Who is in the photo at right?
The dogs are all lady dogs. Tuna (14) is some kind of dingo mix. O.D. is a hound and we don't know how old she is. (She is missing an eye because she had cancer in that eye and had to get it removed.) Sue Bee (12) is a beagle.
My name is Cece Bell and I am an author and illustrator of books for children. My books include Bee-Wigged, Itty Bitty, and the Sock Monkey series for Candlewick Press; stuff coming out soon includes Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover (also for Candlewick Press), illustrations for Crankee Doodle (written with my husband, Tom Angleberger, for Clarion Press) and for Bug Patrol (by Denise Mortensen, also for Clarion Press). I am currently working on a graphic novel for Amulet.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
It's a mandatory office meeting called by Tuna. She will be giving an extensive Power Point presentation (yeah, she's still using Power Point, believe it or not) that maps out the various walks she would like for us to take in the Fall.
Nestlé brand hot chocolate with a dash of Folger's crystals. Topped with Cool Whip. So wrong, and yet so right.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
They've got Cool Whip in their cups.
How were you and your dogs united?
Tuna showed up in our yard on July 4th, 1998. We had just gotten home from watching fireworks. I think she got spooked by the fireworks everywhere and just happened to greet us as we pulled up. We tried to find her owner, but never did. Thank goodness! She is a great dog.
We adopted Sue Bee in 2003 from the Montgomery County Humane Society animal shelter after our beloved dog Henry passed away.
And O.D. just showed up, too, about four years ago, and put on such a show of sweetness that there was really no way to deny her a place in our home.
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
Tuna got her name because her fur looks kind of like what canned tuna looks like: gray, tan, speckled, etc. Nicknames include: Tuna Marie, Tuna Fish, Fishy-fish, Fish Head.
Sue Bee was "Susie" at the shelter. But I kept singing the Scooby-Doo song to her when we got her home; Susie + Scooby = Sue Bee. It works because she is a honey of a dog. Her nicknames are Sue Beast and Beasty.
O.D. stands for "Other Dog." We were really, really, really trying to avoid naming her, because once you name an animal, you're pretty much keeping it. We already had three dogs at the time (Louise was another of our hounds; she passed away at the beginning of this year), and the thought of having four dogs at once was too much (and it generally is too much). But O.D. is a name, isn't it? Suckers! Her nicknames are Odoriferous, Dee, and Smellody.
Do your dogs have much influence on your writing and illustrating?
My book Itty Bitty was very much based on Henry. He was not a tiny dog, like Itty Bitty is, but he had Itty Bitty's sweetness and some of his can-do attitude, too.
Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?
They love going on hikes in the more rural areas like where we live. They are not too fond of venturing out into the city. The noises and general hubbub make them skittish.
Squirrel, postman, cat...?
They love my mom with a love that just won't quit.
Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?
I never thought about it before, but none of them like toys. Weird, eh? But they do have favorite chairs and sofas throughout the house. And someday, Tuna will have licked all of them down to their sofa-and-chair foundations.
What is each dog's best quality?
Tuna: She acts tough and would (hopefully) protect us if necessary. She is also an excellent dancer.
Sue Bee can balance on top of a stack of pillows as high as the Empire State Building and not fall off. And look extremely comfortable doing so. Like Tuna, she is an excellent dancer, especially at feeding time. (She is a bona-fide movie star, too, as seen in this video.)
O.D. has High Quantities of Super Sweetness. She loves to love.
[art at left: a (already painted) paint-by-number painting, to which Bell has added her dogs through the years]
If your dogs could change one thing about Virginians, what would it be?
Their smells, I reckon. They've gotten too clean and fresh-smelling in recent years.
If your dogs could speak in the movie about your life, who should do their voices?
Tuna = Frances Bavier in her Aunt Bee period.
Sue Bee = Sally Field in her Gidget period.
O.D. = Minnie Pearl in her Hee Haw period.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
Does it frustrate you as much as it frustrates me that you are aging way too quickly?
Visit Cece Bell's website.