Who is in the photo at right?
My name is Jeff Bauer, an ardent dog lover, part-time writer and volunteer pilot for Pilots N Paws.
My wife, Jacki, and I share our lives with five (count ‘em - five) Chihuahuas - Bear (male, 6), Sadie (female, 7), Snickers (male, 5), Poncho (male, 4) and Melinda (female, 12+). Snickers is the dog in the photo to the right, looking up at me with the sun behind him.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
I’ve written two novels about scuba diving. Actually about cave diving, which is going underwater and underground at the same time. Not for the claustrophobic and something even only a tiny number of scuba divers even attempt. I couldn’t resist putting Bear, my black 12 lb Chihuahua, as a character in both. He even rescues the protagonist in the second one. I suppose having a chihuahua constantly on my lap (Poncho’s on my lap right now) while slamming out these novels over the past three years inspired me to write my third novel with a dog as one of the two main characters. Thus my just-self-published novel, Sadie Sapiens was borne, inspired by the real-life Sadie (often in the prime lap position).
I’m quaffing a nice breakfast blend, freshly ground, from a local roaster named Lucky Goat. The dogs’ nostrils quiver when the grinder fires up but that’s the extent of their interest in coffee.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
They’ll get a ride in the car after a couple of hours of me hammering away at the keyboard, working on Sadie’s sequel. Job could learn lessons on patience from these dark-eyed beauties. They do love their rides.
[photo left: Jacki with Bear, Snickers, Poncho and Melinda]
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
We used an uncreative method of laziness and obviousness when naming our dogs. They didn’t seem to care. Bear looks like a miniature black bear when we picked him up from his litter as a rescue; thus his name. Sadie came to us via owner surrender and was already comfy with that name. Same with Poncho, the three-legged rescue. Snickers actually looks like a snickers bar come to life in a canine body and Melinda got her name at the shelter after coming in as a found dog with no owner to claim her.
How were you and your dogs united?
Two (Bear and Snickers) were from the same trailer park litter, skinny, flea bitten and ready to bond. Sadie came from a wonderful young couple who “upgraded” to a human litter. The other two, Poncho and Melinda, popped up out of the woodwork of the local animal shelter during one of our volunteer stints.
How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?
I love having a small dog on my lap while writing, although sometimes when they shift for comfort I have trouble reaching the mouse. Sometimes they vie for the coveted lap position, other times they jump up in single file, as if they’ve worked out the day’s sitting order in advance secretly amongst themselves. I actually have a second chair with a dog bed in it bumped up against mine, usually with one or two dogs curled up in them. The others are nearby, napping in beds on the tile. They want to be near me while I, to them, appear mesmerized by the funny glowing wall of white light with black letters on them. I want them nearby, too. Some of the best characters and plots come from walking, watching or just being with them.
[photo right: Bear at the table, Sadie on the floor]
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?
More than I initially thought. I wrote Bear into my first two books as just a plain dog, one with great manners, superb intuition and cleaner than real life. Easy to do in fiction. I even gave him more action in the second where he rescues the human protagonist by finding him through his sense of smell, lost deep in the woods. I made the leap of doggy faith with Sadie Sapiens, where I transform my sweet little girl into a dog that learns to communicate with her teenage girl “owner” and put her through all sorts of doggy trials and tribulations. Boy, was that fun.
Squirrel, postman, cat....?
Chihuahuas aren’t going to run down and kill anything, at least not that we’ve seen yet. Bear did find a tiny shrew one day but didn’t know what to do with it, which was cute. He just watched as I gently caught it and released it over the back yard fence. They’ll chase a squirrel or bird out of the back yard but we consider them to be potential targets by larger predators, like hawks or owls. Bear’d give them a run for their money but 3 pound Sadie needs to be protected. Where they really shine is in barking at strangers that come to the door. Five chihuahuas in full-bark mode can scare away any human or animal predator. Most of the time, though, they don’t bark as much as you’d think, given the penchant for barking by this breed. I suspect we’re labeled the crazy dog people house by our neighbors, but so far no hoarders reality TV show crew has shown up yet -- our dogs would let us know if they did.
[photo left: Melinda at the beach]
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
Me and my wife, Jacki. They have each other as well. Poncho’s the social glue that all of them interact with. Losing a leg due to multiple breaks that didn’t heal right early in life didn’t slow him down physically or emotionally. What a great little tripod trooper.
What is each dog's best quality?
Bear’s a big black cream puff with the softest fur and cleanest dog smell ever. Sadie has “cute and composed” down to a T. Snicker’s the little worrier and loves his (and our) food. Poncho’s the happiest and most carefree with absolutely gorgeous teeth and eyes and Melinda is the crotchety old lady with a big bark and bigger heart.
If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?
I’m sure they’d want me to write less and drive more. More impressive is how they change me to be more patient and grateful that my wife and I get to share our lives with them.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
Snickers - Steve Buscemi, Sadie - Scarlett Johansson, Bear - Bear Grylls (naturally), Poncho - Neil deGrasse Tyson and Melinda - Judi Dench.
Of course my dogs would want the option to use their own voices, if Hollywood would allow and people could understand them.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
Why do you love me so much?
Visit Jeff Bauer's website and Facebook page.