Saturday, December 7, 2019

Jacqueline Firkins & Ffiona

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Jacqueline Firkins, a costume designer, theatre prof, lit geek, and author of the YA rom-com, Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. With me is Ffiona, my 14-year-old Welsh terrier. She spells it with 2 effs because she's Welsh. And pretentious.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This photo was taken in my office. Ffiona has come to work with me since I got her as a puppy. She hangs out in costume shops, helps with college recruiting events, and provides stress relief for students who are away from their own pets. I made it an unofficial condition of my hire that my dog would basically be glued to my side everywhere but in the classroom. So far no one's dared to challenge that.

What's brewing?

Tucked just off screen is my usual afternoon cup of Earl Grey. I've never been a coffee drinker but I consume boatloads of tea in all varieties. The smell of bergamot feels right in the afternoon.

Any treats for you or Ffiona on this occasion?

Treats are never far away, and Ffiona knows it. As a very good sport for posing for this photo, she nipped into a salmon square.

How were you and Ffiona united?

I freelanced for many years. When I finally got a fulltime job I knew I could handle taking care of a pet. I grew up with big dogs, but I was living in a building with a 25 lb. size limit on pets. Despite having fostered dogs and fundraised for shelters, I wanted a puppy and I couldn't risk a rescue that grew larger than 25 lbs. I looked for a breed that had a big dog personality in a little dog body. I found a breeder on a wonderful farm, drove out to meet the whole terrier family, and came home with my new life partner.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Before picking Ffiona up, I scanned a long list of Welsh names. Many I couldn't pronounce. Ffiona seemed recognizable enough that I wouldn't have to explain her name to people, while the double eff gave her a unique twist. Aliases: Little Ffi, Supercute-a-potamus, Wee Ffi Beastie.

Does Ffiona do more to help or hinder your writing?

A little of both. She's a demand on my time, but one I wouldn't change for anything. The walks help clear my head. The quiet company lends me support.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Skateboard. 100%.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

For years she was obsessed with tennis balls. Lately she prefers the ball with the treats in it. Smart dog.

Where is Ffiona's favorite outdoor destination?

I'm lucky to live within a couple of miles of dog friendly ocean beaches and forest preserves. But Ffiona's favourite destination is probably beneath my parents' kitchen table, where she's bound to get handouts.

Who is Ffiona's best pet-pal?

Ffiona had a great group of dog friends when we lived in Chicago. "We're" still in touch with some. She also has 4 coworkers at my university and a walking buddy, so she's in good company.

What is Ffiona's best quality?

Cuteness. And love. And quirkiness. And patience with my inability to stick to parameters.

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

Slower walking speed so she could smell everything.

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

She's getting old, so at this point the thing I'd most want to know is when/if she's in pain or discomfort. Watching a dog age is hard, but I'm going to take advantage of every day I have with her.

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

I don't know many Welsh actresses, but I think the accent would be essential. And plenty of attitude.

What advice would Ffiona give if asked?

The world needs more bacon more than it needs more books.

Visit Jacqueline Firkins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 29, 2019

Jennifer Roberson & Cassie and Luka

Who is in the photo at right?

My Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Cassie (L) and Luka (R) with me, Jennifer Roberson, at Ventura Beach following a day in the show ring. Cassie is a champion and a mom, while Luka is a young boy just starting his show career.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s a chilly day at the beach and I’m just across the street from the Ventura Fairgrounds letting the dogs just be dogs, wandering along in wet, squishy sand after strutting their stuff in the show ring.

What's brewing?

On the way back from walking the dogs along the beach I’ll grab a hot mocha latte with whipped cream and caramel from a beach vendor!

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

I will most definitely give each one of them two fingertips full of the whipped cream from off the top of my drink!

How were you and Cassie and Luka united?

Cassie’s mom is a Cardi girl I bred who went to live in Oregon from Arizona. When she had a litter of puppies, her owners gave me pick of the litter—Cassie!

Luka came to me all the way from Russia. I bred his father and sent him to a wonderful home in Finland. Dad went on to make beautiful babies in Europe, and Luka joined me a year ago in Tucson in November 2018, after he and I spent 24 hours at LAX waiting for a new flight after missing our original flight home because of a hold-up in Customs. Luka slept. I didn’t.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Cassie’s registered name is Ch. Cheysuli’s Pocket Full of Sunshine. Cheysuli is my kennel name, based on my first fantasy series called Chronicles of the Cheysuli, and Sunshine is the kennel name of her breeders. She’s Pocket Full of Sunshine because she’s bright and shiny all the time. Her nickname is Cassafrass.

Luka’s registered name is Keksband Trade Secret at Cheysuli. Keksband is the kennel name of his breeder, in Moscow, and of course Cheysuli is mine. He’s a Trade Secret because he’s made of 11 secret herbs and spices—wait, that’s KFC. His nickname is Lukachu.

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

They help! They are goofy and silly, have a tremendous sense of humor, and they make me smile after writing a demanding scene.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Not as yet, but there will be a boy in one of the upcoming Blood & Bone books inspired by a dog I know.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

They would rather chase lizards. Luka’s best friend is a cat—or, rather, Luka is the cat’s best friend--so he wouldn’t chase felines. Just lick them.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

My dogs always de-squeak the toys. And Luka has disemboweled four squeaky ducks. Mostly they love to chew on antlers.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

The show ring! Seriously! They love to go bouncing around meeting other Cardigans at ringside, and to say hello to all the humans showing the dogs. It’s always a challenge keeping them all spiffed up when they want to roll around in the grass with their canine buddies right before they go in the ring. It would be like someone dressed up for a job interview who decides to go through a car wash. Without the car.

What is each dog's best quality?

Cassie is absolutely devoted to me. I am her world. It’s pure unconditional love. Luka believes the world is his oyster, and the oyster’s full of fun. He’s irrepressible!

If Cassie and Luka could change one thing about Arizonans, what would it be?

They would want us to have shorter legs so it’s easier to inspect ears and clean faces.

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

“If there’s anything I can do to make you even happier, what would it be?”

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

Cassie: Meryl Streep. She can affect a wise, been there/done that tone, laced with affection.

Luka: Any young male actor who can speak with a Russian accent, as Luka arrived in the US speaking no English. I had to not only translate dog-speak for him, but Russian dog-speak.

What advice would Cassie and Luka give if asked?

“Feed us. We’re starving. Yes, you fed us an hour ago, but we’re starving anyway. Please rectify that at once or we will be forced to resort to fisticuffs, even though we’re too short to do any damage except maybe to your kneecaps.”

Visit Jennifer Roberson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Life and Limb.

My Book, The Movie: Life and Limb.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Margaret Mizushima & Hannah

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Margaret Mizushima, author of the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series, and I’m pictured here with our German shorthair pointer, Hannah, also known as Hannah Boo. Hannah is about eight years old, and she’s thin-skinned and almost hairless. Years ago when my husband brought her home in December as a puppy, she shivered like a tiny Chihuahua, and I couldn’t bear for her to be raised outside even though all of our dogs have access to a heated doghouse. So Hannah became our housedog and hangs out with me while I write.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Hannah and I are taking a break from work to cuddle with a book. Whenever I sit on the couch to read or watch television, Hannah is right there by my side with her head on my lap. Having her ears stroked puts her to sleep every time, and it also relaxes me.

What's brewing?

I had to give up coffee and tea years ago so I drink a variety of herbals, my favorite being Yogi brand Egyptian licorice or peppermint. This summer I became hooked on LaCroix sparkling water, especially the flavors Pamplemousse (Grapefruit) and Key Lime. I drink one every morning while I write.

Any treats for you or Hannah on this occasion?

Whenever I approach the pantry where her treats are stored, Hannah begs for a treat by barking and going into her play pose. This is a result of my misguided attempt at teaching her to speak. Consequently, she now speaks up several times a day whenever she wants a treat but doesn’t say a word when we ask her to “speak.” The patrol dog in my mystery series, German shepherd Robo, is sort of a wonder dog and very obedient—but I’m evidently not as good a trainer as my protagonist, K-9 handler Mattie Cobb, because Hannah has me wrapped around her little toe and pretty much runs the place.

Readers can learn more about Hannah from our 2018 Q&A. Anything notable happen with her in the last year?

Hannah is very much a creature of habit. As long as she has her food, treats, water, and daily run, she’s happy. She wakes up at the same time every morning, gets up from her bed on the couch, and lets us coax her outside at the same time each morning, afternoon, and night. Frequently she goes with my husband out to hunt birds or run at a nearby lake, but otherwise her life runs like clockwork. No notable changes this past year for her, but I’ve noticed the days certainly do slip by faster the older we get.

Please tell us about your new book.

Tracking Game is the fifth book in the Timber Creek K-9 series. It starts out with a bang when Deputy Mattie Cobb and her love interest Cole Walker have their first public date interrupted by an explosion near town. When they arrive at the scene of a burning van, they find Cole’s best friend injured and a local rancher dead, shot twice in the heart at close range. Mattie’s investigation begins, eventually taking her and her patrol dog Robo into Colorado’s mountain wilderness where they encounter not only a killer but also a dangerous creature. This mystery stands alone, but if you want the full character arc over the series, start with book one, Killing Trail.

I've heard that Hannah is averse to going outside unless she knows she's going out to hunt or going for a run. She sounds exactly like some human introverts I know. Do you have a theory of your own about why Hannah is like that?

I once thought it was because her thin skin made her susceptible to hot and cold weather, but she’s this way year round. We found it interesting when we learned that her mother is just like her, and her family says they could barely get her to go outside to do her business. Hannah is exactly the same way, which I thought might be because she was perhaps…could it be…spoiled? But now I have to ask, what part of this quirky behavior is nature and what part is nurture? (Please tell me I didn’t create this problem child myself.)

You've done some search and rescue training with past dogs. What was that like?

When our kids were toddlers, my husband and I took two of our dogs (an Australian shepherd and a Rottweiler) to search and rescue training sessions through our county. Although neither of us had the time to continue with the certification process, we and our dogs learned enough so we could have ready access to a SAR-trained dog if one of our children wandered off while we were camping or hiking. I learned a lot about tracking and trailing behavior in dogs and techniques for handlers, never knowing that someday I would use this knowledge base for a mystery series. Serendipity.

Have your experiences with watching bird dogs hunt influenced your writing?

Bird dogs have given me a sense of what it’s like to watch a dog air scent, quartering the field as they ping back and forth to narrow in on the bird’s scent cone. I was able to watch air scenting dogs trail humans during our days of search and rescue training as well, while some dogs like to put their noses down and track the scent of a human on the ground. Some dogs do both. All of these observations of doggie behavior have influenced my writing.

Readers of this site met Bertie, Lily and Tess last year. Are there any new dogs in the pack these days?

No, we have the same foursome. Lily is still with us, and though she’s become quite elderly, she still likes to putz around the yard and will play with the other dogs in short stints. She no longer likes to go for runs with the pack and prefers to stay home. Tess and Bertie are still their lively selves and enjoy going to the vet clinic with my husband. Our Tess has become quite the cattle dog and is a big help when moving the Angus cattle that we raise back and forth from the pasture. She’s also a sweetheart and likes to cuddle close to my husband when they get into the feed truck to feed each morning, a trait that we find endearing.

Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess.

Writers Read: Margaret Mizushima.

The Page 69 Test: Tracking Game.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tracey S. Phillips & Jack and Mimi

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

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

How were you and Jack and Mimi united?

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

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

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

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

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

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

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

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

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

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

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

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

What do they eat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

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

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

My Book, The Movie: Best Kept Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: Best Kept Secrets.


--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Lisa M. Miller & Daisy

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Daisy on this occasion?

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

How were you and Daisy united?

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

Does Daisy do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

Please tell us about your new novel.

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

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

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

Where is Daisy's favorite outdoor destination?

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

Who is Daisy's best pet-pal?

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

What is Daisy's best quality?

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

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

Less screen time. More fresh air and green time.

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

Do you know how unbelievably cute and loved you are?

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

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

What advice would Daisy give if asked?

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

Watch a trailer for My Skull Possession.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Katy McQuaid & Grace

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Grace on this occasion?

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

How were you and Grace united?

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

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

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

Does Grace do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

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

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

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

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

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

Where is Grace's favorite outdoor destination?

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

Who is Grace's best pet-pal?

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

What is Grace's best quality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice would Grace give if asked?

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

Visit the Everybody Needs Grace website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Lincoln Mitchell & Isis

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

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Isis on this occasion?

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

How were you and Isis united?

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

Does Isis do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

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

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

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

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

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

Who is Isis's best pet-pal?

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

What is Isis's best quality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice would Isis give if asked?

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

Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue