Who is in the photo at right?
I’m Tracy Barrett, a writer, knitter, animal lover, former college professor. Peering over my shoulder is Pericles, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He was just six weeks old in that picture and he liked to climb up behind my neck to snooze. At the advanced age of three months, he’d probably still do it if he could—he’s very cuddly!
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
My twentieth book (and tenth novel) for young readers was published just a few weeks ago! It’s a young-adult novel called The Stepsister’s Tale, and it shows a different side of Cinderella and her stepfamily. The publisher is Harlequin Teen.
I’ve been drinking Peet’s coffee ever since I lived in Berkeley, California, a few miles from the original Peet’s location. After I moved to Tennessee I used to have to mail-order Peet’s from Oakland but now I can get it in the supermarket, which is a thrill! I like their new medium roasts but I sometimes drink dark roast. I drink it black. I have to stop around 3:00 in the afternoon if I want to sleep.
Any treats for you or Pericles on this occasion?
Pericles gets lots of treats because he’s finally getting the hang of housebreaking. Each successful attempt earns him a dog cookie!
How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?
We live in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the only full-scale replica of the Athenian Parthenon that replicates it both inside and out. My kids were always crazy about Greek myths (as was/am I!) and our animals have almost always been named after Greek mythological figures. We’ve had Psyche, Athena, Penny (for Odysseus’ wife, Penelope), Jason, and Purrsephone. This time we decided to honor the leader of Athens under whose rule the Parthenon was built. We were going to call him Perry but the absurdity of the dignified “Pericles” for a goofy puppy was a fun contrast, so he gets the honor of the full name. Although most often we call him “Stop it!”
How were you and Pericles united?
We bought Pericles from a breeder in Nashville who raises the puppies in his home and lavishes them with love.
How does Pericles help--or hinder--your writing?
The biggest hindrance right now is that I like to write while walking (very slowly) at a treadmill desk. Pericles goes nuts and attacks the belt and I’m afraid his long ears will get tangled up in it! If I close him out he scratches on the door and drives me nuts. So until he’s a little calmer I have to write sitting, which I don’t like!
Are there any dogs in your fiction that were inspired by your real-life dogs?
I have dogs in most of my books. The Stepsister’s Tale has a farm dog named Betsy (and her puppies); in Dark of the Moon, a retelling of the Minotaur myth, Theseus has a dog that I picture as some kind of borzoi-like breed (when he was a boy he also had a cat, which was an exotic Egyptian creature to a Greek of those days); and a dog named Argos plays a role in King of Ithaka, my Odyssey retelling.
Squirrel, postman, cat....?
We got a rescue kitten a few weeks after acquiring Pericles. Her name is Izzie, since as soon as I let her out of her carrier she leaped up next to the fireplace, where she sat like Cinderella. Since the Cinderella character in The Stepsister’s Tale is named Isabella, that became the cat’s name too. She and Pericles play together a lot—the poor kitty’s head is usually soggy with dog spit!
Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?
Ball. He’s a natural at fetch. We got some tiny tennis balls for him and from the first time one was tossed he ran after it, brought it back, and dropped it at my feet. After the Jack Russells we had for years, who guarded their toys like you were a thief, this was so easy!
Who is Pericles’s best pet-pal?
He adores Izzie. As I was writing this I heard her purring and turned around to see this [photo right].
What is Pericles's best quality?
He’s very adaptable. If the weather isn’t good for a walk, he’ll happily chill at home. If it’s a nice day, he’ll happily walk for a long way. Anything goes! He likes everyone and is convinced that everyone loves him.
If Pericles could change one thing about Tennesseans, what would it be?
There would be no such thing as an “outside dog.” All dogs would be part of the family.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Pericles could speak, which actor should do his voice?
The kid who voiced Charlie Brown in the Peanuts cartoons.
If Pericles could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
How do you manage to untie double-knotted shoelaces using only your teeth?
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