Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sherrie Madia & Polly

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me—Sherrie Madia—but everybody calls me “Sher.” I’m an author, educator, and trainer—not of dogs, but of people—and only when it comes to how they present themselves professionally.

With me is Polly. She is between two and three years old according to everybody’s best guess. She is a “mixed Lab” is how the shelter had her labeled. Given that I don’t know dog breeds from dog biscuits, I chose her “breed blind” because she was lovable and a dog in need. Only after a series of funny stares and “What kind of a dog is that?” did it dawn on me that she looks more pit than lab. So, we get some people who cross the street—they obviously don’t know that this is the sweetest dog they’ll never meet.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We choose “challenge destinations” where we walk a bit longer. Today, it’s Bagel Bin, about a mile from our house, and a nice morning walk. Any reason at all is a good one for Bagel Bin, but you have to arrive early to avoid standing in a line that spills out the door of this small shop. The bagels are handmade and if you go at a time when their machines are on, be prepared to shout your order.

What's brewing?

I’m a simple girl, so plain, fresh coffee with half and half does the trick. Delish.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

It’s all about the goodies! Sundried tomato bagel hot out of the oven and smothered in cream cheese (tastes like pizza—heavenly!)

Any treat for Polly on this occasion?

A bite of the Peanut Butter bagel, then we wash it down with a filet-mignon-flavored dental bone. Her all-time favorite!

How were you and Polly united?

My daughters and I have volunteered at the Animal Orphanage in our town for a number of years. We stopped by one day “just to look” and in less than five minutes knew that Polly would be coming home with us.

How did Polly get her name? Any aliases?

Polly had gone from shelter to shelter, all the way from Lynchburg, VA to the shelter in southern New Jersey—so she’s probably had a number of names along the way. But at the Animal Orphanage, they called her Polly. We had the chance to rename her ourselves, but somehow that felt wrong. So Polly it was.

Since we do enjoy words in my house, our nicknames include Polly Esther, Polly Urethane … you get the picture. Indeed, she is the victim of our corny word play.

Did Polly have any influence on your new children's book?

Actually, it’s a bit of reverse engineering. We found Polly after the book had been published. We knew we loved her the moment we saw her, but couldn’t figure out why. Then it hit us—Polly was the spitting image of Moxy, the dog in our children’s book who learned he could talk. We’re waiting for Polly to say her first word.

In the meantime, we’re excited about promoting this book, and we sponsor a number of pet-festival events. We donate $1 from the sale of each book to the SPCA International.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Joggers, actually. She loves to run over and say hello. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we are not always well-received. We are working on this.

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

Stuffed toys—particularly those that squeak. Polly’s favorite is a duck straight out of hunting season. When Polly grabs it in her mouth, this toy makes the most pathetic, dragging drone—as if it’s been attacked one too many times. Such is the life of a stuffed duck.

Where is Polly's favorite place for an outing?

A beautiful, little lake by our house. It’s scenic and serene, and great for thinking through our days. Me: “How will I get those 57 tasks completed today?” Polly: “Perhaps I’ll gnaw on the wood of the staircase some more. Or better yet, I’ll just take a nice nap.”

Who is Polly's best pet-pal?

Oh, Rusty, without question. Rusty is a Rhodesian Ridgeback from across the street, who has already learned the art of being reasonable, unlike Polly, who finds it necessary to barrel over to him at top speed. Bad enough I’ve been dragged outside with my hair still wet from the shower, or my makeup half on—why not charge the neighbors as well? Fortunately, my tolerance for humiliation is high. A sense of humor helps.

What is Polly's best quality?

She is always eager to do the right thing. Of course, she rarely does – but her eagerness is certainly endearing!

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

They are actually one and the same. Polly loves retrieving toys. But she hasn’t quite mastered it yet. So, when we toss a ball or stick, she races eagerly toward it, misses it completely in her haste, races to our feet and proudly drops her invisible catch and wags her tail proudly. She is quite convincing. Perhaps she has a career in acting?

the Alphabet Woof! website and Facebook fan page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 27, 2010

Randi Hutter Epstein & Ellie and Dexter

Who is in the photo at right?

Randi Hutter Epstein, with the red hair; Ellie, black and White hair; Dexter, reddish and black.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m in my backyard and my dogs don’t leave my side, or my lap.

What's brewing?

Black coffee from Andy’s Deli on the corner, I get my $1 cup when as the three of us walk into Central Park every morning. On this particular morning, I saved my coffee for home.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

For me, it’s usually cereal or toast. For the dogs, it’s Rega-sensabites, for dogs with sensitive bellies. (Dexter has the sensitive belly, but he was eating Ellie’s food, so I had to switch her to his food.)

Any treat for Ellie and Dexter on this occasion?

Always, I walk around with dog treats. Lately it’s some freeze-dried stuff they love.

How were you and your two companions united?

We picked up Dexter from a breeder upstate on the day that I found out I was pregnant with Eliza, my fourth child. We got him en route to our summer vacation in the Adirondacks. It was absolutely bucketing out, and we put this soggy puppy in our car, along with three other children and a four-year-old Golden Retriever. (The Golden is no longer “with us.”) I never wanted a toy dog, but for the past three years, my daughter Martha has been begging and pleading for a little dog that she could hold and cuddle. She promised she would walk the dog every morning and that she would be happy for the rest of her life. I believed every word. I thought it would be really helpful to have my teenage daughter walking the dog before school and then gliding merrily through adolescence. So I got the puppy. We’ve had Ellie for about a year and a half. Martha has yet to wake up to walk her in the morning and while she is basically a happy kid, but I wouldn’t say there haven’t been glitches along the way.

Do Dexter and Ellie influence your writing?

Dexter calmly sits by my side and probably is a soothing influence, particularly when I am forced to take breaks to walk him. Ellie has the personality of a hyper terrier (she has no terrier in her, to our knowledge). She sits by my side throwing balls and me, which I have learned to fetch. She wines and yaps when I’m not attentive. I’m not sure what that has done to my writing except make it more difficult to think a full thought.

Cat, squirrel, postman...? Tennis ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Both of the dogs absolutely love these fake bright yellow tennis balls from the Black Dog in Martha’s Vineyard. We went a few years ago, but now I get them online.

Who are their best pet-pals?

Ellie absolutely adores Dexter. She constantly jumps up and tries to bite his tail. Dexter has learned to put up with Ellie, but I think maybe he may even like her.

What are their best qualities?

Dexter is the best guard dog. He’s super gentle but bad guys don’t know that so you feel very protected walking around NYC with a big German Shepherd. Ellie is perpetually happy, actually gleeful. You just can’t be in a bad mood when she is by your side.

If Dexter and Ellie could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I’d stop writing and focus 100% of my time on them.

What are Dexter and Ellie’s proudest moments? Most embarrassing?

For Dexter, I’d have to say his most embarrassing moment must have been last week, when we sat down in the dining room to our fancy Rosh Ha Shana meal and while we were about to eat, Dexter had diarrhea all over the dining room and underneath the table. He is perfectly house trained, but was a bit (more than a bit) sick. We moved into the kitchen. I let my husband clean the floor, as he is a much better poop-cleaner than I am.

Ellie doesn’t get embarrassed. But she is probably most proud of the time that I left a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs for my husband and by the time he got into the kitchen, she somehow got her tiny little self onto the kitchen table and ate his entire meal. I think she was full and very proud of herself.

Randi Hutter Epstein, MD, is a medical journalist who has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Telegraph, and several national magazines. She is the author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

more about Get Me Out at the publisher's website, and visit Randi Hutter Epstein's Psychology Today blog, Birth, Babies, and Beyond. Read an excerpt from Get Me Out and listen to the NPR story about the book.

Writers Read: Randi Hutter Epstein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kelly Creagh & Annabel

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, debut young adult author Kelly Creagh and Annabel! Anna is a terrier mix (I think she has some Yorkie in her.) She’s about four years old and a regular spit-fire!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Anna and I are celebrating the release of my first novel, Nevermore, with a cup of Joe and some doggie biscuits.

What's brewing?

I’m in love with a local coffee shop here in Louisville by the name of Sunergos. At this magical shop they roast their own coffee beans and I always have some of their blend on hand.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Always. I especially love noshing on a muffin or a warm cookie.

Any treat for Annabel on this occasion?

Certainly. Anna loves soft chewy treats and sometimes a bit of peanut butter.

How were you and Annabel united?

After my first Poe-related research trip to Baltimore, I returned with the hopes of finding a dog. I searched a lot of rescue websites and no-kill shelters. Although I really wanted to take every dog home with me, I had a hard time finding just the right pooch for my small yardless downtown apartment. Finally, on a whim, I decided to visit the city pound. In one of the cages, I found a tiny puppy pinned with several larger dogs. Needless to say that she was very very excited to see me. I knew right away that, not only was she the smallest dog in the entire pound, but she also had to come home with me. I made arrangements to adopt her, but the pound would not release her to me without spaying her first. So I had to wait. When I picked her up a few days later, I was so excited! However, it quickly became evident that there was something wrong. The first night that I had her, Anna would not eat. I thought this might have been a normal side effect of the surgery. However, she did not want to drink, either. When she finally did drink, she became sick shortly afterwards. She could keep no liquids down. I called a few vets and they all suggested that I keep an eye on her. Anna got progressively worse, however, and I ended up taking her to an animal hospital in the middle of the night. The doctor on duty informed me that Anna had Parvo viris, a highly contagious canine disease that can be especially lethal to puppies. Anna was four months old at the time and the doctor told me that, if I took her home, she would have about a fifty percent chance of surviving. If I was lucky. Of course they offered to keep her but, at the time, I could not possibly afford to pay the medical costs. Defeated, I took Anna home and, cradling her, I cried until morning.

As sad as this story seems, you probably already know it has a happy ending since I’m here now having a cup of Joe with my lovely, happy and healthy Annabel. Let’s just say that I am very lucky to have a Mom who I can count on for anything--no matter what. Early that morning, I got a call from my mom who had found a local vet who would take Anna for a very reasonable fee. Anna stayed at the vet’s office several nights and, like the champ that she is, pulled through her illness. Needless to say, Dr. Swigert became my newest hero and Anna’s permanent vet.

How did Annabel get her name? Any aliases?

In 2006, I traveled to Baltimore in order to conduct research for my novel, Nevermore, which is greatly influenced by the works, life and death of Edgar Allan Poe. I started my search for a pet as soon as I returned and so it seemed only natural to me to name her after one of Poe’s greatest poems, "Annabel Lee." And yes, Anna has many aliases, including Nanner-head, Annabel-banana-bell-pepper, Doom Cookie, Hers, Anna-B, Wookie and Scruffalufagus.

Does Annabel have any influence on your writing?

Whenever I’m pulling a long writing shift, Anna is great company. Her presence is so soothing. Though she isn’t much of a lap dog, she does like to be close, so she’ll either curl up next to me or flop herself long on the floor beneath my chair.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

All three. Especially the squirrel. She’s a terrier through and through.

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

Anna enjoys a good squeaky toy. She also likes little plushy toys with those little plastic music boxes inside. She’s never pulled a toy apart, so I feel safe giving her these to play with as long as I'm home. Anna also likes to play a game I call “hands.” That’s when I’ll put a blanket over my hands and scramble them around while Anna pounces!

Where is Annabel's favorite place for an outing?

She loves going to my Mom’s house so that she can run free in the spacious back yard. She likes to feel the wind in her fur and she loves to bark and chase squirrels.

Who is Annabel's best pet-pal?

Her best pet buddy is my mom’s dog, Izzy [photo, left]. She also loves my brother’s Dalmatian, Maddie. All three are great friends.

What is Annabel's best quality?

She is so empathetic and sweet. If I’m having a down day or if I’m feeling sad or sick or hurting, she always seems to know. On these days she’ll curl herself into my lap or huddle up right next to me and lay her head against my shoulder or my knee. Her affection is such a balm.

What is Annabel's proudest moment?

Whenever she gets out of the bath. Though Annabel doesn’t like taking baths, she loves to be clean. As soon as I finish with the blow-dryer and let her out of the bathroom, she starts prancing around and bounding of the furniture. She loves to show off. She also knows that being a good girl in the bath means that she’s due for a treat.

And her most embarrassing moment?

Sometimes Miss Anna likes to try and get into the trash. She knows she’s not supposed to and, if I catch her in the middle of such a heinous act, she hangs her head and her ears flop down and she looks so ashamed of herself. When she gives me that look, it’s so hard to remain stern!

Kelly Creagh holds an undergraduate degree in Theatre Arts and Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

When not writing or curled up with a good book, she can be found teaching, learning and performing the ancient art of Bellydance.

Browse inside her new novel Nevermore, and visit Kelly Creagh's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Elizabeth Cody Kimmel & Henry

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Beth Kimmel. My daughter Emma and I are picking up six-month-old Henry the beagle to take him home for the first time. As a writer of children's books, I know Henry will have plenty of company in his new home (most of it me). He's now a year-and-a-half old, and all who meet him maintain that he must still be a puppy, and that he can't be all beagle. I do affirm and testify herein that Henry is, in fact, all beagle.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The occasion is emergency caffeine intake to prevent acute sleepiness on my part. It's 8 in the morning, and I have to start writing.

What's brewing?

I love the Turkish coffee from the local whole foods store, extra strong, made in a French press, and liberally dosed with half and half. I've lived long enough to realize one compromise that should not be made in the world of coffee is half and half.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

For me, none.

Any treat for the beagle?

For Henry, to occupy him on the front porch where I'll be writing, an oinkie. There is an 80% chance of him enjoying the oinkie, and a 20% chance of him burying it in the yard, thereby vexing me. But either way, I find the name oinkie hilarious.

How were you and Henry united?

The universe brought us to Henry a year after our beloved beagle Milo died. We got a call about a breeder with a whole brood of gorgeous, show-winning beagles, who had decided to part with a few 6-month-old pups. We went to have a look, and were instantly smitten.

Your website bio claims you try to communicate telepathically with your beagle. How is that going?

Only someone who works at home alone all day would engage in this activity. I will swear up and down that I used to be able to get Milo up from a sound sleep downstairs and trotting up to my bedroom by mentally calling his name. Henry has not yet responded to my thought beams. I can't make him levitate, either.

Does your dog have any influence on your writing?

Henry appears in a book I'm currently working on, as Milo appeared in Lily B. On the Brink of Love. He remains unaffected by his potential for literary fame.

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

Henry already had his name when we got him. If he'd been named something awful, like Satan... Or Spanky Cheeks, we would have changed it. But he is clearly a Henry, through and through. We sometimes call him Henwen, Hanky, and when we're on a walk, Buddy. If there is a cookie involved, he will respond to any name.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Does the squirrel have a cookie? Does the cat have a cookie? Does the postman have a cookie? If so, the answer is yes.

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

No toys survive long enough in Henry's jaws of doom to identify a favorite. He has made some interesting chewing-related modifications to several pieces of furniture in my house. His longest lasting bone was a deer antler. He carried it around clenched between his teeth like a cigar, reminding me of George Peppard in The A-Team.

Where is your beagle's favorite outdoor destination?

The Country Goose, in Cold Spring, New York, where Leonora always has a cookie waiting for him.

Who is Henry's best pet-pal?

Maddie the miniature Australian shepherd.

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

My ability to ignore him when he is staring intently at me.

What is your dog's best quality?

Living absolutely in the moment.

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

He is highly amusing when he sleep-barks. He is very frustrating when he produces enormous pools of drool in the six seconds it takes for me to pour his food into his bowl.

Beth Kimmel's
books include The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt (for readers age 10 and up).

Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cassi Olson & Ziggy and Bowie

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Cassi and I maintain a blog named 'get yourself a virgo.' It is my creative outlet, and a stepping stone for becoming a published [read: paid] writer someday. Currently, I work in the industrial sector for a stevedoring company, and my husband, Gabriel, is a musician. In this photo, I am with our two furry children, Ziggy and Bowie. Ziggy is a two-year old Basenji / Cattledog mix. Bowie is a three-and-a half-year old Siberian Husky / German Shepherd hybrid.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Gabriel and I always have coffee with our dogs, at any time of day, but this particular day was special. We were celebrating 10 (that's right, ten!) years together. We started dating on August 4, 2000, we were married October 3, 2009, and this photo was taken August 4, 2010.

What's brewing?

"Cowboy coffee," which my husband made in a percolator on our outdoor barbecue. It's Folgers.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

For us, we had homemade peach cobbler, warmed in a cast iron skillet on the barbecue.

Any treat for Ziggy and Bowie on this occasion?

Our dogs, believe it or not, don't like treats, so they gnawed on sticks--much to their enjoyment.

How were you and your dogs united?

Ziggy: Friends of ours rescued her when she was about four months old, and when they brought her to our home, she adopted us.

Bowie: We found him listed for adoption on Craigslist when he was seven weeks old. Even before meeting him, we knew he was ours.

How did your dogs get their names? Any nicknames?

We are big David Bowie fans, and when we met Ziggy and saw her split eyes, it was too perfect. Plus, her personality is just so "Ziggy." Both our dogs have only about a thousand nicknames.

To name a few, Ziggy = "bee sting munchkin; weasel; the verm; subject misses; yittle..."

And Bowie = "mister; bowie-son; buddy bear; the wolf; handsome; oh dis man..."

Where are your dogs' favorite places for outings?

Our dogs are much more well-behaved off-leash, so whether we're at Stinson Beach, CA at the off-leash beach, or out in a local field, they prefer to run free.

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

They would probably want me home all day with them. I work full-time, but when I'm home, I'm all about them.

What's each dog's best quality?

Bowie is very intuitive. When I am not feeling like 'myself', he is right there beside me to lend support and comfort.

Ziggy is very inspiring and motivating. Being a basenji, she has an endless supply of energy, and she loves to spread it.

What's each dog's proudest moment?

When we first got Ziggy, she was wild/untrained. In our old home, we had a doggy door that led out to the back yard. She was quite skittish and didn't feel comfortable going through the doggy door, until one day Bowie ran through it, turned and stuck his head through the flap and barked at her to follow him. She did, and she never hesitated again. She also never had any accidents in the house, thanks to Bowie. I am so very proud of both of them...especially of big brother for teaching her the ins and outs of being a domestic dog and member of our family.

Visit Cassi Olson's blog, get yourself a virgo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lisa Begin-Kruysman & Hooper

Who is in the photo at right? What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

That's Lisa Begin-Kruysman and Hooper.

On Sunday, September 19th, Hooper and I will stop for coffee on our way to Dog Fest at Windward Park Beach in our city of Brick Township, NJ. At the old “Corner Grocer” on Princeton Ave, I’ll have an unknown brand of coffee, strong, fresh, dark, one sugar (this ‘aint no Starbucks).

Are you and Hooper planning on including any treats with your coffee?

I might indulge in a hunk of crumb cake or Jersey fave, buttered roll. No coffee for Hyper Hooper, but she will lick the bottom of the bakery bag clean of every crumb.

How were you and Hooper united?

Hooper is an 8-year-old Portuguese water dog, bred by Carolyn Iraggi of North Star Portuguese Water Dogs, making Hoops a true Jersey Dog. After several visits to Carolyn’s house and a thorough screening, this diligent and protective breeder deemed my husband, Rich, and me worthy and responsible owners!

How did Hooper get her name?

Hooper was named by my husband after the Matt Hooper character in Jaws, one of his favorite movies. Of course there must now be a Quint and Broady, right? “Hooper drives the boat, Chief.” Kids like to call her Hooper the Pooper.

Cat, squirrel, postman?

Cat – Scared of most.

Squirrel- Likes to chase them just to see them scamper up trees, wouldn’t know what to do with one if she caught one.

Postman – We’ve been blessed with great mail carriers who give her treats and attention so she loves them.

Stick, Frisbee, or squeaky-toy?

Frisbee? Thinks it’s a shallow water bowl.

Squeaky Toy – loves to get new ones so she can rip out the squeak box.

Sticks – Likes to eat them or play games with them like stick soccer and who has the most sticks in the yard.

Who is Hooper's best pet-pal?

Unfortunately, Hooper is not a real dog lover, but she has one doggy bff, Cody, who kind of feels the same way about dogs so they both know how chill out together.

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

I think Hooper regrets that there are no children in our household, but she loves when kids visit…. I tell her that if she lives a good life, in the next one she can ask to come back as the 20-somethingth child of the Duggar family.

What is your dog's best quality?

Hooper is loyal, affectionate and good to all humans.

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

Embarrassing? Well, there was that Thanksgiving when she snuck into the kitchen of my sister and brother-in-law’s elegant house and took the entire turkey carcass off the counter and dragged the greasy thing all over their hardwood floors; the stain remains three years later. Then there was the Amelia Island Closet Incident. It’s a long story, but due to a confluence of misinformation, false sightings, panic, and a dog that hid silently in the back of a large walk in closet in our rental house for 18 hours…. We believed Hooper to be lost and let’s just say the entire community, of Amelia, and many in my hometown, were helping to bring her home, complete with a posting on Craig’s List and flyers… Story has a happy ending complete with a spiritual and metaphysical aspect that convinced me that help comes from the most unexpected people and places.

How will you and Hooper celebrate National Dog Week?

This year, for the very first time, our city of Brick Township will be hosting a Dog Fest, welcoming all kinds of dogs and their humans to a big waterfront park. Its an extra-special occasion because it is the first day of the 82nd observation of Will Judy’s National Dog Week. Back in 1928, Captain Judy started Dog Week as a way to thank our military dogs and show appreciation for all dogs in the nation for being man’s true best friend.

At Dog Fest, we will visit the booths of different vendors, watch demonstrations by our local K-9 Police Dog Unit, and therapy dogs, and visit NJ’s very own Dog Whisperer, Janice Wolfe, who rescues and rehabilitates dogs so they can be trained to be assistance dogs for children with special needs. Our Mayor will also be declaring Brick Township a National Dog Week City using the Proclamation written by the late Captain Arthur Haggerty, often referred to as “The Grandfather of American Dog Obedience.” Captain Haggerty was a great supporter of NDW and wanted people to continue to honor it during the last week of September each year.

My book Every Dog has its Week: How Seven Days in September came to celebrate Dogs and the People who Love them (represented by the Parkeast Literary Agency) chronicles the life of the National Dog Week Movement. The book’s Foreword is written by Babette Haggerty, daughter of Captain Haggerty, and an accomplished dog trainer in her own right in NYC. You can learn more about the book, and the Movement on my blog.

What kind of seven day salute will you and your readers give our dogs during National Dog Week?

Visit Lisa Begin-Kruysman's National Dog Week Movement blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nita Lou Bryant & Sheba

Who is in the photo at right?

Greetings from Austin, Texas. My name is Nita Lou Bryant and I write fiction, personal essay, and memoir.

My dog Sheba is a female tricolor basenji. The vet says sh’s geriatric, but no one knows her exact age.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with a canine every morning, but my dog generally sleeps through it, as evidenced by this photograph.

What's brewing? Any goodies to go with the coffee? Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

The perfect cup of coffee, in my opinion, is one brewed to espresso strength in a stove-top Bialetti, with one teaspoon of sugar and enough cream stirred in until the mixture’s the caramel shade of a tricolor basenji’s eyebrows. But I gave up sugar years ago and just recently gave up cream. So now I now drink what I call cowboy coffee, scalding hot and black. I imagine I’m hunkered down around a campfire out on the prairie, keeping watch for coyotes, while--oblivious beside me--my faithful canine sidekick snores beneath the morning stars.

How were you and Sheba united?

Several years ago my daughter announced, “I want a dog who’s small enough to sleep on my bed.” At the time we had next-door neighbors with two big, scary dogs who barked at every passing molecule. Extensive research to identify a breed that tended more toward silence led me to the so-called barkless dog. When a want ad appeared in the newspaper saying a basenji up the road in Pflugerville was in need of a new home, we went to meet her. In this photo [left] taken ten years later, the little dog who slept on the foot of my daughter’s bed through elementary, junior high, and high school poses for a pre-senior-prom photo with my daughter in our back yard.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Sheba already knew her name when we got her, so we didn’t change it. But everyone in the family seems to have given her a special nickname. My daughter calls her “Baby,” while my husband prefers the generic “Dog.” For some reason—I suspect it’s the sound of her dainty little white feet tap-tapping over the hardwood floors like someone shod in tiny high heels—I tend to call her “Missy” most of the time. At the kennel and at the vet’s office she’s known as Sheba Bryant, which always makes me smile. Until we adopted her I never knew that dogs had surnames.

Does your dog have any influence on your writing?

Sheba’s not yet appeared in any of my fiction, but she’s been mentioned a few times in my Cafe Nita Lou blog. In fact, the post that received the most hits ever, in all the years I’ve been blogging, features this picture of Sheba on our front porch. The photo [right] captures a classic Sheba-pose, paws draped over the top step. She is probably waiting for our longtime mail carrier, Buddy, to arrive bearing a treat for her.

Where is your dog's favorite place for an outing?

Judging by her extensive and distinctive vocalizing, Sheba Bryant abhors riding anywhere in the car. Her favorite outing is definitely a walk through the neighborhood. She especially likes to patrol Ramsey Park, where her petite size causes all the little kids on the playground to mistake her for a puppy they want to take home.

Who is Sheba's best pet-pal?

The two barky dogs I mentioned earlier moved away years ago, to be replaced by Sheba’s best over-the-fence pals, Boutrose and Thomas, on either side. Sadly, neither of these noble dogs is still wagging among us. But our next-door neighbors to the south recently adopted a little white Jack Russell named Trinity with whom Sheba enjoys touching noses through the fence.

What is Sheba's best quality?

Her intelligence.

An outdoor dog in Plfugerville, Sheba came to us knowing nothing of civilized indoor life. When we first brought her home she was easily startled, spooked by her own reflection in a mirror or a realistic-looking stuffed animal lurking on the floor. Suddenly there were a great many new rules she was now required to obey: not to be within sight while we are dining, not to set paw in my bathroom, not to snatch an entire sandwich from a child’s hand while she was looking away. Sheba learned our arbitrary laws with alacrity, and an obvious desire to please.

We learned a thing or two as well. For example, that this little basenji can be incredibly headstrong. As the vet put it, “If she gets an idea in her head, you lose.” For one thing, that means no walks off-leash unless the entire perimeter is secure. We also discovered that thunder necessitates coddling, while prolonged human absence from home leads to used tissues snatched from the trash and mercilessly shredded. (Eeuuw!)

What is your dog's proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

I don’t know for certain how Sheba Bryant would answer these questions but I can imagine that this photo [left] taken a few years ago illustrates both. The pride of surreptitiously working herself into The Official Family Feet Portrait only to discover that—uh, oh--she was the only one present who’d not had a fresh pedicure!

But I prefer to end this installment of Coffee with a Canine with a more recent photo, taken the day my daughter left for her junior year at USC, in far-away Los Angeles. Geriatric but still alert and attentive, Sheba watches as my daughter packs to go. What thoughts, we wonder, are running through her faithful little dog head? Is she perhaps loyally vowing to hold her position at the foot of my daughter’s bed, just as she always has, until her favorite person in the entire world returns home?

Well, no.

In fact, since my daughter left home Sheba sleeps in my husband’s and my bedroom, on the carpet on my side of the bed. I have to remain mindful not to stumble over a tricolor basenji first thing when I get up. Only when the aroma of coffee wafts its way into the bedroom does she bestir herself to come join me in the family room for our cowboy cuppa joe. Thus do we greet another morning here in Austin, Texas: me on the lookout for coyotes and Sheba Bryant enjoying her first nap of the day.

Nita Lou Bryant's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lela LaBree Stute & Cissy, Beatrice, and Ingah DuPonte

Who is in the photo at right?

Lela LaBree Stute, editorial director at PhotoSource International and the author of twelve pug adventure books.

Joining me for this interview: Cissy (age 8, pug), Beatrice (age 5, pug), and Ingah DuPonte (age 3, pug), all female.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every day is a special occasion. The pugs get a snack (treat) as payment for going on a walk with me every day.

What's brewing?

Lipton ice tea.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

The usual snack: liver sausage pressed into 6 small glass ashtray’s. I carefully press them into the special (never been used for smoking) ashtrays. The pugs must work at getting all of the sausage out of each dish. (Six = 2 snacks per pug). Yes, we do this every day….

How were you and your pugs united?

Cissy was a rescue pug, adopted at 4 weeks of age. Bea and Ingah are from wonderful pug breeder in Osceola, WI.

Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

Yes, all of my books are based on the secret lives of my three pugs.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

They chose their own names. By this I mean they would not respond to any other name. Bea took the most time in choosing her name. Aliases? Too many to mention..

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Postman, they love him.

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

Squeaky-toy. They have a large basket full of identical squeaky toys. They are the only toys they like.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

LoLo and Quack’s home.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Their cousins - LoLo and Quack – not really cousins, but LoLo, Quack, Bea and Ingah all have the same parents; we call them cousins to avoid confusion.

What is each dog's best quality?

Cissy is the peace-maker in the pug family, Bea is the bravest, and Ingah is the most tender.

View more photos of Cissy, Beatrice, and Ingah DuPonte and learn more about the books they've inspired at
Lela LaBree Stute's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dagny Gromer & Suzie, Lacy, Stacy and Annie

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Dagny Gromer with Suzie. She's a rat terrier, 6 years old, I got her from my step son when she was fighting with his other dogs. Dagny is a computer programmer who works for Yavapai County (Az) government. We are on my patio.

I have two other rat terriers, Lacy and Stacy. And a black lab mix named Annie.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee = vitamin C, who needs an occasion?

What's brewing?

Nothing fancy, Yuban from my drip machine. A bit of 1/2 and 1/2 and some raw sugar.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Just some Az sunshine!

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

They are watching their weight - against their will.

How were you and your dogs united?

All are rescues. Suzie was a stray my step son rescued but she was not getting along with his other 2 dogs, so we took her. Lacy belonged to a long time friend of mine that became ill and could not care for her. Annie and Stacy came from local rescue groups.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

No aliases. Annie and Lacy already were named. Suzie was named for the Warren Zevon song "Suzie Lightning," and Stacy we pulled out of the ether.

Cat, squirrel, postman…?

Annie loves small animals, no one told her she was a hunting dog. Suzie and Lacy are predators who catch and eat mice and will chase cats. Stacy follows these 2 but she's not sure why.

Tennis ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Annie loves the tennis ball. The others don't care about it.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

The Willow Creek dog park.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Annie and Stacy are friends. Suzie hates everyone.

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

They would say they need more food.

What is each dog's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Annie holds the family record for the most times sprayed by a skunk. Lacy dug a gopher out of the ground.

Visit Dagny Gromer's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Geri Golding & Goldie and Merle

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Geri Golding. My husband David Higgs and I own a children's boutique called Gigi's Fabulous Kids' Fashions & Toys located in Rosemary Beach, Florida.

My pups are Goldie and Merle. Goldie is a 7-year-old Belgian Tevuran mix and Merle is a 9-year-old Australian shepherd mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are celebrating the fact that it's finally cooling off enough to enjoy relaxing by the pool again!

What's brewing?

Bustelo black. On my third cup!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

My husband's homemade Barnie Bread (recipe passed down from his dad, Barnie). It's so good it doesn't even need butter or jam.

Any treat for Goldie and Merle on this occasion?

I had to bribe them with a few milkbones to get them to pose pretty for the picture.

How were you and your dogs united?

We host a lemonade stand at my children's store on the weekends to raise money for our local no kill animal shelter, the Alaqua Animal Refuge. Last year, on one of my trips to the shelter to take a donation, I met Goldie and Merle. They had grown up together but their previous owner became ill and unable to care for them anymore. The shelter hoped that someone would adopt them both, rather than splitting them up. The moment I met them I just knew we belonged together.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

They came with the names Tanya and Merle, which reminded me too much of Tanya Tucker and Merle Haggard. I am not a fan. So when I learned that "Merle" is actually the term for her particular coloring, I decided to just change Tanya's name to Goldie since she is goldish in color. She doesn't seem to mind the name change at all. I don't think she likes country music either. When they are being super sweet we call them Goldie Goo and Merley Poo.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

If you are a lizard, watch out! You have absolutely no chance against Goldie.

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

Merle is perfectly happy with just a stick.

Where is Goldie and Merle's favorite place for an outing?

We walk through our neighborhood every day twice a day. They love it when we walk by the elementary school and the kids at recess yell out "look at the pretty doggies!!"

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

One of their best DOG friends is a goldador named Bristol who actually works as a guide dog! They think he's a rock star.

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

The "no dogs on the couch" policy.

What is each dog's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Both Goldie and Merle have been featured on my store blog ("the glob") several times. (Here is a recent post about our one year anniversary together.)

They've even pretended to write a couple of entries themselves, which, come to think of it, probably ranks as some of their most embarrassing moments. (Here is a post in which Merle "interviews" Bristol the guide dog.)

the Gigi's Fabulous Kids' Fashions & Toys website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 6, 2010

Inara Scott & Riley

Who is in the photo at right?

The big yellow sweetie with me is Riley. He's a twelve year-old Labrador Retriever. I'm the one in pink -- Inara Scott. I write books for teens and adults who like to read about creepy boarding schools and kids with supernatural powers.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I do my best writing at my local coffee shop, and this morning I decided to drag Riley along. He needed to get out of the house. Riley is an older Lab and hasn't been feeling well lately, so this was a big outing for him.

What's brewing?

I go for straight up coffee with lots of cream and sugar.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

If I'm feeling crazy, I pile on a Kettleman's Bagel with butter and salt. I don't like to discriminate against any dire medical condition. I want to bring on diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease all at once.

Any treat for Riley on this occasion?

I treat Riley's heart much better than my own, and keep him away from the people food. He is partial to dog biscuits, and I let him snack on a few when they're offered. He's much too polite to beg.

How were you and Riley united?

My husband and I both had German Shepherd mixes when we met, and while we adored our dogs, they didn't adore each other. One year we spent $6,000 in vet bills from the dogs trying to kill each other! It was very traumatic. We also discovered our dogs weren't very good with babies (a long story there). So both of those dogs went to live with other family members, and we adopted Riley. He was a year old when he came to us, and had been neglected by his previous owner. But he was so gentle and calm with our children, we knew he was perfect for our family. (And we were right!)

How did Riley get his name? Any aliases?

Riley occasionally goes by the name Stinky Butt Dog. I'm sure you can figure out why.

Does Riley have any influence on your writing?

Hmm...I can't say that he does, though when I'm working on a new character I always like to think about what sort of dog they might have. It helps me to understand the person better.

Cat, squirrel, postman...? Tennis ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

At this point in his life, Riley's favorite thing is a nap in his bed. Or in someone's lap, if they'll let him.

Where is Riley's favorite place for an outing?

We have a cabin in the woods that Riley adores. He runs around like a maniac for the first few hours we are there, and then limps around for the next two days. But it's worth it.

Who is Riley's best pet-pal?

Riley is regularly attacked by our cat, Buffy, but I thinks it's one of those sibling things. Deep down, I'm sure they love each other.

What is Riley's best quality?

Riley is the kindest, gentlest dog you would ever hope to meet.

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

Remember the bit about me not letting him eat people food? I'm sure he'd be happy to change that.

Inara Scott's new book is Delcroix Academy: The Candidates.

Inara Scott's website and blog.

the video trailer for Delcroix Academy: The Candidates.

--Marshal Zeringue