Monday, February 25, 2013

Katherine Bouton & Maxie

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Katherine Bouton, and Maxie, on a trip to Martha's Vineyard last summer, looking windblown. Maxie is two-and-a-half in this picture, a Tibetan terrier. Tibetans are not really terriers, and Maxie is not a typical Tibetan. He weighs 38 pounds and can outrun dogs twice his size.

I'm a writer and I"m also very hard of hearing. My book Shouting Won't Help, which is coming out this month, is about hearing loss. It's partly a memoir -- my hearing loss started when I was 30 and got progressively worse over the years. When I lost my hearing, I wanted to read a book that would help explain what I was going through, but I couldn't find one (except David Lodge's funny novel Deaf Sentence). So I wrote one instead.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I live in New York City on the upper west side. Maxie and I go for a long walk every morning, before 9, which is when dogs are allowed to run off leash in Riverside Park. I take along my coffee in a Copco carry-cup (the best -- I've tried them all). Sometimes, if we've had a very good walk we stop at Starbucks and refill the carry cup. Maxie is not allowed inside Starbucks, so no sitting and schmoozing for me.

What's brewing?

Plain old coffee with milk. No fluffy drinks for me. I live near Zabars and my favorite brand is Zabars French-Italian roast.

Any treats for you or Maxwell on this occasion?

Maxie (yes, same as Maxwell) gets a Milkbone when we get home. He is a hypoallergenic breed, which means he doesn't shed. That in turn means that if I don't brush him every day he turns into a giant knot of clumped dog hair. The Milkbone is his treat for standing patiently while I brush out the knots.

Does your dog do more to help or to hinder your writing?

Except when he insists that it's time to go out when I'm wrangling with a particularly difficult passage, he's mostly just a nice companion to have around. He's thinking of reading my book, as you can see in the photo [left]. But first, a nap.

How were you and Maxwell united?

I'm allergic to dogs, as I discovered with my last dog, a rescue named Pepper. For the eight or so years Pepper lived with us I had asthma. So this time I looked for a dog I wouldn't be allergic to. I went on line and came upon a picture of Maxwell as a puppy. I misread the information about the breeder and thought she was in New Jersey. Once I found out she was five hours away in Virginia, I had fallen in love with Max, so I got in the car and went to get him.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrels and pigeons. He loves to jump into the middle of a flock of pigeons and send them fluttering.

And mud puddles [photo right].

How did your Maxwell get his name? Any nicknames?

My husband was reluctant about a new dog, so to ease the transition to a dog centered life (a puppy centered life, which is even more consuming), I suggested we name him Maxwell, after my husband's mentor, the New Yorker editor and writer William Maxwell.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Once he gave up chair legs as his favorite chew toy, he settled for sticks.

He doesn't like his own ball but one of his favorite games is to steal another dog's ball and then run with it.

Does Maxwell have a favorite place to go for outings?

The park mostly. But we also have a weekend house in Massachusetts and I let him run loose in the woods there. That's why he's wearing the orange reflector jacket in this photo [left]. I didn't want hunters to mistake him for a deer.

Who are Maxwell's best pet-pals?

He's pretty undiscriminating. Any dog that will get in a chase with him is fine.

What is Maxwell's best quality?

He's funny. And he goes absolutely bananas with joy every time I walk in the front door, which is gratifying. But he's pretty undiscriminating about that too -- my grown children, my husband, any of my friends, the guy delivering Chinese food. He's ecstatic to see them all.

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

Less typing. More dog walks.

If Maxwell could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

"What did he/she say?" I'd ask him this question over and over again because I'm very hard of hearing and generally can't follow most of the dog chitchat in the park and the dog run. It's very frustrating. People say, "What's his name?" And I answer "Tibetan terrier." If Max could serve as my ears that would be great!

Visit Katherine Bouton's website and blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Max is so cute and I love the mud puddle pix! Both my Dad and brother-in-law are hard of hearing, Dad wears his hearing aids but my brother-in-law won't ever wear his but even with the hearing aids in we do have to talk loudly because in their particular cases it still does help them hear so as a result we all talk loud...then I sometimes forget to turn down my volume around others :) even though Shouting DOES help in our little clan, I'll have to check out your book to get better insight for other hearing loss. Thanks!Enjoyed reading about ya!

  2. BAwhahha the mud shot is GREAT! That is a pup I'd love to party with.