Who is in the photo at right?
My name is Holly Robinson, and I'm holding my 8 year-old Pekingese, Leo, who believes he is part cat. I'm a journalist, celebrity ghost writer, and the author of three novels, the most recent of which is Beach Plum Island (Penguin, April 2014). I have also written a memoir, The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter (Crown 2010). I live north of Boston with my husband, where we have a “yours, mine, and ours” blended family of five children and are fixing up a 1700's Colonial one shingle at a time.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Leo and I are total party crashers. Neither of us drinks coffee! But we both love looking at other dogs, so we've been following this blog for a while. We're so excited to have sneaked past the bouncers of “Coffee with a Canine!”
Leo and I power through the day with tea. I typically brew a pot of strong English breakfast or Darjeeling in the morning and pour it into a thermos to carry out to my barn office.
Any treats for you or Leo on this occasion?
Today, Leo and I are having our favorite: toast with peanut butter and banana. Leo loves bananas so much that he can smell you peeling one from three rooms away. He'll stand on his hind legs and twirl like a circus dog if he thinks he'll be rewarded by a banana.
How were you and Leo united?
When my oldest son went to college, his younger brother and I were so bereft that the only thing we could think of to cheer us up was a puppy. My son was determined to have a Pekingese after seeing one in a Florida pet store—the kind where the dogs sleep in cribs and have ribbons in their hair. I assured him there were no Pekingese anywhere in Massachusetts, because I didn't want such a dumb, useless seeming dog (I grew up with mutts). But lo and behold, he spotted a white puff of a Peke puppy in our pet store and I succumbed to his charms.
How did Leo get his name? Any aliases?
We called him “Leo” because he has a lion's mane and noble carriage despite his small stature. He also goes by “Swiffer” because he'll lie on his back and let you sweep him around on the floor like one of those Swiffer mops.
Does Leo do more to help or hinder your writing?
He definitely does more to help my writing, because I periodically have to get up and walk him, and walking is a creative meditation for me. The nice thing about a Pekingese is that he moves slowly enough for you to stop and write in a pocket journal whenever the muses grant you a visit.
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?
Oh yes—Leo! He was featured by the name of “Hamlet” in the first novel I published with Penguin, The Wishing Hill. That novel also features a mutt based on a dog I had growing up. In the novel I'm working on right now, there is a border collie like my neighbor's on Prince Edward Island, where we have a summer house.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Leo would never chase any of those things. He thinks he is part cat, so he's more likely to curl up next a cat than chase it. As for the postman, Leo looks at him and thinks, “Treat! Treat! Treat!”
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
Nope. Leo is not much for toys, either. Unless, of course, my mother's dog has a toy, and then Leo steals it.
Who is Leo's best pet-pal?
Definitely our big orange cat, Mini-Wheat, a rescue from our local animal shelter. Mini-Wheat inspired the cat in Beach Plum Island that helps two mismatched people fall in love. He and Leo are about the same size and weight, and Mini-Wheat goes on walks with us when I take Leo out on his leash, with his shoulder pressed to Leo's. In the house, Leo and Mini-Wheat sleep together, either on the sheepskin bed in the dining room or on the couch with me when I watch TV.
What is Leo's best quality?
Leo has a very peaceful Zen quality when he keeps me company as I write, snoozing for hours at a time. His other best quality is that children adore him because he looks like a stuffed toy come to life, and he adores them right back.
If Leo could change one thing about New Englanders, what would it be?
Leo would ask every New Englander to feed him bananas. Why don't more New Englanders carry bananas in their pockets?
If Leo could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
How do you really feel when we use you as a Swiffer mop in the kitchen? Are you grinning because it's fun, or because it's a sort of grin-and-bear it thing you do because you love us so?
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Leo could speak, who should voice him?
Matthew McConaughey, saying, “Alright, alright, alright!”
Visit Holly Robinson's website.
The Page 69 Test: Beach Plum Island.