Who is in the photo on the right?
I'm Susie Kelly, a travel writer living in south-west France, with Tally (Talisman de la Sylve de Janus to give him his full name), a 10-year-old Hungarian Vizsla, and 8-year-old Dobby, a very large dog whose only known parent was the cardboard box in which he was found at the gates of the orphanage.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Just stopping by to have a chat before we plan our next misadventure.
I'm not a great coffee drinker. My preference is for Earl Grey tea – with milk.
Any treats for you and your dogs?
The dogs' biggest treat is a run on the beach, but as we live far from the sea, the next best is to take their memory-foam mattresses out in the garden so they can sunbathe in absolute comfort. My best treat is watching them enjoying themselves.
How did your dogs get their names?
Tally came with his full name from his breeder, who was passionate about the Hungarian Vizsla breed and has imported the stock from all over Europe in his quest to breed the perfect specimen.
Dobby was christened after Harry Potter's house-elf, because when we first got him he was very small with disproportionately large ears.
How were you and your dogs united?
I drove two hundred miles to collect Tally, a fat little bundle whose coat was far too big for him. He curled up tightly on my friend's lap and slept all the way home. Dobby came from an animal sanctuary who had found him abandoned at their gates in a cardboard box. We wanted a small companion for Tally, and Dobby was expected to grow to about Beagle size. Instead he grew to about the size of a Great Dane.
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
They're best friends with each other, although Dobby also adores our feral cat, Tigger.
Do your dogs contribute to your writing?
They are essential to it! Tally and Dobby are the stars of Travels with Tinkerbelle – 6,000 miles around France in a Mechanical Wreck. Our original plan to take Tally on holiday with us in the car, with a tent, turned into a major logistical challenge once we acquired Dobby to keep him company on our travels. We had not anticipated just how huge he would grow, nor how quickly, and had to change our plans radically and buy a camping car to accommodate us all. Dobby spent most of our 7-week journey trying to eat his way through the camper and all its contents when he and Tally weren't galloping around on the beach or in the hills.
Squeaky toy, ball, stick?
They have special blankets made of Merino wool, which they take everywhere. They bring them wherever we are in the house so that they can lie in comfort, and drag them to the car when we are going out. Sometimes Tally takes his with us on our walks, but usually abandons it somewhere en route, so we have to go back and hunt for it, because when he's ready for bed at night, he can't settle without it.
Even when we go away on holiday, the blankets must come too.
Rabbit, postman, cat?
Both are very sociable dogs, and they get on with most other creatures as long as they don't run. Running is an invitation to play chase....
What is each dog's best quality?
Tally's most endearing traits are his sense of fun and enthusiasm, while Dobby is outstandingly loyal, never more than a few inches away. Like Tally he is very sociable, and he's also very protective of us.
If your dogs could change one thing about the French, what would it be?
It would be to ensure that so many of them do not keep their gun dogs living in cages outside the shooting season. They don't like to see dogs imprisoned in small spaces for months at a time.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
With Dobby's dark good looks and fine singing voice I think Joaquin Phoenix would be a great choice. As Tally tends to hit the very high notes when he's excited, then Maria Carey would play him well.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English – or French, what would you ask them?
What I'd like to ask the dogs is this: "Is it to test how much I love you that as soon as I've cleaned the house you go and find sticks to chew up all over the place?"
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