Who is in the photo at right?
Tessa Arlen, a historical mystery novelist (Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman), and her dog Daphne, a female, three year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Daphne is gregarious so every so often, if the weather is fair, we go downtown to Winslow to Blackbird Bakery (a lovely place to idle away an hour or two if you are ever on Bainbridge island) for a cup of tea for me and a biscuit for Daphne. We sit outside under the Strawberry Tree and say hullo to passers-by. This gives Daphne the opportunity for a little gentle flirtation with pedestrians and for them to say “Is she really a corgi – Oh she is? But she is not fat!” This is balm to Daphne’s soul – as she is a little addictive about food – and it gives me the opportunity to remind her that there are compensations for not hogging everything in sight. On one occasion Daphne managed to gently inch a cookie out of the sticky hands of a three year old – it was gone in a trice and I had to quickly congratulate the little girl, before she could scream the place down, on being so nice as to feed the doggie her treat.
Seattle has the reputation for being the coffee capital of America since Starbucks blossomed here but I prefer a blend called Big Truck, which is roasted, not burnt, and very mellow, but rich in flavor. If I drink coffee I drink a double shot espresso, with one lump of sugar, but really I am addicted to Darjeeling tea with milk and no sugar.
Any treats for you or Daphne on this occasion?
On a rare day I will treat myself to a cheese and onion scone – as Blackbird’s baked goods are spectacular. Daphne’s treat is an infinitesimal dog biscuit, or as I mentioned earlier whatever she can filch.
How were you and Daphne united?
Daphne comes from neighboring Whidbey Island. She was destined to become a show-dog because of her spectacular good looks. But however much Daphne loves people she hated the show ring. So her breeder suggested I consider her instead of a puppy. I completely fell in love with her. She has the most gentle and calm disposition and is deeply affectionate. Given the option of potty training an eight week old puppy, or taking home this gloriously well-mannered two year old girl – well there was no hesitation. She came home with us and has been the love of our lives since then.
How did Daphne get her name? Any aliases?
Daphne was called Sadie when we first met her. It was not a name I felt went well with her decorous and decorative disposition. On the way home we came up with the name Daphne. Since I write about the early 1900s in England this name seemed to just float out there and attach itself to this pretty little dog with her foxlike face and her large enquiring ears. Sometimes we call her Daphne Elizabeth Bott (because of that lovely round little tail-less bum). Sometimes we call her Daphers – usually when she is running at top speed and her ears flap, or Wing-Nut because of her lovely head. We often refer to her as the Daphnage, and our youngest daughter calls her the Duffle-Bag.
Have any Daphne-inspired dogs appeared in your fiction?
Yes. Daphne appears in a novel in progress I am writing at this moment, as the dog of a socialite in the early 1900s in England. She appears as herself.
Does Daphne do more to help or to hinder your writing?
Daphne is my writing companion; she is lying at my feet right at this moment, on her back with her legs in the air. Sometimes if I work for a long time she groans. Mostly she is quiet and supportive. Her copy-editing skills are far better than mine. Her spelling is extraordinarily accurate and her grammar exemplary. She is very kind when she corrects my work. Not even a sigh of despair.
Visit Cat, postman, squirrel...?
We have two cats. One does not look at her so Daphne is courteous enough not to notice her either. Our younger cat fancies himself a good deal and likes to encourage Daphne to chase him through the house shrieking at the top of her lungs. This is horrid behavior which we discourage. Daphne loves all humans so the postman is very welcome, as is Fed-Ex drivers both fast and slow; the UPS lady is a huge favorite and the man who fills the propane tank. Trick-or-treaters and any other riff-raff that have the energy to wander down our very long drive are greeted as old friends. Squirrels on the other hand, as well as anything small that runs, are fair game for hysterical shrieks, bounding through the woodland and the undergrowth and behaving like a hoyden – this behavior is ignored. After all we all have to have a bit of fun sometimes.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
She simply does not understand the concept of retrieving! Neither, when we first got her did she play – which we thought might be due to early potty training. Now she has two favorite things: a squeak toy in the shape of a bee with wings – this she loves to torture … and a bit of antler that she stole from my daughter’s dog. She likes it when we hide these things and she can find them – it’s her inner thief emerging.
Does Daphne have a favorite place to go for outings?
A walk is a delight to her – and we live amidst woodland, little lakes and the Puget Sound shore line – so we do a lot of walking. She also loves car rides.
Who is Daphne's best pet-pal?
Really she is not interested in other dogs. She tolerates them with amusement and only does a little lip curl if there is too much bottom sniffing. She does rather like our outgoing cat. But that’s it.
What is Daphne's best quality?
In her own quiet way she is rather a squiffy little creature. She is a wonderful greeter. When we come home she races for us with such delight, and if we don’t take the proper amount of time to bend down and say hullo, she runs backwards in front of us yodeling until we respond more enthusiastically. She greets everyone who comes to the house with great charm – she should train greeters for Wal-Mart.
If Daphne could change one thing about Washingtonians, what would it be?
Their obsession with wearing fleece, gym shoes and jeans as a sort of uniform. As an ex-show dog Daphne is very conscious of her good looks and her appearance. She likes to be washed and brushed and have her nose wiped and her face washed. So she can’t understand why everyone on the island runs around as if they are off to the gym or as if it never stops raining here. So unattractive!
If Daphne could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?
I know it was hard to be part of a herd of ten corgis and spend hours in a crate waiting to go into a show ring. But will you ever get over it, do you think? Would therapy help speed up recovery so we can put you in a crate when we travel long distances?
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Daphne could speak, who should voice her?
Oh this is so hard. Well of course it would have to be someone English – with a soft yet clear voice. Kate Winslet has a lovely voice, it is smooth, rounded and has vivacity – or perhaps Emily Blunt as she was in The Young Victoria, but not as she was in The Devil Wears Prada – though Daphne would look very nice in Prada.
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.
The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.
My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.