Who is in the photo at right?
Lanier Scott Isom, author and journalist. Sparky, male, five, terrier/chihuahua mix.
Picture of dogs [bottom right] in back of truck:
Dakota, male, one year, Australian shepherd/golden retriever mix.
Bear, male,13, chow/rottweiler mix. (In the background in the truck.)
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
During the week, I love to go to the Continental Bakery, an eclectic gathering place decorated with velvet art and a hodge podge of different chairs and mismatched tables, known in Birmingham for making incredible breads and pastries that are true works of art. I avoid the Starbucks down the street teeming with the beautiful people---young college students, housewives in lycra and slick business men.
At Continental Bakery you find real people engaged in real conversations---professors and retired men talking politics, professional men and women stopping in as they head over the mountain and down the hill into the city, mothers and children, artists, folks from the neighborhood. But more importantly you find people with their dogs. On the weekends, I like to take our dogs for a special treat. Sparky can hang out with me on his leash while Bear and Dakota stay in the back of the truck as we visit, drink coffee and eat chocolate croissants.
I’m simple when it comes to drinking coffee. I like a decaf with milk and brown sugar.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
Dakota likes to bring his stuffed chew toy that squeaks. Just riding in the back of the truck is a treat for Bear, who starts barking and whining the minute he hears the truck crank up in the driveway. Sparky gets car sick easily so no treats for him.
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
All of our dogs are rescue dogs. When we brought Bear home from the Humane Society, he was already named. We thought we’d change it, but we never did because he did indeed look like a bear.
Right before Christmas last year we decided to find a dog for my daughter Frances, partly because our beautiful, sweet dog Sophie was declining; partly because my son Clint and Sparky had become a team and Frances wanted her own companion; and partly because she was having trouble sleeping in her room alone and we thought a dog would make her feel safe. It just so happens at Christmas we have elves who visit Frances. When we adopted Dakota, she wrote a note to the elves asking them whether she should name her new puppy Cassidy or Dakota. The elves chose Dakota.
How were you and your dogs united?
I have to go back to the beginning of my married life to set the stage for Bear. My husband and I got married the year after we graduated from college. It wasn’t a fancy ring or amazingly romantic proposal that hooked me: he reeled me in with two black puppies he bought from the Nashville Humane Society when he was supposed to be studying for his last exam. There I was sitting in the living room of my apartment one block off St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, listening to the Grateful Dead, when I look up and two black puppies---named Samson and Delilah---come scrambling through the open French doors and skid across the hardwood floors. We added Bud, Chad and Max (also known as Che Guevara) to the mix and Bear came along when the last of our original dog family, Max, had lost his all of his companions.
Do your dogs contribute to your writing?
Heck yeah. When I have those blissful moments of uninterrupted time to write while my children and husband forge their separate destinies, I hunker down in my home office and the dogs settle in around me, taking a morning nap. All is well until the neighbor’s dog starts barking, the garbage truck rumbles its impending arrival or a woodpecker mistakenly starts pecking the side of my house and then, outside they go, to leave me in quiet solitude. Their presence gives me a sense of protection and even spiritual support as if they know I’m embarked on an important journey I couldn’t take without their peaceful companionship.
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
Bear: The squirrels he chases.
Dakota: Dirty socks he steals from the laundry.
Sparky: His neighborhood nemesis, another yappy dog, next door.
What is each dog's best quality?
Bear: His loyalty.
Dakota: Being laid-back and going with the flow.
Sparky: His wisdom and compassionate humor that emanate from his Yoda-like eyes.
If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?
Bear would insist I take him on more walks and adventures in the creek.
Sparky would ask me to give Clint a break on his homework.
Dakota would tell me to relax more.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
I’m not sure these actors would be the perfect voice for my dogs, but they could play them in a movie.
Dustin Hoffman would be Sparky. Short and fiesty.
Val Kilmer would be Dakota. Cool but a little goofy.
Robert Downey Jr. would be Bear. Sensitive but tough, and a little bit unpredictable in a frenetic kind of way.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
Bear: What was your life like before we adopted you from the Humane Society?
Dakota: What was your life like before we adopted you from the Humane Society?
Sparky: What was your life like before we found you, alone and homeless?
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