Who is in the photo at right?
The person on the right would be M.E. and my well disguised demon poodle, Oliver. He's an "unaltered" male, though we'll be fixing that shortly. He's two and a half years old though he resembles a much younger dog in terms of overall excitability. He hasn't been jaded yet.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
I drink an excessive amount of coffee every morning and since Oliver has life-ruining separation anxiety he's always with me. I can't write without coffee, I can't wake up without it. I've read that it's purely psychological and not at all physically rooted, but whatever, I need it. Don't judge.
Well, since I live in Italy I drink a Cappuccino first thing and then an "Americano" the rest of the day, which is basically just "normal" coffee for us Americans.
Any treats for you or Oliver on this occasion?
I always eat chocolate with my coffee in the morning because I'm super healthy. Oliver's treats come later in the day during his separation anxiety training. Then he gets to overdose on these mini bone-shaped meaty things cause we're doing the positive reinforcement thing.
How were you and Oliver united?
Sigh. My husband, (who was not raised with dogs, which will be obvious in a second) bought Oliver for me for my birthday in 2010. I've never had a puppy, I've only ever had rescue dogs so it was a bit of a shock to me. Anyhow, my husband called me one day, while I was home visiting my parents in Utah, and said, "Babe, I bought you a puddle for your birthday." I said, "Well, two things: One, that's rude. Secondly, how are you going to wrap that?" He said, "Wait, what? Let me send you a photo." And the photo was of an 8 week old poodle not puddle. I told him it was a horrible idea because dogs are like children. He said, "No babe, dogs are like plants." Not wise words, and something he still regrets saying to this day.
How did Oliver get his name? Any nicknames?
Uhm, he just looked like an Oliver. Like, little, and sad, like "please sir, can I have some more." But that's not his personality at all. He's more like a mob boss.
Does Oliver play any role in your writing?
Uhm, yes. My friends make fun of me for writing about my dog but how can I not? Right now it's just my husband, myself and Oliver. He's our terrible, terrible baby, and we love him. Also he makes my life incredibly difficult in a "Marley and Me" kind of way. I want to kill him but I love him to death at the same time. He's great fodder for a funny story.
Does Oliver have a favorite place to go for walk?
Anywhere outside is his favorite place. But he prefers running to walking and he's fast. He loves the park because he gets to be off-leash.
Tennis ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
He likes soccer balls, and stuffed animals. He's been carrying around a stuffed cow for about two years. It used to squeek but my husband's mum is a clean freak and she put it in the washer on the hot cycle. She's convinced dogs have toxicplasmosis. I keep telling her that that's cats, but she thinks it's some kind of conspiracy.
Cat, il postino, squirrel...?
He likes to bark at every human being who comes into our building. It's his favorite. He's also very fond of leg rape. We cannot get him to stop (hence the neutering coming shortly).
What is Oliver's best quality?
He's incredibly cute and happy he's also super smart. He's aaalways happy in this unbearably hyperactive way. Even people who hate animals love him.
If Oliver were a talking dog in the movie of your life, who should do his voice?
If Oliver could change one thing about Italians--I mean, beside cutting you some slack while you clean up the sidewalk after him--what would it be?
Ha-ha! Uhm, I don't think he would change anything. We live in Florence which is incredibly dog friendly. They are allowed in all the restaurants and coffee shops. There are dozens and dozens of dog parks in the city, and every place that we go people pet him and play with him. To give an example of the dog craze in this city, once he was soaked from the rain and my friend and I ducked into Prada because she wanted a gift or something. These really stuffy women all wearing Prada, ran over and snatched Oliver from me and were carrying him around the store playing with him. He was destroying their clothes, they didn't care. Another time we were in Cartier asking about a wedding band for my husband (which we did not buy!) and the sales human brought Oliver a water bowl, a toy, and a biscuit from the back. Actually, every business seems to keep dog treats behind the counter. When we go to the butcher shop the man brings pieces of meat out for him. These people love dogs. But, they are super annoying about sidewalk space.
What's Oliver's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?
Proudest moment...uhm...he's improving with his training so we're pretty proud of him. He's smart, but he's stubborn, and again, separation anxiety. His most embarrassing? That's easy! I took him to one of my husbands football (soccer) games and the little shit got away and broke onto the field. He stole the ball and it took about 10 minutes for them to catch him. Two teams of grown men were running around like crazy after this tiny dog who was cruising down the field with their soccer ball. They were not happy, but personally I think they were just jealous because he is way better at soccer than everyone else. Actually, maybe that's also a proud moment.
Visit M.E.'s "Surviving Italy" blog.