Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Liz Hinds & George

Who is in the photo at right?

My name’s Liz Hinds. I live in Wales with my husband and our golden retriever, George, who’s 2 and a half.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Sorry, I’m not a coffee drinker but I do love my cup of tea. I don’t need an excuse for tea but let’s say, we’ve just come back from our walkies and I need refreshment.

What's brewing?

My tea must be made in a teapot – none of this teabag in a cup for me. I warm the pot then pop in one fairtrade teabag – ordinary English breakfast tea, nothing fancy – and top with boiling water. The teacosy goes on and I leave the tea to brew for a few minutes while I get my mug ready. My favourite mug currently is one with ‘Granny’ on the side. I was given it for Christmas this year after the birth of my first grandchild. A drop of milk in the bottom then the brewed tea goes in and I’m ready to sit down at my computer to drink it while blogging, often about George’s misadventures.

Any goodies to go with the tea?

During Fairtrade Fortnight, a couple of weeks ago, I had to make batch after batch of fairtrade chocolate chip cookies and, of course, I had to sample them. Now my trousers won’t do up so, no, no goodies today.

Any treat for George on this occasion?

He always has a large bonio biscuit when he comes back from his walk.

How did you and George come together?

Our previous retriever, Harvey, had died in the July and by the November we were ready to have another. I saw the photos on a website of a group of puppies and we went along ‘just to have a look’. We saw him and that was that.

How did George get his name? Does he have any aliases?

It took us quite a few days to decide on his name. Our son lives with us too and between the three of us we couldn’t agree on anything – until we came to George. Gorgeous Georgeous is one of his nicknames. You stinky dog is another.

Does George play a large role on your blog?

My blog was originally subtitled ‘The thoughts of me and my dog, Harvey’; it now reads ‘…who used to be Harvey, but is now George, who is Harvey's great-great-great-great-nephew.’ He figures largely, but his place has rather been taken recently by my new granddaughter!

Is there an apt vowel-stingy Welsh adjective to describe George?

What about ci drwg? (Naughty dog or as it’s written, dog naughty.)

Rabbit, cat, postman...?

Rabbit and cat watch out! Not that he’d know what to do if they came face to face. But the minute the postman arrives George rushes past him to go and check the gate. He wants to see if the postman has left it open, allowing him to escape to freedom and next door’s rubbish bin. Fortunately the postman knows him too well and makes sure he closes the gate.

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

George has a low boredom threshold and will give chase – until he gets fed-up.

Who is George's best pet-pal?

George has lots of blogging friends including Simi in Sicily, Raki in Devon, and Luckie whom you’ve already featured. He’s very fond of his ‘cousin’ Holly, but his best pet-pal at the moment is Willit, a husky puppy. They go to the beach and the woods together and have great fun!

What's George's best quality?

Let me think. I’m sure he has some … um, well, erm, oh yes, he’s gentle and a brilliant stick-fetcher. (But he doesn’t like to let go of it then.) He’s also The Great Escaper but I’m not sure that is a quality to be encouraged.

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

George’s proudest moment was probably when he realised the big outside wasn’t such a scary place after all. When he was a tiny puppy I had to drag him along on walks; today he grabs every opportunity.

George doesn’t get embarrassed. If you mean embarrassing for me then probably when he got into next-door’s house, found their laundry bin, stole a pair of socks and brought them home to us. Or maybe when the postman found George wandering and locked him in an old lady’s garden while he came to fetch me in his post van.

No, wait, George may have been a bit embarrassed when he had a panic attack on finding a slug on his leg.

Naughtiest moments usually include food, like the time he ate a pound of butter from my mixing bowl when I was making a cake. Or the time he stole the turkey on Christmas Day.

Apart from butter and turkey what does George like to eat?

Banana – he can hear a banana being peeled from two rooms away. Broccoli, raw potato or carrot that he steals from the pantry. Apple, grapes, orange. Anything I’m eating.

Visit Liz Hinds' blog "Finding lfe hard?" and watch the video starring the dear departed Harvey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cara and The Beagle

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Cara, aka caramama, and I have a parenting blog called Cara Mama. I started the blog after having my daughter (who is now 3), and I write about my kids, being a mom and my family. Even though I now have 2 kids (my son is 9 months), my husband and I still consider our dog and cat our furbabies, and they are an essential part of our family. This picture shows our beagle in my lap, one of her favorite places to be. The Beagle is now 8 years old, and even though she’s 35 pounds, she thinks she’s a lap dog.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

With two young kids, I don’t have as much time for the pets as I used. I’m taking this opportunity to spend a little quality time with the Beagle at a local coffee shop.

What's brewing?

I’m drinking the house blend with soy milk. I judge how good a coffee shop is by their house blend.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Since I’m a nursing mom, I need extra calories in my diet. So I’ll go ahead and have a chocolate croissant to go with the coffee.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

Although I wish I could spoil my dog with treats, she has food allergies and no ability to control herself around food in general. I brought her 3 milk bones, but that’s all she can have.

How was she united with you?

The man who is now my husband (Londo) and I debated for weeks and weeks about when to get a dog. I was ready, but he wasn’t quite ready. Then 9/11 happened. We both left work early and spent the day sitting on the couch watching the news. Although our cat checked in on us, he’s not the snuggling sort. And with all the sadness on the news, I realized that I really needed a furry companion to cuddle with when I’m upset. By the end of the day, I turned to Londo and said that was it. We were getting a dog the next week. He agreed immediately.

That week, I found an ad in the paper announcing full-blooded beagle puppies who would be good hunting dogs or pets. I called and talked with the woman, who assured me that the puppies had been socialized with humans and she could see that a few of them would be ideal pets.

Londo and I drove 45 minutes into the Georgia countryside to go check out the pups. The woman and man raising them were very nice and friendly, and all the puppies were so adorable. We were the first people to come look at the pups, so we got the pick of the litter! We did all the little personality tests on the puppies, and the Beagle not only did great on the tests, but she was surely the prettiest little puppy of the whole litter. While we signed the papers, the Beagle hid under the buffet in the dining room. On the way home, she snuggled in my lap the whole way home.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Rabbit. She’s a beagle, through and through. She comes from hunting stock, and beagles were breed to hunt rabbits. You can always tell when she’s on the trail of a rabbit as opposed to any other animal. Her entire demeanor changes, as does the timbre of her bark and way she sniffs the ground.

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

She LOVES to play with squeaky toys. She loves to fetch them, play tug-of-war with them and just sit down chewing and squeaking on them.

You have an active blog? Is The Beagle ever an inspiration for it? A distraction?

My blog is about family life. Although it focuses mostly on my kids, the dog is part of our family. She is both an inspiration and a distraction for my blog—heck, so are the kids!

Where's her favorite place for an outing?

She loves to take walks around the nearby lake. She does really great keeping up with the stroller and letting my daughter hold on to part of her leash, while I really hold on to the other side. (Her favorite place in the world, though, is our bed snuggled up to the pillows, as you can see in the picture [at left].)

Who is her best pet-pal?

Her best dog pal is my mom’s dog. Over the years, they have spent a lot of time playing together. They are the same size and have similar playing styles, so they really enjoy each other.

We also have a cat, who is like a brother to the Beagle. As in, sometimes they get along great and will hang out near each other or even play together, and other times they bicker and get each other into trouble. But I definitely think there is a bond and friendship between them.

What's her best quality?

The Beagle’s best quality is how social she is with everyone. Beagles are pack animals who thrive when they are with others and are known for being good with kids. My dog has been fantastic with the newer additions to our family. She plays with my 3 year old and is careful with the baby. She is gentle with them and seems to really enjoy being around them (especially at dinner time). The Beagle is a very snuggly dog, too, which is especially nice on cold, winter nights!

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

She would definitely change how we limit her food. We have to for her allergies and to keep her from overeating, but I KNOW she would love it if we just let her have at everything in the fridge on a regular basis.

What's her proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

I would say that the Beagle’s proudest moments are when she does her tricks. I used to work with her regularly on a bunch of tricks, from shaking her paw to rolling over. She loves the attention and the treats when we practice and show off her tricks.

Her most embarrassing moments were the two times she had to wear a special, medical bootie on her paw. Before we realized how bad her allergies were, she had licked one of her paws excessively. To let it heal up while we adjusted her food and diet, we had to keep her paw in a little silver and black, lace-up bootie. She knew she looked ridiculous and it was a very odd feeling to try to walk with it on. In fact, she mostly walked on the other three legs.

Visit the "Cara Mama" blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cathleen Schine & Hector

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Cathleen Schine, a writer (my last book, The New Yorkers, was all about dogs, by the way; my new book, just out, is called The Three Weissmanns of Westport) and although you can’t see me in the picture, I’m sitting right next to that handsome dog, Hector, our cairn terrier. He’s seven.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are sitting at the Boat Basin CafĂ© in Riverside Park, which is closed because it’s winter. Our apartment is nearby and we’re selling it, so we were having an open house, which means it’s open to everyone but me, my girlfriend, Janet, my son Tommy, and Hector. Tommy went and got us coffee and we sat gazing at the river for an hour and a half.

What's brewing?

I don’t like those burnt coffees that have become popular in the Starbucks era, so I’m drinking a regular coffee shop coffee. With half and half. I love half and half. I tried to switch to skim mild or even whole milk but it ruined the whole experience.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not that day. On one rainy day when we had to disappear for the open house we sat in the rotunda and had soup from Hot and Hearty on Broadway.

Any treat for Hector on this occasion?

No. He doesn’t get treats when we’re at a table, just all the rest of the time.

How did you and Hector meet?

We drove down to Maryland to get him when he was 10 weeks old. It was when the sniper was still shooting people. We stopped for gas and a pee in Pennsylvania, then drove without stopping until we got to the breeder. The snipers were arrested a couple days later exactly where we went.

How have your dogs influenced your writing?

I have written a piece that ran in The New Yorker about our previous dog, a wonderful but truly damaged and crazy rescue mutt. We loved him and kept him for a year and half, trying everything but the pet psychic, but he just got more and more violent, to himself and to us and everyone else. We had to put him down. It was horrible. I keep resurrecting him in my books and curing him and giving him a happy life. The New Yorkers was dedicated to him. That book was all about dogs and their owners and how dogs in New York create a neighborhood, a community, and bring people together. Like cupids.

How did Hector get his name?

I would like to say that it was because of the Iliad or even the phrase “since Hector was a pup,” but in fact my father had a friend, a Canadian lumberjack who used to say “Hi there, Hector,” to every child and every dog he met. Our previous dog was named Buster, and somehow Hector seemed to fit—enough continuity, not too much—and he just looks like a Hector, doesn’t he? I think it was quite a popular dog name in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Who is Hector's best pet-pal?

He is indifferent to most dogs, but he does have one friend, a coton de tuilieres named Lola, who belongs to Janet’s sister. And he loves the cat upstairs in our apartment building.

What's Hector's best quality?

He is the most adaptable, easy-going, happy-go-lucky fellow. And he sleeps late! Like me.

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

When he got stuck under the house in Venice, California, where we spend part of the year, and confronted an entire family of hissing red-eyed long-toothed possums and had to be hauled out through the tiny heat vent by a passing construction worker with long, long tattooed arms—I’d say that was both the proudest and the most embarrassing.

Cathleen Schine is the author of The New Yorkers and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review.

Her new novel is
The Three Weissmanns of Westport.

Schine's "Dog Trouble" in The New Yorker.

Cathleen Schine's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

David Hughes & Dexter

Who is in the photo at right?

David Hughes: Illustrator. Dexter: Aged 8 years. Wire Haired Fox Terrier.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Routine: When we are at home. One hour/hour and a half walk; country walks, pretty rural; maybe buy a newspaper. Dexter once back will have a mad five minutes zigzagging around the garden as if he's on speed then I wash him down in an outside butler sink.

What's brewing?

Instant. Local supermarket brand Colombian variety. Heaped spoonful, splash of milk.

I read a synopsis of your new graphic novel Walking the Dog [click to enlarge sketches] which said you acquired Dexter to aid you in getting some daily exercise. Any treats for you or Dexter to go with the coffee, or is that incompatible with the exercise regime?

Coffee with two slices of toasted home baked brown bread, butter and honey and a banana. Dexter joins me for some off cuts of toast, after his breakfast of healthy dry biscuits and sliced raw carrot and garlic. In the early days of our relationship I'd often poach us both an egg with a slice of toast, that's been off the menu for a while - this interview has served to remind me.

When we are in London I'll have a strong cappuccino with a chocolate croissant or a double espresso Dexter meanwhile will pop into a pub and order a pint of Guinness.

Exercise? I swim a couple of miles every other day and I run for 40 minutes 4 times a week; is that a regime?

Where did you find Dexter? Was he the kind of dog you hoped to get when you considered your doctor's advice?

Year 2001: I downloaded him.... I found a breeder's website. It was love at first sight. I was a cat man to be honest. It was during a medical that the nurse suggested I was a stressed fat overweight slob and I ought to consider getting a dog - I am a lover of the Wire Haired Fox Terrier. I am not a dog lover. Don't get me wrong, I'd never be cruel to a dog, but most dogs I wouldn't give a house room to. I suppose I quite admire the Airedale as well, but dogs with brown noses give me the creeps. One exception is Monty, a chocolate brown labrador--everything in a canine I find unattractive, but in this case he is such a laid back gentle beast he is forgiven and anyway Dexter likes him. I get the impression you haven't actually read Walking The Dog. But Dexter is more than I ever hoped for. He saved my life.

How did Dexter get his name?

I heard this fantastic record Frontier Psychiatrist by The Avalanches. That record tells you all you need to know.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Postman. Courier. The man from the electric company. Deer. Hares. Squirrel. Moles. But in this case [photo, left] an unfortunate baby bunny crossed Dexter's path.

Frisbee, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Indoors: Squeaky Canada Goose . Outdoors: A Chuck-It loaded with a solid rubber ball.

Is Dexter's favorite walk the same as yours?

Yes. Beach, City, (Liverpool Street Station to Trafalgar Square), Countryside, alongside the River Goyt in Cheshire: depends on our mood.

Who is Dexter's best pet-pal?

These days - I guess it's next doors ginger cat Claude; they have a pretty special relationship. Dexter did have a best canine pal but unfortunately Bertie (a Pointer) [sketch, top left] died a few years ago. He is sorely missed.

What's Dexter's best quality?

Always positive. Great sense of humour.

What's Dexter's proudest moment? His most embarrassing?

Proudest moment? I really couldn't say ... maybe choosing me to be his side-kick?

Most embarrassing? Winning a local summer fair's dog show and having a red rosette pinned to his collar.

Is Dexter likely to appear in your future work?

Yes - Dexter is my muse....

About Walking the Dog, from the publisher:
Hughes’ daily walks with Dexter form the spine of Walking the Dog. We eavesdrop on their encounters with fellow dog-walkers (‘Hello Hector’, ‘Hello Chester’…) and on Hughes’ thoughts as he plods along carrying a plastic bag of poo. He begins to remember moments from his past, dark memories of murder and violence. He explores his own fantasies and obsessions. From the gentle comedy of the early pages, Walking the Dog is transformed into something deeper and more disturbing.

This will be a landmark book in the field of graphic literature. The drawing is sublime, the imagination extraordinary, the ambition unequalled.
Visit the official David Hughes website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 22, 2010

Alison Toerner & Zumaya

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Ali Toerner and I work full time for Clear Channel Communications as an Online Content Coordinator. I also have a side business called Ali's Paw Prints. My dog's name is Zumaya and he is a 2 1/2 year old black lab mix. Possibly a lab/rottweiler or lab/shepherd...not really sure!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I love coffee and relaxing with my bud! We were actually watching some of our favorite Monday night sitcoms.

What's brewing?

Decaf (because it is the evening) Folgers Hazelnut.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I had some yummy leftover chocolate cake!

Any treat for Zumaya on this occasion?

He actually is quite pooped! We just got back from a nice walk, so he seemed content with resting.

How were you and Zumaya united?

I found Zumaya at the Animal Friends Humane Society of Hamilton, Ohio. An absolute great place! Besides Zumaya, my parents have found one of our previous dogs Holly, and their current dog Riley all from this shelter. I went to just look around and I'm so glad I did!

How did Zumaya get his name? Any aliases?

Zumaya is named after a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers ... we wanted something unique. But I think we jinxed the pitcher because shortly after we named him he went onto the DL. Oh yes and at the shelter his name was Marlin ... It just doesn't seem to fit him.

Please tell us a bit about your vector portraits.

I would love to! I take an original photo of your pet (digital or printout), and use it to recreate a vector portrait of your pet. This is all done on the computer, but I do not use a quick filter to render the photo. I hand trace all elements of your photo to create a highly detailed illustration. Each portrait has the same style, but each one brings out the personality of the individual animal. I have a strong passion for both animals and graphic design, and have found a perfect way for me to mix both. [vector portrait at left, "Lola"]

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Squirrel!!! No doubt about that one!

Ball, squeaky-toy, Frisbee...?

Oh, the squeaky toys, but after the squeaky is is the interest.

Where is Zumaya's favorite place for an outing?

I would have to say the dog park. He is a very social dog, and just loves to meet new playmates.

Who is Zumaya's best pet-pal?

Now this one is hard to choose. He currently has 3 of them, and you cannot say any of their names in conversation otherwise you have to take him to see them. It just wouldn't be fair if you didn't. So here they are! Frankie, Riley, and Mandy.

What's Zumaya's best quality?

I absolute adore his laidback personality. A simple walk and he is content, and just loves to be in your company.

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

Simple. That everyday is take your dog to work day.

What's Zumaya's proudest moment? His most embarrassing?

Proudest would be overcoming his painful Hip Displasia FHO surgery at just 1 year. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever been through just being there with him. From sleeping next to him on the floor, to helping him up and down the stairs. But he has 100% recovered from his surgery and is doing great!

Embarrassing? I would have to say the few days that he must have caught a bug and had a really bad case of explosive diarhea. And we'll just leave it at that...poor little guy.

Visit the Ali's Paw Prints website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sonya Chung & Pax

Who is in the photo at right?

This is me, Sonya Chung, and Pax, when we lived in Seattle. (We live in New York now.) I had a garden, and anyone who knows about growing zucchini knows that if you turn your back for a day or two, it grows into a pumpkin.

The second photo [below, left] is Pax the night before we left Seattle for New York in 2003. We stayed with friends, so we bunked on an air mattress with lots of blankets.

Pax is a Rottweiller mix — I don’t know what the other breed is, but definitely something smaller than a Rottweiller. He is almost 10 years old, but still acts like a puppy (says everyone who meets him).

I am a novelist and fiction writing teacher. My first novel, Long for This World, has just been released by Scribner. It’s the story of a female war photographer who is forced to take a break from her workaholic life to face her own emotional and relational life. The novel spans the globe — New York, Korea, Darfur, Iraq, Syria — but is essentially an intimate family story. You can read more about it here.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee is the morning ritual in our house. Usually while the coffee is brewing (French press, because the drip coffeemaker broke), I feed Pax. In about 6 seconds, he’s done, and ready for his cookie.

What's brewing?

When we had a drip maker, it was always Bustelo. Now, with the French press, we get it coarse ground from wherever. I like Porto Rico coffee in Greenwich Village. At the moment, it’s Dunkin Donuts brew. No sugar, a little soy milk (I am lactose intolerant).

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Jalapeno cornbread with homemade peach jam (my s.o. John makes the jam). Sometimes 7-grain bread with peanut butter.

Any treat for Pax on this occasion?

He loves pig ears. I’m not sure if they’re good for him, though. He’s in his senior years, so I try to watch what he eats. Thankfully, he loves baby carrots.

How did you and Pax come together?

Pax came from a Rottweiller rescue organization in eastern WA state, he was about 5 months old. He lived with a foster family for a long time; because he’s a mixed breed and doesn’t look like a “real” Rottweiller, no one wanted him. Can you imagine? The foster mom said that he and his sister were the only two escapees from a farm that went bankrupt; the farmer shot all the dogs. Pax and Jasmyn were found wandering in the woods. Jasmyn was adopted by a lovely woman who was able to take her to work with her every day.

Does Pax have any influence on your writing?

Hmm... I honestly think Pax got me through the very difficult time of working on Long for This World. It was a pretty harrowing, isolating time. There is something about a quiet, warm, completely uncynical presence that is exactly what you need when you are alone a lot. Dogs provide for us “unambivalent love” someone once said to me.

Also, read here, my essay at The Millions about dogs and writers and Richard Yates.

How did Pax get his name? Does he have any aliases?

Hmm... hard to say. It just stuck. He was very calm and mellow, even as a puppy. Pax = peace, of course. Sometimes (am I really going to admit this?) I call him Cookie, Bud, Poopy, Pups, Doggie, Paximus.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?


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

Tennis ball, endlessly.

Who is Pax's best pet-pal?

When I lived in Brooklyn, he had a lady friend, a Boxer. When we go to the country, he frolicks with a dog named Ben. In the Bronx, he got beat up pretty bad by a pitbull named Ginger. We recently moved, so we’re finding new pals for him.

What's Pax's best quality?

He thinks he’s a lapdog, when actually, he weighs almost 60 lbs.

Also, he’s a terrific traveler; he’s been cross country twice, camping and backpacking, and is generally used to being on the road. I don’t think I could be compatible with a dog who wasn’t adaptable to various environments, and Pax is great at this.

What’s the most bad-doggie thing Pax has ever done?

Once, we set a plate that was piled high with a mound of roast duck on the table. We turned our backs for just a minute, and it was gone. Pax ended up having the runs all night long and all the next day and night; I was taking him out every hour, and we lived at that time on the 4th floor of a walk-up.

Among the early praise for Sonya Chung's Long for This World:
“An intricately structured and powerfully resonant portrait of lives lived at the crossroads of culture, and a family torn between the old world and the new, Long for This World marks a powerful debut from a young writer of great talent and promise.”
–Kate Walbert, National Book Award finalist and author of A Short History of Women
Visit Sonya Chung's website and become a Facebook fan of her work.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Carrie Jones & Tala

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Tala, 5, Great Pyr. She barks.

I am Carrie, way older than 5. I write.

We are both communicators.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s We Saw A Bobcat Day.

What's brewing?

Unfortunately, I can’t have coffee or caffeine, so we are drinking Postum (our last jar), which is a liquid cereal drink made out of grain.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Strudel and Snausages.

Any treat for Tala on this occasion?

Strudel and Snausages. We like to share.

How did you and Tala come together?

We met in Western Maine. She was rolling around on the grass, drooling. It was love at first sight.

How has Tala influenced your writing?

She makes me wake up in the morning. Without her I would just stay in bed and nothing would ever get done.

How did Tala get her name?

It means wolf. She sort of looks like a wolf. Um… Okay. That’s stretching it.

Who is Tala's best pet-pal?

Logan, Renee Sweet’s dog. They interview each other.

What's Tala's best quality?

She is a lover not a fighter.

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

Scaring away the bear.

Barking at Scotty, her new brother, and making him pee on the fake Christmas tree out of sheer fear.

Or maybe the time we put the pink tutu and tiara on her.

Carrie Jones graduated from Vermont College’s MFA program for writing. She has edited newspapers and poetry journals and has won awards from the Maine Press Association and also been awarded the Martin Dibner Fellowship as well as a Maine Literary Award.

Her books include Girl, Hero, Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape), Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, and Need.

Carrie Jones' website and LiveJournal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beth Solheim and Andrea & Angus

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Beth Solheim, author of the Sadie Witt Mystery Series. The series features Belly LaGossa, a dog of questionable heritage and behavior that defies nature. I’m joined by the mighty Angus and his owner, Andrea. Angus is a 12 year old male Shih Tzu and Terrier cross.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Unwinding after a week of work at the hospital. Andrea is a friend and co-worker and she and Angus stopped by for a visit, a cup of coffee, and to commiserate about Angus’s latest fiasco. He backed into an ice fishing hole during an excursion with his ‘dad’. In twenty below temperatures, that wasn’t a smart move.

What's brewing?

Cappuccino in one mug, Earl Grey tea in the other, and a water bowl for Angus.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Powdered sugar donuts, courtesy of my husband.

Any treat for Angus on this occasion?

Before the donuts arrived, Angus munched on half a ‘Better than Sex’ cookie. Sinfully delicious and he snarfed it down in one gulp. The dog has good taste!

How did you and Angus meet?

Andrea mentioned Angus’s escapades, of which there are many, and I knew I had to meet him. Any dog that gets into that much trouble has to be unique, memorable and good fodder for my writing.

Does Angus influence your writing?

Absolutely. Belly LaGossa is based on Angus. Belly gets into one predicament after another in At Witt’s End, the first book in the series.

How did Angus get his name?

Andrea had always liked the name Angus and considered it for her first child. Her son was christened Isaiah instead, so the name Angus was bestowed on the dog.

Your Sadie Witt Mystery Series has a dog character called Belly LaGossa. Can you tell us a little about him? Would he and Angus get along?

Belly Lagossa is the Witt sister’s canine of questionable heritage. Actually, Belly doesn’t belong to the sisters. He belongs to the neighbor. Belly doesn’t know that, though, and has taken up residence with a regal flair in Cabin 14. He dines off hand-painted china, samples questionable culinary offerings, and sleeps on a satin pillow. He also sees dead people. Ever wonder why dogs run along with their nose to the ground? Could Belly be on the trail of a crosser?

Belly has long legs, a stubby nose, a rotund body covered in brown spots, and a cropped-off tail with four elongated hairs growing out of a bald portion of its tip. Even though his physique resembles a cement truck, he has a weasel’s knack at sneaking into locations at the wrong time. Specifically, the mortuary next door. He also has only one testicle.

Angus and Belly would be fast friends, and most likely vie for the title of King of Shenanigans.

What's this rumor about a dog treat recipe contest?

I’m inviting pet lovers to participate in a dog treat recipe contest based on the At Witt’s End theme, locale, up-north lake appeal, etc. The dog treats can be basic, biscuit, vegetarian, beefy/liver, bread machine baked, cheesy, microwave, gourmet, or a decorated treat, as long as the ingredients are safe for dogs. The winner of the winning recipe will receive a $100.00 VISA debit card. Refer to for details.

What's Angus's best quality? Belly's?

Angus is a patient fellow and tolerates the constant attention of the two children who live with him.

Belly is instrumental in solving crimes and leads Sadie Witt to clues she might have missed.

What's Angus’s proudest moment?

Angus is a mouser extraordinaire. He graciously shares his catch with his mortified owners!

And Angus’s most embarrassing moment?

Probably the time Andrea’s husband phoned her at work and asked why she had ripped the bun bag open from the bottom and left it in tatters on the kitchen counter. Just as the question escaped his lips, he noticed Angus ducking under the dining room hutch with a fresh bun in his mouth. Angus is nine inches high. The counter is 30 inches high. This does not equate!

Like the main character in her Sadie Witt mystery series, Beth Solheim was born with a healthy dose of imagination and a hankering to solve a puzzle. She learned her reverence for reading from her mother, who was never without a book in her hand.

By day, Solheim works in Human Resources. By night she morphs into a writer who frequents lake resorts and mortuaries and hosts a ghost or two in her humorous paranormal mysteries.

The first book in her cozy mystery series
Sadie Witt Mysteries, At Witt's End, is now available in print. The second in the series, titled Outwitted, will be released in 2011.

Raised and still living in Northern Minnesota, she resides in lake country with her husband.

Beth Solheim's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pam Biasotti & Karma

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Pam Biasotti and I am a San Francisco Bay Area portrait photographer of pets and owner of You Had Me At Woof Photography®. The lovely blonde I am holding close is my female Golden Retriever, Karma, age 1.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are working hard at our obedience training for upcoming trials in Rally, Obedience and Agility so sometimes it’s a good distraction to walk over to a public place and enforce Karma to do her sit/stays and down/stays while I dash inside and order. I work out of the home so we spend quite a bit of quality time together.

What's brewing?

My favorite drink from Peet’s Coffee and Tea is a rare tea called Jasmin Downy Pearls. It’s delicious and fragrant.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

The correct thing to say would be I don’t need the extra calories but I have to be honest. There are times a slice of banana bread goes great with a hot drink.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

I am strict about treats for Karma. She only gets the training treats I carry in a bait bag while we are working together. Liver treats seem to inspire her. The stinkier the treat the better. Once in awhile she gets a bully stick to enjoy.

How were you and Karma united?

My 9 year old dog, Riley, another Golden Retriever, became ill in late October 2008. He was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. He had a tumor on his heart. I lost him 9 days later and was devastated. During the Christmas holidays, Riley’s breeder Laura had emailed me during her Caribbean vacation that one of her females was pregnant and due in early January and would I be interested in a new puppy? I was completely thrilled since I didn’t think she had any breeding plans for a few years!

How did Karma get her name? Any aliases?

When Riley’s breeder emailed me that her female Sunshine was pregnant—she also mentioned that it was an unplanned breeding between Sunshine and her champion male, Jester. Apparently when Sunny was in heat, they snuck away for a rendezvous and Laura didn’t even realize Sunshine was having puppies until she brought her in for an ultrasound over the holidays and there was a paw waving to her! Sunshine is a really good performance dog in obedience and agility and Laura had never considered breeding her due to her smaller size. Jester, however, has sired many beautiful litters and is a distant cousin to Riley. My puppy to be was going to have a sprinkle of my Riley in her. Riley died on 11/7/08 and the puppies were born on 1/7/09. We also figured that these surprise puppies were conceived around the time Riley became sick and died. My specific pup I chose was the female wearing the red collar. As a photographer I was able to visit the litter often and photograph them as they grew. Red girl fell asleep on my lap and just seemed to be the right one. Because of all the circumstances leading to this litter we thought Karma would be a great name for her. We sometimes call her Karma Sue (because my middle name is Sue) and for fun my husband likes to call her Susie.

You've got some beautiful pet photos on your sites. Since you're a professional photographer, that doesn't surprise me. What's the trickiest thing about getting a dog to stay in the frame for a photo?

The trickiest thing is having a dog that doesn’t have enough training to do a simple sit or down stay and comes lunging at me to slobber me with kisses! Sometimes a treat will get their attention, but of course, they want to jump over and eat it. Every dog is different, so we just have to do what works best and go with the flow. I love eye contact with dogs. When I capture the intensity of their connection with me, I feel like I have succeeded.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Yes, yes and yes! But the postman would be getting kisses while the cat and squirrel would be chased! Fortunately, Karma will stay when she is told to and not run out the door. You can tell she would love to follow the squirrels down the street.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

A ball that squeaks! Karma is a natural retriever and will play that game forever. She’s great with her toys and knows what is considered a toy. She does like wood though, and our steps leading up into our hot tub have been gnawed on each corner.

Where is Karma's favorite place for an outing?

Recently, we had a one year birthday party reunion at a local dog park with her siblings. We don’t go to dog parks that often, but she gets super excited to run free and socialize with new friends.

Who is Karma's best pet-pal?

Most definitely her littermate/sister Dusty. They see each other in agility training every week and go crazy. They love to wrestle and play hard. We have to save those playdates for times other than dog training!

What is Karma's best quality?

She has so many of them it’s hard to say which is best. She’s quite intuitive, and knows when I need a cuddle, kiss or hug. Her disposition is sweet and loving and she’s frightfully smart. Her eagerness to train and please is amazing.

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

To stop dressing her in clothing and frilly, girly things. I live in a house of boys and she’s the closest thing to a daughter I will ever have. I love to “pinkify” and accessorize her.

What is Karma's proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

We have this game we play where I move quickly away from her and try to outrun her. She chases me until she catches up with me and starts prancing up and down when she catches me. She loves the game. Her most embarrassing moment is usually when I am trying to purposefully capture a special photograph of her and she will have nothing of the sort. I don’t know if it’s a diva thing, but it’s almost like the cobbler’s kids who don’t wear shoes. The dog photographer’s dog plays hard to get in front of the camera.

View more photographs from Karma's first birthday celebration.

the You Had Me At Woof Photography® website and Pam Biasotti's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Carol Ann Coward & Luckie

Who is in the photo at right?

Good Morning! I am Carol Ann Coward [screen name-NitWit1 (don't ask!)], former Texan now Arkansan, retired pharmacist and cancer survivor, now involved in public service as member of city council, organizer and participant in a community service known as TeleCare, member of the local police auxiliary, church activities and other works in which I feel called to serve.

Additionally I love fishing, photography and computing, especially networking, otherwise known as blogging, Facebook, etc.

My current favorite canine is Luckie, a female rescue of estimated 7.5 years, mixed breed with only identifiable markings-German Shepherd. Her favorite sport is chipmunk hunting, so she is dubbed the Great Chipmunk Hunter.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with Luckie every morning. I arise about 6:30 a.m. daily. First item on my agenda is making two pots of coffee, one brew and flavor for myself and one, for my husband.

Luckie knows it breakfast time and hurries to the kitchen impatiently following, no, nudging, me through my routine.

Her breakfast, 3/4th cup of Beneful, is the last item on my early morning route through the kitchen. After bolting down her kibbles she may join me at my lift chair, or rudely traipse back to bed with hubby, who arises later. I hear "I think I'll go back to bed" and she sways her sassy, curled tail on the way to the bedroom--talk about being used and manipulated--that's me!

What's brewing?

The coffee I routinely use is either of Folgers Breakfast Blend or Maxwell House Breakfast Blend, 4-5 pkts. Splenda and half cup of skim/fat-free milk. My coffee maker brews two cups in one mug. On the road I treat myself to convenience stores/quick stop brewed cappuccino (love English Toffee, and/or French Vanilla), or lattes in similar flavors.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Usually NO goodies for either of us! Obviously from above answers to my morning concoction of coffee/skim milk and Luckie's breakfast of Beneful, can see we both belong to Foodaholic Anonymous and are constantly contending with the Battle of the Bulge! Today I am adhering to my frugal Weight Watcher points--usually 1.5 -2 pts for breakfast.

Any treat for Luckie on this occasion?

I provided her a huge dog biscuit, certainly not on her diet regimen. What the heck, everybody deserves a break from diet regimens!

How were you and Luckie united?

My best friend, Linda, who works for an area newspaper, The Baxter Bulletin, called to tell us about a Humane Society photo submission of a smaller female dog, looking like a German Shepherd, wt., just 35 skinny pounds.

We had been dog-less about 3 years --three years I spent mourning the demise of our last pure bred German Shepherd, Gabby. I still have her picture on my computer desk.

Grieving aside, a replacement needed to be a somewhat smaller dog, because of my deteriorating knees and stability, which has since been remedied. The Humane Society of North Central Arkansas fees for adoption were better fitted for our wallet. We met the Humane Society's requirements for adoption.

We were united with Luckie at the Humane Society's private "reception" room. She was a pitiful, dull-coated, rib-showing skinny, cowed dog. Her journey to her "forever" home took a circuitous route through an area veterinarian's office as described below.

How did Luckie get her name?

Luckie's name at adoption was Altena, a totally alien name for us. My husband chose her name, saying "she is lucky we accepted her." This choice reflects her numerous problems which arose when the veterinarian performing her spay discovered her heartworm infestation--too long a story for this interview.

At the point of discovery we had the choice to return her to the shelter and almost certain euthanasia. Our indecision lasted three days with pleas by her vet we should accept her as he assured us he could cure her. With much trepidation we finally heeded his plea, 30 minutes before she was to be returned to the shelter.

We made the RIGHT choice! She has repaid us with unfettered affection and loyalty. As she regained her self-esteem, yes, I think dogs have self-esteem- she emerged as an entertaining, somewhat cocky, at times, demanding personality.

Does she have any aliases?

Chippy hunter, Meatloaf - There are stories behind each alias.

Cat, squirrel, paperboy...?

Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and ground prey, much to my dismay. I think these smallish critters are sort of cute.

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

Squeaky, fuzzy toys from which she readily amputates any appendages and eventually demolishes the toy. She likes bones, but never chases a tennis ball which is too large for her mouth.

You're in Arkansas: Luckie meets a razorback. What happens?

WOW! That thing is over 300 pounds heavier than I am! That's nearly 10x bigger than me. It has two long horns protruding out of its mouth. Looks like frontal weaponry--maybe be an armored tank. I'm calling NitWit1's brother's Chihuahua, Chico to take care of this matter. I'm tucking tail and getting the heck outta here! I don't care if the Razorback is mascot of the University of Arkansas and its legions of fans yelling,“Woo Pig Sooie.”

Luckie met Chico when Nitwit1's Texas brother and wife visited us for a few days.

Where's Luckie's favorite place for an outing?

Riding with my husband while he runs errands. Riding with me frequently ends ends at the veterinarian [not her favorite place] for exams, shots or boarding.

Who is Luckie's best pet-pal?

Probably my husband. HA! HA! Seriously, she currently has no neighborhood pals. A rental home across the street had a male Chihuahua mix which ventured to Luckie's yard, crawled under the gate and visited, until his owners discovered him missing. They got along famously. However, if the visitor had amorous intentions, he was sadly out of luck in several areas.

What's Luckie's best quality?

She is somewhat laid back, well behaved when we have company, and so loving of people once she knows them--pretty good for a dog, alleged to have been abused by a male. She is reticent when meeting some males the first time but makes friends when she discovers they are non-confrontational.

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

Spend more time with her, and toss her toys. She loves to be petted, for as long as you will spend with her. I am too busy for her. When Luckie first entered our lives, she did not know what to do with a toy. Her transformation into a carefree pet was heart-warming.

What's Luckie's proudest moment?

Luckie's proudest moment should have been when she tried to alert us of vandals entering my husband's unlocked truck about 1 a.m. We sleepily ignored her warning bark. The next morning prescription drugs were missing, and his cab was ransacked.

Her most embarrassing?

Her most embarrassing moment is my entering her in a local Mardi Gras Barkus parade contest, appropriately attired in Mardi Gras colors. She is not a female inclined to wear clothing, only a collar!

Or maybe it is getting caught foraging and ransacking the house while her owners are both away church?

She has eaten and survived loaves of bread, diet Russell Stover candy, a frozen meatloaf off the kitchen counter, the ultimate disgrace: emptied the trash can of coffee grinds, slinging the wet grounds on the surrounding floor area, adjacent cabinets and walls.

LUCKILY, she escaped ill effects, such as intestinal obstruction, chocolate poisoning, and owner wrath. (Have you ever cleaned up wet coffee grinds, ceiling to floor, after returning home from ceiling to floor, after returning home from church? Enough to lose your religion!)

I shall have to seek forgiveness after this confession, or Luckie may resort to an unknown, devious act of revenge, followed by her "innocent" look. I feel another Texas-sized bribe coming out of the cupboard!

Learn more about Luckie's now-charmed life at Carol Ann Coward's blog, Coward's Corner with Luckie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 8, 2010

Susanne Dunlap & Betty

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Susanne Dunlap, and Betty, who's 21 months old and a Coton de Tulear. We're at Pemaquid Point in Maine.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Am I totally out of line to say tea with a canine? Betty loves to sit with me first thing in the morning when I'm drinking my tea and checking my email. Her head perks up when the whistle goes on the kettle.

What's brewing?

I love a good Assam in the morning, from a fab importer called Upton Tea Imports. Usually it's a single-estate, and I brew it 4 or 5 minutes.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Just milk (in the tea). I like coffee black, but that's for later!

Any treat for Betty on this occasion?

Sometimes she gets a dog biscuit, or her latest favorite, dried duck breast.

How did she come to be united with you?

My daughter has a Coton who's an incredible dog. I made a very conscious decision to get her from the same breeder, and she was six months old when I got her. Very timid, totally loving. She lives to cuddle.

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

Betty is short for Thistledown's Babette. I love the movie Babette's Feast.

What's Betty's influence on your writing?

Betty's influence is mostly calming, and by curling up she keeps me from moving, so I have to obey the BIC rule (butt in chair!). Plus, her needs also make me take little breaks to go outside.

What's an ordinary day like for Betty?

We get up in the morning, and if it's a work day (day job), we have tea, then I get ready for work and take her to my daughter's apartment to spend the day with my daughter's dog. When I pick her up she's wriggling with joy. On a non-work day, she sleeps contentedly between my knees or calves while I sit in my chaise and write, read, or research.

Do you and Betty have a favorite place to go for an outing?

Betty hates--get that, hates!-- going for walks. Go figure! But if I can get her to a place where there's a safe, big open lawn, she loves to run around. Prospect Park is the nearest.

Stick, tennis ball, squeaky-toy...?

Betty has a knotted rope that I throw for her that she loves. She's so small I have to pretend to be struggling to pull it away from her, though!

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

She gets excited by the little sparrows that are ubiquitous on Brooklyn streets.

What's Betty's best quality?

She is so loving and cuddly, and completely loyal to the people she loves.

Who is Betty's best pet-pal?

That's Bisou, my daughter's dog. She just adores him, and will even happily go on walks if he's along.

What's her proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

Hmmm. Perhaps the time she learned to lie down when I offered her a piece of bacon. I'd been trying with biscuits, but as soon as the bacon came out, she just flattened herself! And most embarrassing, getting loose at the local park and running all the way home across busy streets (my heart in my mouth).

Susanne Dunlap graduated from Smith College and later earned a PhD in music history from Yale University. She has taught music history at the college level, and is the author of two historical novels for adults.

Her novels for young readers include
The Musician's Daughter, a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall of 2008, and the newly released Anastasia's Secret.

About Anastasia’s Secret:
The youngest grand duchess in the Russian imperial family comes of age during the revolution. Her family is imprisoned, conditions become worse and worse.

But Anastasia has a secret that she keeps from her family...
Visit Susanne Dunlap's website and blog, and become a Facebook fan.

--Marshal Zeringue