Who is in the photo at right?
That’s me, Dale Kushner, with Malibu, our newly adopted Golden Retriever. In this photo, Malibu, aka Mali, and I are embarking on a training adventure. (Note the disarray behind us. Mali’s name should be “Velcro.” She likes to attach herself to me. I’d been trying to drink my coffee on the couch but slid off to work with her.)
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Mali, a champion of the dog show world, was raised by and has lived with her breeder for seven years. As a show dog, she’s traveled in planes and trains and can do an exquisite prance around the ring, but alas has never been socialized to live with a family. On the occasion of this photo, I’m trying to teach her manners. She’d rather cuddle! Since I’m a bit of a push-over, I have to train myself not to comply. My task here is to drink a cup of coffee without Mali climbing into my lap. You can see I’m not entirely successful.
I’ve just dripped a cup of Bike Fuel from Just Coffee Cooperative.
Any treats for you or Malibu on this occasion?
No treats for me while training Mali, though later I might consider a cranberry scone. Mali, however, gets bison and sweet potato crinkles and peanut butter stars. These days the variety in doggie snacks sounds like a menu from the TV show Portlandia.
How were you and Malibu united?
Our vet called us to let us know that the breeder was selling an older dog. Were we interested? We’d been planning on getting a puppy this summer. Wisconsin winters can be brutal and our thought was we should wait until we could do more training outdoors, but when the call came, we couldn’t resist. Our last Golden Retriever, Carmelita [in photo, below left], died a year and a half ago, and we’ve been bereft without fur!
How did Malibu get her name? Any aliases?
Mali’s breeder was driving into Malibu, California, and presto magico! Mali got named for the city. (Or was it her blonde California good looks that synched the name?)
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?
Now I’m wondering why I haven't written about a dog. I’m gaga in love with dogs, like, kiss them on the lips kind of gaga! There’s a parakeet named Mr. Puccini in The Conditions of Love and a turtle named Eunice Turtle but no dog. Stay-tuned! I’m at work on novel #2, and there just may be a canine in the story.
Does Malibu do more to help or to hinder your writing?
Mali is a muse wannabe, that is, if the only job of a muse is to offer a fetching smile and endless affection. Actually, Mali’s more of a trickster than a muse. But then again, as a writer, I never know what will end up in the writing stew. Because of Mali, I am learning a lot about dog behavior. At the moment, I’m interested in what behaviorists call “prey drive,” that almost unstoppable instinct that provokes dogs to chase squirrels or cats to pounce on mice. I haven’t yet discovered if humans too have a prey drive. Hmmm. Will a creature who boasts a strong prey drive be part of something I write?
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Squirrel, Possum, shrew, chipmunk, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
Retrievers love balls but have no idea how silly they look padding around with a yellow Wilson tennis ball in their mouths.
Who is Malibu's best pet-pal?
Her fav play pal—c’est moi. Me, me, and me, probably until she’s spayed.
What is Malibu's best quality?
Mali’s best quality is her sweet temperament. You meet people like this too, who simply have a sweet and affectionate soul. It’s something you can feel. Even when I have to coerce Mali into her crate at night, she never snarls or snaps.
If Malibu could change one thing about you--or you change one thing about her, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about Mali, I’d transform her anxiety about being in a new home. Until now she’s lived with her breeder and among her littermates. As a middle-aged dog, it’s tough for her to adjust to a completely new lifestyle.
If Malibu could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?
I would ask Mali what would help her feel part of the Kushner family pack.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Malibu could speak, who should voice her?
After we brought Mali home, we learned a sad fact: she’d been de-barked. (The breeder had been less than forthcoming with us!) I’d never heard of this surgery (tissue from the animal’s vocal chords is removed) and was truly horrified the first time I heard Mali’s non-voice—a cross between a rasp and a whisper. She stood at the window trying to bark, but the noise that came out was a ghost voice. However, in honor of the spirit that shines through, I would choose the silent film star Lillian Gish to portray Mali.
Visit Dale Kushner's website, blog, and Facebook page.
Writers Read: Dale M. Kushner.
The Page 69 Test: The Conditions of Love.
My Book, The Movie: The Conditions of Love.