Please tell us about you and your dogs.
I’m Bill Vaughn, a writer and a graphic designer. My latest book is a cultural, political and natural history of a tree, called Hawthorn, from Yale University Press. My articles have appeared in such publications as Outside and The Men's Journal and in anthologies such as The Best American Magazine Writing 2001, Outside 25, and Dog Is My Co-Pilot. My essay about ice skating was nominated for a National Magazine Award. I wrote Hip Hop Hares, First, A Little Chee-Chee and the upcoming novel, Making Bones. My essay about becoming a middle-aged Eagle Scout was optioned by Endeavor as the basis for a screenplay written for Adam Sandler, and again by New Line Cinema. Following my attempt to wreck the filming of the first season of the CBS reality series Survivor, my online columns about the first and second seasons were widely read.
Our dogs are named Hanna and Zoe. They’re three and four years old, purebred female Border collies.
[photo right: The dogs playing Big Ball. Hanna is on the left, Zoe on the right.]
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
This is part of our morning routine. The dogs sleep with us. Zoe likes to get going at dawn, so we rarely get to sleep in. As the coffee brews we start off with ten minutes of Chuckit at a distance of a hundred yards. (Or this could be Farley, depending on what pasture we use.) Hanna doesn’t fetch, but prefers to carry a tennis ball as she “herds” Zoe. After their breakfast and the decanting of our coffee into a carafe, we play another ten minutes of Chuckit (or Farley). Then they run down our long driveway to help us fetch the newspaper. Later, the dogs play Fence. This is a game they invented in which they run along one of our four-hundred-yard fencelines—sealed with steel webbing to keep them in, as the many free-range neighbor dogs chase them from the safety of the other side. Much barking, much gnashing. In the afternoon they play Big Ball, a big inflated horse ball the dogs like to throw themselves against and push around. Then there will be swimming and stick-chasing in one of our sloughs. The day might include more chase games, moshing and maybe White Ball, a game the dogs play with a soccer ball. At dinner, they herd our horses from their pasture back into their pens.
Whew. I have no idea how city people can handle the demands of this relentless and tireless breed.
San Francisco Bay French Roast beans from Costco in a quotidian coffee maker.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
They’re allowed to lick our plates after every meal.
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
We named Hanna because some plants and animals here get Irish names. Zoe’s name arrived with Zoe.
How were you and your dogs united?
We bought Hanna from a man who had bought her and her brother from a Canadian Hutterite colony, but then decided she was too much for him. We bought Zoe from some former neighbors who had rescued her from a family who, like our neighbors, decided they couldn’t devote enough time to her.
How do your dogs help--or hinder--your work?
They only help. They herd the horses, and Hanna is an exceptional watchdog due to her native hostility towards strangers.
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
Daisy and Ryley and a gang of neighborhood dogs whose names we don’t know.
What is each dog's best quality?
Hanna is creative and unpredictable. Zoe is quiet and loving with bursts of antic enthusiasm.
If your dogs could change one thing about Montanans, what would it be?
No more drunk driving.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
Hanna should be voiced by Cate Blanchett. And Zoe by Emma Stone.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
Do you really only live in the moment, or do you also remember the past and wonder about the future?
What advice would your dogs give if asked?
I heard you the first time.
Visit Bill Vaughn's website and learn more about Hawthorn: The Tree That Has Nourished, Healed, and Inspired Through the Ages.