Friday, May 7, 2010

Dawn Kairns & Maddie

Who is in the photo at right?

That would be Maddie and me cuddling in our camper just after waking up -- right about coffee/tea time! I’m Dawn Kairns, author of Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life, and a former nurse practitioner and psychotherapist. Maddie, our 5 year old female lab, and I are a therapy dog team and visit with high risk kids.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every day is an occasion of play for Maddie, either in our yard, or on a hiking trail. She is a very high-energy girl! On a spring or summer day the occasion for “coffee” may be in a warm spot in our yard. Or we may stop at the Brewing Market after a hike or after our visit to the juvenile center as a therapy dog team.

What's brewing?

For me it's tea -- a nice cup of British breakfast and green tea combined, with honey and cream. Yum!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Occasionally a piece of zucchini bread or pumpkin bread -- but most often it's just the tea.

Any treat for Maddie on this occasion?

If we’re home I'll often give her a raw bone, which she just loves. At the Brewing Market I will often grab a pigs ear from McGuckin's, the hardware store right next door.

How were you and Maddie united?

My husband and I were looking for a female yellow lab to adopt, preferably one year old or younger (Maggie had been a black lab and I wanted to make sure I didn't make comparisons by getting another black lab). We had just lost Chloe (the 11-year-old Golden retriever we adopted a year after Maggie died) a couple of months earlier. We plugged our criteria into The Denver Dumb Friends League website, and it linked to the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter and, lo and behold, there was Maddie’s precious black face, and it really called to me. She was estimated to be 10 months old. I was unable to get through to the shelter. After a little magic and what I have always felt was some nudging from "the other side," I contacted the shelter the next day and got through. I called my husband who was visiting his elderly father and the three of us met at The Denver Municipal Animal Shelter. When my husband and I went back to Maddie's kennel, her response was like, "well, there you are finally! I've been waiting for you -- what took you so long?" Her name was not Maddie at the time, but a very weird name, Pita Cruz, which she didn't even respond to. The connection was immediate for the three of us. When we left the meeting room, she looked for us. I believe she knew we were her new people. It was her joyful spirit that grabbed us. We figured if she could be this happy in a shelter, and sniff curiously under the kennels we passed, wagging her tail while dogs barked or growled aggressively at her, that she was one happy girl! She'd been picked up by animal control roaming the streets of Denver. We had to wait a week to bring her home (for her to be spayed). It is funny, from the moment we began calling her “Maddie,” she responded. She clearly liked her new name.

You wrote a book about a dog named "Maggie" and your present dog is called "Maddie"--has the similarity of the names confused anyone?

Sometimes, but it's no big deal. You'd be surprised how many people I meet who call me "Maggie" after reading or learning about my book!

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

Her actual name is "Magdalene." I always thought Mary Magdalene got a raw deal as far as how she was portrayed, and something inside told me to name our next dog after her. Plus it gave me a connection to the name "Maggie," although Maggie's actual name was “Magic.” Sure, Maddie has a few aliases: Maddie the Pooh, Girly, Pups, and Baby Soul are the most common.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Oh sure, she'd go after a squirrel or cat (other than ours) simply because it's moving. I don't know what she would actually do if she were face-to-face with it, though.

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy...?

All of the above! She is obsessed, especially with a ball. She would do this all day.

Who is Maddie's best pet-pal?

Our 17-year-old cat, Cinnamon, is definitely her best pal. They sleep together on the same bed at night, and Maddie nudges her to play and makes puppy sounds around Cinnamon like I've never heard her do anywhere else. When we go on a trip and take both of them, they share the backseat, with Cinnamon often curled up right against Maddie's tummy.

What's Maddie's most endearing quality?

She has many. Her ever present joy and happiness reflects in her constantly wagging tail. And if I'm upset, particularly if I'm crying, Maddie comes and licks my face, and lays right up against me.

What's Maddie's proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

I think her proudest moment is how she really gets it that her job with the kids when we are doing therapy dog work is to bring them out, to engage them. If some kids are hanging back for whatever reason, she goes over and tries to involve them. As far as her most embarrassing moment, that was this winter when she was playing ball on the beach in South Padre Island, Texas. She was running backwards (which she is rather adept at doing) so she could keep her eye on where I was going to throw the ball -- and clips this poor, unsuspecting woman sideways, and knocked her flat on her face. I was mortified! Thank heavens the woman was okay and was very kind about the whole incident.

Your book is titled Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life. How did Maggie change your life?

Oh, in so many ways. Maggie taught me who dogs are, and so much about who I am. Primarily Maggie brought me into my heart and showed me how to trust myself, my intuition; and from there my life changed. Through my relationship with Maggie I became more genuine, more self expressive.

Learn more about Maddie, Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life, and the author at Dawn Kairns' website and blog.

a Facebook fan of Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life.

--Marshal Zeringue