Who is in the photo at right?
I'm Kris Calvin, a former local elected official and now a political mystery writer—my debut novel, One Murder More, is now out from Inkshares.
With me is the lovely Lily, a two-year-old mixed breed rescue (mostly cattle dog/blue heeler).
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Lily and I like to end our morning walk with a little peaceful time in my front garden.
Light roast coffee, with a splash of almond milk. Today it's Peet's Columbia Luminosa.
Any treats for you or Lily on this occasion?
Cheddar jalapeno scone for me (from Lester Farms Bakery in Winters, California, unbelievably good) and peanut butter dog treats for Lily.
How were you and Lily united?
For more than a month, Lilly was reported by nearby residents as running loose in a field outside Sacramento. She was extremely skittish, and each time Animal Control showed up she would take off at breakneck speed—no one could catch her. They finally succeeded by using a self-closing trap left overnight, with bacon as bait.
My son and I met Lily a few weeks later at an adoption fair. At under 20 pounds and timid she wouldn't have been my first choice—I've always thought of myself as a "big dog", "happy-to-see-you dog" person. But within minutes of their meeting my son was certain Lily was the dog for us. He's not prone to snap judgments, so I had to believe there was something special happening.
How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?
Lily was so frightened of everything when she first came home with us that we figured her true personality had yet to show itself, and we were hesitant to select a name when we didn't really know her. So for a week we referred to her only as "Dog". In the end, a friend suggested "Violet" or "Lily", and Lily was the name that stuck. Now I couldn't imagine calling her anything else, it's always " Lily", never "Lil'".
Does Lily do more to help or hinder your writing?
Lily has a need for structure and a set schedule. If I don't feed her first thing in the morning and then take her for a long walk, she paces nervously and her anxiety makes it difficult for me to even think about writing. So there are definitely days when I get out of bed with an idea and a desire to go right to my desk, but Lily has to come first. That can be frustrating. But I almost always find that once I'm outside and walking with her, my good idea gets better.
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?
Camper [photo right], our family's beloved lab-pit bull, was alive when I started writing One Murder More. Two years ago, at age 16 she passed peacefully in her sleep, while the novel was in process. I had initially given her a bit part in the book, but I think because it was so difficult to lose her and she was on my mind so much, Camper ultimately became a star member of the cast.
The one thing I had to do, though, was change Camper's gender for her expanded role. The lead human character, Maren Kane, a lobbyist who becomes an amateur sleuth, is a woman. I found it difficult to write scenes for the two of them, using the pronoun "she" and then having to do something with the phrasing to make it clear whether I was talking about Camper or Maren. In the end, it was easier to change Camper's gender in the book. (Changing Maren's gender would've been far more challenging at the point that I was at in the story.) Camper always struck me as practical and in touch with both her masculine and feminine sides, so I think she would have understood.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Lily doesn't chase anything.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
Plastic yellow squeaky toy shaped like a bone.
Who is Lily's best pet-pal?
Lily was terrified of our cat, Nigel [with Lily, left], for the first month, during which time I renamed Nigel "Dr. Doom" because just Nigel's "menacing" appearance in a room would send Lily under the bed or into a corner. But as my more animal-savvy friends predicted, the two are now best buddies, and are rarely more than a few feet apart from one another, awake or asleep.
What is Lily's best quality?
Courage. Whatever it was that she endured that made her so frightened, Lily had the strength to survive it. And she continues to overcome her fears a little more each day. That speaks to me of an extraordinary reservoir of bravery.
If Lily could change one thing about you, what would it be?
I am moderately allergic to both cats and dogs, but canine and feline companions are so important to my children that I've found myself always part of a pet household. So long as I don't pet them (which I gather releases their dander) I do pretty well. Lily would love to change that about me so that I could pet her. But my kids and friends see that she gets tactile love, and I talk to her a lot, walk with her and try to show her in every other way how important she is to me.
If Lily could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?
"What happened to make you so frightened?" I guess it doesn't matter, she's here with us now and safe, but it's hard not knowing.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Lily could speak, who should voice her?
Lucy Loken, age 16, is a wonderfully talented young actress. Lily should be voiced by someone with depth, who can present her quiet courage. Ms. Loken could do that.
What advice would Lily give if asked?
"Take nothing for granted, a good life is a gift."
Visit Kris Calvin's website and follow her on Twitter.
Photo credits: Eileen Rendahl.