best friend Muffin. Lady is a 12 year old female Lab mix and Muffin (my parents' dog who visits every day) is a 6 year old female Cavachon (which for those who aren’t familiar that is a mix of a Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles). We all live in Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech, along with my husband, and our two boys.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We walk the dogs every morning. Today, we decided to have coffee on the front porch with the girls before we headed out on our daily walk. Lady is definitely a creature of habit, so morning works are pretty much mandatory.

What's brewing?

Starbucks Veranda Blend K-cups.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Yes, homemade biscotti!

How were you and Lady united?

Lady and I met 9 years ago when my oldest son was 8 and begging for a dog. We went to the humane society with the intention of just “taking a look.” We almost missed seeing Lady that day. Her cage was on the other side of two cages that contained some very angry sounding dogs. Since the boys were afraid to go past the these dogs we were about to leave until the volunteer suggested I go and see her. I did go see her and I fell in love immediately. We went back to get her the next day.

Any treats for Lady and Muffin on this occasion?

Always! Lady and Muffin are very food motivated, so they are having the mandatory doggie biscuits (pretty much required after any trip outside). Most of the neighborhood knows these two, and there are numerous stops on any walk where “the girls” know “who gives out the best treats”!

How did Lady and Muffin get their names? Do they have any nicknames?

At the humane society they called her Baby which we didn’t like but we wanted something similar so she didn’t get confused. Lady fit perfectly. Muffin of course got her name because she looks like a brown muffin. I often call Muffin “muff” but Lady is always “Lady.”

[portrait of Muffin by Lisa Acciai, left]

Does Lady do more to help or hinder your art?

Lady lays by my side while I paint and when I get on a roll and forget the time she nudges me to take a break and eat – I think this may be more for her benefit!

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

In Lady’s younger days it was a squeaky toy, but these days she can’t be bothered. Her hips are too sore to do much playing. Muffin, on the other hand, can still chase a tennis ball for hours and chew a squeaky toy to bits in a matter of minutes.

Postman, cat, squirrel...?

UPS man – he always brings a treat with his packages. Both dogs are deathly afraid of cats – they had a bad experience where a cat attacked them for trying to invade the cats personal space. As for squirrel’s and other yard critters (we have a groundhog living next to our garden), neither dog could care less; if there isn’t food involved, it’s not worth their effort.

Where is Lady and Muffins favorite place for an outing?

Walking in the woods behind our house.

Who is Lady's best pet-pal?

Muffin! (or the treat bin, it’s sort of a toss up...)

What is Lady's most endearing quality? And Muffin's?

Lady has never met someone she didn’t like. She has a smile and wag for everyone she meets. Even cats ... although they don’t always like her! Muffin is a cuddler.

If Lady could change one thing about Virginians, what would it be?

That it become a state law, that all delivery people be required to bring dog treats with any postage or packages left. She is absolutely thrilled when the brown UPS truck shows up, and it’s one of the few times when she actually barks (so you know it’s got to be pretty important). For the FedEx and USPS folks, she’ll barely raise her head up from a nap.

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

I’m thinking Julia Child, with more of a Southern accent, versus British - although I’m not sure how much Lady likes wine with her food.

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

I would ask what she dreams about; she seems to be doing a lot of running in her naps, yet she’s not the most active dog during her waking hours. So is she a “closet squirrel chaser,” who is just too old to keep up with those young critters….

Visit the website for Lisa Acciai's pet portrait art.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cindy Knapper & Lucy

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Cindy Knapper and I'm a retired R.N. I worked in the operating room of a local hospital for twenty-three years. Now I'm enjoying my retirement by writing every day in my blog, A Slice of Life. I'm also working on my memoirs, but in my spare time I enjoy quilting and singing in our church choir. Above all, I think my favorite thing to do is play the piano. I just began taking lessons in 2014 at the age of 57, but you know what they say: "Better late than never!" It's been a lifelong dream of mine and finally my dream has come true.

The darling little dog that I'm holding in my arms is my little Lucy. She is a toy poodle who became a member of our family in 2005. She is the sweetest little dog you'd ever want to meet. And even though she's now nine years old, everywhere we go, people think she's a puppy because she's so little and she still acts like a puppy. They always gush over her and say, "Aw...she's so cute!" because she is. Just look at her!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Lucy loves to be outside, and our back yard is her favorite hang out. So as soon as spring time arrives and my husband places the outdoor furniture back on to our deck, Lucy and I like to spend the early part of the morning out there. It's the perfect time of day because it's so peaceful. I love to listen to the birds as they sing their morning song and watch the squirrels as they scamper among the tree branches. In the meantime, Lucy is chasing those very same birds and squirrels. Sometimes I think she believes that she can fly like the birds when she chases them! And the squirrels just taunt her as they scoot away from her.

What's brewing?

I've never really cared for coffee, although my three children are addicted to it. My beverage of choice is tea. I do not, however, drink tea that is brewed from tea bags. Oh no, not me. I brew my tea from tea leaves. I think tea brewed from tea leaves has a better taste and I think it's fresher, too. I also use a French press to brew my tea. Today I'm drinking green chai tea which is a spicy green tea blended with cardamom, ginger, cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and spearmint. It's just the thing I need to get my day started. As for Lucy, she loves ice water. However, if I do happen to spill my tea, she is there in an instant to slurp it up!

Any treats for you or Lucy on this occasion?

I'm enjoying a blueberry muffin today. It's one of my favorite morning treats and the sweet taste of blueberries pairs very nicely with my spicy green chai tea. Lucy is having a dental dog snack, although she is eyeing my blueberry muffin and I can see that she keeps smacking her lips every time I take a bite of it.

How were you and Lucy united?

In 2004 I was forced into retirement by a serious medical condition. It was quite a blow to me because it came out of nowhere and it seemed as though my world came crashing down. I felt as though I didn't know who I was any more. I felt as though I had lost part of my identity. I was bedridden and all alone during the day. My kids were in school and my husband was at work all day so I was lonely and depressed. So my husband thought it might be a good idea for me to have a dog to keep me company during those seemingly long hours. We found Lucy at a local pet shop. She was only eight weeks old when we brought her home and she was the sweetest little puppy I'd ever seen. It was love at first sight for me and for the rest of my family. She was constantly with me: while I was in bed, while I sat in my recliner, and she followed me everywhere I went. She helped to lift my depression and made me smile again. I believe she helped to make me feel better. I even believe she helped to heal me because gradually my health improved. Studies have shown that dogs do improve the health of their owners and I believe it's true.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

We named her Lucy because the name Lucy means "light" and "light bringer." And to me, a "light bringer" is one who brings happiness, love, cheer, and life. And that's exactly what Lucy was meant to do for me. That's the reason she was brought into my life and that is exactly what she did. Bless her little heart! As for nicknames, sometimes I call her "Lulu" or "Louie-Lou" or even "Lucille" and my daughter Sarah likes to call her "Louie-Goose."

Does Lucy do more to help or hinder your writing?

I don't know if she does one or the other, but I can tell you one thing that she does when I'm writing, and it's this. Lucy is a "people" dog. This means that she always wants to be near me, and if not me, then someone else in the family, usually my husband. Therefore when I'm writing, she has to be close to me, no matter where I am writing. So, if I'm sitting on my recliner with my laptop on a little lap table, she insists on lying between my legs with her head on the lap table. This makes it a little crowded sometimes! Or if I'm sitting on my office chair at the desktop computer, then she has to sit on that same chair behind me. Yes, that's right - behind me. Talk about being crowded! Okay, so maybe she does hinder my writing a bit.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Lucy loves to chase squirrels. All you have to do is say the word "squirrel" and she'll race to the nearest tree, look up into the branches, and look for a squirrel, barking the entire time. The squirrels will run along the side of the fence and when they see Lucy coming, they'll stop, look down at her, and it seems as though they're laughing at her, knowing that she can't reach them at the top of that fence. I honestly think they enjoy teasing her. As far as cats go, the other day I noticed that Lucy was at our garage door with her head underneath the garage door. For some reason our garage door won't quite shut all the way. I called out to my husband and he rushed outside and opened the garage door manually for fear that if he used the automatic garage door opener it might malfunction and come crashing down on her head. As soon as the door opened, Lucy raced into the back of the garage and chased out a cat who was hiding behind some boxes. This cat was bigger than our little poodle, but Lucy was barking so madly at him that he sprinted out of the garage as though afraid for his life. I've never seen a cat climb our fence so fast before! And let me tell you about the postman. Every day for the past nine years, ever since Lucy came to live with us, whenever the postman arrives in his truck to deliver the mail at our mailbox on the side of the road, Lucy barks at him. She sits on the back of the sofa, where she can survey what she deems as her kingdom (which is the entire front yard including the mailbox) and as soon as that mail truck pulls up, she just does not think it belongs in her little kingdom. Period. And so she barks incessantly until the postman drives away from our mailbox. You would think that after nine years she would be resigned to the fact that the postman comes every day for just a few minutes and then leaves, right? But no, not Lucy. She doesn't want him there. End of story.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Lucy loves nothing better than to be in the back yard, have us throw a ball, and then chase it down. The only problem is that after she fetches the ball, she will not bring it back. She just has never learned the concept of bringing it back. No, that's not quite right. Let me put it another way. She refuses to give up the ball. She wants to keep it for herself. I think she figures that she did all the hard work of running after it and catching it, so why should she have to give it back? She's a funny little pooch. She also enjoys stuffed toys that have squeakers in them. When she gets a stuffed toy with a squeaker inside, her first goal is to get the squeaker out. And she works hard at it. Once she accomplishes that task, then she sets out to remove all the stuffing out of the toy. Before long, there are little mountains of white fluffy cotton from one end of the house to the other and I get the job of picking it all up. But sometimes the white fluff sticks to her black curly hair and I can't help but laugh at the sight of her.

Who is Lucy's best pet-pal?

As I've mentioned, Lucy truly is a "people" dog, meaning that she'd much rather be with people than with other dogs. On occasion, when I've watched my son's dog Lola over the weekend, we've taken Lucy and Lola to the dog park and all Lucy wants to do is sit on my lap. She has no desire to play with the other dogs. As a matter of fact, sometimes she's afraid of the other dogs and she'll get nervous when they try to socialize with her. But I would say that her best pet-pal is my son's dog Lola. Lola is 3/4 black lab and 1/4 boxer and is really a sweet and rather goofy dog, which is why I do love her. When she comes to visit, she's so big compared to Lucy, and it's though she understands this so is very gentle with Lucy and I think that's why my little dog enjoys her company. They get along great and do have fun together.

What is Lucy's best quality?

Lucy has so many great qualities that it's difficult to choose just one. She is highly intelligent, which makes sense because poodles are ranked second in intelligence, with border collies being ranked first. Her vocabulary is huge. It is so huge that it had gotten to the point that when we were going to take her for a walk, but we didn't want her to get excited too far ahead of time, we'd have to spell out the word "walk." But to demonstrate just how smart she is, now she actually knows what we're talking about when we spell that word! And whispering it doesn't work either, because when we whisper, she still knows that something exciting is about to happen. She is also loyal and the entire time while I was so ill she never left my side. Even now, because I am still recovering, when I have my bad days, she always seems to know, and on those days, she stays particularly close to me. It's as though she knows I need extra comfort. She has a cute and quirky little personality and always manages to makes me laugh on a daily basis. But most of all, she gives her unconditional love, and really, what more could anyone ask for?

If Lucy could change one thing about Minnesotans, what would it be?

Minnesotans are a hardy breed because of our bitterly cold winters and therefore, we're used to it. Because of this, we've become accustomed to lower temperatures in our houses, even during those cold winters. I think Lucy would want us to raise the temperature in the house during the winter because she is a little freeze-baby. We even have to put sweaters on her during the winter months because she'll shiver, even in the house. At bedtime, she loves to scoot underneath the blankets in our bed so she can snuggle close to us and she won't peek her head out until the alarm goes off in the morning.

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

I believe I know the answer to this question, but I would ask her: "Are you happy?" Lucy is a member of our family and we love her, so naturally her happiness is important to me. She is like my baby and if there was something that I could do to make her life better, I would. I love her. It's as simple as that.

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

Kristen Bell in the voice-over of "Anna" from Disney's movie Frozen.

What advice would Lucy give if asked?

She would tell me: "Just breathe. Relax. Enjoy today while you can and remember that tomorrow will come soon enough. And one more thing - don't forget that everything is better with cheese!"

Visit Cindy Knapper's blog, A Slice of Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Scarlett Lillian & Rhett

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Scarlett Lillian, a high school fashion senior photographer in Jacksonville, FL at Scarlett Lillian Seniors! My #poodlechild is Rhett. He's a male miniature poodle, and just turned 11 years old! He's even got his own Instagram account.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We love walking nature trails, so we brewed a cup of coffee ahead of time to give us energy!

What's brewing?

Social Grounds. It's a local coffee company with a big heart whose mission is to use the sale of their coffee to empower people, specifically the homeless in our city. It's a great cause I love supporting with my morning cup!

Any treats for you or Rhett on this occasion?

He loves his Beggin' Strips!

How were you and Rhett united?

I went through a very hard heartbreak in my early 20s and told my parents, I needed to transfer my love to something else, and I was getting a puppy. They were a little shocked because they never felt I was a dog person before that, but getting Rhett healed my heart with the every day joy he brought into my life. I originally set out to get a Chihuahua like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde so I could carry him in my purse, and when I brought my mom back to a pet store where I found a Chihuahua, that dog was gone! So my mom and I walked around the store, and she said "How about this sweet looking poodle?" I said "Oh mom, poodles are so cliche!" But then he gave me those puppy dog eyes, and I picked him up and he turned on his back like a baby and just melted in my arms. Then another puppy tried to come up to play, and he growled at that puppy because he knew he had found his momma. And I knew from that moment on he was going home with me.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I was named after the movie Gone With The Wind and always thought it would be fun if I met a guy named Rhett, and I never did, so I loved naming my dog that in honor of the movie! Now we are Scarlett & Rhett just like in the movie. Even though I usually call him "Rhettster" for affection.

Does Rhett do more to help or hinder your photography?

Definitely help! When I was first starting out years ago, trying to learn the ins and out of my camera, he was my very first model! I have a whole book of all my test shots I used to take of him practicing all the settings. He was the best supermodel and loves to show off!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Neither really. He's too nice, he doesn't chase other animals or people.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Definitely a tennis ball. We used to live next to a tennis court, and on our walks, 200 feet away, he would smell lost tennis balls in the bushes and dive in to find them with a victory every time. So we have a collection of about 100 lost tennis balls. He loves when I toss them and chasing them and bringing it back just close enough to play hard to get.

Who is Rhett's best pet-pal?

Definitely me. He's a momma boy for sure and born to be a lap dog. All. The. Time.

What is Rhett's best quality?

I never thought a dog could have so much personality, but he truly does. Every day he does something new to make my husband and I laugh.

If Rhett could change one thing about Florida, what would it be?

Fewer ticks. We recently went on a walk in a public nature trail and he got infested in hundreds of seed ticks! I had never heard of seed ticks before, but he looked like a poppyseed bagel! It scared me to death having to shave him down bald and pick them off one by one, but after rushing him to the vet, his wounds have healed and he's doing much better now, and you can believe I complained to the city of Jacksonville about needing to spray their public parks better after that scare.

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

Why do you lick your feet so much?

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

My husband Stephen does a great "movie trailer voice", so I would probably love for my husband to do his voice. Ha!

What advice would Rhett give if asked?

The way I adore you, and love you, and make you my everything, keep loving God that way.

Visit the Scarlett Lillian Seniors website, Facebook page, and Instagram page, and check out Rhett's Instagram page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 6, 2015

Shanna Mahin & Riley

Who is in each of the photos at at the top of this Q & A?

I’m Shanna Mahin, the blonde one [just below, left], at least for now. My hair is a constant work in progress. I’m a writer, which means I spend a lot of time in my pajamas worrying about writing and not actually doing it.

The furry one is Riley. He’s a rescue, so I’m not entirely sure how old he is, but I’ve had him 13 years. Our best guess is that he’s part whippet and part terrier of some kind. The ears are kind of dingo-y, and he probably would eat your baby if he had the chance. Don’t be fooled by his sweet face.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every day is “coffee with a canine” day at our house. I don’t actually drink coffee anymore, due to boring health reasons too unseemly to discuss in mixed company. But I get up and make myself green tea and a cup for my husband that perfumes the house, so at least I still have the smell. After he leaves for his grownup job, I feed Riley and we get back in bed together so my workday can begin.

What's brewing?

My mother-in-law gave us a Keurig right about the time I stopped drinking coffee. I think we’re using Trader Joe’s French roast in it right now. I’m much pickier than my husband is. When I drank coffee, it was fresh ground beans every morning. My tea is Republic of Tea Honey Ginseng. With stevia. Getting old is emotionally rewarding, but it’s hell on the body.

Any treats for you or Riley on this occasion?

Riley and I pretend we’re ascetic in the early morning. Just tea for me and kibble for him. It all blows apart by lunch time, when he gets chicken jerky and I share bits of my bacon and avocado sandwich with him.

How were you and Riley united?

Short version: Before Riley, I had an Italian greyhound named Ruby, who was eaten by a particularly wily coyote at my employer’s house in the Hollywood Hills. (That’s where the story would get long if I let it.) After a few months, I had a rescue group looking for another Italian greyhound and I got a call that they found one at a high-kill shelter 40 miles from my house. I drove out there at 5:30 a.m. the next day and there was Riley. Emaciated, angry, frightened, and not even close to being an Italian greyhound. They were keeping him in with the big dogs because he was bullying the little ones. He weighed 19 pounds and was unneutered. They said he was a puppy, but it turned out later he was probably more like two years old. When they brought him out of the cage, he hugged the wall like a felon in a prison hallway. Even though he wasn’t “the dog I wanted,” I decided to take him and find a home for him. It took about three days before he completely owned me.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He just looked like a Riley. Oh, god, he has SO many aliases: Squib, Curly Sue, Curly Bean, Snout, Baby Snout, The Doggle, Ghostfaced Killah, Buggle, Boogle, Pippi Dogstocking, Dogzilla, Fuzzbucket, Biter Box, The Lump, Biscuit, Sweet Pea. I could go on for pages, and I’m even leaving out the really humiliating ones.

Does Riley do more to help or hinder your writing?

I’m not sure I could have finished a book without Riley. He sleeps on my feet all day while I wrangle words onto the page, coaxes me out into the world so I don’t become completely reclusive and feral, doesn’t judge me while I rant and sob into his fur. He’s in his golden years now, and I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do when he’s gone.

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

The Weimeraner in my book bears a striking resemblance to a Weimeraner I once knew. Riley hasn’t shown up in my work yet, but trust me, it’s coming. I’m a huge fan of several dog-related books which are aspirational to me, including: Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babel, and Ron Koertge’s Strays.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

He’s oddly unmoved by birds and squirrels, and he’s not particularly interested in most cats when we’re out walking. But there’s a gray cat who taunts him by walking along the awning of our neighbor’s house. He will wake from a dead sleep and leap from the bed to the patio in a single bound to make his frustration known. Anyone delivering anything (postman, UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, even the pizza guy) is most unwelcome in our house. We have to lock him in another room before we open the door. And if we’re out walking, he can spot a delivery person at 50 feet, even though he’s practically blind at this point.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

It’s all about the rope. We live in a very small condo, but we can get a good game of hide-and-seek going, wherein I throw the rope and my husband hides. There are literally only 4 places to go, and Riley is exhilarated and baffled every single time.

Who is Riley's best pet-pal?

He’s slow to warm up to new pals, but he does have a long distance love affair with a pitbull named Buddy in Los Angeles.

What is Riley's best quality?

His unwavering enthusiasm for life’s simple pleasures. Every meal is exciting; every time we come home, he’s beyond thrilled to see us. Every treat is as appreciated as the ones that came before it.

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

My stinginess with people food.

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

Tell me where it hurts, sweetheart.

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

It’s a toss-up between Jack Nicholson and Nathan Lane.

What advice would Riley give if asked?

Just relax. Sometimes doing nothing is the best course of action. Why don’t you take a nap and then see how you feel?

Visit Shanna Mahin's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Aislinn Hunter & Cooper and Juniper

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Aislinn Hunter, a writer – the human in the middle of the Border collie sandwich. Cooper is on my right, he's seven, and Juniper is on my left, she's six.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

An actual Saturday off which means lounging on the back deck, drinking coffee with my husband, hanging out with the animals and reading the paper.

What's brewing?

I'm a huge fan of Kicking Horse Coffee. It's Fair Trade, organic, made in BC (near the Rockies) and so good I once called their 1-800 number and left a long goofy message saying how much I loved their beans. 95% of the time I'm a soy or almond milk person but for coffee I use a tiny splash of 2%.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

They're spoiled daily so being allowed on the furniture, getting to sprawl on us is the norm. We've all packed on a few pounds over the winter so treats in the form of cookies (for them) and croissants (for us) are off the table (this may be why Cooper looks so sad).

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

My husband Glenn works in the wine industry and Cooper was born on a vineyard (his mom was a stray) so we wanted a wine name and a cooper is a barrel-maker. Joon came from the rescue as 'Gin' and gin comes from Juniper so we went with Joon / Juniper. I have about 100 nicknames for the dogs which my husband thinks is about 98 too many. Sometimes Juniper gets 'Baboon-aper' (cause she's such a monkey) and Coop gets 'Noodle' because when he sees us even after a few hours he wiggles his whole body like a wet noodle.

How were you and your dogs united?

We got Coop as a puppy from a rescue down in Washington State and Juniper came from That'll Do Border Collie Rescue here in Vancouver. We didn't know we were Border collie people until we happened into it... Cooper was billed as a spaniel / collie mix at the rescue and we'd always liked spaniels. (Of course he turned out to be 100% Border collie so there was a steep learning curve but we got hooked on the breed's smarts and general A-type quirkiness.)

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

They hinder the writing but they help me. Border collies need at least two serious rounds of exercise every day along with mental tasks / brain work. We always go out before I write and when we come back, because they're happy, they'll give me a good 6 hours of writing. I've done longer stretches (maybe breaking for 10 mins) and they start to get bored – bark at stuff outside, circle the study. (Right now Cooper is under the desk at my feet totally relaxed and Juniper is nudging my left hand with her nose....) The dogs actually help me with my work/life balance. Back in December when I was working 12 hrs a day writing toward a deadline we were all miserable – I never want to be that snappish again. The dogs inspire me too. I love imagining the world through their eyes.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?

Our friend's dog Rupert appeared in an early short story and the spaniel/retriever cross that Glenn and I had before the collies (his name was Fiddler and he lived to 13) is the dog called Sam in my new novel The World Before Us. I missed – and still miss – Fid so much, so it was comforting to think of him when I was writing the novel.

Cat, postman, squirrel....?

Cat. Specifically the neighbour's cat for strutting around and preening in our yard.

Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?

Ball.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

There's a dog beach at the foot of an off-leash forest here in Vancouver. They love to swim after floaty toys. Then roll in sand. Then swim, then hike. Then swim (you get the idea).

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other. We've also had seven foster dogs over the years (working with a collie rescue) and they grew really fond of Sprite, Twist and JJ. We still see some of those dogs in their 'forever homes' so the dogs are sort of like an extended family.

What is each dog's best quality?

Coop is a genius. He grasps new ideas super fast (from sheep herding principals to domestic tasks). Joon is really funny, she's a total character, a bit manic but super-loving.

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

We own too many cars and not enough sheep.

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

Benedict Cumberbatch and Miranda July.

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

How can we make your lives better?

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Ironically (give that they're collies) they'd probably advise me to slow down a bit to try to be more in the moment (like I was this morning when we took this photo).

Visit Aislinn Hunter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue