Thursday, January 8, 2015

Michelle Wing & Ripley

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Michelle Wing, a poet and writer. Ripley, my service dog, is a yellow English Labrador. She is nine years old. I also keep a blog about life with a service dog at Canine Bodhisattva. We live in Cloverdale, California, which is in Northern Sonoma County.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We stopped at Plank, our favorite coffee shop in Cloverdale, after going to the library. The library wanted to purchase a copy of my recently-released book, Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence.

What's brewing?

Soy latte, in my favorite big red bowl mug.

Any treats for you or Ripley on this occasion?

Ripley always gets a peanut butter dog biscuit. We purchase it at the counter, then step outside to the sidewalk so she can eat it – no eating in restaurants/cafes for service dogs.

How did Ripley get her name? Any nicknames?

Ripley’s namesake is Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien science fiction movies. When I got her, I was in need of a kick-ass heroine in my life. I get teased about the name because she’s such a gentle spirit. But one of her jobs (which she does very well) is to wake me at night when I’m having nightmares. So she literary chases away the bad guys.

As a nickname, usually Ripley-dipley-doo, which gets shortened to Doodle.

[photo left: Dog Latte: Plank barista Steve's portrait of Ripley.]

How were you and Ripley united?

My wife Sabrina gave Ripley to me as a eight-week-old puppy, when we first moved in together. Originally Ripley was simply a companion animal. Then when I began having health issues, we trained together so she could become my service dog.

Does Ripley do more to help or hinder your writing?

When I am at my computer, Ripley is always lying just to my left, keeping me company. And she’s a huge performance hound. We go to a lot of public venues, open mics, readings, etc., so Ripley is often up on stage with me. She simply loves applause, and thinks it’s all for her.

Who is Ripley's best pet-pal?

Ripley shares her house with two other dogs and seven cats. She’s probably most fond of Malaki, our three-year-old pit cross. But she doesn’t really “play” with other animals. When she’s off-duty, she likes to just chill.

[photo right: Michelle ordering coffee at Plank, with an attentive Ripley, waiting for her peanut butter biscuit.]

Where is Ripley's favorite outdoor destination?

She loves to go to the Russian River under the bridge by Cloverdale to wade in the water.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Squeaky toy. But only on vacation.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Raccoons and an annoying fox! The only things that make her bark at the house.

What is Ripley's best quality?

She is true-blue loyal. Ripley is literally with me 24 hours a day, and she takes her job seriously.

If Ripley could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

It would be their cluelessness about working dogs. People always come up and start petting her, and she looks up at me as if to say, “Mom? Can you make them stop? I’m trying to concentrate.”

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

Hilary Swank.

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

Ripley is my first service dog, and I’ve been told that service dogs usually retire when they are about ten years old. I’d like to ask when she’d like to retire. It’s incredibly hard to imagine replacing her; obviously, she’ll still live with us. But I don’t want her to feel pushed out of the job before she is ready.

Visit the Canine Bodhisattva blog and Michelle Wing's website.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. It's easy to see in this conversation and on your blog how much you and Ripley care for each other, and I hope you have many happy and healthy years together.


  2. It's always a pleasure to learn more about Wonder Dog Ripley!

  3. Thanks, everyone! Ripley and I had a great time having Coffee with a Canine, and so appreciate this opportunity to get to know all of you, too!