Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Karate Valentino, aka Mr. Boy, aka, Medium Baby. He’s a boxer/shar pei mix, and I’m convinced that he is the best dog in the history of dogs—and not just because dogs don’t much remember the past. He is 3 going on 4 at the end of August!

And that’s me in the photo, too. My name is Alex Jennings, and I’m an author/teacher/performer who has been living in New Orleans for the past—hm—sixteen years, now.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Usually, Karate and I take our coffee at home, but we live nearby a community green space called The Lafitte Greenway. Our favorite local coffee company, French Truck, has a café there, so sometimes we stop in to buy beans and a pastry or two, and give the local folx a chance to shower Karate with admiration and pets.

What’s brewing?

Almost always French Truck, and in the warmer months, I use my Toddy to make cold brew concentrate that I’ll then mix with a bit of water, some oat milk, and Splenda. And, of course, I’m brewing up my second novel, so may God have mercy on my poor soul!

Any treats?

Karate looooves his dried lamb’s lungs, but he’s also deeply appreciative of Cheez-its and white cheddar Cheetos. He deserves all these things, as he is the Best Boy, but we try not to overdo it.

How were you and Karate united?

During the first few months of the Pandemic, my roommate Kytara and I were overwhelmed by that buried-alive feeling of being stuck in our apartment trying to be good citizens, knowing even as we did that Covid 19 wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I was feeling pretty bad about the Covid weight I’d gained, and we decided that we needed something to cut through that loneliness and despair and help us be more active. We started looking for a dog and Karate wasn’t the first one we tried for, but when I saw his photo on the Animal Rescue of New Orleans (ARNO) website, I sensed that he was my dog.

We went out to Harahan, which was relatively distant to us as neither of us drives or has a car, and as we walked Karate (then erroneously named “Soldier”), I began to worry that we wouldn’t be able to complete the adoption on the spot and that I’d be separated from this guy who was clearly our dog. It turned out ARNO was able to get the paperwork done right away, and the three of us were frolicking together that same day.

How did Karate get his name?

I’m a fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and there’s a song created for the show called “The Day Man.”

The chorus is as follows:
Day Man
Fighter of the Night Man
You’re a master of Karate
And friendship
For everyone
So, in my mind, Karate and friendship go hand-in-hand, and Karate is definitely my best friend, so that part of his name came naturally. We’re also very much a queer household with a lot of respect for ballroom culture, so Karate is named for one of the great houses. I will say, though, that he’s barely able to vogue, and his death-drop skills are… questionable.

Does Karate do more to help or hinder your writing?

Karate 100 percent enables my decadent and indolent authorial lifestyle. When we got him, he had heart worms, (and ARNO paid for his treatment) so he was low-energy, but once he was over his illness, he was still very mellow. He had just come out of puppyhood when we got him, and he’s always been pretty distinguished, so he spends much of his time lolling on the sofa or curled up in his bed while I hunch maniacally over my laptop keyboard.

Has Karate inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Oh, definitely. Last year (I think it was last year, but what is time?) I wrote a horror story called “Them Doghead Boys” that was published in, of all places, Current Affairs magazine. The story was set in our New Orleans neighborhood and involved a sort of corrupted and diluted brand of lycanthropy where those who contract it remain mostly human but gain the heads of dogs. Karate was the model for our illustration, and I so loved seeing him rendered in black-and-white with his soulful eyes and august wrinkles.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cat, for sure. Every time we go out, Karate is hoping to make friends with a cat. He’s a lover, not a fighter, so I don’t think he’s interested in harming them, but cats have generally made it clear to him that they don’t want him within three feet, so unless Kytara or I get a cat, I don’t think he’ll ever have a chance to live his dream.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

This one is a little embarrassing as I feel like we haven’t done a great job teaching Karate to play. He is basically unmoved by balls or squeaky toys, and maybe that’s because he considers them beneath his dignity. Every once in a while, he’ll play with a stick, but honestly, if it’s not flavored in any way, he loses interest pretty quickly.

Who is Karate’s best pet pal?

The local poet Shaina Monet is a good friend of mine, and her black lab, Booker sometimes has play-dates with Karate. The two of them got along from the start, even though Book was much more of a puppy when they met. They have a good time together, for sure.

If Karate could change one thing about New Orleanians, what would it be?

Honestly, if he was Emperor of the Universe, all New Orleanians would be made of cheese so that he could get pets, cuddles, and treats from the same exact source.

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

When Kytara and I board you because we’re both traveling, are you aware that we’re coming back and that you are still very much ours?

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

This one’s easy: Keith David.

What advice would Karate give if asked?

“Just chill. No reason to get worked up, just take life as it comes—unless there’s a very loud engine, in which case, you should lose yore effin mind!”

Visit Alex Jennings's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Davida Breier & Alex George, Vera, and Javier

Who is in the photo at right?

Davida Breier with Alex George, Vera, and Javier. I am a debut novelist who also works in publishing by day as a sales director and distributor at Johns Hopkins University Press. Alex George (m) is an 9yo shih tzu-mix, Vera (f) is a 5yo chihuahua?-mix, and Javier (m) is a 10-15yo chihuahua mix. All are rescues.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The house was finally quiet and I made a cup after they had their breakfast.

What's brewing?

Cafe Bustelo with soy milk.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

It is post-breakfast. We haven't worked up to treats yet.

How were you and the dogs united?

My then 8yo son and mother went to the county shelter in 2014. He noticed a small, terrified dog. He said he knew the dog needed more help than the friendly dog in the cage next door. They brought Alex George home that day.

Javier was adopted from Doodle Dogs Rescue in the spring of 2017. He had been in a high-kill shelter in the south and was part of a rescue network that pulls dogs from shelters, fosters, and finds homes. We had no idea how old he was then but guessed at around 10-12. He was missing most of his teeth and part of his jaw due to dental neglect.

Vera was adopted from the same rescue in the fall of 2017. She had been a stray in rural Texas and needed surgery for a minor eye disorder. She was scared of everything and her friendship with Alex George helped bring her some confidence.

How did Alex George, Vera, and Javier get their names? Any aliases?

Alex was his shelter name and my son wanted to name him after Boy George. Somehow he became Alex George. Vera just looked like a Vera. Javier was his rescue name and it fit him.

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

They help. Alex George and Vera are my constant companions and were nearby for almost every word of the novel.

Have your dogs inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Yes. In fact, there wasn't supposed to be a dog in my novel, but one showed up and demanded to be let into the novel. Once I did, I realized how much he was needed.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Postal carrier and UPS driver. Although, Alex George has a weird issue with our tortoise and bothers her every chance he gets.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Nylabone original flavor small chew bones.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Alex George and Vera.
Javier and Vera.
Vera is everyone's friend.

What is each dog's best quality?

Javier is a very comforting dog. He seems to know when people are sad or when one of the animals is sick.
Vera wants to be your best best friend.
Alex George's personality is quirky and demanding and I enjoy that about him.

If Alex George, Vera, and Javier could change one thing about Marylanders, what would it be?

I suspect they would like people to stop setting off fireworks. And maybe learn to use their turn signals.

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

Are you in any pain?

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

Alex George = John Malkovich.
Javier = Ricardo Montalbán.
Vera = Holly Hunter.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

They would probably tell me to calm down and go sit on the couch.

Visit Davida Breier's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Sulari Gentill & Rowly, Alfie, Miss Higgins and Pig

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Sulari Gentill. I’m a novelist. With me is Pig, my youngest. Pig is a 3-month-old English Springer Spaniel. With luck (and a little coaching) she'll grow up to be a truffle dog. We both live on a truffle farm in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I take the hounds for coffee at the Wilgro orchard where we can sit among the trees outside.

What's brewing?

Skim milk cappuccino or chai latte.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

Occasional slice of cake – we divide it by five. It’s important to be fair.

How were you and the dogs united?

Alfie’s original owner died and he ended up wandering the streets until my son brought him home one day. Rowly and Miss Higgins [photo left] were purchased from a local dealer breeder. And Pig joined our family recently after our old truffle dogs, Badger and Morse, passed away. She is in training to take over.

How did Rowly, Alfie, Miss Higgins and Pig get their names? Any aliases?

Rowly and Miss Higgins were named after the protagonists of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries. Alfie came to us with his name and Pig was so named because pigs were traditionally used to hunt truffles.

Aliases: Roly Poly, Rolls, (Rowly), Miss Huggins, Higgs, Higgsy, (Miss Higgins), Alf, Boof, Alfred, (Alfie), Piggy, Pigsy, (Pig), or (Miss Higgins and Pig together) Higgeldy Piggeldy. And of course, darling (all of them)

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

Rowly and Miss Higgins sit on my feet as I write – it’s a help in the Winter, less comfortable in the Summer. Alfie is indifferent to my writing and prefers to sleep in his own chair. Pig [photo right] is still a hindrance at the moment – but she’s a puppy. I’m sure she’ll grow out of it when she perfects the art of sleeping.

Have your dogs inspired you to create any fictional canines?

No, for the same reason I don’t write my family into my books. I write crime fiction – being one of my characters is pretty dangerous.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

None of the above…. Alfie [photo left] will however chase a stick as if his life depended upon it.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Alfie – stick and ball
Pig – ball and squeaky toy
Rowly and Miss Higgins – believe such things are beneath them.

What is each dog's best quality?

Miss Higgins is all about love… she bear hugs you and she has a magnificent smile.
Rowly [photo right] likes to be physically in contact but otherwise is not at all needy.
Alfie is very tolerant of puppies and is really sweet in a old man kind of way.
Pig is just hilarious.

If Rowly, Alfie, Miss Higgins and Pig could change one thing about New South Welshmen, what would it be?

They would require that we all carried snacks.

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

Which one of you took my left slipper and where is it?

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

Rowly – Stephen Fry
Alfie – Chris Hemsworth
Miss Higgins – Margot Robbie
Pig – Miley Cyrus

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Never fail to take up an opportunity to sleep or eat. And when the humans say “no dogs on the couch” they don’t mean it. And bacon.

Visit Sulari Gentill's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Ben Jones & Sloopy

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Ben Jones, a researcher at Penn State and author of Apocalypse without God, and with me is my pal Sloopy, a female Border Collie mix that is just under a year and a half.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is probably blasphemous to say on the blog, but I don't drink coffee. So all her coffee dates are with my wife Mackenzie [photo below left]. I take Sloopy out for her morning run or walk, and then she crashes on the couch with mom while she's drinking her morning cup of joe.

What's brewing?

Cold brew with Hazelnut flavored almond milk creamer from Califia Farms.

Any treats for you or Sloopy on this occasion?

In the morning she has her breakfast kibble, usually with some salmon jerky -- one of her favorites.

How were you and Sloopy united?

She came up north from a shelter in Kentucky through the organization Homebound Houndz.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

The inspiration for Sloopy's name is "Hang on Sloopy" by the McCoys -- the official rock song of the state of Ohio and a favorite of the Ohio State University (my alma mater) Marching Band. It yields no shortage of nicknames: Sloop, Sloop dog, the Great Sloop, the Sloopster.

Does Sloopy do more to help or hinder your writing?

Our Lab Shar-Pei mix Barlow [in photo, right] was my writing partner for my first book. He was always by my side, which made writing less lonely and much more enjoyable. He sadly passed away last fall at 13 and a half years old.

Like Barlow, Sloopy jumps up beside me and settles in while I'm writing. With the weather getting nicer, I've been spending more time working on our porch. Sometimes she hangs out there, other times in the back yard next to the porch. She's only been with us a few months and occasionally gets into something in the yard and needs to be called off it, which can interrupt my writing. But she's a quick learner and, overall, far more of a help than a hindrance.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Her great nemeses, right now, are deer and groundhogs. A bouncing fluffy white deer tail strikes her as the most perfect thing to chase, and utterly irresistible.

What is Sloopy's best quality?

Probably her confidence. In my previous experiences with rescue dogs, they have had various fears that they needed help working through. That's not Sloop. Her attitude is: What are we doing? Awesome -- let's go! Her gentle enthusiasm for children is also endearing.

Who is Sloopy's best pet-pal?

My co-worker's dog Utah. She loves to play with any dog that's up for it. But large, energetic, submissive dogs are her absolute favorite. Utah checks all those boxes.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She's a tug toy enthusiast -- rope, flexball, and the like.

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

Allow her to meet every dog we see on our walks.

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

From your perspective, what aspect of the world is the most bewildering and difficult to understand? I probably would try to cajole whoever has this magical power to also allow me to ask Sloopy to explain, in vivid detail, the joy and experience of spontaneously herding the wheel barrel as a I roll it through the back yard.

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

Kelly Macdonald (voice of Merida in Brave).

What advice would Sloopy give if asked?

Let's go find me a canine brother or sister that I can play with every day! (Mom and dad are working on that...)

Learn more about Ben Jones's new book, Apocalypse without God: Apocalyptic Thought, Ideal Politics, and the Limits of Utopian Hope.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Adele Myers & Chipper

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Adele Myers and I'm the author of The Tobacco Wives, my debut novel about a young seamstress in 1946 North Carolina who uncovers dangerous truths about Big Tobacco. The cute little guy next to me in this photo is my sidekick Chipper. We believe is about 8 years old. When my husband, son, and I adopted him from a kill shelter in Tennessee, he was believed to be two years old. He's a Chiweenie, a Chihuahua and Dachshund mix, and a southern transplant, just like me, living in Brooklyn, NY.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We call Chipper our Velcro dog. He has to be right next to one of us at all times, and if given the choice, he hangs out with me. He's a momma's boy. He had a tough life before coming to live with us, so I don't blame him for wanting to stay close.

What's brewing?

Latte from my favorite local coffee shop, Konditori in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It's a Swedish Espresso Bar where I spent many hours writing in the pre-COVID days.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Chipper came with his name, which we quite like. Sometimes we call him Chip, Chippie, and occasionally Cujo when he gets overprotective.

Does Chipper do more to help or hinder your writing?

When I'm writing or editing, Chipper sits right by my side. He's an excellent co-editor. When I'm on a Zoom call ... totally different story. He likes to be in on the conversation, which is a bit of a hindrance.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky toy. [photo left]

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Postman and neighbors, any noise in the hallway outside our apartment.

Who is Chipper's best pet-pal?

Maeves.

What is Chipper's best quality?

He loves his people fiercely.

If Chipper could change one thing about Brooklynites, what would it be?

He'd like them to clear the street when he goes out for his walks. He wants the whole block to himself.

Visit Adele Myers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Leanne Kale Sparks & Zoe

Who is in the photo at right?

Leanne, writer of mystery thrillers, and Zoe, an 18-month-old German Shepherd, showing off Momma’s new book.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We just finished an afternoon Nespresso with Dad, which is a treat because Dad is always on the phone.

What's brewing?

Our usual brew is Vanilla Macadamia Nut Kona coffee with two pumps of toasted marshmallow syrup and a generous pour of cream.

Any treats for you or Zoe on this occasion?

Zoe has a homemade puppuccino (whipped cream). Sometimes Dad adds some cereal milk to it for a little added bonus.

How were you and Zoe united?

We lost our gorgeous white GSD, Patch, during the quarantine in 2020, and we knew we needed to have another dog. We opted for a breeder and picked Zoe up at the beginning of October 2020, and life has been hectic and entertaining ever since.

How did your dog get her name?

We came up with a list of potential names, and the family voted for Zoe Matilda.

Any aliases?

Puppers; Honey Bun, Bun Bun, ZoZo, Petunia, Sweet potato, Zoe McGillicudy…and probably a few I’ve missed. Honestly, it’s a wonder she knows her name.

Does Zoe do more to help or hinder your writing?

She is not so helpful in my office. Too many distractions and things she ought not to be chewing. Daddy’s office has windows to the front yard. Much more to entertain and keep her out of trouble.

Has Zoe inspired you to create any fictional canines?

I didn’t have Zoe when I started writing this last book, but I can definitely see her in some future books.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky ball and frisbee.

Who is Zoe's best pet-pal?

My granddog, Nala (but she lives in another state, so they don’t see each other often). She loves running the fence line in the backyard with the neighbor dog, a border collie.

What is Zoe's best quality?

She’s a big morning snuggler in bed.

If Zoe could change one thing about Texans, what would it be?

Big loud pick-up trucks that pass her while taking a walk.

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

What is so enticing about eating your poop?

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

Reese Witherspoon.

What advice would Zoe give if asked?

If the answer to life’s questions don’t involve loving on a dog, it’s not a question worth asking.

Visit Leanne Kale Sparks's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Rosiee Thor & Tess

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Tess, 13-year-old black lab/springer spaniel mix and snuggler extraordinaire. I'm her trusty human, Rosiee, semi-dependable source of food and walkies. I'm also an author and garden enthusiast.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We always start the day with a warm beverage for me and a warm snuggle for Tess before we get to work. Writing is a fairly focus-heavy job, so I always make sure Tess gets lots of attention during my morning routine before I sit down to write--and I get a little caffeine.

What's brewing?

I sadly had to give up coffee about a year ago for health reasons, so I start the day with black tea. Today's is spiced fig loose leaf.

Any treats for you or Tess on this occasion?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, which Tess ate in record time. I'm snacking on a sliced pear and some rice crackers.

How were you and Tess united?

Tess used to be my partner's brother's dog, but when he expanded his family and started having kids, Tess didn't do well with the little ones. She really prefers to be the baby herself, so it wasn't a great environment for her. She's got some sensitivities with her ears and kiddos don't always respect boundaries, so we offered to take her instead, since we have a child free home. She's been the perfect dog for us and we love her more than we ever could have imagined.

How did your dog get her names? Any aliases?

Tess came to us with her name, but we've taken great joy in nicknaming her. Sometimes we call her Tessaroo, Tessaroni, Tessaroni and Cheese... you get the idea.

Does Tess do more to help or hinder your writing?

Tess is an old girl, so she naps for much of the day, which allows me to get lots of work done. She does get a little antsy if I don't take breaks, so we always take a walk at lunch, and sometimes I have to end my day early to play with her, but overall she's very good about letting me work.

Has Tess inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Not yet, but there's still lots of time and lots of books to go!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Skunk, actually. We have a family of skunks living in our neighborhood and she looooves to chase them. We decidedly don't love the smell.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky toy! Tess knows her toys as her "babies" and loves to squeak and thrash them around. In her old age, she's gotten a little deaf though, so sometimes she picks a toy with a broken squeaker and she can't tell the difference.

Who is Tess's best pet-pal?

Definitely Prince the Pomeranian. Sometimes Tess gets to go to work with her other mom, and Prince, the mostly toothless pomeranian, is her old man buddy at the office. He can't eat his treats because of his toothless situation, so his mom collects cookies from drive throughs and gives them to Tess instead.

What is Tess's best quality?

How can I choose?! She's so good! I will say I'm partial to her little white toes--it makes her look like she's just pranced through some flour or something.

If Tess could change one thing about Oregonians, what would it be?

Definitely our cold winters. She gets a little arthritic and it's hard for her to go for long walks in the cold.

If Tess could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her? I would ask her if she knows how much we love her. It's a common occurrence in our house that we worry she doesn't know, so that would put our minds at ease for sure.

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

Maybe Maya Rudolph or Kate McKinnon... definitely someone from SNL!

What advice would Tess give if asked?

When in doubt, sit on the couch! Preferably next to her!

Visit Rosiee Thor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue