Monday, August 25, 2014

Keith Michael & Millie

Who is in the photo at right?

The tall one smiling is Keith Michael, and the short one smiling is Millie. The tall one is sitting in deference to the short one's Pembroke Welsh Corgi stature. The tall one is an eclectic person: dance production manager/ballet choreographer/birder/photographer/writer/NYC nature walk guide. The short one is simply Millie. (Photo by Maggie Berkvist.)

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It's morning. We've just been out for our wake-up walk to our "backyard": Hudson River Park. Millie's doing a final edit on my new book Take Me to the River: A Birder's Year in the West Village. (Millie suggests, "More paragraph breaks please, so that there are more opportunities for treats. And more photographs of Me.")

What's brewing?

Even though early morning, it's already summer-steamy outside and a tall iced glass of Peet's Coffee French Roast is just right.

Any treats for you or Millie on this occasion?

Millie considers any occasion a treat-deserving one—getting her leash on, getting her leash off, barking, stopping barking, sitting by my side, sitting in her "place"—she's an equal-opportunity treat-seeker. Happy Hips Duck Breast is her favorite, though she'll accept Zuke's Mini-Naturals when an arbitrary (to her) slimming-down is imposed on her.

How did Millie get her name? Any nicknames?

Millie arrived as Millie, and after getting to know her, she did, indeed, seem Thoroughly Modern. Her name also stayed within our theme of an earlier grand dame corgi, Gracie, honoring the wit and comic genius of the brilliant Gracie Allen. Millie's most prevalent alter-egos are: Milton, for less than girlish days; Fluffy, for when she's sprinkled with tufts from shedding (we could knit a new corgi twice a year from her castoffs); and Gracie, for when our hard-wiring takes over.

How were you and Millie united?

Millie was a rescue corgi who came with "issues." David and I had hoped that with her "settling in" many of those quirks would resolve themselves. Four years later, after regular training, and oodles of affection and tolerance, her feisty impulses are curbed but far from cured. She's still a quirky dog: unshakably possessive of food, white-eyed at most touching, and fearful of nearly anything that is outside of her routine. Sigh. Still, her cuteness is winning.

You're an avid birder: is Millie more of a help or hindrance in that endeavor?

On our walks in the neighborhood (my West Village Bird List is up to a back-patting 99 species!), since I'm looking up for the birds, and she's looking down for a snack from the street, there's not much conflict. Though if I stop too long, the pull of her leash on my binocular- or camera-holding hand can be challenging, or if I stop too long talking to someone who has just crossed the street gushing, "Hey, are you the guy that writes those birding articles in WestView? It's the first thing I read when I get the paper. And is this Millie?" then conversation-drowning barking ensues. Still, she is my writing muse; the hook of my monthly articles is reporting on the avian sightings around the blocks I walk with Millie—while she gets to be her crabby treat-seeking self.

Where is Millie's favorite outdoor destination?

Definitely to walk along the piers of the Hudson River at sunset.

Who is Millie's best pet-pal?

See the "Cat, postman, squirrel…?" answer below.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Fetch to her is a foreign language. The intellectual pursuit of helping with choreography is more her m├ętier.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

The exterminator in the apartment means that she has to leave until he's finished—though if they meet outside, then they're best friends. Any dog from the building passing by her door is akin to dropping the gauntlet—though outside, these same canines can be met with guarded curiosity (or not). And going to the vet! Yikes.

What is Millie's best quality?

Contrary to her corgi breeding as a herding dog, she actually likes a very quiet life with a dependable routine, and her inscrutability is a charmed blend of mystery and, luckily, hilarity. Oh, and did I mention that she was cute?

If Millie could change one thing about New Yorkers, what would it be?

"Please, throw more chicken bones into the street!"

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Millie could speak, which actor should do her voice?

Debbie Reynolds, of course.

If Millie could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

What was your life like before I met you (please answer in no less than Henry Jamesian detail)?

Visit Keith Michael's website for more information about his books, photographs or New York City WILD! Nature Walks.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Nice to meet you, Millie. Lady Caroline

  2. Millie is cute for sure! She sounds like my two, they do nothing for free.