Friday, July 31, 2009

Mary Jane Maffini & Daisy and Lily

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Mary Jane Maffini, author of three mystery series (all with beloved resident dogs and plenty of coffee-drinking scenes) and a number of short stories. The pooches in the party collars are Daisy and Lily, both miniature dachshunds of a princessy disposition. Daisy (velvety brown) is six years old and Lily (silky black) is still a lively three-year old. They look a lot like Sweet Marie and Truffle in the Charlotte Adams mysteries, but that's a coincidence.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning is an occasion for coffee. We have a nice reading and coffee corner in our kitchen. I am in charge of drinking coffee and reading newspapers and Daisy and Lily are in charge of sleeping under their blankie curled up next to me. It's not easy being a dog and a lot of R & R is essential. However, this is everyday.

A special coffee occasion is a trip to The Doggin' It Café, a very unusual coffee shop in Ottawa South [below, left]. The Café is located in the Wag Pet Shop. Daisy and Lily know the way from the parking lot. Get out of their way!

We love it there. It's full of dog food, toys, clothing, gear and anything else you could think of and many things you couldn't dream up if you tried. The staff at the Café are all dog nuts. Daisy and Lily spend quite a lot of time conspiring to get behind the counter. There are extra treats there. Barista Lindsay [below, right] hasn't spotted Lily yet.

What's brewing?

Kicking Horse coffee is served at The Doggin' It Café and sold by the kilo too. However, my poison is a medium latte with a discreet dusting of chocolate.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

The Doggin' It Café doesn't serve food for humans, but dogs get their choice of yummies. Daisy might have their eyes on a chewy or a pig's ear, but they'll wolf down a homemade organic dog treat. If they're at home, they are fond of homemade dog cookies, cut in heart shapes. They like this recipe so much that I included it for Tolstoy, the pooch in "Too Hot to Handle," one of my mysteries. These cookies are easy to make:

Tolstoy’s Temptations

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup, less 1 tbsp chunky peanut-butter
1 tbsp liquid honey
1 cup milk

Preheat oven 350

Mix flour and baking powder

In a separate bowl mix peanut butter, honey and milk.

Add to dry ingredients. Mix well. Roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into heart or bone shapes.

Bake 18 minutes (or even less – they can overcook quickly) on a greased cookie sheet.

Cook and store in airtight container, if they last that long.

Any treat for Daisy and Lily on this occasion?

Daisy and Lily managed to score at least five treats from Lindsay who was quite taken with them.

How did Daisy and Lily come to be united with you?

I fell in love with a pair of doxies who lived on our street. So did my daughter, Victoria. I had dogs at the time, but she quickly acquired two. Her in-laws were instantly smitten and found one of their own, Kami. Our beloved neurotic old Corgi Smudge had a terrible crush on this little dog. In time, Kami had a beautiful pup, Daisy, no thanks to Smudge. Daisy came to live with us and she and Smudge adored each other. When we lost Smudge, some years later, Daisy was devastated. She needed someone new to cuddle with and to boss around. We knew she'd like another gal with no legs and a lot of attitude. It was a hunt to find Lily, but we hit the jackpot.

How did Daisy and Lily get their names?

I love flower names for dogs and would have a Rosie, Pansy, Jasmine and Petunia if I could. Unfortunately, this has been vetoed by 'others'.

Where is the usual place you take Daisy and Lily out for fresh air?

Our house is on the edge of an off-leash dog park by the river. We can have short or long walks there and always run into dog friends. If lucky we run into our small dog buddies. We call our gang Hell's Lapdogs. Naturally this is the best dog park in the vicinity.

Are Daisy and Lily's barks worse than their bites?

I sure hope so. Daisy and Lily sound like deranged Rottweilers. This is not an exaggeration. Doxies are bred to have big chests and they have a lot of voice. Daisy once frightened off a burglar with her bark. He never did see how small she was (twelve pounds), but fled in terror. She was a bit of a hero on our street after that. They do bark. They don't bite, except treats.

Many retrievers have encountered Daisy and Lily's barks. Quite intimidating for them! It is not unamusing to see an eighty pound dog fleeing from a pair of assertive wiener dogs. (Hey! This is our park! It's the best one! Scram!)

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, other?

Squeaky toys are the drug of choice. They are everywhere. Watch where you walk. Daisy has her favourites. Lily is only interested in taking these from her.

Would Daisy and Lily rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, their tails, the mailman...?

Daisy and Lily live for chasing squirrels. There's usually a fine crop around and chasing opportunities abound. We cannot say the word squirrel without creating pandemonium. We tried using the French word écureuil, but they have caught on to that too.

Would they rather catch a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, or a few zzzz's?

Although the zzzz's are appealing, they are easy to catch. A squirrel on the other hand…

Which TV dog is Daisy and Lily most similar to: Lassie, Underdog, Scooby Doo, another?

Is there a television dog that likes to wear fashionable clothing, sleep on freshly ironed pillow cases and scare retrievers? They would be like that dog.

What's the most embarrassing thing Daisy and Lily ever did?

Aside from being puppy school dropouts (issues with retrievers), there was the matter of our having to slink out in disgrace from the Therapy Dog Evaluation Program, due to similar 'issues' with retrievers and other large and lumpy participants. On a bright note, Lily did manage to get her Therapy Dog Certificate without a bark and has redeemed the family name by volunteering. We have high hopes for Daisy dealing with her retriever issues in our lifetime.

Groucho Marx said, "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." Was he right?

Dachshunds are pretty small, so I'm thinking there's not much room for reading inside them. But I must admit, these two are my best friends. They don't mind sharing me with the stacks of books around this place!

Mary Jane Maffini is the author of three mystery series and nearly two dozen short stories.

"Law and Disorder," the latest installment in The Camilla MacP
hee series, is due out in late August 2009.

Maffini is a former President of Crime Writers of Canada, and a former member of the board of directors of the Canadian Booksellers Association.

She's a frequent speaker on writing mysteries and on the importance of Canadian crime fiction. In real life, although she is a member of the Ladies' Killing Circle, she claims she has never killed anyone.

Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Jane Maffini's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cheryl Norman & Ginger

Who is in the photo at right?

That's Ginger, who is almost six years old, a twelve-pound, red poodle; however, she’s lightened so much we call her an apricot. In this photo, she is perched on the back of the sofa in our motor home, camped at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Born in an RV, she’s a wonderful traveler and perfectly at home on the road.

I'm Cheryl Norman, romantic mystery novelist and author of a couple of cookbooks.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Ginger and I enjoy quiet time early in the mornings, right after her walk and before I begin my day, usually in the sun room (which I have decorated retro-style with all things Route 66—it’s no wonder I wrote stories for the "Romance on Route 66" anthology.). Or if we’re camping, we’ll sit outside in the early morning before it gets too hot or too busy.

What's brewing?

Please don’t think I’m an imposter, but I drink tea instead of coffee. I prefer Red Rose with a splash of half-and-half. I’ve tried to learn to drink coffee, and I love coffee-flavored ice cream, but I never developed a taste for the drink.

Any goodies to go with the tea?

I usually wait to eat anything until later, when I join my hubby for breakfast, either in the kitchen or out in the sun room.

Any treat for the dog on this occasion?

Ginger has a Science Diet dog biscuit as soon as she comes in from her morning walk.

How did the dog come to be united with you?

Good question. Just two weeks before I bought Ginger, I swore to friends I’d never have a dog in my house. Those same friends have never let me live down that declaration! My husband and I were volunteers at a camping rally, a Good Sam Samboree, and this couple from Niceville brought their poodles and babies, five puppies who were barely six weeks old. I was admiring the puppies, and one of the females latched on to me. I picked her up, she looked at me, and that was that. She picked me. Later, when I took her home, she slept all night the first night and never cried for her mother. She behaved as if she was home ... and she was!

How did Ginger get her name?

By the time I could take Ginger home, it was nearly Christmas. Because of the season and her color, I named her Christmas Gingerbread—and that’s her registered name. But we call her Ginger. Here’s a photo taken the day I brought her home. See how red she was? She’s my baby.

What are Ginger’s hobbies?

Ginger is a veteran walker, and even hikes with us on the trails (those we think are safe for her) in the state and national parks. She also loves to play fetch, chase the laser light, and hunt squirrels. We usually keep her on a leash for safety reasons, as there are many wild animals (including rattlesnakes) where we live. Ginger also performs a variety of tricks and will do anything for a Teeny Greenie®.

Where is Ginger’s favorite park?

We live on nine acres in the country, so she has her own park, complete with a full population of squirrels. She also is visited by deer, fox, turtles, even an occasional coyote. Chasing squirrels is her favorite way to get exercise. We do it with her leashed so she’s unable to catch any. Squirrels can hurt a dog, and we’ve had some cases of rabid squirrels in north Florida. Shoo-y!

What is Ginger’s favorite movie or TV program?

She loves "Snow Dogs" and barks at every dog on screen. She also loves the Advantix® advertisements. She hardly noticed the television until we replaced ours with a flat screen high-resolution model. Now it’s like a window to her, and she acts as if everything on screen is also outside. Don’t believe folks who claim dogs can’t reason. She fully understands that the remote controls the TV. I don’t know how, but she does. She also responds to complex commands, such as “Go get your cookie and come sit.” She does. Truly!

Ginger is a good traveler?

Ginger is an RV dog, as I mentioned. She has been all over the U.S. and parts of Canada, including Alaska and British Columbia. She found Las Vegas sadly lacking in grass and Minnesota with too much snow (at least in March) but mostly loves every place. We’ve taken her along parts of the old Route 66, including Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and St. Louis, Missouri, two places featured in my two novellas in "Romance on Route 66." Next we plan a return to Arizona via Amarillo, two places I need to research for next year’s "Romance on Route 66" Christmas anthology. Ginger is always ready to go bye-bye.

For more about Cheryl Norman, visit her web site. For information about her latest Route 66 stories, visit

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2009

Steven D. Hales & Sophie

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Steven Hales, a professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. My official interests are metaphysics and epistemology—I enjoy tricky questions about the nature of time, how objects persist despite changing, whether our most basic moral feelings and intuitions really tell us anything about reality, and the like. Friedrich Nietzsche used to be a hobby of mine. My unofficial interests are in popularizing philosophy, as in my books "What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog," "What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Cat," and "Beer and Philosophy." My really unofficial interests are in tennis, jazz, rare books, and travel. I'm with my dog Sophie. She's a 2.5 year old mixed-breed bitch. We don't know what she's mixed with, but with her white coloring, shape, and fur, we strongly suspect that she's largely an English golden retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We live in rural Pennsylvania, and every morning Sophie and I walk down our long (1000') driveway to get the local paper. I have to restrain her to keep her from chasing the groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, deer, and occasional black bear. When we get back to the house the coffee is brewed and we have breakfast together.

What's brewing?

I grind my beans fresh every morning and use a French press. I like dark roasts, and my current favorite is Starbucks' Gold Coast. I usually drink it black. But really, anything coffee is good. Coffee ice cream, chocolate-covered espresso beans, iced frappuccinos with whipped cream... I recently made a Turkish coffee pudding that was pretty tasty.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

If I have a cup during the day (like, say, to wake me up before an afternoon class), I'll sometimes have a biscotti to go with it. I keep a stash in my desk.

Any treat for Sophie on this occasion?

Sophie tends to get her treats in the morning, like finishing off my daughter's cereal bowl. She's also partial to Pupperonis, and whatever she can snatch off the kitchen table when we're out of the room.

How did Sophie come to be united with you?

Sophie's a rescue dog, saved from West Virginia hillbillies who used her for BB gun target practice. We adopted her for our daughter Holly's 4th birthday. We thought it would be great to have both 4-year-old kid and a 6-month-old puppy. Clearly we had not thought that plan all the way through.

How did Sophie get her name?

I wanted to name our daughter "Sophie" but got outvoted in favor of "Holly." However, I got to name the dog. "Sophia" is Greek for wisdom, and is one of the root words for "philosophy." A much better name for the dog would have been "Houdini." Sophie could escape from a supermax prison. It practically takes landmines and concertina wire to keep her in the yard; our 11 acres just isn't big enough for a dog with the wanderlust of Columbus. And she always heads straight for the muddy creek with her buddy Wiley, the big black dog next door.

What was your inspiration behind "What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog?"

There’s a recent trend in philosophy to write books that try to bring our ideas out of the ivory tower, and aim to show the philosophical issues that underlie the most prosaic activities and interests. For example, Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s essay "On Bullshit" was a #1 New York Times bestseller, and Stanford philosophers Ken Taylor and John Perry host a philosophical radio show. And respected presses like Open Court and Blackwell have launched whole series of books devoted to popular philosophy. I’ve tried to make some modest contributions to this endeavor, and "What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog" is one. So my inspiration was to show pet lovers a way into philosophy, how the life of the mind is intimately connected with one’s life with dogs.

So what does philosophy have to say about dogs?

The classic dogs vs. cats joke is that dogs think, “my people keep me warm and dry, feed me good food, pet me, brush me, and play with me. They must be gods!” Cats, on the other hand, think, “my people keep me warm and dry, feed me good food, pet me, brush me, and play with me. I must be a god!” But what really goes on in our dogs' heads? Here's where philosophy of mind comes in, looking at questions like these: Are guide dogs for the blind literally an extension of their owner’s mind? Was French philosopher René Descartes right in maintaining that dogs are mere automata, mindless, soulless, clock-like mechanisms without language or love? If our dogs think, then do insects think as well? If bees are just biological robots, then why aren’t dogs? There's ethical questions too: Do even dogs have a dignity that we must respect? Do our dogs really have moral rights, or is it just anthropomorphizing to think so? Why does Aristotle think that our dogs cannot be good dogs unless we are good masters? Is it wrong to shower our dogs with too many luxuries? Even logicians can get in on the act. In 1615 King James of Scotland and England (of King James Bible fame) hosted a debate on the use of logic by dogs. I'm not going to tell you who won.

What's your dog doing right now?

Lying under the rolltop desk at my feet as I type this.

Learn more about Steven D. Hales teaching and scholarship at his faculty webpage.

Among the praise for "What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog:"
“This wonderful book is a thought-provoking and deeply compelling exploration of one of our most important relationships—that with animals.”
—Diane Leigh and Marilee Geyer, authors of "One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter"

“This book gives you some provocative, unusual, dog-friendly ideas, disguised as philosophy. One or two stories will break your heart and others will make you ponder matters you might have missed in college.”
—Jeffrey Masson, best-selling author of "Dogs Never Lie about Love" and "Dogs Have the Strangest Friends"
Read more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nicholas Griffin & Otto

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Nicholas Griffin with my Border Terrier, Otto. I write fiction and non-fiction and a bit of journalism in between. Border Terriers, like me, come from England – but he was from a litter born in northern New Jersey, which explains our different accents. He’s suffered from the weight swings of a college freshman ever since he had pneumonia twice when he was a puppy. He has scarred lungs, so when he wakes up he sounds like a forty-a-day smoker, but right now he’s doing well. He’s a solid 22 pounds and looking great.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We take our morning walk together and either buy a cup walking around our New York block, or if I’m lucky, my wife hands me a cup on the way out the door. If I haven’t finished it by the time I get home and it's not raining, we sit together on a stoop.

What's brewing?

If it’s from the store, I never ask. Otherwise it’s organic Venezuelan, like my wife.

How did Otto get his name?

Otto’s full name is the Baron Otto von Griffin. Luckily, Otto preceded my two kids so we managed to ruin his life rather than seeing our kids suffer in kindergarten.

Otto’s favorite thing to chase:

That would be a tennis ball. I was warned by his breeder that Border Terriers are prone to sudden mad dashes at seeing anything small and furry. Since we live in the middle of New York City, maybe the urban experience has switched off his killer gene. Squirrels tap dance on his back, cats sharpen their claws on his dog bowl and nothing perturbs him. His only revenge is that he seems to love watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons with my son [photo, right]. Every time Tom explodes or falls off a cliff, the two of them start to laugh.

If Otto wasn’t a dog, he’d be a …

He could work as a professional foot warmer, great in New York winters. He also feels no pain whatsoever. You can stand on him by accident and he’ll roll over to make sure he’s getting all your weight. I think that would make him great under harsh circumstances, perhaps a behind-the-lines spy who could withstand interrogation.

Any worries about having a dog in a big city?

He loves the dog parks, I’m not so keen. A French bulldog took a bite out of his ear last week so he came home, shook his head and redecorated the kitchen in blood. Every now and then, when I take him to the country, he tries to make friends with anyone who walks past hoping to be adopted and spared a return to a life of concrete and peeing against piles of trash. Last week, out of the city, he surreptitiously crept into someone’s golf cart while I was talking to them and almost made it to a life of grass and trees. I like to think of him as a canine Steve McQueen and we’re serving our time in the city together.

Nicholas Griffin's books include the historical novels "The Requiem Shark" and "House of Sight and Shadow" and the nonfiction work, "Caucasus." His latest novel is "Dizzy City."

Among the praise for "Dizzy City:"
Nicholas Griffin has made historical fiction his literary playground ... [and] 1916 Manhattan proves especially fertile ground... Griffin writes with authority on his chosen subjects, and even though he employs enough point-of-view shifts to give an unintended meaning to his book’s title, the effect works, raising the question: Who is conning, and who is being conned?
—Sarah Weinman, "Time Out New York"
Visit Nicholas Griffin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alison Goodman & Xander

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Alison Goodman, author of novels including "Eon: Dragoneye Reborn." The slightly fluffier one is Xander Matthias Goodman aka the Furry Lord Of Darkness.

I am a pure-bred Australian (as far as that goes), and Xander is a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a lower level demon. We are both 40 something (although, alas, my age really is in human years).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

As Xander is a menace to polite society, this occasion was specifically for the Coffee with a Canine photo shoot. As you can see from photo 1 [above right], it all started well. It then rapidly deteriorated into photo 2 [below left].

What's brewing?


Oh, you mean the drinks…

Mine is a skim milk latte. Ron, my husband and the photographer, goes for a long Macchiato (that’s Melbourne speak for a normal Macchiato with extra hot water). Both made with Monte coffee, a medium roast with a delicious chocolatey aftertaste, from the very tolerant Laurent French Patisserie in Brighton, Melbourne, Australia.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Plain brioche for me (and it seems, Xander). Pain au Chocolat for Ron.

Any treat for Xander on this occasion?

I did take along some of his beloved Schmacko’s (a bit like dried jerky), but he obviously felt like brioche instead.

How did Xander come to be united with you?

As a guess, I’d say I did something heinous in a previous life and Xander is my punishment. Either that, or seven years ago I turned up at an animal shelter in answer to a “this dog needs a home” advertorial in the paper and left with a small and suspiciously quiet Jack Russell. A few hours later the drugs wore off and his true personality emerged. The Universe is still laughing its arse off.

How did Xander get his name?

He is named after the character in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." His middle name is my father’s middle name (although I’m not sure I’ve ever told my Dad about that honour). However, he is also called Xanderpup, The Furry Lord of Darkness, Goatboy, Piglet, Bongface, Fatboy Slim or Bad Dog, according to whichever of his various personalities is currently tormenting us.

What’s a typical walk for Xander?

Xander gets at least a 30-40 minute walk every day, otherwise his desire for world domination gets completely out of hand. A basic walk involves reading the weemail on every tree and adding his own message, stalking cats, barking at other dogs (especially Golden Retrievers who annoy him with their blonde good looks and cheery personalities), and eating anything he comes across that looks vaguely like food.

A great walk will involve a run-in with a mailman, a few feints at a hissing, clawing cat, and twirling around on the end of the leash whilst barking madly at a motorbike being gunned at an intersection. If he can also find a paper bag with a half-eaten dim-sim, or a discarded hamburger, then life is very fine, indeed.

Which would Xander rather catch: a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, or the mailman?

First, a cat – Xander reserves a special kind of hate for them as they only have one expression and stupidly long tails. Plus they all wag their tails at him then don’t want to make friends. Talk about mixed signals.

Secondly, the mailman – our mailman has deliberately not oiled his squeaky brakes in order to drive all the dogs in the street berserk. Xander is one of the more enthusiastic berserkers.

Thirdly, a squirrel. Actually, we don’t have squirrels in Australia, so Xander has suggested we change that to possum. Again, one expression and stupidly long tails.

Xander does not chase cars (waste of time as they don’t hiss or claw). Nor does he chase his tail as there is not much of it left. It was a casualty of docking (now illegal) before he came to our house and he’d rather not talk about it...

What is the most embarrassing thing Xander has ever done?

There are way too many to choose from. The most recent was at a Mother’s Day afternoon tea that I organised for my Mum and other family members. Xander worked his way around the circle of relatives, systematically trying to shag each person’s shin.

If Xander was a human, what would he be like?

Xander would be wearing a black leather jacket, smoking roll-ups, and contemplating his next smash and grab. His catch-phrase would be “Who you lookin’ at?” [see photo 3, right].

Alison Goodman’s latest book is "Eon: Dragoneye Reborn" (aka "The Two Pearls of Wisdom"), which has sold into 13 countries and recently won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel. It is also a James Tiptree Jr. Honour Book and a CBCA Notable Book. "The Times" wrote, “This intelligent, vividly written tale grips from the first page,” and SFX called it “addictive reading…the climax is gloriously tantalising.”

Goodman is currently working on the concluding sequel.

Visit Alison Goodman’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jonathan XIII & Christie Jackman and Kristy Bassilakis

Who is in the photo at right?

In the first picture [at right] you see me, Christie Jackman, with Jonathan XIII. And in the second picture [just below at left] you see Kristy Bassilakis with Jonathan XIII.

Kristy and I are Co-Chairs of the Alpha Phi Omega Husky Committee from the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut (UConn). Our job is to look after the UConn mascot, Jonathan XIII. Jonathan is a pure-bred male Siberian Husky and is about 2 years old. He is all white with beautiful, bright blue eyes. Jonathan is a very loving dog and enjoys all of the attention he receives daily!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

There’s no need for a special occasion to hang out with Jonathan! Jonathan loves to spend time with all of the people who love him and care for him, because there are many! I always wonder how he feels about being a well-known dog; he must think it’s normal to get so much attention from everyone at UConn. But then again who wouldn’t want to love him, he’s an adorable and energetic canine!

What's brewing?

I gotta say I’m in love with Dunkin Donuts hazelnut iced coffee, no matter what time of the year. A nice regular coffee with some cream and sugar every once in a while doesn’t hurt either!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A chocolate chip scone is my favorite snack to go along with my coffee! Although I really love any kind of breakfast-type snack.

Any treat for Jonathan XIII on this occasion?

Jonathan loves any sort of treat they sell at the pet stores, especially the ones that are meat flavored! He stays on an all organic diet. He also enjoys spending his time chewing on empty milk jugs.

What's the story of the vest that Jonathan is wearing in most of his pictures?

That is his official event vest which he must wear to all of his events. It has the name of our fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, embroidered on it and it also has his sponsors advertised on it as well. Jonathan XIII is sponsored by his breeder Northern Manor in Pennsylvania, Pets Plus in North Windham, CT, All Creatures Vet in Coventry, CT, and Paws Pet Resort and Spa in Cheshire, CT. You can probably tell he’s always loved and well taken care of!

Please tell us about Alpha Phi Omega Delta Sigma.

Alpha Phi Omega Delta Sigma is a co-ed service fraternity at the University of Connecticut Storrs campus. Members of Alpha Phi Omega are required to do 20+ hours of community service every semester. We are a fairly large and growing organization and consider ourselves one loving family! We take part in service programs that benefit the campus, the community, and the nation.

How did Jonathan XIII get his name?

Jonathan XIII is named after Jonathan Trumble, a Revolutionary War general. The student body voted on the name when they first decided to get a mascot.

Have Jonathans I-XIII always been male?

Yes, the Jonathan dogs have always been male. Most of the Jonathans have been virtually similar, except for Jonathan I who was black and white.

When I hear "UConn husky" I think "Yukon husky." Have you ever introduced Jonathan XIII as the UConn husky and gotten a response like, "He doesn't look Canadian, eh?"

Haha, so far I haven’t gotten any questions like that! Although it’s funny that sometimes people don’t put two and two together and they wonder why we have a dog at the sporting events. But sometimes when people aren’t familiar with UConn I have gotten questions about Yukon, Canada and why I would want to go all the way there to attend school.

How often does Jonathan make public appearances? Does he go to all the basketball games? Poetry readings on campus?

Jonathan makes public appearances at least once a week, if not more. The members of Alpha Phi Omega walk him daily and also escort him to home sporting events and special events on campus, such as parades. He loves to attend the men’s and women’s basketball games at Gampel Pavilion (on campus) and the football games at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Connecticut and he always brings a sense of school spirit along with him.

Does he ever travel with UConn groups?

Jonathan has never had the chance to travel with anyone except for Husky Committee members, but never far from campus. Maybe once he gets a bit older he will be able to!

What's a normal day like for Jonathan?

Well, Jonathan lives with a loving host family that is not affiliated with UConn, so he spends most his days there. When school is in session, Jonathan is taken out by members of the Husky Committee for about an hour every weekday to be walked around and trained. Sometimes he gets to walk around campus and say hello to fellow students and other times he just walks around the surrounding neighborhoods. And on days that he has events, he usually stays out longer to greet all of his friends! He loves all of the attention and he will do anything for a treat!

Does Jonathan have other canine friends? Do you ever do socials with the Yale bulldog? Has Jonathan ever met the Washington husky?

Jonathan doesn’t have many other canine friends, although he always has friendly encounters with other canines on campus. He’s never met the Washington husky or the Yale bulldog, but that’s a great idea for events in the future!

What’s Jonathan's most embarrassing moment?

The most embarrassing moment I have experienced with Jonathan was during a women’s basketball game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT. As you might imagine, being in a stadium with thousands of people can get overwhelming for a dog. Jonathan got a little too excited and started barking very loudly. The other handler and I quickly took him outside to calm down. Upon reentering Gampel, we were swarmed with security personal asking what had happened and making sure everything was taken care of. It was quite a scene.

About Christie Jackman:

I’m from Ridgefield, Connecticut and am entering my junior year at the University of Connecticut. I am in the School of Engineering and the School of Business and my major is Management and Engineering for Manufacturing. I pledged Alpha Phi Omega Delta Sigma in the spring of 2008 and am one of the chairs of the Husky Committee. I love having this position because I love Jonathan and it’s nice to feel like I have a pet at school!

About Kristy Bassilakis:

I’m a junior at the University of Connecticut majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. I am from Glastonbury, Connecticut. I also pledged Alpha Phi Omega in the spring of 2008 and have been Husky Co-Chair since the fall of 2008. I have loved every moment I’ve served as this position and will miss it since unfortunately this upcoming semester will be my last.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chris Grabenstein & Fred

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Chris Grabenstein, an author and my writing partner Fred D. Dogg. Fred is four years old and spent his first year on Broadway as one of the canine stars of the musical "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." We have no idea what mix of breeds Fred is. Probably some Pit Bull, maybe some Retriever or Boxer. He weighs 65 pounds but likes to sit on laps. Fred was abandoned as a puppy up in the Bronx and was doing time in an animal shelter when he was given the opportunity to try out for the Broadway show. He had to compete with dogs from other shelters all over the city for the role that would, basically, save his life. He had been in a kill shelter, but went on to slay ‘em on Broadway!

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Fred and I go out for coffee every morning. Usually around 6:30 a.m. I sip as we circumnavigate the American Museum of Natural History. He sniffs and reads his morning mail -- a.k.a. the pee markings on trees, poles, and curbstones, left behind by the six million other dogs in Manhattan. On the morning walk, I usually daydream about what ever scene or story I will be writing that day. Fred’s a good listener. He sits patiently while I hold my paper coffee cup with my teeth and scribble down a note on a card.

What’s brewing?

A home brewed cup of the Coffee People’s Jet Fuel dark roast. As the name implies, it gets the heart and brain pumping at 6:30 a.m. The Jet Fuel is freshly made on a home Keurig single cup dispenser because I was grossed out when I saw how grungy the innards of our 12-cup drip machine get after a few months of heavy use. I first discovered the Keurig concept in a hotel on a book tour to promote "The Crossroads" and became a huge fan.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not for me. Hey, I lost 80 pounds a few years ago. I know they are looking to find me again.

Any treat for Fred on this occasion?

Yep. There are two doormen on West 81st Street who always have their pockets full of treats and hand them out to all the dogs in the neighborhood. I give them books (they got copies of "Mind Scrambler" today) to say thanks and may name a character after one of the guys in my next John Ceepak mystery.

How did Fred come to be united with you?

My wife works in animal rescue. When Buster, our dog of fifteen years, passed away, I lasted two months without a canine companion to take on long, contemplative walks so I could daydream about story ideas. Bill Berloni, the top dog trainer on Broadway, volunteers one day a week at the Humane Society of New York matching people with dogs. Fred was living with Mr. Berloni and about twenty other dogs, cats, horses, rats, etc. (all creatures from Broadway or touring shows) at a farm up in Connecticut but really wanted a home of his own. We were a perfect match!

How did the dog get his name?

I’m not exactly sure…since he came with it. But, everyone agrees: Fred is definitely a Fred.

Where do you go for your strolls?

We live about a block from Central Park so at least one walk a day includes an amble through the greenery. Fred is very much a creature of habit. So, we have routes for our 6:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. walks. Fred also has an internal watch. He shows up in my writing room at 11:25 a.m. to remind me that we have an upcoming appointment.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick…?

Fred has a squeaky green ball with feet (makes the bounce unpredictable) that we play with up on our roof deck after every walk. Indoors, Fred plays a mean game of Tug with a rubber tug toy.

Any siblings?

Fred shares our two-bedroom apartment with three cats. At first, he thought they might be fun to chase. Then Tiger Lilly, our seven pound rescued street cat, swatted him on the snout. Now, everybody gets along. Fred and Parker, our boy cat, sometimes lounge on the floor directly in front of the window air conditioner and chill together.

What’s the most embarrassing thing Fred ever did?

Fred came to us with bladder control issues. He used to be taken out the stage door right before his entrance so he could relieve himself. During the first few weeks with us, he would pee freely whenever somebody new came over. And once, he peed right in front of the elevators. When the building’s board president was waiting with us. Fortunately, once we got into that scheduled walking routine, Fred has conquered his control issue … even without taking those meds they advertise every night on the news.

I guess this might be one reason Fred never asks for coffee in the morning. You can’t buy it. Only rent it.

Who had bigger book parties, you or Fred?

Fred. You can read his story in Bill Berloni’s "Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars."

When the book came out, Fred was part of the launch party down at the Public Theatre. Bernadette Peters had not come to any of my launch parties.

Has Fred ever appeared in one of your books?

My third Ceepak mystery "Whack A Mole" was dedicated to Fred and Buster, “one man’s best four-legged writing partners.” Fred is also the inspiration for Zipper, the dog in my YA books "The Crossroads" and "The Hanging Hill" (coming August 11th). In fact, in "The Hanging Hill," I wrote a couple chapters from the dog’s POV. Fred had a lot of input about what I should say when describing the effort required to find the perfect sunning position on a bed.

Chris Grabenstein’s most recent John Ceepak novel "Mind Scrambler" was released last month.

His next YA Ghost Story
"The Hanging Hill" goes on sale August 11th.

Learn more about the author and his work at Chris Grabenstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Maryglenn McCombs & Garcia

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Maryglenn McCombs, with Garcia, my nine-and-a-half year old Old English Sheepdog. Garcia, as you can probably tell from the photo, is a pretty sizable dog. He weighs in somewhere in the 120-130 pound range.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

How could I resist the opportunity to talk about two of my favorite things – coffee and my dog?

What's brewing?

Really, really, really strong French Roast – brewed with cold water, and consumed black.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

No goodies, but always served in my favorite Old English Sheepdog coffee mug, a gift from my husband.

Any treat for Garcia on this occasion?

Always! My morning routine is to wake up, make coffee, and read the paper while sitting at the kitchen counter. Garcia usually tumbles out of bed shortly after me, joins me in the kitchen, and knocks on the door to our pantry until I give him at least one Milk Bone.

How did Garcia come to be united with you?

Oh, I hate to admit it, but I bought Garcia from a breeder. I’ve always been a dog lover and do lots of rescue work with our local humane association, but feel a little guilty about having bought a dog when there are so many wonderful homeless animals available for adoption and waiting for good homes. I grew up around Sheepdogs and knew that I wanted a Sheepdog of my own. When I got Garcia, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a breed-specific rescue. Do I feel guilty? A little. If I could go back in time and change it? Not on your life.

How did Garcia get his name?

I named Garcia after one of my heroes, Jerry Garcia. When Garcia has his full coat, I swear there’s a resemblance!

Where do you usually take Garcia out for fresh air?

Garcia and I walk around the neighborhood every morning. I don’t know which of us enjoys our walks more. We live in a very dog-friendly area, and I think Garcia and I both enjoy getting out, seeing the neighbors – both human and canine – and starting our day this way. One of our neighbors described Garcia as “the most recognizable and popular dog in the neighborhood.” I loved that!

Where is the best nearby dog park?

Our nearest dog park is at Centennial Park here in Nashville. It’s a wonderful park. Garcia and I made a few journeys to the dog park which he always seemed to enjoy. Unfortunately, we no longer go to the dog park these days.

Last August, Garcia went completely blind. He has a condition called immune mediated retinopathy and after treatment, his sight was partially restored. The condition came back this April and we tried treatment again, but this time the treatment was not successful, so Garcia is completely blind now and his veterinary ophthalmologist believes that the blindness is going to be permanent.

Garcia’s losing his sight was so clearly a bigger deal for me than for him. I was really worried about how he would adjust, if he’d be able to lead a happy life, still go on his walks, and learn to navigate our home, the steps leading outside, etc. How Garcia has adjusted has been nothing short of incredible. There are days I have to remind myself that he can’t see. He’s completely surefooted, comfortable on his walks, and able to go up and down the steps without my help. His adjustment has earned him the nickname of “Amazing Garcia.”

I had read that blindness in dogs was not such a big deal, but had a hard time believing it until I saw how Garcia adjusted to not having sight. It is nothing short of remarkable.

So in a completely circuitous way of answering the question about the dog park, we don’t go to the park now that Garcia is blind. Garcia loves all dogs, but unfortunately, not all dogs love him. With him being blind, I wouldn’t want to put him in a situation where he might encounter an unfriendly dog off-leash.

Would Garcia rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

The only thing I have ever known Garcia to chase is a Milk Bone. He probably would chase his tail if he had a tail, though.

Would Garcia rather catch a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

None of the above. He would much rather catch a Milk Bone.

Which TV dog is Garcia most similar to?

Oh, boy. That’s a tough one. In looks alone, Garcia is definitely most similar to the dog in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” (Am I ever dating myself!) He’s also a lot like The Shaggy Dog, Wilby – smart, mischievous, and a little bit goofy.

What's the most embarrassing thing Garcia ever did?

I think it’s a lot funnier than it is embarrassing, but years ago, Garcia developed a terrible crush on our mail carrier, Kathy. He would wait at the door around the time she’d come by to deliver our mail and on more than one occasion, I caught him “posing” for her – lying in the floor on his back with all four paws straight up in the air. I kid you not…

And I guess I should mention the Santa debacle of a few years back, too. My husband and I sent out Christmas cards that feature a photo of Garcia with Santa each year. One year, during the photo session, Garcia decided that he wanted to play tug with Santa’s beard. Not good!

Groucho Marx said, "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." Was he right?

Totally! I actually have that quote on my web site –

Garcia is so much more than a friend – he’s a lovable, loyal, and faithful companion.

I have a home office, so I spend my days working with Garcia at my feet. I’ve named him my Employee of the Month -- every month.

So Garcia’s a pure bred?

Yes. He’s an Old English Sheepdog, also known as a Bobtail, or “Shaggy Dog.”

What is Garcia’s best quality?

Unbridled enthusiasm.

What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from Garcia?

There are way too many to list! I love how he’s shown me resilience in his being able to adapt to being blind, and I also love that he approaches every day with a “best day of my life so far” attitude.

What surprises you most about Garcia?

Undoubtedly, I’m amazed by how smart he is. Most Old English Sheepdogs I’ve been around are like clowns: they’re big, furry, shaggy creatures and they wiggle like crazy. Beneath Garcia’s cuteness is a whole lot of smart. He learns very quickly, and is very observant.

Maryglenn McCombs, a 1993 graduate of Vanderbilt University, has been actively working in the book publishing industry for over 10 years. During that time she has been involved with literally hundreds of books.

Now she offers targeted book publicity for a wide variety of authors. Visit her website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kelly Dean Jolley, Ahab & Sadie

Who is in the photo at right?

One of my pit bulls, Sadie, and me. She is a three-year old chocolate red nose. Her running mate, Ahab, a five-year old red black nose, is not in this picture.

I am Kelly Dean Jolley, the Chair of the Philosophy Department at Auburn University. I work in the theory of judgment (also called “philosophical logic”) and metaphilosophy (also called “the philosophy of philosophy). I write primarily on or under the influence of various philosophers: Wilfrid Sellars, Elizabeth Anscombe, Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Gottlob Frege, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Søren Kierkegaard, Immanuel Kant and Plato.

As a change from writing philosophy, I also write some poetry. The shift in disciplines uncramps my hand.

What is the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My usual one—morning coffee with the dogs in the backyard. We usually head out around dawn and they romp or nap or woolgather while I think or read, preparing for class or working on whatever I am writing. Pit bulls are excellent companions for thinking; they are themselves contemplatives.

What is brewing?

Pressed Sumatra, black, hot and thick.


This morning, toasted Cinnamon Raisin Bread and cream cheese. The dogs enjoyed a portion.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Like my previous pits, Ahab was a rescue dog. Alabama is lucky to have a fine pit bull rescue group, Turtlemoon Rescue, and I found him through them. He’d been bought for fighting. The people who bought him kept him as pits are often kept, at the end of a heavy logging chain in a deserted backyard. An elderly woman who lived next door pitied him. His only human companionship was a small boy who sometimes stopped by to throw rocks at him. The neighbor had a fenced backyard and asked if his owners would like to let him come into her yard so that he could run off-the-chain. They did so; one day, they brought him to her and then left town.

She kept him for a while, but when he got bigger, she began to worry that she could not control him, so she asked her daughter, a horsewoman and farmer, to take him. He was living with the daughter in North Alabama when I got him. She had done a lot to rehabilitate him. But she unfortunately believed the common demonizing of the breed: for instance, when I picked him up she warned me that pit bulls have double-jointed jaws so they can lock on a victim and chew the victim simultaneously. (A dog that can have his cake and eat it, too, I guess!)

Sadie I bought as a pup. She was the pitiful looking runt of a litter, so I was able to buy her for little money. I would normally never buy a pit bull, both because there are so many on death row in pounds; and, because so many (not all) breeders are actually enemies of the breed, who, in a conscience-less effort to sell their dogs, evilly contribute to the demonism.

Both dogs have grown into delightful adulthood. Ahab has overcome most of the deficits caused by his early months. Sadie plumped into a beautiful example of the breed.

How did your dogs get their names?

I have typically used a formula to name my male pits: find the name of an ancient tyrant that is also the name of a memorable character in literature, and give it to your dog: hence, ‘Ahab’ (and before him, ‘Nero’). My wife named Sadie. I wanted to give Sadie the name, ‘Jezebel’ (the tyrant Ahab’s wife). It tickled my black-humor bone that dogs were on the scene at each of Ahab and Jezebel’s gruesome deaths. But my wife thought this was just too much (she so often saves me from myself), and so she chose ‘Sadie’.

Physicists have Schrödinger’s cat. Do philosophers have a particular, famous dog?

I can’t think of a named dog that plays a role in philosophy. (Arthur Schopenhauer was famous for his daily walks with his poodle, Atma.) However, dogs do grace some important pages of philosophy in important ways. For example, Socrates argues (in the Second Book of "The Republic") that well-bred dogs are truly philosophical, effectually a model of the philosopher, of the lover of wisdom, since dogs love wisdom so well that they act always on distinction of knowledge from ignorance, welcoming the known and warding off the unknown (so as to safeguard the known). As Vicki Hearne, dog-trainer and philosopher puts it, commenting on Socrates’ comparison: Safeguarding the known and warding off the unknown has “always been philosophy’s traditional chastity and discipline.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher who most preoccupies me, also sometimes writes of dogs in memorable ways. In "Philosophical Investigations" he asks: “Why can’t a dog simulate pain? Is he too honest?” Later in the book he observes, “A child has much to learn before it can pretend. (A dog cannot be a hypocrite, but neither can he be sincere.)”

Interestingly, Hearne, in her book, "Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog," from which I took my earlier quotation, likens Wittgenstein himself to a pit bull. She characterizes him as sharing their deep gameness: “[Wittgenstein was] a pit bull of a person who grabbed hold of philosophy with all his heart and did not let go.”

I can’t mention Hearne without recommending her work, particularly "Bandit" and "Adam’s Task: Calling Animals By Name." The latter is, among other things, a brilliant book of philosophy, and it contains the greatest of all writing on pit bulls (outshining even James Thurber’s)—a chapter entitled “Lo! The American Pit Bull Terrier” (her chapter title is a pastiche of the title a Thurber essay on bloodhounds).

Do people ever say to you: “Pit bulls? I would have thought a philosopher wouldn’t have such a dog!”

No one has said this to me in so many words, but I have certainly had said to me words that implied such a thought. The thought, I think, is indicative of one of the deepest and often unrecognized sources of the demonizing of pit bulls—social, class, regional and racial prejudice. When a white, suburban, middle-class academic shows up to defend pit bulls, folks are stumped. I do not fit their “profile” of pit bull owners: I am not black, not red-necked, not urban, not rural, not poor, not uneducated. Folks seem to believe that this means I cannot own pit bulls, cannot advocate for them. You can almost hear their unspoken conviction: “Decent folks don’t own these dogs.”

Kelly Dean Jolley is the author of “The Concept 'Horse' Paradox and Wittgensteinian Conceptual Investigations: A Prolegomenon to Philosophical Investigations” and the forthcoming “Wittgenstein: Key Concepts” as well as numerous scholarly articles and book chapters.

He was featured in a September 2008 article in the “New York Times Magazine.”

Read his poem “Alabama Pits.”

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 10, 2009

Barbara Techel & Frankie

Who is in the photo at right?

That is me, Barbara Techel, author of “Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog,” therapy dog team volunteer, publisher, and lover of dogs, along with my sweet dachshund, Frankie, who is known as the “walk ‘n roll dog.” Now you may be thinking Frankie is a boy, but she is a girl. Her real name is Francesca, but I call her Frankie for short (no pun intended!).

Frankie will be 10-years old on August 20. When I brought her home as a pup I thought I was getting a miniature dachshund, but she kept growing. I later came to find out she is a tweenie (mix between a mini and standard size). So she is my tweenie weenie! Frankie became paralyzed at the age of six so she now rolls happily through life in her doggie wheelchair. She spreads hope and inspiration to school kids, as well as nursing homes, hospital and hospice patients.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Now I realize this blog is titled, “Coffee with a Canine” but I must fess up and let you know I don’t drink coffee. I am a tea drinker. So the occasion is making myself a cup before I head out with Frankie to my writing cottage which I call, “MySpace.calm.” We were recently featured in an online magazine called Sheic Space if you’d like to check it out and see pictures plus learn more about us.

What’s brewing?

I often have my Mighty Leaf, lightly caffeinated green tea in my favorite tea cup and saucer, which is my favorite color, periwinkle. I bought it at a garage sale from a lady who is a terrific chef! I always put a splash of lemon juice in my tea as well.

Any goodies to go with the coffee? Or in your case… tea.

Nope, usually not. Unless it is afternoon tea and then I will sneak something chocolate if I have it on hand, or a cookie.

Any treat for Frankie on this occasion?

Again, nope, usually not. Being a dachshund in a wheelchair, we have to really watch her weight.

How did Frankie come to be united with you?

Well looking back I believe it was meant to be that Frankie became mine. I could not explain a good reason why I wanted a dachshund to my husband when he said, “Why do you want a wiener dog?” All I could say is, “I just do.” I bought Frankie from a breeder as a pup, after searching and searching for a red dachshund. They were hard to find where I live. Frankie was the last one left of the litter. I fell head over heels in love when I saw her promenade down the driveway. She was only the size of a guinea pig. After all we have been through, and knowing what I know now, I believe with all my heart she was meant to be mine.

How did Frankie get her name?

If you remember the song from the 1940’s, "Frankie and Johnnie" then you will know that Frankie in the song is a female. The song was also made into a movie by the same name. I just think it is a great, fun, sporty name for a girl. I had Frankie’s name picked out long before I got her, because I just loved the name.

Where do you usually take Frankie out for fresh air?

In the summer Frankie loves to hang out on our deck which is partially shaded by a big tree. When I am in my writing cottage I can see her through my Victorian screen door soaking up a spot of sun. She loves to be warm!

I also often take Frankie into town to do my errands and we go either on my bike (she rides in a front basket attached to my bike) or she rides in her doggie stroller.

Where is the best nearby dog park?

Well, we don’t have one that I know of. I’d probably be a bit apprehensive to take her there though being in her wheels and too many dogs around. Besides she barks up a storm when she sees other dogs… especially ones bigger than she is… which is most!

Is Frankie’s bark worse than her bite?

Ha! Most definitely yes! She has the loudest bark for such a little dog. Dachshund’s have a reputation for being “land sharks.” But people often comment on how calm Frankie is… that is, until she barks!

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick,…?

Frankie loves tennis balls! You throw it and she chases after it…. Only to catch it, stop and begin to chew it up. So much for a game of fetch!

Would Frankie rather catch a squirrel, a cat, a car, her tail, the mailman,…?

Ooooo, Frankie just loves squirrels and bunnies!! She will carry on and carry on, whimpering and whimpering if she can’t run to try and catch one! If she is on the deck, which is enclosed and she sees a bunny, her whole body shakes wanting to get that rascally rabbit!

What’s the most embarrassing thing Frankie ever did?

Boy, do I love this question! Because Frankie is paralyzed in her hind quarters that also means she does not have control over her bladder and bowels. I learned to express them for her. Well, I’m normally pretty good about timing when she has to go. We do 2-4 presentations a week for schools, libraries, etc., plus our volunteer therapy dog work, so I pride myself in the fact we have not had an “accident” in public…. yet.

Well one day I stopped to visit my friend at her office. I brought Frankie in with me, because she adores her. I was holding Frankie in my arms when all of a sudden I felt her back end begin to shake… and I just KNEW she was going to poop… and I was on the 2nd floor of an office building and would never make it out the door in time… and before I could react, the poop hit the floor… PLOP! PLOP! PLOP! I frantically searched the room for tissue and a plastic bag, which I found. The evidence was taken away, as we left with our tail between our legs… but unfortunately the scent lingered long after we left. My friend and I still laugh about it… but I sure was embarrassed!!

Learn more about Frankie and Barbara Techel at the Joyful Paws website and blog, and at Frankie's blog and Facebook page.

Frankie's new book, "
Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby's House," is due for release around January 2010.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Katie Alender & Winston

Who is in the photo at right?

That would be me, Katie Alender, an author, and my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Winston. Winston is four years old and is my buddy and partner in just about everything I do.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Initially, I thought about walking Winston down to the local coffee shop and doing that thing where you tie the leash to the table and peacefully sip your coffee. But Winston doesn’t believe in being peaceful in public. Winston turns into a raving, yapping maniac—particularly if there are cars anywhere in the vicinity. A pet psychic told me that Winston wants to protect me from cars, but I actually think he wants to kill and eat them. When he was a puppy, a friend of mine who was dogsitting taught him to get really excited and chase shiny lights, and the reflections on cars drive him wild.

Plus, it’s pretty hot, and Winston’s not exactly an athlete.

Instead, I decided to haul dog and coffee out onto our balcony, which overlooks the backyard and the San Fernando Valley. Winston doesn’t get to spend a lot of time out there, because he tends to eat anything that ends up there, including dead bees and occasionally live bees. So I did a bee-check and we headed out. He really enjoys it—just sits in his bed, watches the birds and the cars going by.

Typically, I’ll just take my coffee to my desk and drink it while I check my email, but I’d just sent something off to my editor and was in that very zen moment where you can’t do anything but wait. Although I did make some story notes.

What's brewing?

In my household, we’re good old-fashioned morning coffee folks. I never drink coffee in the afternoon or at night. We use Don Francisco ground coffee with Splenda and organic half & half (yes, I realize how ironic that is).

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A cheese and butter sandwich on wheat bread. If I had remembered to buy sandwich meat at the grocery store, it would have been a ham and cheese sandwich. Hey, some people drink coffee in the afternoon—I have a ham sandwich for breakfast.

Any treat for Winston on this occasion?

Yes, and in fact, I almost destroyed the togetherness of the occasion by giving Winston one of his highly coveted White Bites. As soon as I gave it to him, he looked at me as if I might try to take it and ran off to eat it by himself on the rug. Eventually he came back and chilled with me.

How did Winston get his name?

It was actually really odd. Winston’s coloring (chestnut and white) is called “Blenheim.” When my husband spent a semester in the UK in college, he visited Blenheim Palace, which is where Winston Churchill was born. So he made that connection, and I was like, “Um, okay.” The name suits him very well!

Does Winston have any tricks?

Oh, Winston is MUCH more than just a pretty face! He’s a very fast learner and loves to work on tricks. We clicker-train, which I recommend for anyone wanting to teach their dog new behaviors. Winston can sit, stay, lie down, leave it, shake, high-five, double-high-five, spin, walk in a circle around me, play dead, swat kisses that are blown at him, and “go say hi.”

He learned “go say hi” when I was working on the dog show—he came to the office with me every day from the time he was 8 weeks old. We had a gate at the office door, and when someone came by, we apparently would say, “Go say hi!” I don’t know exactly how we realized it, but even if he’s asleep, you can say, “Go say hi!” and he’ll get up and run to the nearest door.

We took one Agility class, and Winston rocked, but it aggravated a back injury he got when he jumped off a too-high surface last year. So no more of that. But he loves to work on training. And I highly recommend clicker-training for anyone—my neighbor borrowed a clicker and a book of dog tricks from me and has taught her 16-year-old cat to sit, stay, sit up, jump over a stick… it’s unreal. Anyone with a dog has no excuse.

How did Winston come to be united with you?

Winston came from a breeder in Orange County. (The OC!) He’s our first dog.

So he’s a purebred?

Yes, he is a purebred, which I know isn’t for everyone. But I actually spent the past five years producing dog shows for TV (like in the mockumentary “Best In Show”), so it’s my opinion that there’s a time and place for purebred dogs. I’ll share that opinion with you, if you don’t mind.

In a perfect world, dogs wouldn’t be having puppies willy-nilly—and if their breeding is controlled, then there are naturally going to be breeders controlling it.

If we had to choose between a population of dogs brought about by caring breeders (I don’t mean puppy mills!) and a population of mutts who breed indiscriminately, I choose caring breeders over the people who just can’t be bothered to neuter their pets.

Good breeders (and I’ve met tons and tons of good breeders) care so much about the dogs—their health and their character. They’ve turned their lives upside down to get happy, healthy dogs. They do health testing, they do temperament testing. The thing is, some breeds are exactly right for some families—and when a family gets a dog that’s a perfect match for them, the chances are much slimmer that the dog will end up in a shelter.

All that being said, now that I’m an experienced dog owner, I would definitely be open to getting a mixed breed dog. But I also know that you have to really do your homework when you get any pet. I never want to bring a dog into my home believing less than 100% that it will be the dog’s forever home—which is why it’s so important to find the right dog.

What’s your favorite thing about dogs?

I’m awed by the relationship of dogs and people—two species who actually evolved together (you can blame your lame hunting skills on the fact that your ancient ancestors started relying on their dogs’ good hearing and sense of smell instead of their own!).

I love watching Winston take in the world around him—and watching him work to communicate with me. Just little things like eye contact, body language… it’s completely fascinating.

What does having a dog mean to you?

Having Winston around means I’m never alone. He is truly my companion.

A woman we interviewed once for the dog shows said that the purpose of pets is to teach us how to love deeply and then live with loss. I know that every day Winston feels safe, fed, comfortable, and loved is a perfect day for him. It’s a privilege and a joy to be able to provide that for him—and he pays me back with loyalty, devotion, and unconditional love. What more could I ask for?

Kristina Riggle, author of “Real Life & Liars,” said that Alender's recently published YA novel “'Bad Girls Don’t Die' had me ripping through the pages at the end and kept me up way too late.” Eileen Cook, author of “What Would Emma Do?,” called “Bad Girls Don’t Die” an “intriguing mix of compelling and creepy, ... not to be missed. Ghosts, friendship, romance, and family all weave together in a puzzle that will keep you reading until the very end.”

Learn more about the author, her writing, and Winston, at Katie Alender's website.

--Marshal Zeringue