Who is in the photo at right?
Here we are doing what we do best together—leaping off hay bales on our land in Montana, having fun. I’m Molly Caro May and I teach place-based writing workshop around the country. My debut memoir The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place also hit bookstores in March 2014. This is Bru. He’s a boy, or “big man” as I call him; he’s almost six; he’s a mutt: Great Dane, Mastiff, Hound, we think.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
There is a hot beverage brewing in the background here. It’s about 100 yards away in our yurt. No need for a formal occasion because we are together most of the time.
I don’t do coffee. Never have liked the taste. So we are drinking a ginger tea here. Raw ginger sliced. Hot water poured over it. Bru isn’t on board with ginger yet. It makes him peel his lips back.
Any treats for you or Bru on this occasion?
He does appreciate the whites of a soft-boiled egg.
How were you and Bru united?
I found Bru at the Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter. Didn’t intend to come home with a dog. But he was there, stretching in this small cage. All the other dogs were hyper. He gave me one loud deep bark and then eye-d me. I felt like we were having a conversation and I knew he needed a place to run. We lived on 107 acres. He seemed to deserve that sort of vastness. It took me one night to convince my husband that this was our dog. We had wanted to wait another six months or so, but sometimes timing isn’t a choice.
[photo left: May and Bru inside the yurt]
How did Bru get his name? Any aliases?
He was 1 ½ when we got him. He came with the name Bruno and we felt it would be strange to change his location and name all at once. I couldn’t deal with Bruno—reminded me of an Italian Mafioso. So, we shortened it to Bru. My husband jokes that his name is Brutus. But my secret name for him is Brujo, Spanish for wizard.
Does Bru do more to help or hinder your writing?
He is critical. He sits by me and gives the eye. The eye means: What exactly are you doing sitting down in front of that computer? Let’s go play. So I go play and when I’m out playing I have 5,468 ideas for whatever I was writing and I come back energized and more aware of everything.
Does Bru--or any other dog--appear in your new book?
Bru is one of the main characters. People at book signings ask me about him.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Try deer. If he sees a group of deer and they bolt, especially if it’s spring and the smells are rising up from melting snow, he’s gone. He’ll be gone for hours. Once two women with a horse trailer picked him up; then a man found him crossing a busy road near Kmart in town a month later. We’ve found him hanging around in the ditch, so thrilled by his adventure he ignores our calls. He comes back with snags from barbed wire fences. We tried a shock collar once, but I could never bring myself to do it. Now that we have a daughter, he’s slowed down somehow. He won’t run as long or as far. We think he wants to stick around more, or feels some level of responsibility for her.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
None of the above. He has no retriever in him. He likes watching a stick fly in the air but once he runs to it, he doesn’t know what to do with it. Here again, deer antler. He’ll chew on one of those all day long. He also loves to hunt bugs.
Who is Bru's best pet-pal?
Watson (male) and Dolce (male) and Chui (female). Separate families. They have all stayed with us and Bru gets cozy, though he seems to prefer male dogs to female dogs. Loves it.
What is Bru's best quality?
His combo of exuberance and mellowness.
If Bru could change one thing about Montanans, what would it be?
He would probably say, “Please don’t be so territorial. Please let me run all over your land, even if you have sheep or cattle.” We do worry that he’ll end up on the wrong person’s land and get shot for trespassing. That seems to happen.
If Bru could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
This one is emotional for me. I was sick for almost all 10 months of my pregnancy. Bru watched me and spent a lot of time with me then. I think it scared him. We no longer went on long walks together. I was grouchy. I threw up a lot. Right before I gave birth, he had a weird autoimmune flare up and we thought we might lose him—this from a dog who had never been ill. Six months after giving birth, I was diagnosed with postpartum hypothyroidism. The exact same day, he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism too. We are both on thyroid meds for now. I hold his snout near my nose all the time and whisper, “You don’t have to take this on.” So it’s not so much a question but more of a releasing. I want him to know that he doesn’t have to mimic me. I’ve heard of how many dogs take on their owner’s illness. This is the thing about dogs. They are such feelers, such empathizers. I really believe that. I’d like Bru to be free of that.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Bru could speak, who should voice him?
Ahhh, this will take me 5 hours to figure out. I’m not good with movie star knowledge. But I could say someone with a deep voice who is playful and wise as hell.
Visit Molly Caro May's website.
The Page 99 Test: The Map of Enough.