Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Elsa Watson & Kota

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Kota and me, Elsa Watson. Kota is an 8 year old German-shepherd/border collie mix. She’s a girl, but because of her size people often assume she’s a boy (silly people!) I’m a writer – my new book Dog Days was just published by Tor-Forge.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s Saturday, and our whole family is on our weekend trip to the dog park. We have a fabulous dog park about half an hour away. The dogs love it here. Kota can be shy (which is funny, given her size), but she always makes friends here. She generally spends at least half the time following a little dog around, copying everything it does.

What's brewing?

Jasmine green tea. Sorry—I gave up coffee when we joined the Peace Corps because it was so hard to get. I haven’t let myself go back to it since. I do love the smell of it, though.

Any treats for you or Kota on this occasion?

Not this time, but the last time we were at this park a dog was having a birthday party and had cupcakes for all the dogs. Kota had two! You’ve never seen a dog so excited. Her two favorite things (eating and the park) came together in one exquisitely beautiful moment.

How were you and your dog united?

Kota was adopted from a Shelter by a local family when she was a puppy. They lived in Navy housing and had another dog, so when she kept on growing—and growing—they just didn’t have room for her. (She was also pretty rambunctious.) They put a listing in the Free Cycle list serve and my husband spotted it. When Kota first arrived, she raced all over the house, dashing up and down the stairs. It was hours before we got her to settle down enough for tummy rubs. About six months later we adopted her big brother Lucky [photo right: Lucky, Elsa, and Kota], and they’ve been a team ever since.

How did Kota get her name? Any aliases?

We adopted her, so she came with the name. Her full name is Dakota, but she seems to like the short version. When our friends’ daughter was about three, she was really into nicknames. Once I asked her what the dogs’ nicknames should be. “Luck,” she said for Lucky. “And what about Kota?” I asked, thinking she’d be totally stumped. She didn’t miss a beat. “Kota should be Kote,” she said. So Kote it is. We also call her Kota Bear because she’s so big, hairy, and, well, bearish.

Please tell us about your new novel and Kota's connection to it.

Dog Days features a white German shepherd named Zoë [photo left].

While Zoë is physically modeled after a dog Kota and I met at a dog walk, her personality is all Kota. Whenever I was stumped writing the story, I would think of Kota and ask myself what she would think, do, or say in that situation. That worked almost every time!

Who is Kota's best pet-pal?

My writer friend Suzanne Selfors has a wonderful dog named Skylos (a sheltie). I think Kota has a bit of a crush on him. His passion for sticks might have something to do with it—I think she admires that in a dog. Of course, Skylos is also gorgeous. It might be that.

Does Kota have any non-canine pet-pals?

She and the cat have a wonderful relationship. They’re really well-matched sparring partners. Our kitty came home from Africa with us after the Peace Corps, and she rules the house. Kota’s the only one who challenges her authority. The cat loves air-boxing with her. Kota thinks the cat exists to make her life more exciting.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Sadly, squirrel. She spends time every day working on her sneaking technique in hopes of being able to creep up on a squirrel. For a 110+ pound dog, she sneaks really well…but she still has no shot.

What is Kota's best quality?

Her sweetness. I know everyone must feel this way about their dog, but I think she’s the sweetest dog on earth. When she looks you in the eye, it’s with incredible kindness and love. At the end of the day when I say goodnight to her, she lets me stroke the length of her nose while she closes her eyes and does doggy deep breathing. It’s the most soothing thing, hearing her breathe like that. It’s like she’s exhaling all of her worries into the night.

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

It makes me sad to say this, but she would want us to stay home with her every day. She doesn’t like to ride in the car, so she doesn’t come to work with us. In her ideal world, I think we’d all stay here together.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dog could speak, which actor should do her voice?

Geena Davis. She has just the right ability to be goofy or tough, depending on the situation.

If Kota could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Why don’t you like to ride in the car?

Visit Elsa Watson's website and Zoë the Dog's Facebook page.

Writers Read: Elsa Watson.

--Marshal Zeringue

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