Who is in the photo at right?
I’m Janet Kellough and I write The Thaddeus Lewis Mysteries, a series based on mid-19th century Canadian history, the latest of which, The Burying Ground, will be released next year. With me are Joe, the more-or-less Boxer and Smidgen, the Blue Heeler –Something Else Australian cross. They’re both shelter dogs, so we don’t know for sure how old they are, but we figure seven or eight.
What’s the occasion for Coffee With a Canine?
Joe and Smidgey patrol the area around the house while I’m writing, but we all spend a lot of time outside. I have 50 acres in Prince Edward County, an island community on the north shore of Lake Ontario. We’re very rural, so there’s always lots to do, and when we’ve finished our work for the day we have a coffee on the veranda if the weather permits. Nothing fancy – just plain old coffee and water from the more-or-less bottomless pot.
How were you and your dogs united?
I had, sadly, reached the end of a dog cycle – the last old guy of the previous contingent died at the ripe old age of 14. But for me, home isn’t home unless it smells like wet dog, so after a few months I was ready for someone new. I like shepherding dogs so I went to a shelter that specializes in finding homes for Australian breeds – they’re super-intelligent and need lots to do, so sometimes it’s hard to place them. I knew I wanted Smidgen right away, but while there I realized that she was best buds with a woebegone boxer who had ended up at the shelter too. I didn’t know anything about boxers, but couldn’t bear to part them, so they both came home with me.
How did your dogs get their names?
Smidgen’s shelter name was “Midgey”, which I morphed into “Smidgey” because she’s such a little smidgen of a shepherd. Joe was already Joe and it just seemed to fit him. They have many other names, depending on the circumstances. Smidgey particularly loves being called “Sweetie Pie”.
Who are your dogs best pet-pals?
They sometimes play with their Golden Retriever friend Lola, but Joe and Smidgey really are each other’s best friend. They are always together. They spend a lot of time grooming each other. And on cold winter nights, they sleep curled up together in front of the woodstove.
How do your dogs help your writing?
While I’m lost in a world of my own making I count on them to let me know what’s happening in the real one – if the coyotes are too close, or the wild turkeys are ambling down the laneway again, and especially if a courier truck has arrived. (Some of the drivers have dog biscuits!!!!) One of the lovely things we do nearly every morning is walk down our country road. When it’s not tourist season only local traffic goes by, and people wave or honk, or sometimes pull their cars over for a chat. It’s one of those things that helps make our country township a real neighbourhood, and it puts me in a good mood before I start work.
What is each dog’s best quality?
Smidgey takes her job very seriously and supervises everything. I sometimes think she would like a clipboard and a whistle to help her organize everybody. Joe is a lot more impulsive, but he can be counted on to back her up. Unless it’s something really scary. But he’s the original King of Smoosh. He loves being hugged.
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?
I don’t like to put dogs in my stories, in case I end up in a plot corner and have to make something bad happen. I’ll bump (fictional) people off at the drop of a hat, but having something terrible happen to a dog is just way too upsetting! Even if it’s make-believe.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
You remember why we don’t go near skunks, right?
Visit Janet Kellough's website.