Friday, September 25, 2009

Dave Freer & Roly and family

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Roland, the Old English Sheepdog. That’s Pugsley (the blonde) and Wednesday, who are Labrador cross travelling salesdogs and the lap-rug is Buttons the elderly blind Maltese. The lap-rug is sitting on dad, who pretends to be a writer of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In reality, I write the books, but I love him and let him claim the credit. It makes him feel good and that’s good enough for me. He is Button’s seeing-eye human, actually. I let him type for me though, when he’s not too busy doing important stuff like walking or feeding us or petting us. I believe humans call him Dave Freer, and blame him for writing books like Dragon’s Ring, which comes out in October. He used to be an ichthyologist once, but he’s participated in writing 10 books since then.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Well, we live a long way from most commercial coffee places, so we usually meet up at the Hard Rock (in the picture, being leaned against) before we go into the office for Dad to pretend to work (the books are actually written telepathically by my big black nose, while I am asleep at his feet. If only he could type faster they would get written faster). It’s nice to sit in the sun and enjoy a scratch behind the ears, and maybe a treat. We actually also have tea first thing in the morning. It’s nursery tea, mostly milk, but it’s a reward for getting Dad up at first light. I sneak into bed with him for a cuddle, and somehow that makes him get up. I think it is because Puggles also wants to be cuddled. Wednesday just wants him to get up so she can run around and bark. Buttons is allowed to sleep on the bed. Most unfair.

What's brewing?

Dad claims he really doesn’t think he could cope with the famous big black nose being any wider awake. So we get very weak tea with lots of milk. He roasts and grinds some beans he got from someone who grows them near Eshowe. Personally, I don’t think it smells very good, but dad likes it. He says he needs caffeine at first light. I think he needs to stop being so lazy. There's a wonderful world all new-smelling and exciting out there for us to share with him.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Beenos! (Doggie treats)

Any treat for dad on this occasion?

Well, we let dad have a oat-ginger cookie if he’s been especially good. Most of the time he is. He’s very well behaved, but throws some terrible smells sometimes.

How did dad come to be united with you?

I was born on my dad’s lap. My dad had been told that Old English Sheepdogs have 2-3 pups, and the vet said that having pups might help my mum's hormone balance - so he had homes for three. My mother had 9, and dad found homes for the rest. The others are adoptees. Pugsley and Wednesday escaped being put down because Mom and Dad adopted them. Same with Buttons. She was adopted from an old lady who had to move into a place that didn’t allow dogs.

How did Roly get his name?

"Roly-poly pudding and pie, kissed the girls and got a black eye!" That’s me! I’m famous! Even if it was only the other puppies and I had black (grey now) fur over one eye. I’m Roland for formal. Pugsley and Wednesday got famous movie personalities named after them, and Buttons was named for her bright little eyes. She went blind about 15 years ago, and Mom and Dad drove her to a specialist vet 600 miles away, but he couldn’t help either.

Where is the usual place you take dad out for fresh air?

We’re lucky we live on a little farm in the middle of a big farm on Mount West in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. It’s a wonderful place to be a dog. We have a stream and dam with glorious mud. Our garden is 4 acres, and early morning we check the fence for wild pig holes, interloper buck (not allowed to eat them though, just see them off) Rabbits, hadeda ibis and moles. Moles are very dangerous, and you have to dig for them immediately. Dad does not understand, but fortunately Puggle and Wensie do. I go for a snurfle without dad sometimes as long as someone is with him to look after him. We watch him all the time. Then late afternoon we take dad and mom out of the gate and onto Arrochar Hill. That is the best thing in the whole world.

Is Roly’s bark worse than his bite?

You mean you are supposed to bite things besides Pugsley?

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, other?

I’m a droving dog. I like to herd things. People will do. I also like to take dad’s sleeve in my mouth and lead him to suspicious objects, like visitors. I eat tennis balls so dad throws pine cones.

What's Roly’s proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

I leapt in to the big dam over the hill to rescue my dad after he’d been kidnapped by a float tube. I love water but all the fur makes me not a great swimmer. And most embarrassing... I sniffed a puff-adder. It bit the black nose and was nearly the end of me.

What's entailed in moving to Australia?

Mom and dad and the boys have got visas to emigrate to Australia. They planned to take us too, because we’re family and they believe in responsibility for their animals. Then they found out about the costs of our quarantine, and they were in a flat despair. Dad even said well then they should not go, which even an Old English Sheepdog thinks is not a good idea. But dad can be very determined. He says we’re his responsibility and he doesn’t think it would be easy or even possible to re-home us after living as we do. So he’s decided to do this anyway somehow, even if we end up in a shed in the outback, or have to do it in stages (We’re going to go and live in the middle of nowhere anyway. It’s where we live now. We’ll be Okay as long as we have dad). So he and a couple of his fans started to sell off one his books and raise some money for moving us. He’s just over half way to the minimum-somehow-it-might-be-possible, and is starting to sleep more at night. He knows that times are tough, but asks dog-and-cat people to at least repost about it.

And I need to stay with dad. Australia is far away, and I don’t swim that well.

Dave Freer is an Ichthyologist turned author "because he'd heard the spelling requirements were simpler. They lied about that." He currently lives in a remote part of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

His first book The Forlorn (Baen) came out in 1999; his A Mankind Witch was published in 2005. He has co-authored with Eric Flint (Rats, Bats and Vats, Pyramid Scheme, The Rat, Bat and the Ugly, Pyramid Power, and Slow Train to Arcturus) and, with Mercedes Lackey and Eric Flint (Shadow of the Lion, This Rough Magic, Wizard of Karres) as well writing as various shorter works.

Dragon's Ring is due out in October 2009. Read the story early and find out how to get a signed copy.

Visit Dave Freer's website and blog, and the Save the Dragons site.

--Marshal Zeringue