Who is in the photo at right?
That's me, Jessica Anya Blau. I write books, I have kids, I take care of Pippa who is neurotic and often deluded and needs someone to look over her. She's an eleven-year-old toy poodle. She thinks she's a badass, punk-rock, private school girl rather than a dog. She wants to be dressed in kicky little plaid skirts and have her philtrum pierced, but I won't allow any of that.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
We are celebrating the release of my new book The Wonder Bread Summer. Pippa thinks she wrote it even though she types like she has bandages on her hands and casts on her arms. She doesn't understand her disabilities and imagines herself as much more capable than she is.
I'm having espresso. Pippa is having a half-caf, half-decaf, quadruple shot, one-third almond milk, one-third soy milk, one third-cream, no foam, loads of whip cream vanilla latte.
Any treats for you or Pippa on this occasion?
We both love Madeleines. She likes to dip hers in her half-caf (half decaf, blah blah blah), and I like to eat mine before I drink my tea.
How did Pippa get her name? Any nicknames?
She was named after a waitress we had at the IHOP. Her name tag said, Philippa. And I said, "Do people call you Pippa?" And she said, "Of course." I liked that waitress. I like the IHOP. Pippa likes the IHOP, too.
How were you and Pippa united?
My brother-in-law, Ira, hid her in a brown grocery bag. She was about the size of my fist. He called me downstairs and said, "Get that thing out of that bag." I opened the bag and there she was. It was love at first sight. She was silent for about a week.
Does Pippa do more to help or hinder your writing?
Pippa helps me write. She sits quietly beside me in her bed, daydreaming of living in London when the Sex Pistols were around. She lets me know when the mailman or UPS man is within two blocks. She stands up if anyone is about to come into the room. Her focus (on her daydreams) helps keep me focused.
A few dogs (including Fritz and Growlie) pop up in The Wonder Bread Summer. Are any of them modeled on Pippa?
No, none of them are really like Pippa. Pippa is all puffed-up self-delusion and neuroses. She's growing more and more afraid of the stairs because she thinks there are mean dogs hiding in the stairwell walls who will bust through the plaster and attack her as she trots down the stairs. She lost an eye to a nasty, bullying German Shepard Rotweiler mix and has never trusted anything with a square head since.
Who are Pippa's best pet-pals?
Because she doesn't realize she's a dog, she has very few dog pals. She does have a lover, though. His name is George and he is a sweat-sock-smelling hound dog, a gassy thing, who lives with us a couple weeks a year when his humans are on holiday.
Squeaky toy, ball, stick…?
She likes pink toys and squeaky toys. But she doesn't like toys that are both pink and squeaky. She takes the toys to bed with her and then she kills them. It sounds odd and vicious, but she's a lovely sweet thing in spite of her murderous instincts. She killed a rat in the backyard once, and she was quite satisfied with herself after that kill. She wanted me to take the rat to a taxidermist and have it made into a wall piece that would hang above her bed, but I refused. Then she tried to talk me into just cutting off the paws that she would string into a collar around her neck. I refused again. She has no sense of herself as a fluffy, white, ribboned thing. It's like she's never looked in a mirror.
Cat, postman, squirrel…?
The neighbor's cat hangs out in the yard and Pippa allows this. I think it's because she knows the neighbor's cat will keep the rats away and after I shamed her for her bloodlust with the rat, she's relieved not to have to see that side of herself again. Squirrels are everywhere near our house and she thinks they're funny and a little dumb. I've tried to teach her that all animals have value in this world, even the really dumb ones. She just laughs at this idea. The postman brings her treats that she takes in order to make him feel like he's her friend. But she doesn't trust him at all (she suspects him of trying to poison her) and so she hides the bones behind the couch cushions.
What is Pippa's best quality?
Her ability to hold her bladder until I am ready to get out of bed (which on the weekend can be pretty darn late--like, eleven!).
If Pippa could change one thing about you, what would it be?
I would eat with my plate on the floor instead of on the table where she can't reach it. And I wouldn't eat anything unless her fuzzy, matted face was right beside mine, eating off the same plate.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Pippa could speak, which actor should do her voice?
Victoria Jackson. In the Saturday Night Live days.
If Pippa could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?
Would it be possible for you to one day just order a cup of plain black coffee? Can't you make it easier on the baristas of the world?
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