Monday, May 4, 2015

Anica Mrose Rissi & Arugula

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Anica Mrose Rissi—writer, storyteller, and editrix—and that’s my dog, Arugula. She’s a long-legged hound mutt with a nose for mischief. She’s about seven years old but still acts like a puppy, especially when she’s off-leash in the park near our apartment in Brooklyn, or bounding through the woods in Princeton, NJ (the other place we call home).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s Sunbeam Time on the couch, which is our favorite time of day to be there for cuddles, dog naps, or writing (or all three).

And today we’re celebrating the release of my first book, Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split.

What's brewing?

Neither of us is a big coffee drinker, so it’s water for Rooga and Two Leaves and a Bud Organic Mountain High Chai with whole milk for me. My writing is fueled by several cups of tea per day. Like my dog, I am a fan of routine, and the ritual of preparing the tea helps prepare my brain for writing.

Any treats for you or Arugula on this occasion?

She certainly looks [photo left] like she’s hoping I will pour her some of the milk. (I might.)

How were you and Rooga united?

About six-and-a-half years ago, I was on my way to catch a train to go visit my parents, when I walked past an animal shelter adoption bus that was parked on my street. There she was, in the center window, wiggly and adorable and destined to be mine. I called my parents and said, “I’m going to be late. I’m adopting a dog.”

“Bad idea,” my father said. “Call us when you know what train you’ll be on.”

She’s the very best bad idea I’ve ever had.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

It was a spur-of-the-moment adoption, so Arugula Badidea Rissi was a spur-of-the-moment name that just seemed to fit. As an energetic puppy, she was mostly called Roogie, but she grew into a (slightly) calmer, very sweet Rooga. She also goes by Roogs, Roo, Booga, Roogaboo, and Badidea, her middle name, which I chose in honor of my dad.

Does Rooga do more to help or hinder your writing?

My advice to all writers at any stage of their career is: Get a dog. Roogs is invaluable to my writing process. She gets me out of my chair for regular walks, which are vital to good brainstorming. She reminds me that it’s important to eat, even while on deadline, and offers to share my snacks if I’m eating too much.

She provides companionship and moral support through the long, lonely process of writing, revising, and revising some more. And she gives me something to tweet about other than snacks and books.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?

Yes! My debut chapter-book series, which launches this week with Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split, follows a girl named Anna as she navigates the ups and downs of elementary-school best friendships with a little help from her wiener dog, Banana. Although Banana is a one-year-old dachshund and Arugula is a seven-year-old, long-legged, hound-and-who-knows-what-else mix, they have several traits in common, from their expressive ears and playful personalities to their love of rolling in stinky things. Anna and Banana share a level of devotion and attachment that mirrors my relationship with Arugula, for sure.

Rooga isn’t the only dog who inspired characters or scenes in the Anna, Banana series. Book four, Anna, Banana, and the Puppy Parade (which isn’t out until January 2016, but publishing schedules are such that I recently handed in the final draft), is the doggiest Anna, Banana book yet, and all three of the dogs I grew up with make cameo appearances in pivotal scenes. Arugula takes part in the puppy parade too!

Cat, postman, squirrel…?


Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Yes, please! If it’s a toy of any kind, Rooga wants to chase, chew, and play with it.

Who is Rooga's best pet-pal?

She loves visiting her cousin, Schnippy, my parents’ dog, whom I also named. (Schnippy is short for Schnipp Schnapp, a card game I used to play with my Swiss grandparents.) Schnippy is getting old now, but when the two of them get together, it’s all perked ears and happy tails, and as much bouncing and tug-of-war as Rooga can convince Schnipp to play.

What is Rooga's best quality?

Her energy and enthusiasm for life and love—and her ability to drop everything and nap.

If Rooga could change one thing about Brooklynites, what would it be?

If Roogs were appointed Supreme Ruler of Brooklyn, the third thing she’d do (after declaring all hours to be off-leash hours at the park, and commanding the minions to feed her cheese) would be to ban skateboards and scooters. Rooga hates skateboarders. Humans are not meant to glide like that, and the sound of those wheels on pavement drives her nuts.

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

Roo is a good communicator and we understand each other well, even without words. I’m very happy with my dog being a dog, so I almost never wish she could speak. But whenever she’s not feeling well, I desperately wish she could answer the question, “What’s wrong?”

What advice would Rooga give if asked?

Even when I don’t ask for it, Arugula gives lots of advice. Things like, “You should give me your cheese,” and “We should stay in the park all morning,” and “I think you’d like tugging on this rope bone with me.” Right now she’s saying, “You ought to stop typing and start rubbing my belly.” Arugula Badidea is full of good ideas.

Visit Anica Mrose Rissi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Arugula being somewhat of a dietary joke around here, we had a good laugh at that name!

  2. I could not agree more with your advice to writers regardless of the phase of writing: "Get a dog!" Or even better, get 2 dogs as I am in hoping to do in the not too distant future!

  3. Rooga, you sound like a very wise girl! If you are ever in South Dakota, let me know. I'd love to go chase squirrels with you. Woofs from Gage

    P.S. My mommy says you have a German Shepherd's tail. I on the other hand am a real English gentleman and don't check out girls' tails uninvited.