Monday, November 30, 2009

Kim Werker & Cleo

Who is in the photo at right?

This is me, Kim Werker, and Cleo last winter, on a frozen pond in Whistler, BC. It's a few days before she got spooked by avalanche blasting on the ski mountains and ran off – she was gone for around seven hours before my partner and brother-in-law were able to find her, injured but okay, stuck 15 feet up a rock face about 2km from where she ran off.

I'm a writer and blogger, currently working as community advocate and general helper-outer at LexPublica. I've written six books about crochet (the most recent, Crocheted Gifts, just came out), was editor of a crochet magazine, and have spent the last year reclaiming my crafty hobbies as, you know, recreation. This past year I've been focusing my work-related creating in other areas.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I love coffee but only drink it occasionally. I am, however, a habitual tea drinker. On days when I work from home, I make a cup around 3pm after Cleo and I have gone for a walk. During the eight months of the year when it's good and chilly – and often rainy – here in Vancouver, tea is the perfect thing to warm up with. Tea and the dog, who lays down next to me whether I'm working on the couch or at my desk.

What's brewing?

These days it's Read My Lips by David's Tea, with soy milk and honey.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?


Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

Usually Cleo just curls up after our walk. But sometimes she'll be totally jacked up. At those times, it's a cookie in her Kong. She flips onto her back and holds it to her mouth with her front paws. On special occasions, I'll put peanut butter on the cookie before I shove it in there.

How did you come to be united with Cleo?

We adopted Cleo from the SPCA in Kamloops, BC, around seven years ago. It's hard to come by a puppy in Vancouver and the folks in Kamloops were more than happy to have us come out there. Cleo had been fostered since she was around two days old. Her litter had been found half frozen in December of 2002; we adopted her in February of 2003.

How did she get her name?

My partner originally wanted to name her after the Grateful Dead song "Cassidy." I hate the Grateful Dead. I fought tooth and nail against "Cassidy" – the thought of naming our puppy after the most boring band in history just made me want to scream. Luckily the name didn't stick, and by the end of our first night together we knew we had to come up with something else. As a puppy, Cleo looked a lot like a wee lab, except she had wolf eyes. They were exotic looking. Sort of like heavily made-up women in ancient Egyptian art. So we named her Cleopatra. We've never called her Cleopatra, though.

Has Cleo had any influence on your work?

Not really. Lots of crafters make stuff for pets, but I don't. Cleo's way too powerful a chewer for me to make her a toy of any sort, and she's a northern dog who's impervious to cold, so she's never needed a sweater. She's a constant companion, though. And she's thankfully never shown any interest in yarn – rolling in it, eating it, whatever.

What's an ordinary day like for Cleo?

When it's not the end of daylight savings (she's been waking me up at ungodly hours in the morning since the time change because she hasn't managed to learn how to read a clock), we usually get up around 7am. She chills out and does her business in the backyard, then she goes back to sleep. I take her for a short walk around 9am before heading off to work. My partner is a graduate student, and he takes her on a longer walk in the afternoon when he gets home from school. Evenings involve staring at the stove while dinner's cooking, waiting for food to magically fall to the floor, and cuddles later on at night.

Who is Cleo's best pet-pal?

Cleo has a few friends, but she's becoming more and more of a loner as she ages. It's really cute to watch, really. She'll meet dogs on a walk, sniff them quickly, and then she's like, "Ok. Run along now. I have things to sniff and you're in the way."

Where is Cleo's favorite place to go for walk?

She absolutely loves the beach. We live near the woods, too, and she's just as happy there.

What's Cleo's best quality?

She has impeccable comic timing.

What's Cleo's proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

I don't know that she feels pride or embarrassment.

A high: finally mastering the "wookie" command – when we tell her to wookie, she speaks a lot like Chewbacca.

A low: That time a skunk sprayed her in the mouth. She was fine, but dear god what a nightmare. She was so confused. And smelly.

Kim Werker's latest book is Crocheted Gifts: Irresistable Projects to Make and Give (Interweave Press, 2009):
A collection of projects from today’s most popular crochet designers, Crocheted Gifts includes 25 designs suited for gift-giving—even if the recipient is you. From baby gifts to mittens for the whole family, from home decor to fancy lace, this book is full of perfect projects for every occasion.
Visit Kim Werker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2009

Therese Walsh & Kismet

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Therese Walsh, author and blogger, hanging with my favorite pooch, Kismet. Kiz is a 3-year-old female Jack Russell Terrier.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

No special occasion, but we decided to take our normal morning caffeination-of-the-human routine outside to enjoy a sunny fall morning. (Please ignore the incorrect date on my camera.)

What's brewing?

I’m not a coffee drinker unless desperate, so I had my regular cuppa caffeine: some Bewley’s double-strength Irish Breakfast Tea.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I wish. A lemon poppy seed muffin would’ve been most welcome.

Any treat for the dog on this occasion?

Kismet had her favorite treat: a Greenie.

How did Kismet come to be united with you?

My daughter participated in a musical competition several years back. She performed very well, so she, my son and I stopped for lunch on the way home to celebrate, then visited a nearby pet store. I saw a cute JR and suggested we take her out to visit. I remember the kids looking at me as if I’d lost my mind, which maybe I had; we weren’t planning to buy a dog. We played with this adorable white pup with brown spots until our time was up, and then Kiz looked at me with eyes that said, “You know I’m for you, right?” So we took her home and have never once regretted the decision. It was kind of funny calling my husband, who was at a gig that day with his band, to say we’d bought a dog. He thought we were kidding at first but fell in mad love with her, too, once he arrived home that night.

How did the dog get her name?

It was that look she gave me, and the sense that it was kismet our family found her and she found us.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, …?

Kismet loves tennis balls and anything that squeaks. She likes to be chased around the coffee table before bed, carrying one of her favorite toys, just to wear out her owners. Funniest, though, is when she’s chased sans toy; you can pretty much hear her saying, “WTH, peep?”

What’s something that only Kismet’s closest friends know about her?

Three things. She’s incredibly lazy in the morning. She’s as finicky as a cat. And she’s a diehard Yankees fan.

Is Kismet like any famous TV dogs?

Eddie on Frasier—and not just because they’re both JRs.

So she’s smart?

Very. I think she can comprehend more words than the average toddler.

Want to share a favorite dog story?

One day while walking in a nearby state park, Kismet sniffed out half of a small skull. My father-in-law, a former bio professor, said it was the skull of a raccoon. A few weeks later, Kismet was on a trail at the same park but several hundred feet from the first, and sniffed out a jawbone. The two halves fit perfectly together; we’re sure it was from the same animal.

You mentioned a state park – is that her favorite doggy haunt?

One of them. The state park has loads of trails, and she’d happily spend the entire day there running her humans into the ground. Another fave hangout is a community park, which is always crawling with other dogs and squirrels.

Is she afraid of the squirrels or vice versa?

They have her picture up on all of the trees as a visual reminder to beware of Kismet. As soon as a squirrel realizes its being stalked, it heads for a nearby tree. Kiz anticipates the move and heads for the tree instead of the squirrel. She has yet to catch one, but I know it’s on her Top Ten List of Things to Do Before My Next Trip to the Vet.

Not a fan of the vet?

She hates the table at the vet’s office. Hates. And as smart as Kismet is, she hasn’t yet learned that my shirt is not a secret portal to freedom. That said, she adores the vet’s assistants and smiles broadly, wagging her entire body, when she sees them.

She smiles?

She does indeed [see photo at left]. Though you may look at this photo and see a ferocious beast, Kiz is actually thrilled. Some of her favorite people have just arrived at her front door—Grandma and Grandpa Walsh.

Therese Walsh is a cofounder of the blog

The Last Will of Moira Leahy, her first novel, was published last month by Shaye Areheart Books.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

an excerpt from The Last Will of Moira Leahy, and learn more about the book and author at Therese Walsh's website, blog, and Facebook page. Follow her on Twitter.

Walsh lives in upstate New York, with her husband, two children, a cat, and Kismet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

C.M. Mayo & Picadou

Who is in the photo at right?

That's Picadou, aka "Minky Chica," Princess of the Universe, a pug (of course!) who is 9 1/2 years old, and Yours Truly, C.M. Mayo. I'm a writer, author of several books on Mexico, most recently a novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), which is based on the true story. Yes, of course, Picadou assists me with my writing (and not writing). She's been helping me with The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire ever since her earliest days of puppyhood--- yep, that's how long it took me to write it.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We're in on the secret: that today is International Alliteration Day! I actually drink more tea than coffee, but "tea with a canine" rings flat, no? Tea with a terrapin? Nope, neither.

What's brewing?

Maya Magic Gourmet Organic Coffee from Chiapas. We're in Mexico City so we always drink Mexican coffee, which is excellent. By "we" I mean my husband and I -- Picadou drinks water (and sometimes chicken broth).

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Almonds in honey.

Any treat for Picadou on this occasion?

A cube of cheese. (Oh, many are the occasions...)

How did she come to be united with you?

It was written in the stars. We took her home with us when she was 10 weeks old, silkier than silk and tiny as a baby bunny. As a friend of mine once said about her cat, "she has since trained us to her purposes."

How did she get her name? Does she have aliases?

She's black so my husband wanted to name her Zapote, after the sapodilla, that squishy black fruit, which I thought sounded very butch. I happened to have a reference book on cheese, so I opened that and found a goat cheese called "picadou." I assumed it had a black ash crust, like chevre. It turns it out that it doesn't (it's a white cheese wrapped in herbs), but never mind, Picadou likes her name just fine.

Does Picadou prefer English or Spanish?

You could speak to her Russian or Urdu, it doesn't matter; she picks things up (feelings and images) telepathically. I prattle on to her mostly in Spanish and she figures most of it out, at least to her satisfaction.

What is Picadou's influence on your writing?

She's good in the siesta department, which always helps a writer. She's a noticer -- and we writers need to notice what other people miss. So I take a lesson from her almost every day. Here's one of her poems:

"People Who Pat Me" by Picadou

People who pat me
I sometimes like

But not
The little girl with crumbs on her face
She aimed her fingers at me, she patted me too hard
Her food smells stayed on my head

And not
That man in the blue pants and blue hat
He landed his hand on my head thunk like a package
and he moved my fur the wrong way
His shoes stank of sidewalk and hot rubber
"How much did you pay for that dog?" he said to my person
and a lot of other rude nonsense
When he could see we were on our way to the grass!

I like the lady with her hair tucked under an orange scarf
She bent down and I let her hold my chin and stroke my ears
Her hands were gentle like Grandma's
they smelled of mail and cheese sandwich
She had a wavery voice
"Oh," she said, "I wish you were my neighbor!"

I also wrote an essay about walking with her, from her point view -- which sounds a bit treacly but I don't think it was. Anyway, "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City" came out in Creative Nonfiction and later, after it won a couple of awards, as an audio CD. Bark magazine also published an excerpt.

What's an ordinary day like for Picadou?

It starts with a tummy rub and wow, it just gets better!

Do you and Picadou have a favorite place to go for a walk?

There are many places we go for walks, but her favorite is to amble out onto the patio, plop down and take a siesta in the sunshine.

Stick, tennis ball, frisbee...?

Fetch is not Picadou's thing. The concept eludes her. She has a large stuffed cat, Funky Kitty, [photo, right] which she hugs and chews a little (a particular spot, just above the eyebrow). Funky Kitty is her same age and has been washed twice, I believe.

Squirrel, cat, postman?

According to Picadou, cats, other than Funky Kitty, have no right to live. Neither do squrirrels. Postmen are OK if they pet her.

What's Picadou's best quality?

Her joy; she truly enjoys things, whether it's her lunch or the warm sun on her fur or a visit with friends...

Does Picadou have a favorite buddy?

When we visit my sister, Picadou hangs out with Pabu, [photo, left] her 10 year old Tibetan spaniel. Pabu is very zen. He shares his observations on his blog.

What's her proudest moment so far?

I think she would say it was when she came to a party the other day wearing her party collar and everyone admired her (which happens everytime there's a party, actually). But I think she has the most reason to be proud that she got through a tough operation to repair her deformed knees (luxated patellas) and several weeks of hydrotherapy which involved wearing a lifejacket and swimming laps in a special pool, as we towed her (frantically splashing) along with a leash (this was necessary to help her build the muscle support her knees). Never mind the surgery, pugs loathe swimming, so this was no picnic for Picadou. That was eight years ago and I will never forget how happy she was, once she had healed, to take off running after a labrador retriever!

Her most embarrassing?

Picadou is never embarrassed. She's Picadou!

C.M. Mayo is the author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), a novel based on the true story. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire made Library Journal's Top Books 2009 list.

Mayo is also author of
Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions, 2007) and Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press, 1995) which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and editor of Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, a portrait of Mexico in the works of 24 Mexican writers. She lives in Washington DC and Mexico City.

Learn more about the author and her work -- and Picadou -- at

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2009

Barbara O'Connor & Ruby and Matty

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me and Ruby. My name is Barbara O'Connor and I write books for children. Ruby is a 7-month old Golden Retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My favorite coffee time with Ruby is right after lunch, when I take a break from writing. On sunny days, I sit in the yard with Ruby and her older brother, Matty (a ten-year-old English Cocker Spaniel), sip coffee, and do the crossword puzzle.

What's brewing?

My family has been teasing me about my coffee preference for years. While I love cafe au lait, brewed strong with a heaping helping of steamed cream, at home I drink instant coffee. Yeah, yeah, I know ... but I like it! My favorite is General Foods International Coffee - but only Cafe Francais. I once mistakenly thought it was being discontinued so I stockpiled a gazillion cans.

The good news is that it was not discontinued. But the bad news is that now it is "new and improved" and really terrible. So I'm going to have to switch to real coffee. I have a great little cream foamer/steamer so I can make cafe au lait at home.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Nope, just the crossword puzzle or the morning paper.

Any treat for the dogs on this occasion?

Matty has chronic pancreatitis so I have to be careful with treats. I have to sneak Ruby something when Matty isn't looking. Poor Matty's treat is unsalted rice cakes. Yeah, I know....

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Matty is my son's dog, but my son is off at college now. I recently got Ruby after the loss of my five-year-old Golden Retriever, Phoebe. I love goldens and wanted another one.

Do they have any influence on your writing?

Both the dogs love to nestle at my feet while I write. Sometimes we're in my office and sometimes at the kitchen counter, on the screen porch or in the yard. I love having them there with me. I love being at home, where I am most inspired to write, and home and dogs just go together for me.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

They have a great life! Matty sleeps right in the bed with me. Ruby is still in the crate, which is in the bedroom. Ruby wakes up early (5 or 6), goes out for a break, then comes into bed with me and Matty and snuggles. Ruby is a real snuggler.

In the summer, I take Ruby for a romp on the beach before beachgoers arrive. She loves the beach but doesn't care much about swimming in the ocean. Matty doesn't care much for the beach.

I can set my clock by Matty, who lets me know when it's time for breakfast and dinner.

Then I write while they sleep. We take breaks to play and then to go for walks.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for walk?

Ruby loves the beach. They both love some of the great walking trails nearby.

Stick, tennis ball, frisbee...?

Matty doesn't care much about toys (except to keep them away from Ruby). But Ruby loves her toys, especially ones that make noise, like fleece toys with squeakers.

What is each dog's best quality?

Matty is a full of personality. We call him Eeyore because he has this hilarious droopy look. He acts grumpy but I think he's adorable.

Ruby is just a big bundle of love. She would sit in my lap all day.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? And their most embarrassing?

Ruby's knows quite a few tricks already, spinning in circles and high-fiving. She's probably proud of that. Matty is probably most proud when he manages to take toys away from Ruby.

As for embarrassing, Matty's moment would definitely be the time he got a marrow bone stuck on his lower jaw. The vet has to anesthesize him and cut it off with a cast cutter.

Ruby recently got a stick stuck on the roof of her mouth. Luckily, that was a lot easier to remove than that marrow bone.

Barbara O'Connor's latest book, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, was named a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and Kirkus Best Book of the Year for 2009. Watch the video trailer.

Other books include
Greetings from Nowhere, How to Steal a Dog, Moonpie and Ivy, and Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia.

In addition to being a five-time winner of the Parents Choice Award, O'Connor's awards include the Massachusetts Book Award, the South Carolina Children's Book Award, School Library Journal Best Books, Bank Street College Best Books, and ALA Notables.

Visit Barbara O'Connor's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue
Top photo credit: Getty Images.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gerry Bartlett & Jet

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Gerry Bartlett, author of the Glory St. Clair, Real Vampires series for Berkley Publishing. I'm working on book 6 of the series now. Book 5, Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs, comes out this February. Book 3, Real Vampires Get Lucky, is a November release in mass market form. I enjoy writing paranormal comedy and have given Glory a canine bodyguard/shapeshifter named Valdez. This was inspired by my love of dogs and I always have at least one. Pictured with me is Jet, my rescue Whippet. He's a neutered male, age 6, who is a sweetheart.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Jet enjoys waking me up every morning and watching me get the newspaper then settling down with that and my Diet Dr. Pepper.

What's brewing?

I've never been a coffee drinker for some reason. It's strictly diet soda for me.

Any goodies to go with the beverage?

I usually have a fruit and nut granola bar.

Any treat for Jet on this occasion?

Jet likes Liv-a-Snaps treats.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

Jet's former owner had rescued him but then got cancer and could no longer keep him. We were happy to get him through Whippet Rescue.

How did he get his name?

He is a wonderfully fast runner, like a jet airplane.

Does he have any influence on your writing?

I've always been an animal lover and any person who would hurt a defenseless animal is a villain in my book. I use that when I write. Also, our pets are a great comfort and will defend us. I incorporate those qualities when I write my stories and usually include an animal.

Is Jet is the inspiration for Glory St. Clair's dog, Valdez?

Valdez is actually named after my brother's late Labradoodle. He was a wonderful dog, very intelligent and loyal. Valdez in my books is a shapeshifter who is usually in dog form and who would die rather than see Glory hurt. I think dogs have that same kind of loyalty and protectiveness.

What's an ordinary day like for Jet?

Jet is my alarm clock, getting me up to let him out then starting his day in the back yard before settling on the den couch. If I'm writing, he's on his dog bed near me in my office. Of course any time I'm in the kitchen, he's got to investigate the "action."

Do you and Jet have a favorite place to go for walk?

He plays in our backyard and walks are around the block in our neighborhood.

Stick, tennis ball, frisbee...?

He has a "baby," a stuffed animal that squeaks and likes to chase it or carry it around in his mouth. It's also his signal when he wants to go out. He doesn't bark unless there's big trouble.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

No squirrels or cats are welcome in our backyard. We have a big oak tree and he makes sure intruders are chased away from the area.

What's Jet's best quality?

Jet is very attached to me and excited to greet me when I come home. It's a great feeling to be welcomed that way.

What's his proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

Jet is wonderful at lure coursing, chasing the fake bunny (a plastic bag) around the course. Too bad for him that since my husband passed away I won't drive the fifty miles (100 round trip) it takes to do this Little League for dogs.

His most embarrassing thing is that my husband was really into flyball with our late dog, Belle, who is featured with me on the inside back cover of some of my books before she died from cancer. She was the only Bedlington Terrier in the U.S. to ever achieve Champion Flyball status. John got Jet planning to train him to do flyball since Belle was almost blind and very old. Unfortunately, Jet didn't have any interest in a ball. He still won't chase a ball or even pick one up. They practiced for hours but Jet never got the hang of flyball, though he was certainly fast enough to have been an asset for our team.

Any last thoughts?

I am dedicating my next book to my stepdaughter Kathy Bartlett who spends every weekend at our local pound trying to save homeless animals from being euthanized. She also takes in sick animals and nurses them back to health so they can be adopted. She's an angel and there are so many selfless people like her all over the world who work without publicity to save neglected and abused animals. I wish more people would make sure, like Bob Barker always said on The Price Is Right, that their pets were spayed and neutered. There's no greater comfort than a sweet dog by your side. I've never understood how people could just dump a puppy out on the side of the road. One of my vampires would rip out the throat of a demon like that. Oops, better get off this soap box. Thanks for letting me spout off.

Learn more about Gerry Bartlett and her writing at, her MySpace page, and the Glory St. Clair Fansite.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Annie Tupek & Dinah

Who is in the photo at right?

Princess Dinah, she’s a four-year-old English Mastiff, and me, Annie Tupek. I write SF/Fantasy and am also the Assistant Manager and Buyer at Gulliver’s Books, an independent bookstore. I’m currently shopping around a first novel, which is an adventure in itself.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Winter is in full force in Fairbanks, Alaska and my coffee intake is inversely proportional to the amount of daylight. I’m on two cups a day right now, in January I’ll be pounding down three or four, and at the height of summer (when we have almost 24 hours of sunlight) I don’t drink coffee at all.

What's brewing?

What my Barista, Sarah, calls a Chocolate Monkey Mocha. North Pole Coffee Roasters medium roast espresso with banana and coconut syrup, bring a little of the tropics to the arctic.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Homemade banana bread with lots of walnut chunks.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

A Greenie. Dinah loves ‘em. Can’t say green around her without her tail wagging and drool dripping from those jowls.

How did Dinah come to be united with you?

A friend of mine adopted a dog from Homeward Bound, a rescue organization, and told me that they had an English Mastiff. I called them the next morning and made an appointment to meet Dinah. My husband and I were the first potential parents that she didn’t growl at. Linda, the rescue agent, was amazed; Dinah had been to two different homes that hadn’t worked out and Homeward Bound had housed her for a year. The next day she came to live with us and we’ve had her for about two years now.

How did she get her name?

She came with it; we didn’t want to change it since she wasn’t a puppy anymore. Princess is a honorific that we added because she’s a spoiled, snobby dog.

Does she have any influence on your writing?

She listens when I read aloud and wrinkles her forehead in appropriate places. She also likes to go outside within five minutes of when I sit down to write. I’ve got a couple of story concepts percolating in my mind involving a snotty English Mastiff, but nothing too solid yet. She’s also great fodder for my blog, specially on her ‘naughty’ days.

What's an ordinary day like for your dog in the summer? In the winter?

Dinah likes to nap year-round and we go for a walk every day. In the summer she likes to chase bees and birds. In the winter she hunts the shrews that live under the snow and whines about the cold.

Does Dinah have a favorite place to go for walk?

We normally walk around the neighborhood, it’s a rural area and there are lots of interesting smells for her. There are also several dogs and she likes to strut past them wagging her tail high as though she’s saying ‘Look at me, I’m out on a walk.’ She also likes the trails around Creamer’s Field, a former dairy that has been turned into a wildlife preserve. It’s a stop for Sandhill Cranes during their migration and leashed dogs are allowed when the cranes are visiting. I think she likes the excited energy of the birds and other lucky dogs that get to see them.

What's Dinah's best quality?

Her desire, and ability, to sleep twenty hours a day. She’s a big, cuddly pillow and has inspired me to take many a nap.

What's her proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

Her proudest moment was when she faced down a moose that had entered our yard. Her bark sent it running across the street into the woods. Dinah’s most embarrassing moment was last winter when an off-leash neighborhood dog went running by. Outside on a potty break, she let out a play bark and scrambled to give chase, but the ground was icy and she slipped and slid in the opposite direction. Her big eyes looked to see if I was watching and I had a hard time not laughing at her.

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

She would want me to allow her on the bed. She has her own memory-foam toddler-sized beds in almost every room of the house, but she covets the center position on the master bed. But with a 150 pound dog there would be no room for me or my husband. No doggy on the bed, but she sneaks onto it whenever she gets the chance.

Visit Annie Tupek's website and blog. Her short story "Aldevowering Chesterfield" appears in the newly released Courting Morpheus, a New Bedlam title.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 16, 2009

Katrina Kenison & Gracie

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Gracie, our nine-year-old border collie, who is without question the smartest member of our family. When my son Henry was struggling to get through Chaucer, Gracie just had to show him up by plowing right through The Canterbury Tales in one sitting. She claims that the Middle English was no problem for her.

Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Katrina Kenison, mother of two sons, sixteen and nineteen, and author most recently of a memoir called The Gift of an Ordinary Day, which is about the joys and challenges of motherhood at midlife and all the changes it brings -- endings and new beginnings, renegotiated dreams and expectations, children growing up and leaving home. My husband and kids claim that I took some poetic license in writing about daily life in our family, but Gracie has not complained a bit about my characterization of her, for which I'm quite grateful.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We all have our daily rituals, and no creature appreciates routine more than a border collie. Mornings here are always the same: I come downstairs and put the coffee on, while my husband steps outside to throw the first tennis ball of the day for Gracie to catch. She can't pee until she has fetched the ball, at which point she squats with the tennis ball gripped in her teeth. After one more good long toss and return, Gracie sets out on her morning rounds, frantically sniffing the grass along the edges of our property and barking her head off to make sure that any critter who had the nerve to trespass into her territory during the night understands that it's a new day now, and she's back on duty.

By the time, I've had my first cup of coffee, Gracie is wrapping it up outside and comes loping around to the kitchen door to join us for breakfast.

What's brewing?

Green Mountain Breakfast Blend, brewed strong, laced with half and half, and poured into my favorite brown mug, made by a potter who lives up the road. Our house is on a hilltop, overlooking mountains, so the brand seems appropriate.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

We think the world's best poppy seed bagels are made right here in Peterborough, New Hampshire, at the Kernel Bakery. We eat them toasted for breakfast every morning, with raspberry jam from the farmer's market.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

Unlike the humans in her life, and most of her doggie friends, Gracie is not really food-driven. But she does appreciate a piece of a bagel when she gets back to the house after her morning tear through the field.

How did Gracie come to be united with you?

Nine years ago, when I made a delayed and reluctant final peace with the fact that there would be no more babies in my life, the urge for a puppy came on strong. It seemed that reaching the end of my childbearing years had unleashed some powerful, latent maternal urge that could be satisfied only by the acquisition of some small dependent creature requiring constant care. For months, I tried to resist and then, on a whim, I answered an ad in the newspaper and made an appointment to see an eight-week-old border collie puppy who had just been returned to the breeder by the first family who took her.

The night before we went to see the pup, I read about border collies on-line. It quickly became clear to me that it made no sense whatsoever to bring a high-strung working dog, bred to herd sheep, into our closely settled suburban neighborhood. "Let's cancel," my husband said, when I read him the border collie profile. "We'll just go look," I said. Thirty minutes after I first touched my nose to Gracie's tiny black one, she was throwing up in my lap as we headed for home.

How did she get her name?

The family who took Gracie first, and then gave her up a week later, named her Gracie. They clearly got that right.

Does she have any influence on your writing?

Well, let's see. Although Gracie came of age catching fly balls in our back yard, an eager participant in any game involving my two sons and moving objects, we always knew she deserved a larger playing field. People used to ask us, upon meeting her, when we were moving to the country. And sure enough, five and a half years ago, we sold our beloved house in the suburbs and bought eleven acres of rocky field in southern New Hampshire. I think I can safely say that, had we owned a pug instead of a border collie, we probably would have stayed put. And if we had never uprooted ourselves and moved to this small rural town, I certainly never would have written my book at all. So I guess I would have to say that, not only has Gracie influenced my writing, she is responsible for it in the first place.

What's an ordinary day like for your Gracie?

After her morning rounds and breakfast with us, Gracie settles down within sight of the back door and waits for my neighbor Debbie to show up. When I first met Debbie, she was recovering from the last of 14 major surgeries, after nearly dying from a particularly vicious bout of E.Coli, picked up from a cup of chili at a fast food restaurant. Debbie's doctor had told her that if she wanted to live, and avoid a potentially fatal case of twisted bowel, she would have to walk, which is what she set out to do -- just about the time we moved into our house.

It didn't take long for Gracie to figure out that the solitary walker on our road always had time to stop and chat, and play a game of fetch or two. One day, Debbie asked me if it would be alright if she took Gracie along on her walks. It sounded too good to be true. I could help this woman by allowing her to walk my dog? Of course, I said "yes." It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Now, while I write, Gracie pals around with Debbie. They go to the pond for swims, walk in the woods, drive around town doing errands in Debbie's red pick up truck, meet friends for play dates, wander the Petco aisles in search of treats. When Debbie gets tired, they head up to her house, where Gracie has her own bed, for a rest. Last summer, Debbie bought Gracie a life jacket and a kayak for the two of them; when hunting season rolled around, she got her an orange vest, so they could roam in safety. Debbie claims that Gracie is responsible for her healing. Gracie insists that all she did was try to remind Debbie to live in the moment, which is what any good friend would do.

Do you & Gracie have a favorite place to go for walk?

Sometimes I do manage to grab some space on Gracie's busy social calendar. We have a seven-and-a-half mile loop that is our favorite. What I love about this route is that it winds through the woods, along a quiet bike path beside the river, down a long dirt road past farms and fields, and right back to the road our house is on. What Gracie loves is that there are two good swimming spots along the way, a friendly Aussie puppy to play with, and 90 percent of the route is off-leash. Usually, we do this walk with my good friend Maude and her springer spaniel Digby, an elegant Ralph Lauren sort of fellow who considers himself Gracie's top suitor. Two hours on the trail gives me and Maude plenty of time to catch up, and the dogs plenty of time to exhaust each other.

Stick, tennis ball, Frisbee...?

Anything that flies through the air, but without question, tennis balls are preferred. Gracie is an amazing outfielder --bullet fast, super-coordinated, and with an uncanny sense of where the ball is in space. She can catch on a fly, leaping into the air at top speed, and then run the ball right back to you, whereupon she places it at your feet and takes off at full tilt to get herself into position for the next throw.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Postman. When she was a baby, our mailman brought her a treat every single day. Now, nine years later, she still believes that anyone in a US mail truck is her friend.

What's Gracie's best quality?

The fact that she never wakes us up in the morning counts for a lot. But really what we love most about her is her attitude -- her complete enthusiasm and unadulterated joy in life is a constant reminder that happiness is a choice.

What's her proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

Gracie has been working hard to master human speech and she's getting pretty close -- she's about one "L" sound away from being able to say a very passable "Hello." Nailing it will be her proudest moment. Embarrassing? She would rather I not discuss this, but it was definitely a case of worms, which resulted in, well, you can imagine. Let's just say, she didn't make it outdoors, and the stains never came out of the rugs.

Katrina Kenison is the author of The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir, and Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry.

From 1990 through 2006 she was the annual editor of The Best American Short Stories series, and she co-edited, with John Updike, The Best American Short Stories of the Century.

Her work has appeared in O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Real Simple, Family Circle, and many other publications. She lives in rural New Hampshire with Gracie, her husband Steve, and their two sons, Henry and Jack.

Visit Katrina Kenison's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 13, 2009

John & Sherry Petersik and Hamburger

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me (Sherry), my husband John and our three year old chihuahua affectionately named Hamburger (Burger for short). He's a strapping young pooch with a penchant for peanut butter and pretty much anything else that we accidentally drop on the floor. He's also the mascot behind our home improvement blog (Young House Love) and the mastermind behind his own pooch blog (Hamburger's House).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Sometimes we just need a break from all that computer time (and Burger needs a break from all that sleeping on my lap while I'm on the computer). Plus it's always nice to hold something warm on a crisp fall day like today.

What's brewing?

A warm chai tea. Nothing like it. Burger doesn't get any licks but he usually finds something delicious on the ground outside of the cafe so we're both happy campers.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Just the ones Burger locates on the ground (anything from biscotti crumbs to croutons).

Any treat for Burger on this occasion?

When we get home from long walks he usually gets a little organic dog treat for the effort. His favorites are the black bones which we've learned are charcoal flavored (they're said to soothe a wound up tummy).

How did Burger come to be united with you?

After weeks spent trying to rescue a little chihuahua/min-pin mix (and coming in second to some other lucky dog lover) we were crestfallen... but Burger came along and we snatched him up on the rebound. We learned of a short haired male chi in need of a home so we enthusiastically went to "just take a look" and of course ended up taking him home with us that day. John likes to remind me that he looked like a two pound saucer-eyed alien when we first brought him home but we both agree that he grew into his oversized ears and eyes. Now John thinks he's quite the handsome pup and I have to agree.

How did he get his name? Any aliases?

Years before we laid eyes on Burger we always thought Hamburger was a hysterical name for a pet. It just cracked us up. And when we saw that Burger had a spotty cow belly (it's literally hairless and brown and white like a calf) we knew it was the perfect name. The funny thing is that I started calling him Hammy for short until John helpfully suggested that we go with Burger since that's actually what people call a hamburger for short. Other nicknames include: Burgstrom, Burgsie, Burgmeister, Burgalicious, and The Burg.

What's an ordinary day like for Burger?

Sleep in til 1am, chase bugs outside, drink water after vigorous bug hunting expedition, sleep more, eat more, bark when dad comes home, play outside at dusk again, sleep more, eat more, lights out. And yes, he sleeps in our bed... lucky dog.

We've just passed Halloween. What's Burger's favorite costume?

He probably hates them all equally, but this year's hot dog costume [photo above left] was one of our personal favorites (because of the obvious hamburger/hot dog irony).

Your lovely house is surrounded by woods. Does Burger ever mix it up with squirrels, skunks, deer, or other wildlife?

He loves chasing (but never catching) squirrels and occasionally barks at a neighborhood cat from afar, but so far no run-ins with anything bigger (thank goodness).

What's Burger's best quality?

Definitely his snuggle-ability. He's just such a great cuddler and companion. I used to be lonely and bored working from home and having my little fur baby around has definitely made things more fun, interesting, and unpredictable.

What's Burger's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

I'd say he has a proudest moment everyday. From barking at the mailman to catching some strange winged bug outside, he's quite taken with himself on a daily basis. As for most embarrassing, anytime we dress him up it's pretty much against his will and he's especially humiliated if we run into other dogs while out on a walk when he's wearing his Christmas sweater. He tucks his tail and everything. Poor guy.

more photos of Hamburger at his blog...and check out his videos, too.

Young House Love and follow the blog on Twitter and fan it on Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Donna Ball & Kodi, Rhythm, Destiny and Glitter

Who is in the photo at right?

Pictured here is Donna Ball (also known as Donna Boyd, Rebecca Flanders, and five other people!), a full time writer of novels of every description, with her four long-time companions: Kodi the Collie, Rhythm the blue merle Border Collie, and Golden Retrievers Destiny and Glitter.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Today I start the third book in the Ladybug Farm series, so why not procrastinate a little? I’m also working on a novella in the Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series which I’d love to get out before Christmas as a special gift to readers, but I think my ambition may be bigger than my abilities. So it’s time to take a break, have a cup, and rethink the situation.

What's brewing?

In my dreams, it’s caramel mocha latte with real whipped cream. In reality it’s plain old Folger’s gourmet blend, black.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

We’re in the middle of apple season here so it’s fresh apple-walnut cake with carmel icing.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

My guys know they always get a taste of the leftovers, which is why they watch me with such devotion.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Kodi and Destiny were chosen by me as puppies from their breeders. I raised Glitter from age 8 weeks for the Canine Companions for Independence service dog program, but at 18 months we realized she did not have the temperament to be an assistance dog, so I adopted her permanently. That was one of the happiest days of both our lives. Rhythm came to me from North Carolina Border Collie Rescue at age two. I was supposed to just foster him for a week or so, but it was love at first sight. I couldn’t fill out the paperwork to adopt him fast enough.

Do your dogs influence your writing?

Without the dogs, and the lessons they teach me every day, I never would have written The Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series, or—surprisingly enough—the Devoncroix werewolf saga (as Donna Boyd). There is a dog in every book I write now, even if he only plays a minor role like Rebel the border collie in The Ladybug series. This is my way of honoring what the canine world has brought to me.

How did they get their names?

My dogs have great names! Kodi is actually Tsalagi Dakota Legend, because I knew he’d be famous some day (and so he is!). Destiny Written in the Stars was trained from puppyhood to be a canine musical freestyle performer, and she did grow up to be a star. She’s appeared on national and international television, in magazines and on book covers, and on the front pages of newspapers wherever she performs. Rhythm came to me with the name “Blue” because of his one blue eye. I changed it to Rhythm and Blues when I realized he had a real talent for dance. The story of how Glitter got her name is probably the funniest. Service dog litters are named according to letters of the alphabet: All the pups in the first litter of the year will have names starting with “A”, the second littler will all have “B” names, etc. When Glitter was born, the organization sent me an e-mail with the subject line “G-litter is here!” It was weeks before I realized my puppy’s name was not actually “Glitter” (it was, in fact, Gwenna) and by that time she was already Glitter in my mind. When I adopted her, I officially changed her name from Gwenna to Glitter and have never looked back!

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

Glitter is wild about tennis balls, and Rhythm is manic for Frisbees.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Kodi is on squirrel patrol every day of his life. They are, in his opinion, the natural enemy of civilization as we know it and need to die, die, die...

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

Rhythm wakes up when he hears the automatic coffee maker come on, and he jumps on my bed to let me know. This alerts Glitter, who fetches my slippers and places them on my pillow (she is, after all, a service dog) . We then wake the older dogs and go downstairs for breakfast. Kodi and I walk two miles in the morning. As soon as we return, I take Glitter, Rhythm and Destiny down to the play yard for a rousing game of fetch, Frisbee and chase. When we return, Kodi and Rhythm go on squirrel patrol while the Goldens and I settle down to write. Five o’clock is the highlight of their day: Dinner! In the evenings we all pile into the big chair to watch t.v. or finish up the writing for the day, and at 11:00 it’s time for a milk bone and bed.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Rhythm and Glitter are inseparable; I think because they’re so close in age. Kodi and Destiny have been together for 8 years, so they tend to pair up, but when it comes time to pick a playmate, Kodi always chooses Glitter.

What's each dog's best quality?

Kodi: Beauty

Destiny: Education

Glitter: Devotion

Rhythm: Everything

What's each dog's proudest moment so far?

All of my dogs have jobs, and they’ve all been tremendously successful in their chosen careers. Kodi’s proudest moments probably have to do with the show he puts on for schools, libraries and children’s hospitals called How Dakota Legend Became Famous—about an ugly duckling collie who failed at everything he tried until he realized that his real talent was just doing what came naturally—jumping and barking—and he became a famous Dancing Dog. In the finale, he dances to “Fame” and brings down the house. This little show has been used to teach everything from “be true to yourself” to the importance of keeping the arts in schools, and will probably be a children’s book someday if I ever get the time to write it.

My proudest moment was when Kodi and I did this show at a camp for children with serious illnesses. Afterward, Kodi was mobbed with adoring fans, as always, and I heard one of the children say to him, “Boy, I bet all those kids who made fun of you in school are sorry now.” I realized that the little boy had seen himself in Kodi’s struggles and that the story had given him hope. Is there anything better than that?

Donna Ball published her first book in 1982. Since that time she has written over eighty works of commercial fiction under various pseudonyms. She is known for her work in women’s fiction and suspense, as well as supernatural fantasy and adventure. Her novels have been translated into well over a dozen languages and have been published in virtually every country in the world. She has appeared on Entertainment Tonight and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and has been featured in such publications as the Detroit Free Press, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and even T.V. Guide. She is the holder of the Storytelling World award, 2001, the Georgia Author of the Year Award, 2000, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards for consecutive years 1991-1996, the Georgia Romance Writer’s Maggie Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times, among others.

Her most recent titles are the Ladybug Farm series: A Year on Ladybug Farm
(March 2009) and At Home on Ladybug Farm (October 2009). She is also known for The Raine Stockton Dog Mystery Series and, under the pseudonym Donna Boyd, The Passion and The Promise.

Visit Donna Ball's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bobbie Pyron & Boo, Teddy, and Sherlock

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Bobbie Pyron, writer, librarian and dog hiker, sitting on the bench. The cute little boy sitting on the bench with me is Sherlock. At my feet is Teddy. They’re both Shetland Sheepdogs. In the foreground, is my wild child, Boo.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is actually our post-tea morning hike. Taking full advantage of a gorgeous fall morning in the mountains!

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

The treat bag contains Cheerios and dried salmon bits.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

We adopted Boo in October of 2002 from a shelter. She was a very skinny, wild-looking unclaimed stray. When our vet first met her he said, “Looks like you have a coy-dog.” His best guess was she’s a border collie/blue healer/coyote mix. Six months later, we adopted Teddy from Sheltie Rescue of Utah. I desperately wanted a Sheltie and Boo needed a friend. Then, last September, I realized that my “puppies” were getting older. Teddy is almost 11 and Boo is probably nine. In a fit of panic, I adopted Sherlock from Sheltie Rescue of Utah. Little Sherlock had spent the first three years of his life living in a tiny cage at a puppy mill. Now, every day is an exciting adventure for him!

Do your dogs influence your writing?

Absolutely! In my teen novel, The Ring, the family has two dogs who are very much a part of the family. The main character takes refuge in the unconditional love the two “goofballs” provide. In my middle grade novel due out in early 2011, 11-year-old Abby loses her beloved Sheltie, Tam, when their car crashes on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I like to think the love I have for my dogs and the love I receive from them permeates every page of that book. At least I hope so!

How did they get their names?

The shelter we adopted Boo from had named her Calamity Jane. My husband renamed her Boo since we adopted her just before Halloween. For some reason, the name fits her! Both Teddy and Sherlock came with their names.

Any nicknames?

Boo is also known as Booberry, Booser, and Bamboozler. Teddy has more dignified nicknames: Mr. Ted and Professor Longnose. Sherlock has too many nicknames to count, but my favorites are Scooter, Barko Polo, and Chucky.

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

Sherlock LOVES to chase and fetch tennis balls and sticks! He does it, like he does everything else, with 200% enthusiasm. Teddy likes to chase Boo, and Boo chases chickmunks, rabbits, deer, moose, elk… you get the idea.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

They go out in the back yard first thing to do their morning business and to let everyone know they’re awake. Then we have breakfast. They wait somewhat patiently while I check my email, then we go for a walk along the creek by our house. When we get back, they get chewies and mom sits down at her computer to “work.” This they tolerate for about two hours. Once they’ve had enough of mom sitting at the computer they wrestle in her office until she closes her laptop and gets up for another walk, or better yet, a hike!

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Sherlock loves his kitty, Kami. Boo has a best friend at doggy play day—a pug named Bubbles. Teddy has a major crush on a gorgeous Aussie named Zephyr. They’re hiking buddies are Iggy, Cooper, Zephyr, and Sydney.

What's each dog's best quality?

Boo is just extremely sweet and very, very smart. Teddy is thoughtful and dignified. Sherlock is the most enthusiastic little boy ever! It’s like he’s making up for all those years in the puppy mill.

What are your dogs’ favorite TV shows?

Boo loves The Amazing Race because it’s full of running and chasing. Teddy much prefers Masterpiece Theater, and Sherlock is a huge fan of Animal Planet.

Bobbie Pyron, who holds degree in Psychology and Anthropology and a Masters Degree in Library Science, is a part-time librarian in the Salt Lake County Library system.

She’s been a library director, a school librarian, a bookstore manager, an Outward Bound instructor, a professional singer and a professional dog trainer, as well as a life guard and gladiola harvester.

Pyron lives in Park City with her husband, Todd, and her shelties.

Her debut YA novel,
The Ring, is available this month.

Learn more about
The Ring and its author at Bobbie Pyron's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue