Friday, July 30, 2010

Susannah Charleson & Puzzle

Who is in the photo at right?

That's Puzzle, my golden retriever and search and rescue partner and I, Susannah Charleson, in the lobby of the Hotel Monaco, Denver.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I don't need many excuses to drink coffee, but this much-needed latte was consumed in the middle of the book tour for Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog, released in April 2010. Denver was our 13th stop of 23 cities in April/May, and we needed a quiet moment - and I needed the caffeine! I believe we'd already been to one book event when this was taken and were heading out to another about an hour later.

What's brewing?

This was a skim latte from Panzano, the northern Italian restaurant attached to the hotel.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A very nice homemade biscotti. Historically, I've never liked dunking anything in anything. In fact, I've always been a bit grossed out by the idea of soggy cookie or doughnut bits in the bottom of milk or coffee, but here ... oh here ... I learned to love a biscotti damped by the foam of milk on the top of this latte. Proves you're never too old to change your mind.

Any treat for Puzzle on this occasion?

I shared with Puzzle! She likes a bit of crunchy, not-too-sweet biscotti now and again.

How were you and Puzzle united?

She was one of a litter of ten golden retriever puppies, most of them destined for working homes -- hunt, assist, guide, etc. She was the pup of the ten who tested best at six and ten weeks old for search and rescue. She came to me at ten weeks old, began training immediately, and was my certified working partner in the field before she was two years old. She's now six.

Please tell us about your new book with Puzzle.

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) follows my journey with Puzzle -- from her puppyhood through certification tests and first search. It's a love-and-adventure story of how we came together as partners in the field and out of it. The book also includes individual searches that take readers into the field beside dog-and-handler teams looking for missing persons - from children thought to have run away to confused Alzheimer's patients to the astronauts of space shuttle Columbia.

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

Since we search for missing children, I wanted a name a frightened child might know and associate with fun. Puzzle is easy to say (and easy for Puzzle to hear, when called), and kids always smile when they find out what her name is. I call her Poozle-woozle-woodle-doodle-streudel-noodle "for short."

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

She'll flush a squirrel now and then, but would never hurt one. Puzzle loves cats and has one of her own that she adopted as a kitten.

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

Puz loves soft fuzzy toys and her favorites rotate. These days she particularly enjoys "sneaky snake," a two-headed stuffed snake that she likes to drag through the house.

Where is Puzzle's favorite outdoor destination?

Search-and-rescue training. Preferably near water.

Who is Puzzle's best pet-pal?

Thistle, her kitty, and there's a dog on the search team named Gypsy that is her BFF.

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

I wouldn't get up so early when we don't have to. Puz likes to sleep in when she can.

What is Puzzle's best quality?

She loves her job and is very good at it.

What is the most amusing thing Puzzle does? The most frustrating?

The silliest thing Puz does is "brag" after she makes a find at weekly search training with the team. When we come out of a sector and I clip her lead back on to walk to the resting area, she likes to take the lead in her mouth and walk herself back, crooning woo-woo-woo to everyone she passes and petitioning for pets, as though she's pretty sure she's hot stuff.

Puz isn't a very frustrating dog, but she is a bed hog and likes to sleep on the diagonal. And when she's asleep, she's dead weight and very hard to move. I've awakened all bent crooked on a third of a corner of the bed because she's pushed me there overnight.

the Scent of the Missing book trailer, narrated by Susannah Charleson and featuring Team Puzzle and the Mark-9 search and rescue team of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas.

the official Scent of the Missing website and read reviews of the book.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lisa M. Miller & Kirby

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Lisa M. Miller, mystery author of the newly released book, The Running Path, from Whiskey Creek Press. With me is my 13 year old Jack Russell Terrier, Kirby. Our picture was taken at our brewery. My husband and his business partner launched Breaker Brewing Company last year. It is connected to our home!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

A few times a week when I go to my 6am cycling class, Kirby has a routine. He will sit diligently by the door, waiting for my return. As soon as I arrive home, we grind the beans for the french press, and then I have to take him for a walk will the coffee is brewing. He will bark if I don't pick up the leash within a few minutes. After a quick jaunt around the block, I have a few sacred minutes to enjoy my coffee and scan the newspaper, until everyone wakes up. Then, my 2- and 5-year-old boys take the stage.

What's brewing?

Starbucks Guatemala Antigua in the kitchen, Olde King Coal Stout in the brewery.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Hearty grains English muffin with strawberry preserves.

Any treat for Kirby on this occasion?

We try to keep him away from people food, although he steals the occasional pancake from the kids.

How were you and Kirby united?

We fell in love with the JR breed, and started the search for our crazy terrier. He was 12-weeks-old when he joined the family.

Does Kirby have any influence on your writing?

While most of my writing is mysterious, Kirby and my boys help keep things balanced and lighthearted. Both require us to have a sense of humor!

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

We originally wanted to name him Herby, but he looked more like a Kirby. He has many nicknames, including pig. His love for food earned him that.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Despises the postman and most small animals. What do you expect, he's a terrier!

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

Stuffed animal with a squeaker....destroyed within five minutes.

Where is Kirby's favorite outdoor destination?

He likes to patrol our fenced in backyard, but loves to be taken for a walk anywhere.

Who is Kirby's best pet-pal?

He has a new cousin, Regal the lemon beagle.

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

More walks!

What is Kirby's best quality?

He is an amusing, adorable and brilliant little friend. He surprised everyone when he got along with both of my boys famously from when they were infants. I knew he would!

What is the most amusing thing Kirby does? The most frustrating?

He once broke loose and returned with scorched fur on his front leg, the smell of charcoal on his breath and grease in his beard. Frustrating that he got loose, but the thought of him ransacking someone's late night cookout and stealing what I assume was a burger or steak still makes me laugh.

Learn more about The Running Path and its author at Lisa M. Miller's website and at Whiskey Creek Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day Cretsinger-Stephens & George, Cosmo, Juan Carlos and Sophie

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Day Cretsinger-Stephens, and my little chihuahua, Juan Carlos, lying on my lap while I am working on the computer. Juan Carlos is about 3 years old and is the only one of my dogs that is a convenient travel companion. As a singer/songwriter he used to go with me everyday to the studio and he travels with me when I fly too. He is super sweet and very spoiled.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a singer/songwriter residing in Texas. When I'm not making music I'm reading books and reviewing them for Paperback Dolls.

Who are your dogs?

George and Cosmo are my male, white labradoodles. They are from the same litter and are 4-years-old. Juan Carlos is a 3-year-old male Chihuahua. Sophie is a 2-year-old female Great Dane.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with my four legged crew everyday when I'm home.

What's brewing?

Today I drove through the drive through at Starbucks on the way home from running errands this AM. I picked up my favorite Dirty, double, sugar free-vanilla, chai tea latte. The barista calls it "Day's complicated Chai" since I order it so much.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Well, I grabbed a blueberry crumb bar while at Starbucks but Sophie stole it when I got up to get my sunglasses! (She is naughty.)

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Absolutely! They are each chewing on a rawhide chewy except for Sophie who is licking up the crumbs from my blueberry crumb bar from Starbucks.

How were you and your dogs united?

All of my pooches were rescued or came in as strays. George and Cosmo were two of a litter of 17 (no kidding). I was playing with the idea of taking one home when I overheard the lady saying that she was going to take the remaining pups to a shelter. So, I took three and found a wonderful home for one with my friends in Oregon. But, I was too attached to George & Cosmo to let them go so I kept them.

Juan Carlos I found on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. He wouldn't walk or stand so I took him to the vet down the street and $424 later I had paid for a chihuahua (in vet bills). Sophie came to me because a friend had gotten their daughter a puppy for Christmas (bad idea BTW) and were not prepared to take care of a Great Dane puppy. They knew that I was a dog person and had a beloved Great Dane as a young adult. They gave her to me so that she would be better taken care of.

How did your dogs get their names?

George and Cosmo were named after Seinfeld characters (had I kept their litter mate he might have been named Jerry). Juan Carlos was a name that the students at my performing arts studio picked, and we kept it. Sophie came to me with that name...I think she looks more like a Gertrude but Sophie stuck! Though my husband tends to call her "Sookeh" said like Charlaine Harris' character on HBO's True Blood, Bill Compton. It's funny and she answers to it regardless.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Lizards, frogs, and birds! It's so gross.

Frisbee, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Rawhide chews, kong and tennis balls! But George has this "baby", which is a cocker spaniel webkinz toy that he takes care of and sleeps with like a kid with a stuff animal.

Where are your dogs' favorite places for an outing?

Our backyard! We have a big pool and playground that they love to play in and Juan Carlos is quite the little swimmer though Sophie is scared of the water!

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other, but poor Juan is too tiny to play with the big kids. At 3 lbs he is the size of a snack for Sophie!

What is each dog's best quality?

They just love me so much and want to be near me. They make me feel special! George is my protector, Cosmo is my Teddy bear, Sophie is faithful, and Juan Carlos is...well he is just so darn cute!

What is each dog's proudest moment?

If I had to guess George and Sophie's proudest moment would be the moments when they catch a rodent. They proudly bring it to the back door like an offering. Cosmo is quite the frisbee catcher and Juan is probably pretty proud of himself when he stands up to the big guys.

Most embarrassing?

That's a tough one to answer.... Falling into the pool by mistake is probably the funniest and embarrassing thing the bigger dogs have done.

Day Cretsinger-Stephens is a dreamer who has never met a stranger. She is fearless and will talk to anyone and read anything! She taught music and dance and owned her own music studio. She spent years performing on stages both nationally and overseas in the same circles as such artists as Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Katrina Elam, All American Rejects, Shiny Toy Guns, Amber Hayes, and more. Now married with children, she spends less time singing on stage and more time writing songs at home. But, family life has not completely slowed her down. She still loves an adventure and learning new things. She is a founding member and senior contributor to which is a cyber version of The View that focuses on books. She resides in Texas with her family, Sophie, Juan Carlos, and George and Cosmo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 23, 2010

Janel Gradowski & Cooper

Who is in the photo at right?

Me, Janel Gradowski, a beadwork designer and writer. I have had many beadwork patterns published in magazines and this past year I have been breaking into the short fiction market. You can read all about my beading, writing and many other things at my blog Janel’s Jumble. Cooper is my male, purebred Golden Retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are at our cabin in northeastern Michigan for a long weekend.

What's brewing?

Cafe Cubano, a coconut and raw sugar latte, from A Different Blend - my "local" coffee shop when we're staying at the cabin.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Homemade cinnamon rolls from the farmer's market.

Any treat for Cooper on this occasion?

A giant rawhide bone. Yum!

How were you and Cooper united?

Cooper came into the family when I saw an ad for Golden Retriever puppies in the newspaper. I got him the week before my birthday, so he was my present. He was a 5 lb., 6 week old furball. Now he is a 2 ½ year old, 90 lb. goofball.

I read on your blog about your beadwork and writing: does Cooper have any influence on your creative output?

He makes me laugh every day and keeping a positive attitude and sense of humor is important to me. He reminds me to lighten up and have some fun no matter how I feel about my writing. I have also modeled a dog or two in my short stories after him.

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

The kids and I had decided on Newton as a name for a puppy, before we got him. I was holding him right after we brought him home and I just felt Cooper was the name for him, sort of a women's intuition thing. He goes by many other names including Coop, Bubba, Pumpkin and Mookie.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Actually, birds. He loves to stalk robins in the yard, but he’s never caught one.

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

Frisbee on dry land. We go through about one a month from wear and tear. If he's in the water, his bright orange retriever training dummy is the toy of choice.

Where is Cooper's favorite outdoor destination?

Definitely the lake at the cabin. He has a weird attitude about bodies of water: If it has a sandy beach he wants to go swimming and will cry and pull on his leash until he reaches the water. If it doesn't have sand, like the pond in our back yard, he won't go in without a lot of encouragement and coaxing. At least I don’t have to deal with a wet dog every time he goes into the backyard!

Who is Cooper's best pet-pal?

Cooper is an only dog, but he has recently made friends with his "aunt" (my brother-in-law’s dog) Macy and Charlie, the neighbor at the cabin, both Golden Retrievers too.

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

I worry too much and about everything. He wishes I would just lighten up!

What is Cooper's best quality?

He loves people, unconditionally, and shows the love by giving lots of kisses.

What is the most amusing thing Cooper does? The most frustrating?

Cooper likes to "talk" in his own unique language. You should hear him when he's trying to convince my husband to let him sit on his lap! Despite several rounds of training classes Cooper still likes to pull when he walks on his leash. He's gotten better with age, but still hasn't abandoned that habit.

Visit Janel Gradowski's blog to learn more about her published work and to view many more photos of Cooper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Carolyn J. Rose & Bubba

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Carolyn J. Rose, author of Hemlock Lake. With me is Mike Nettleton, the co-author of The Big Grabowski and other mysteries, and Bubba. Or, as she’s called when I really want her attention, “Bubba Jeanne Rose.”

Bubba is 10 and, despite her name, is female. She’s a “pound puppy” so the breeds that contributed to her “mix” are unknown, but the best guess is that she’s miniature Schnauzer and Yorkie. We refer to her as a Schnorkie.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I can’t even get dressed, let alone write, without a cup of coffee and a little something to go with it. When I get out the coffee cup, Bubba knows that toast and peanut butter can’t be far behind and takes up her position beside my chair in the dining room to await her tribute. Being Bubba, she feels that tribute is always due.

What's brewing?

Colombian dark roast with plenty of milk at home. When I stop in at my favorite bookstore (Cover to Cover Books in downtown Vancouver, WA), I ask Mel Sanders for the special of the day. Unfortunately, the bookstore has a cat named Smedley that outweighs Bubba, so I err on the side of caution and leave her at home.

If we’re on vacation, I let Mike use his imagination and am never disappointed. Chocolate with cinnamon, caramel and hazelnut. It’s all good. On hot summer days I like an iced decaf in the middle of the afternoon, sometimes with a little dash of something from the “adult beverage” cabinet in the buffet.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Mike makes terrific scones filled with chocolate chips and nuts, but I’m watching my cholesterol, so I indulge in low-fat blueberry-walnut-oatmeal cookies that I make myself. Or a little dark chocolate.

Any treat for Bubba on this occasion?

Let’s face it. Bubba’s day revolves around what Mike calls “the cookie train,” a steady supply of biscuits from the jar on the counter. We admit that we’ve spoiled her, but we plead that it was out of our control.

On her first visit to the vet, he asked me if I’d ever had a small dog before, then gave me a piece of advice: “Small dogs get up every day with one thought in their minds—I will bend you to my will.” He was so right. Bubba has practiced will-bending since day one and generally gets a piece of any food-related action. She and I are very fond of cheese curls. To balance that, she also indulges in carrots, celery, and lettuce.

How were you and Bubba united?

I’d always wanted a small, cuddly dog. But Mike, who’d had his ankles assaulted by a friend’s tiny mixed breed, argued that small dogs were always yapping and biting and didn’t like men.

Back in the 1990s, I had a reaction to medication and was quite sick for a week. Mike was so worried about me that he caved in and agreed that we could have a small dog—but not until the last member of our mid-sized fleet of three passed on.

We take excellent care of our dogs, and it wasn’t until 2000 that the last dog died at age 15 1/2. About that time we sold our house in Portland, Oregon; dogless, moved across the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington. While we were in the process of unpacking, a reporter I worked with called to say, “Turn on your TV and check out the pet of the week.”

There she was, a bit of gray fluff with a pink ribbon in her hair, sitting on the anchor desk of our local cable channel. Five minutes later I’d prodded Mike into the car and we were on our way to the Southwest Washington Humane Society.

When the woman behind the desk told us there would be fees totalling about $90, Mike laughed. “You could charge us $590,” he said, “and we’d still get that dog.”

I took that as a sign that there would be no carping about pet toys, bowls, collars, and leashes, and I thoroughly scorched the credit card at a pet supply store on the way home.

Does she have any influence on your writing?

Well, she’s constantly interrupting me to let her out (we’ve had coyotes stalking the neighborhood so we plugged the doggie door), or come see which of the neighbors’ dogs she’s barking at, or roll my chair away from the desk so she can lounge on my lap.

Thanks to all her interruptions—and many others such as the need to clean the house, weed the garden, or go to work to earn money for more dog biscuits—I’ve learned to make good use of my writing time. I guess you might say that I write like a sprinter instead of a marathon runner. Revision, however, is a different matter. I take my time with that, usually while Bubba is downstairs supervising Mike’s writing.

By waking me up in the heart of the night to take care of business, Bubba also seems to spark those lightning strikes of inspiration that often come to writers while they’re thinking of other things—like why small female dogs must circle at least a dozen times before ... Well, you get the drift of that. Anyway, I keep a pack of index cards and a pen on the nightstand to jot down my thoughts while she’s getting comfortable again in her chosen zone on our king-size bed. (That zone being about 3/8 of the total expanse, carved out of the middle. By stretching out, she can keep both of us on the edges of the mattress.)

If the book finds a publisher, Bubba will be honored in No Substitute for Murder. The protagonist’s dog, a ten-pound ball of orange hair and attitude, is a man named Cheese Puff, but everyone who’s acquainted with Bubba will know she was the model.

Bubba is an unusual name for a female. How did she get her name? Does she have any aliases?

Bubba’s first human companion had named her Belle. But when the folks at the Humane Society told us that, Mike shook his head and pulled me aside. “I’m caving in on the small dog issue,” he said, “but no way am I having a dog named Belle with a pink bow in her hair.”

“Okay,” I agreed, anxious to get her home and settled. “The bow goes. And Belle goes. But let’s pick a name that begins with B so we don’t confuse her.”

For the next hour he suggested he-man names. Bruiser, Butch, Bonehead. When he finally came up with Bubba, I snapped at it, afraid I’d never get a better offer.

As time went by, she shed her timid personality and grew into the name.

Like many small dogs, she believes in what I call the “pre-emptive first strike theory of getting along with other canines.” When she spots a dog she doesn’t know, she hurls herself to the end of the retractable leash and barks as if her tail was on fire. One large-dog owner on our daily walk route calls her “Killer.”

Despite that bravado, she’s easily frightened. She fears electric hair clippers, the sound of the garbage disposal, the vacuum cleaner, and moles that pop from the ground when she’s peering at the mounds they’ve pushed up.

What's the story behind Bubba in the motorcycle outfit?

We have a friend who, before we drew a line in the sand, loved to give presents. It was always an adventure to open her gifts. They were almost always unique, and almost never practical.

Bubba wasn’t eager to try on the outfit but, knowing there would be a cookie at the end of the modeling session, bore with us. She still has it, but would be delighted to trade it in for a box of dog biscuits. Any takers?

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Bubba finds squirrels interesting, but not worthy of being chased—perhaps because they’re also small and gray, but mostly because they don’t get in and eat her food. Our neighborhood cats all have the cool gaze of old-West gunslingers and stand their ground when Bubba makes a foray, so she’s abandoned thoughts of chasing them. But she is interested in the postman.

We’d had her about three months when the small TV news operation I worked for folded and I was laid off. For the few months I was unemployed, in between painting the interior of the house, I worked at trying to teach Bubba a few tricks.

She refused to jump hurdles, but did learn to sit, roll over, and give me a high five. On her own, from watching me go out to get the mail, she began to keep watch from the back of the sofa and bark a special bark—a single yip—when she spotted the white van.

Often I would toss her over my shoulder (like a baby being burped) and carry her out to the box where the young woman who distributed the mail would pet her. Recently we got a new postman who, to Bubba’s delight, carries dog biscuits—huge dog biscuits. Bubba is now more vigilant than ever.

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

Her favorite toys are the teddy bear we bought for her on the way home from the Humane Society, a plush squeaky bone, and a small stuffed dog that was a gift from a friend. She often brings Little Doggie to us after she’s eaten. Perhaps it’s a thank-you gift. We accept the drool-covered dog politely and wash our hands when Bubba isn’t looking.

Where is Bubba's favorite outdoor destination?

We walk a loop every day and, although Bubba loves to visit with all the residents along it, her favorite destination is the garage where a neighbor named Denny does his woodworking. At the corner of his workbench is a jar of dog biscuits and she heads right for it, sits, and begs. Denny thinks she’s adorable and, like an indulgent grandfather, often tries to slip her a second biscuit.

On days that Denny isn’t home or has the garage closed up because of cold weather, I have to drag Bubba from his driveway. She keeps looking over her shoulder until we’ve gone a block or more.

Who is Bubba's best pet-pal?

Right now she’s an only dog, but she’s had a succession of buddies, including a gray cat named Dust Bunny who was just about her size, and the dachshund/Labrador mix we inherited when my father died. Dudley had also been an only dog and never got the hang of playing. Bubba would run in circles around him and he would turn and bark at her as she did. That was it. He also had a bad habit of chewing her toys to death—sometimes in a matter of minutes. She always forgave him by bedtime when they’d curl up together.

If Bubba could change one thing about your husband, what would it be?

She’d fix it so he never sneezed again. He has these explosive, full-body sneezes. When she’s asleep on his lap and he lets loose, she levitates, feet running in the air like a cartoon character.

What is Bubba's best quality?

She’s always been fair about dividing her attentions so Mike and I aren’t jealous of each other. From the first day she was a lap hopper and she’s very affectionate with our friends.

She also seems to believe that the family unit should stay together. She refuses to come downstairs for her walk unless we’re both ready, and will “herd” the party who’s lagging behind by nudging ankles.

What is the most amusing thing Bubba does? The most frustrating?

The most amusing thing she does it to run around at top speed, racing along the back of the sofa like a motorcycle taking a tight turn, then jumping to the floor, rolling over several times, and taking off again.

The most frustrating thing is an old Dudley trick—she refuses to come in unless she sees that a treat is being offered. She’ll stand one step below the doorway and wait us out. If we go after her, she’ll dart into the garden and hide among the lilies. If we use our “I’m-not-amused” voices she sits and juts out her lower jaw, showing us her teeth. Fortunately she can be fooled. All we have to do it rumple a potato chip bag and she’s in the house like a shot.

View the video trailer for Hemlock Lake, and learn more about Carolyn J. Rose and Bubba at the website, Deadly Duo Mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 19, 2010

Debba Sniderman & Stella

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Debba Sniderman and I’m a marketing assistant with Esri. It's the largest privately held software company in North America and produces geographical imaging systems. Very cool place to work! Dog’s name is Rosewood Starry Night, aka Stella. She’s a female Pembroke Welsh corgi, and will be three years old on 10/01/10.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Not a coffee drinker, but I do enjoy a nicely brewed cup of tea, and have been in the habit of drinking said bevvy for about 20 years, ever since traveling in the British Isles for about a month. A good friend who lives in Springfield, OR turned me on to Stash teas. I like the English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast, but it’s their special seasonal blend called Christmas Morning Black Tea that’s my all time favorite. Ah, I can see it now, Christmas morning, a steaming cuppa with my Mom’s homemade fritters. Stella is glued to the floor near my chair, hoping for (and getting) little fritter nibbles as well as a fine dusting of powdered sugar in her black fur, LOL! Dang, too long till December.

How were you and Stella united?

For many long years I had two corgis in my life, Em and Trav.

They were such a big part of my life, even a part of my identity. My original Yahoo ID and email address still have their names in it. Emma passed away from a sudden pulmonary embolism the day after Thanksgiving in 2005. Trav developed the dreaded degenerative myleopathy (DM), and was gone about 1.5 yrs. later. A couple of months after Trav passed, a good friend recommended a corgi breeder in Temecula. When I called her, she mentioned knowing of yet another breeder near San Diego who had a female corgi pup that needed a good home. I called Liisa and found out the puppy was a “fluff.” Fluffs are just like any other corgi, but with longer, finer fur. Also found out this little puppy was born the day after Trav passed away, so it seemed we were fated to be together. On December 8, 2007, I drove down to Spring Valley, CA and picked up the most beautiful puppy I’d ever seen in my life. Turns out, she’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.

How did Stella get her name? Does she answer to any other names?

The first picture I ever saw of Stella showed a splash of white on her neck, which made me think of a star (she's the one drinking, photo right).

The breeder’s kennel name is “Rosewood,” and I immediately came up with Rosewood Starry Night for her official AKC registered name. I wanted a daily name related to that, but didn’t want to call her Star. I checked some name sites online and found out that the name Estelle means star in Hebrew, plus it listed the variant, Stella. That was a name I’d known all my life because it was my paternal grandmother’s first name. Again, fate! As for answering to other names, if there’s food involved she’ll answer to anything, LOL! But in addition to Stella, she also gets called Stella Bella, Stella Vanilla Wafer Butt, Fluff, Fluffy, Fluffer Nutter Butterbar, Stella Fluffella, and Stinky.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

She loves them all. She’s the Will Rogers of dogdom. With cats though, she’s truly silly. She’ll do her little fluffy dance, which is actually an invitation to play, but always makes the kitties run away. Poor Stella, so misunderstood.

Frisbee, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She loves squeaky toys and will cheerfully squeak said toy until I want to ring her pretty neck. Just kidding. Unlike my corgi Trav, Stella hasn’t really shown a flair for surgery, and as such, most of her squeaky toys remain intact. But, she’d put a border collie to shame when it comes to tennis balls. Absolutely maniacal about them!

Where is Stella's favorite place for an outing?

Oh that’s easy…GRAMMIE’S!! She loves going to my Mom’s house. She gets a much bigger house and yard to run around in, another human to love on her, and once a year for a couple of weeks, she gets her own boy! I’m talking about my nephew, Jack, when he and my sister come to visit every summer.

Who are Stella's best pet-pals?

Me, natch. She’s very good pals with my Mom, but her bestest pal in all the world is her boy, Jack.

What is Stella's best quality?

Her innate cheerfulness.

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

My innate laziness.

What is Stella's proudest moment?

Every time a small child can walk up to her and pet her without fear, in my opinion.

Her most embarrassing?

Wearing the lobster costume for the Petco contest... and not winning.

Learn more about Stella--and see many photos in which her cheerfulness is on display--at Stella the Fluff's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 16, 2010

Loree Lough & Cash

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Cash, my 10-year old German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s way beyond camera shy (more on that below) so I consider myself really, really fortunate to have this photo for my desk!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Can’t start my day without Cash ‘n’ coffee (in that order)!

What's brewing?

Costco brand regular, which won hands-down in cost and taste comparisons with other major brands.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Most days, just cereal with milk, but once in a while, I treat myself to a poached egg on toast. (And Cash gets about ¼ of it.)

Any treat for Cash on this occasion?

Today was the date for his monthly dose of heartworm prevention medicine. Some dogs gobble those pills up like candy. Not Cash! He got his wrapped in a blanket of cream cheese.

How were you and Cash united?

We heard the story of an abusive breeder who thought he could beat “gun shy” out of his litter of GSP pups. Neighbors complained about the constant yelping and crying, and authorities demanded that the owner make a choice: Give up the litter or serve time in jail and pay a steep fine. He chose the former, though he deserved both for the horrors he inflicted on those poor dogs. Our vet predicted that because of the abuse, Cash would not live as long as most GSPs (broken bones that healed on their own, poor diet, lack of veterinary care, etc…). He came to us with Lyme Disease, heartworm, and more. Lots more. But he’s happy and healthy now, and that’s what counts!

Does Cash have any influence on your writing?

Cash is my sidekick and loves to lay here beside my desk while I work. If not for his occasional “I need to go outside” nudgings, I’d probably never get up for food or water!

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

The name on his papers is Jaek von-something-very-German, but because he’s mostly black (and cost us a small fortune at the vet’s office) we nicknamed him Cash.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

He loves to “tree” squirrels and bark at the neighbor’s cat.

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

All of the above, plus a weird rope-thing his daddy made for him.

Where is Cash's favorite outdoor destination?

He loves walking around the neighborhood, sniffing all the places where his four-legged pals have visited, but his all-time favorite place is our cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where he delights in barking at deer, squirrels, birds, chipmunks, groundhogs, coyotes and a black bear or two … always from at least 100 yards.

Who is Cash's best pet-pal?

Honey, the miniature Dachshund. She’s my daughter’s dog, and visits often. He loves sharing food, water, treats and his comfy beds (he has one in almost every room of the house) with her, and they often cuddle up together for naps.

I've read that you are a wolf enthusiast. How did you come by that interest? How do you indulge it?

It all started while researching material for a book (Montana Sky) years ago. A friend told me about this fantastic place, The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania, which is a 2-hour drive from my house. I spend as much time there as possible, and because the sanctuary is 100% donor-sponsored, I donate a percentage of my annual income to the care and feeding of those beautiful beasts.

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

“Stop filing my nails. I like to hear them tick-tack across the hardwood and tile!”

What is Cash's best quality?

I’d have to say patience + kindness = Cash. He’s a big dog (knee-high and 90 lbs.), but he’s truly a gentle giant. He’s sweetly affectionate with our grandkids and, if not for his arthritic old bones, would love it if they’d ride him like a pony!

What is the most amusing thing Cash does? The most frustrating?

Amusing? That’s a toss-up between the way he “talks” (think Scooby Doo) and the way he follows me everywhere. (He can open an unlocked bathroom door!)

Frustrating…I guess the way he “punishes” us when we have to leave him home alone by shredding magazines…and the latest copies of my books!

Why no photo of you with Cash?

Photos of Cash are rare, because he’s terrified of cameras. We think that’s because his former owner beat him with flashlights, and the sight of anything that flashes is just too scary for him. We’ve tried “catching” him by surprise with cell phone cameras, digital cameras, video cameras, and all manner of picture-taking devices that don’t flash. But he’s too smart for us! So, unfortunately, there are no pictures of me with Cash … or anyone else for that matter. [sigh]

According to one recent count, Loree Lough had 75 books in print, with nine more due out between now and the end of 2011, plus 65 short stories, and more than 2,500 articles.

Loree Lough's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Avery Aames & Max

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Avery Aames. I'm an author and I write A Cheese Shop Mystery series. The first in the series, The Long Quiche Goodbye, is available from Berkley Prime Crime. Max is the star of the photos below. He's a thirteen-year-old Labrador mix, mostly Lab.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Max is always hounding in on my coffee time. About mid-morning, we always take a break from writing and check out blogs and such. I get my coffee; he gets his treat.

What's brewing?

I like Peet's Major Dickenson's coffee. We're lucky enough to have a super-duper coffee machine that makes a regular cup of coffee come out steaming hot and yummy.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Well, I have to admit that I really like a piece of wheat-free toast with a slice of cheese and jam. Today's cheese is Taleggio (a creamy, nutty cow's cheese) and raspberry jam.

Any treat for Max on this occasion?

He likes an assortment. Milkbones, chicken strips (which are like jerky), or a hollow bone swabbed with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

How were you and Max united?

We found Max at the shelter. It was right after our darling Golden Retriever Barney died. We had another dog, Angel (a stray that we found at the park—she's been gone a year and a half; lived to the ripe old age of 17). Angel, without Barney, was heartbroken, so we went in search of another pal for her. We brought Max home, and Angel was NOT happy. It took about two weeks and a lot of loving from Max on Angel's ears for her to give in. They were best friends until she went to Heaven.

How did he get his name?

Max was actually the name on the shelter cage and it fit. He was all boy dog. Black, frisky. At times, we call him Maximillian Schell, after the actor. That fits too. Max can be quite dramatic.

Has Max influenced your writing in any way?

I always try to put an animal into my writing. Max has made his way into a number of books (or at least his personality has). He's a love. As a pup he was very feisty and into everything. Sort of a Marley and Me kind of dog at first, but as he aged, he really grew gentle. He loves his walks!

What's an ordinary day like for Max?

We rise and go for a walk. Around noon, we take another walk, sticking to the shade as much as we can. Around six another walk. He gets belly rubs at night. And if I go swimming, he loves to run back and forth and bark at me to make sure I know I'm underwater. Very funny.

Who is Max's best pet-pal?

We just moved to a new neighborhood, so he hasn't made friends yet. He likes Yuki (but Yuki would level Max with one leaping hug). He was good friends with Jasper in our old neighborhood. He truly misses his sweet Angel.

What's Max's best quality?

Loyalty. He's true blue.

What is Max's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

Proudest is probably when he won over Angel with kisses. And he learned not to run away from home. His most embarrassing is when he cowers at the sound of lightening. That can really unnerve him. Luckily we're back in Los Angeles and there's not a lot of rain, let alone lightening, here.

Avery Aames, author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, likes to read, cook, garden, and do amateur photography. Visit
her website.

She also blogs at
Mystery Lovers Kitchen, a blog for foodies who love mysteries, as well as at Killer Characters, a blog overtaken by cozy authors’ characters.

The first book in the A Cheese Shop Mystery series,
The Long Quiche Goodbye debuted July 6. It is available at Avery Aames’s bookseller page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ruth G. Zavitsanos & Pebbles and Rocky

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Ruth G. Zavitsanos, a writer, mother and wife (definitely NOT in that order!). My dogs are Pebbles, a 6-year-old Border Collie/Black Lab and Rocky, a 4-month-old Miniature Australian Shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

When I found this site, I thought PERFECT. My day starts out with a cup of coffee and my canines laying on the floor of my office as I catch up on emails and social networking.

What's brewing?

BJs Warehouse Brand of Dark Roast whole bean with hazelnut creamer.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A fat free pumpkin or blueberry muffin.

Any treats for Pebbles and Rocky on this occasion?

Yes, they love bacon flavored treats.

How were you and your dogs united?

We got Pebbles when our older dog fell sick with Diabetes. A friend said a neighbor's Border Collie had jumped the fence and the Black Lab down the street fell in love with her (wink, wink). We took one look at the furball and couldn't wait to bring her home. We recently got Rocky to do agility programs for fun on the weekends.

How did Pebbles and Rocky get their names? Do they have any aliases?

Pebbles was named by my youngest because she had heard about the Border Collie her father and I had that was hit by a car. We named her Wilma--fans of The Flintstones. Rocky just fits his personality and works with Pebbles!

Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely! In my children's book, The Villa Dog, the story is told from the dog's point of view. I know dogs are very instinctive and sensitive to our needs which is why the main canine character in The Villa Dog is loved by all.

Where is their favorite place for an outing?

The Dog park. It has a creek that runs through it and Pebbles loves to swim. Rocky is young but soon he'll be going there too. Right now, they both love their walks through our neighborhood! Lots to investigate, see and other dogs to saunter past!

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

All of the animals are new to Rocky so he does a lot of watching and walking backwards. Pebbles loves to chase squirrels, cats, and SKUNKS!

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

They love to play tug of war with their BULLWINKLE stuffed animal!

And a ball is pure happiness for both!

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Each other.

What is each dog's best quality?

Rocky is fun to watch cause he is young and innocent. Therefore he is very cautious but also fun loving. Pebbles is SWEET and FRIENDLY!

If Pebbles and Rocky could change one things about you, what would it be?

Less time writing and more time walking!

What is each dog's proudest moment?

Always being at someone's side when they are sick!

The most embarrassing moment?

Pebbles was scratched by a twig near her eye. The vet had to shave it and she did not like it at all.

My entire family loves dogs. Pebbles and Rocky know they have a very loving and fun home. There is no doubt they appreciate their surroundings because they are so sweet, good and entertaining. They both are protectors and prefer to be with someone than by themselves. I enjoy writing dogs in a scene or as the focal point of my books because they have an added dimension of profound sensitivity and caring.

an excerpt from The Villa Dog, and learn more about the book at author at Ruth Zavitsanos' website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 9, 2010

Raquel Wood & Myron

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Raquel Wood, co-owner with my husband Terry of 'Hotrods by TJ's' - a car customizing shop in Sydney. Myron is a 4-year-old male boxer cross border collie and is our shop mascot as well as our baby.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Myron often has a gig at the local library so we popped in for a refreshment on the way!

What's brewing?

Extra frothy pupuchino thanks, hold the choc sprinkles - chocolate isn't good for dogs!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Scones with jam and cream, thanks.

Any treat for Myron on this occasion?

Myron and I share.

How were you and Myron united?

My 5-year-old dog passed away with cancer and my neighbour knew I was grieving badly. She had heard about some pups born to a dumped dog that were all going to the pound so she encouraged me to go and take a look and see if I'd like to rescue one. When I saw Myron I chose him because he appeared cross-eyed and I figured he would be the least likely to find a home.

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

My husband was given a second-hand hotrod jacket from America that still had the old name patch on it. I always loved it and said to Terry if ever we got another dog we would call him after that patch - Myron.

I understand that you've written a book called The Magic of Myron and are looking for a publisher. Perhaps a publisher or editor is reading this Q&A: would you share a brief synopsis of the manuscript?

The Magic of Myron is an encouraging story of a pup who, despite a rough start, overcomes life's adversities by sharing his happy journey with others. Though he is blind, environmentally allergic and has epilepsy, he melts the hearts of all he meets and sends the message that no matter what problem you may have to contend with, there is always something you can do for yourself and someone else.

Where is Myron's favorite outdoor destination?

Myron loves our local park. He knows every square inch of it and enjoys playing there off leash. He also enjoys the beach and loves swimming and chasing the seagulls (sometimes in the wrong direction).

Who is Myron's best pet-pal?

Robbee Chi Hammond, a chihuahua also from Sydney is Myron's best mate on Facebook, but he also has plenty of interspecies relationships like with an American disabled cat named Tiny Timmy and a hamster named Howard Worndel, also from America.

Is Myron more of a larrikin or a wowser? (Or is that the kind of silly question that an American might ask about an Australian dog and therefore doesn't deserve an answer?)

Myron is definitely a larrikin! He makes every one he meets laugh. He is cheeky and smart, funny and naughty all at once! Myron has a hobby of getting his picture taken with celebrities. He then shares the photos with folks he meets in his volunteer community service work. When meeting celebrities he seems to know I expect him to be on his best behaviour so he is determined to show off and be extra rambunctious for these occasions. The celebrities usually think he's gorgeous and laugh along with him. Lucky for me he's cute and can get away with it!

We then enlarge the photos and post them back to the celebrities to be autographed to Myron, but very often they are mailed back with cute comments and encouraging words about him, even if he was a little overbearing and obnoxious. John Paul Young - iconic Aussie singer (world wide hit - "Love is in the air") wrote back in a letter that Myron reminded him of a teddy who had lost his buttons. He added he was a delight and well behaved, which from my point of view on this occasion he definitely was not! Myron has also met American based author Lee Child and legendary American car customizer Gene Winfield who encouraged Myron to 'keep watching the house' on his autographed photo.

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

Since Myron has reached celebrity status in Australia you could probably compare me to a pageant Mom! When we leave the house Myron has to look his best - bathed, brushed and primped to the max. Matching collar and leash and the expectation of perfect public performance. Myron would much rather me let him be a scruffy dog, though he doesn't mind a brush.

What is Myron's best quality?

He doesn't let life's unexpected disappointments get him down. If he wants to accomplish something he is always willing to find a way, even if it's unconventional. He can play fetch with a tennis ball or a Frisbee and he is self taught! He showed us what to do! He began dropping the ball at our feet and then ran away a few paces, spun around and barked for us to throw it at him. He has progressed to playing fetch much like a sighted dog now. If he loses track I yell out to him either HOT or COLD depending how far away he is from the ball and he finds it like that!

What is the most amusing thing Myron does? The most frustrating?

Myron does an impersonation of a frog on command. He used to like to lay stretched out flat on the cold tiles on a hot day. When I would see him like this I would call him a frog. Eventually when he heard the word frog he would automatically flatten out into the position. Now when someone asks him "where's the frog?" he slams himself down on the floor with his rear legs stretched out behind him flat on the ground.

The most frustrating thing about Myron is you can't turn him off! He always wants to play. He is obsessed with his tennis balls and is constantly at you to throw it, whether you are hanging the washing on the line, watching TV or even in the bathroom!! He doesn't have good day/night concept and is ready to play even while we are trying to sleep. He doesn't understand it's dark outside because he finds the ball just fine!

Visit Myron's blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Carola Dunn & Trillian

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Carola Dunn, the author of two mystery series, the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, and the Cornish Mysteries, set in the 1960s.

Trillian (a bitch) is named after a character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe — in my opinion the only wholly sane, competent, intelligent, and commonsensical character in all 5 volumes. I adopted my Trillian from the county shelter nearly a year ago, at which time they guessed she was about 4 years old. She's mostly border collie, possibly with a bit of black Lab thrown in. She runs and herds like a sheepdog but she's mellower than most.

Last time I asked, you reported on quite a repertoire of teas that you drink during the course of the day. Has that changed at all?

Not much, if at all. I start the day with Tetley's regular black, then make a pot of Tetley's decaf black and green mixed, with the addition of a slice of ginger-root and a squeeze of lemon. If that runs out, I have a mug of herbal tea, usually one of Celestial Seasonings' varieties. In the evening I like Stash ginger and lemon.

Any goodies to go with the tea? Any treat for Trillian?

As I drink tea all day, yes! Usually nuts and chocolate chips—Ghirardelli's 60%. I figure my consumption of those three should guarantee the healthiest heart around.

Trillian's favourite treat is Greenies. They don't smell like something a dog would appreciate, but she loves them. And they're supposed to be good for her teeth, too.

We're health-conscious, the two of us.

Last year you wrote that Eleanor Trewynn, in Manna from Hades, has a West Highland Terrier, Teazle. Does Teazle appear in your new Cornish mystery?

Yes, Teazle is a constant presence in A Colourful Death. She has a lovely scene of her own. After several hours at a police station, she's at last let out to pee. She dashes for a patch of grass, followed by Eleanor, just as a convoy of detectives arrives. In the dusk they jump to the conclusion that Eleanor's an escaping murderer, so they end up surrounding the pair. As Eleanor remarks to their superior, "These gentlemen seem to be extraordinarily interested in her bodily functions."

Where is Trillian's favorite place for an outing?

She loves our walks along the bike path by the Willamette River every morning and her evening runs on the school field next door. But she's happy to go anywhere and she's very disappointed if I go out in the car without her, even though, more often than not, she just gets to sit there while I'm grocery shopping. Amazing, considering she refused point-blank to get in the car when I fetched her from the shelter. It took a good month of bribery to persuade her to jump in willingly.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Squirrels galore. I swear my squirrels have four litters a year, not the usual two. Thank heaven she doesn't bark at them. She just tries to climb fences and trees after them.

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

She's not interested in balls or sticks, but she adores soft squeaky toys. She'll choose one of her collection and race around the house, throwing it in the air, then through the dog-door to the garage. If I'm lucky she'll leave it there. If not, she'll go through the second dog-door into the yard and drop it outside. More than one has been left out in the rain for too long to be fit for rescue!

She likes non-squeaky soft toys too. One of her favourites is a baby seal that was also a favourite of my previous dog, Willow. Willow took its eyes out—always her first move with a new toy—but the only damage Trillian does is the effect of leaving them out in the rain to grow mould.

I read on your blog that you were dog-sitting Oli and he got his ear nipped by a neighbor's dog, which resulted in lots of spilled blood. You mused that the incident might inspire a scene in an upcoming novel. Has that notion developed into words on the page yet?

Not so far. Pools of blood figure in A Colourful Death so I'll have to avoid the topic in my mysteries for a while. But you never know...

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

I'm sure she'd like more than two walks a day. A lot of the rushing around with a toy takes place when we get back from our morning 3 miles. All I want is to sit down with breakfast and the newspaper (and my cuppa), but she's still full of energy!

Visit Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Dunn is the author of over 50 books: 18 mysteries in the Daisy Dalrymple series, set in England in the 1920s; a new series--
A Colourful Death is the latest installment--set in Cornwall in the 1960s; and 32 Regencies, not counting numerous novellas.

Read more about
Trillian's first visit to Coffee with a Canine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 5, 2010

Joanna Slan & Rafferty and Victoria

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Joanna Slan, with my dogs Victoria (on the left in the pink halter top) and Rafferty (on the right in the masculine blue apparel). I'm the tall one wearing the red sweater. I write the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, the most recent being Photo, Snap, Shot. The first book in the series--Paper, Scissors, Death--was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

Victoria is a purebred English Bichon Frise, the daughter of an English Champion, and she's nine years old. Rafferty is part Bichon and part Poodle, and he might be six years old.

This photo was taken by Donna Manz, a reporter for the Vienna Connection. She stopped by the house to interview me, and my canine office assistants had to get in on the act.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

When we first adopted Rafferty, he'd never been through a drive up. We pulled into a McDonald's to get lunch, and poor Rafferty heard the disembodied voice and launched himself at the car window to protect us. This was not good. Not for Rafferty. Not for us. And the fast food workers were definitely freaked. So we discovered that the local Starbucks always gave out dog cookies with human food. Every morning my husband David would take Raffie to Starbucks. This worked well, until we discovered that Raffie wasn't only "digging" the dog biscuits, he was also helping himself to David's coffee. We still love coffee, but we don't share it with Raffie anymore!

What's brewing?

For Christmas a couple of years ago, I bought David an Expobar, and now David makes great lattes. Our favorite bean is from Kaldi's, a coffee company in St. Louis that is my protagonist Kiki Lowenstein's favorite coffee company, too. I like my vanilla lattes cold, no ice. Weird, but true.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I love those flat Almondina cookies, and Grace's Best, a delicious sunflower
seed cookie they make in Parkville, Missouri.

Any treat for Rafferty on this occasion?

Always! He and Victoria both like "cheese yummies," which are small pieces of 2% American cheese. I also slice treat strips into smaller pieces so I can dole out plenty of them during the day. And carrots. Oh, my gosh, do my dogs love carrots! Cold from the refrigerator is best.

How were you and Rafferty united?

At the calf. Seriously, his original owner left him alone outside in a cage so long that the fur wrapped around his right rear leg, cut off the circulation, and the leg had to be amputated. So Raffie sticks to me like Velcro. He even walks with his nose between my calves as I walk. He's getting a lot more secure as the years go on, but if I've been gone on book tour, he's my Siamese twin for weeks.

Oh! You mean how did we "adopt" Rafferty! Our first Bichon, Kevin, was dying of cancer. I couldn't handle it, hearing Kevin cough and seeing him grow weaker and weaker, so I told my husband I wanted another dog. I felt that giving a rescue dog a home would distract me. We filled out the "emergency needs" paperwork and Small Paws, the rescue group, called us over the holidays. My son thought a three-legged dog would be "pimping." (Ahem. At the time, Michael was 15, and everything was either "pimping" or boring.) My husband wanted a younger dog. We had to have a male because when Kevin died, we'd still have Victoria, and we didn't want to chance any fighting. Small Paws had 119 Bichon/Bichon-mix dogs that needed a home. It broke our hearts. Rafferty was a good match for us.

Does Rafferty have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely. Raffie is a daily reminder that there are too many wonderful, loving animals out there that are homeless. So I had my protagonist, Kiki Lowenstein, adopt a female Harlequin Great Dane that she names Gracie. You see, with all the foreclosures, big dogs are showing up in more and more shelters. You could maybe convince a landlord to let you have a Chihuahua or even a dachshund, but a Great Dane? Uh, no.

Raffie isn't big, but he wasn't adopted because people saw him as "flawed." Phooey on them. He's not flawed. He can do anything a dog with four legs does. He can jump up on furniture and beds, climb stairs, hop into the car, and love us. What more do you need from a dog?

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

Small Paws named our dog "Rafferty," because they believe a dog deserves a new name for a new life. We call him "Raffery J. Slan." I have no idea why. We just do.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

He's learning to be nice to other animals, thank you. Especially after he caught up with that herd of deer in our yard when we lived in St. Louis. It seemed funny to watch him scamper downhill after them until the herd turned and started running his way. Yeow! Then we realized how dangerous it was! (Call it a dumb pet-owner trick. We're smarter now.)

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

None of the above. He loves to pick up his leash and bring it to me. I think it's his way of saying, "Don't ever leave me, please!"

Where is Rafferty's favorite outdoor destination?

We recently moved to the Washington, DC, area, and now we love to walk the W & OD Trail. And of course, right around the block is the cutest little female Bichon named Chessie (short for Franchesca). She's Raffie's idea of one smoking hot babe. I think she knows it, too.

Who is Rafferty's best pet-pal?

His older sister Victoria. She taught him the ropes. Rafferty gets very nervous if he's separated from Vicky.

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

I would quit messing with that stupid computer and pat him more.

What is Rafferty's best quality?

His indomitable courage. My son Michael says that Rafferty teaches us not to feel sorry for ourselves. To pick ourselves up and keep going rather than whine about how unfair life is. My son is right. Rafferty is a daily lesson to count your blessings. And we count him as one of ours.

What is the most amusing thing Rafferty does? The most frustrating?

Rafferty is the most eloquent dog I've ever owned. If he wants something--like his own cushion or a door open or water or a treat--he will definitely let you know by vocalizing. That's also sometimes frustrating when I have other priorities.

What's the most amusing part of owning Rafferty?

A lot of people don't notice he's missing a leg. At least not immediately. Once we were at a soccer match and a little girl stared and stared at Rafferty. Finally she tugged on David's sleeve. "Mister? That dog only has three legs!" she said.

David countered, "You're kidding? He had four when we left the house!"

I mean, how can you beat that? A dog who loves us, inspires us and provides all sorts of entertainment. Rafferty has it all!

Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of Paper, Scissors, Death, an Agatha-nominee for Best First Novel, and Book #1 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. Paper, Scissors, Death is followed by Cut, Crop & Die, Book #2 in the series, and Photo, Snap, Shot, which was published in May 2010.

Learn more about the author and her work at
Joanna Slan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue