Who is in the photo at right?
That's our formal family portrait, left to right, Jalepenio Kacydilla (Kacy), J.M. Hayes (me), and Allielujah (Allie). Kacy is six, Allie, five. I'm a little older and I write mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. The girls are both German Shepherds. I'm of Anglo-Irish descent with a little Neanderthal DNA.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
We're celebrating the book launch for The Spirit and the Skull, a stand-alone novel set 15,000 years ago during a migration across Alaska into the New World. It's my eighth novel.
Actually, the only one in our house who drinks coffee is my wife, Barbara. She brews a French roast, boiling the water and pouring it through a single cup size filter container when she can't get to her favorite Tucson coffee shops, Le Buzz and Raging Sage.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
Kacy and Allie get treats almost every day. On special days like this, they get vanilla ice cream.
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
They were pre-named by the the breeder, though Allie was Alena and we modified that a little. We added the fancy parts. Kacy is also Kacy Ann. Allie is sometimes addressed as Alliegator, perhaps in honor of the door she once chewed through, or Baby Al.
How were you and your dogs united?
Not long after losing a truly special German Shepherd, correctly named Phi Beta Kimba, we tried to recreate the experience by purchasing from a breeder of outstanding obedience dogs. The girls were air freighted from the state of Washington. Kacy arrived, calm and ready to play. Allie was yelping loudly enough to be heard all over the Tucson airport. She's still an expert yelper when she's excited, and she often is excited.
How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?
They're actually very patient with me when I'm at my computer. One or both often lie at my feet or go for the cushier feel of my office sofa. But when it's time to play or get fed, they let me know. Both have amazing internal clocks.
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?
When I was twelve, I got to pick my first dog. I chose a white German Shepherd—Sherry. We'd had great dogs, but she was so smart and bonded so completely with our family that I've almost always had German Shepherds ever since. All of them have been astounding friends and companions, though not always so clever or so attached. I used Sherry, and some of the dogs who've followed her in my life, as models for a rescue wolf-hybrid named Hailey. Hailey played an important role in the last five entries of my Mad Dog & Englishman series. She's a wolf-hybrid because Mad Dog is a born-again Cheyenne and a wannabe shaman. Sadly, the only wolf-hybrid I really knew was a poor match for his urban environment. There is a difference between wolves and domesticated dogs. Close relationships between wolves and humans require lots of special accommodations.
Squirrel, postman, cat....?
Whatever you've got. We don't get many squirrels in central Tucson, but the girls get very upset when postal people come to our door. Or when cats are visible anywhere. Kacy has a thing about birds, especially raptors or mockingbirds. Both girls love to chase lizards.
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
Each other. At the moment we don't have play dates with other dogs regularly. But the girls are both looking forward to a visit from a six-year-old human who'll be arriving soon. His name is Nikita. He and they do a fantastic job of entertaining each other.
What is each dog's best quality?
Kacy is our guardian. She's the boss of our house. Probably of my wife and me, too, though she's an amazing performer in obedience. Both girls finished their training at the top of their class. Allie with an even higher score, though she yips and whines with excitement as she performs. She's the puppy, the little girl who never gets enough play except when it's actually play time and she forgets where she's dropped her ball while she was checking on some bird or lizard. Kacy prefers frizbees, including for protection work. When something in the neighborhood bothers her, she'll grab a frizbee and savage it. If I were a bad guy, I'd be terrified of bringing a frizbee to our yard.
If your dogs could change one thing about Arizonans, what would it be?
They'd probably make our legislature fund children's education and poverty programs so the average kid in Arizona learns and eats as well as Kacy and Allie do.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
Not that they're available, but I think Elke Sommer at the height of her career would be ideal for our German beauty, Kacy. Allie would sound more like a young and precocious Shirley Temple.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
Is there anything you want or need you're not getting?
Visit The Words & Worlds of J.M. Hayes website.
The Page 69 Test: The Spirit and the Skull.
Writers Read: J. M. Hayes.
My Book, The Movie: The Spirit and the Skull.