Who is in the photo at right?
I'm Kari Neumeyer, author of Bark and Lunge and the dog blog Rhymes with Safari. I live in Bellingham, Washington, with my boyfriend Rob and our dogs Leo and Mia, both German shepherds. We've had Leo since he was a puppy and he's almost five. We got Mia when Leo was a year old, and we think she's ten.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
We're warming up after a walk because it's cold outside!
I got some Starbucks giftcards for Christmas, so I could get a peppermint mocha or a green tea latte there, but to be honest, my favorite hot beverage comes out of those cappuccino machines in gas station quickie-marts. They must be loaded with sugar and have little to do with real coffee, but are so delicious.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
I always carry string cheese in my hand for Leo, because he's leash-reactive. When he fixates on a person, or if a bicycle or another dog comes near us, I say "cheesy cheesy" and he nibbles the cheese from my hand instead of barking. Also, my boyfriend Rob will slip the dogs a bite of whatever he's having. After picking up my gas station coffee, we'll drive through McDonalds and he'll share his fries with them.
[photo left: Mia]
How did Leo and Mia get their names? Any aliases?
We spent a long time coming up with Leo's name. We already had a German shepherd named Isis, after the Egyptian goddess, and wanted a name that went with that, but couldn't agree on a single Egyptian, Greek, Roman, or Indian god's name. Finally we decided on Leonidas, shortened to Leo. He's also Leo Bug, Buggie, Buggo and The Bug. Mia came to us already named. We knew nothing of her history but her name, and she clearly responded to it. She's also Mia Bear, Mimi B, BB, Bearski, Meezy, Meems, and The Bear.
How were you and your dogs united?
We interviewed a lot of puppies before we met Leo. He was hanging out under a porch with his siblings and was the roly-poliest of the group. After Isis died, Rob's sister heard about a female German shepherd whose owners had moved away and left her with a neighbor. I can't imagine how anyone could leave Mia behind. We were having a really hard time dealing with Isis's death, and Leo, at one year old, was extremely bratty. Mia restored the balance in our home and gave Leo ankles to nip that weren't ours.
[photo right: Kari & Leo]
Please tell us about your book, Bark and Lunge.
Bark and Lunge is the story of all the mistakes I made training Isis. Rob and I tried to do everything right, but ended up following a lot of bad advice. She became very reactive and ended up biting someone. Eventually we learned about force-free training that helped undo some of our mistakes. The book is a tribute to her.
How do Leo and Mia help--or hinder--your writing?
Sometimes they whine or nudge me when I'm sitting at the laptop, but really, they're my muses, so if they're bored, I know I should close the computer and take them on a walk. I do some of my best thinking on our walks, and have come up with a lot of ideas while out with my pups.
Cat, postman, squirrel....?
The postman is terrified of my dogs. He doesn't like to get out of the mail truck to leave a package on our doorstep, which I think means he's in the wrong business. My dogs don't care about him at all. But squirrels? Yes! Mia is pretty mild-mannered and non-reactive, but she will strain against her leash to get near a squirrel.
Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?
We have a field off the beaten path near our house. I call it the Crime Scene Field because I feel like an FBI agent with search dogs when we're out there. We let the dogs off leash and that's where Leo finally figured out how to fetch. Mia likes to chomp on a rubber ball and won't give it up for anything. For the longest time, Leo was fetch-challenged. He's no retriever. He might run after a tennis ball, but he'd drop it halfway back to us, or forget to pick it up all together. In the last few weeks though, he's started bringing the ball all the way back. We're very proud. (I wrote about the Crime Scene Field here.)
Who are Leo and Mia's best pet-pals?
Each other. They've had a few nasty fights, but for the most part they are best buddies. Whenever they spend time apart, like when Mia gets to go to work with me, they're always so happy to be reunited.
What is each dog's best quality?
Leo is pure loyalty. He'd be a great companion in a post-apocalyptic world. He'd never leave me. Well, he might run off to chase after a squirrel or something, but he'd definitely come back. Mia is loyal too of course, but what I appreciate about her most is that I can take her anywhere. She squeaks and whines a bit in a new place, and I have to take her with me into the bathroom, because otherwise she'll cry outside the door. But she's completely trustworthy and doesn't bark and lunge at anyone.
If Leo and Mia could change one thing about Washingtonians, what would it be?
Leo says definitely the bicycles. I mean, it's great that so many people get exercise and choose an eco-friendly method of commuting, but it's really hard to walk anywhere around here without having a bicycle whiz by. They're harder to avoid than pedestrians and other dogs on leashes, because they move so fast. They startle and frighten Leo, so he barks and lunges at them. Mia thinks dogs should be allowed to go everywhere, like restaurants and movie theaters and public restrooms. That's not really Washingtonians' fault though.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
When I do Leo's voice, it's very high-pitched and childish. He's also very bratty, so I think a good choice would be Bobb'e J. Thompson, who played Ronnie in Role Models and also Tracy Jr. on 30 Rock. Meryl Streep can play Mia, and Anna Kendrick can play Isis.
If Leo and Mia could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
We're dying to know about Mia's life before we met her, so we'd ask her about that. Leo looks at us with a blank stare a lot, so we're always asking him, "What's going through your mind?"
What advice would your dogs give if asked?
A little dog hair on your clothes or in your food never hurt anyone.
Learn more about Bark and Lunge and visit the Rhymes with Safari dog blog.