Who is in the photo at right?
The adorable canine is Leuco, my 6-year-old Portuguese Water Dog, a dog of such excellent qualities that my friends have been known to squabble with each other over who gets to dog-sit when I’m out of town. I’m Nicole Galland, usually an historical novelist, who recently jumped genres to write Stepdog, a lighthearted tale of blended families, Irish music, and unexpected road trips with sociopaths. I also write a tongue-in-cheek advice column for the Martha’s Vineyard Times, and with my friend Chelsea McCarthy I direct a theatre project called Shakespeare For The Masses.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Midafternoon break. Stepdog just came out and so I’m a bit scattered, my writing schedule is all thrown off…but we’re spending a few months living on an old farm on Martha’s Vineyard, so I let myself come up for air and chill outside with the ukulele, a mug of coffee, and Leuco. Wherever I am, there’s Leuco.
French press coffee! I love the aesthetic of it, the benign artisanal pretentiousness, the very word: cafetiere. I always add cream. I never add sweetener unless it’s a stand-in for dessert.
Any treats for you or Leuco on this occasion?
Leuco has been getting more than enough treats from the elderly (but still working!) stone mason we’re sharing the farm with, so I’m trying to limit what she imbibes the rest of the time. But we received some awesome doggy-swag from Polka Dog Bakery last week for a reading – a bag of dried codfish skins – and she’ll get some of them later on.
How were you and Leuco united?
My first husband and I both wanted a dog. I wanted a rescue; he wanted a purebred. He won. We found a very reputable breeder, who interviewed us twice and made us sign so much paperwork that, as my dad said, we could have adopted a child from Kazakhstan with less oversight. When we went to get her, the breeder came out with this monkey-faced furball and plopped her into my arms, and I’ve hardly let go of her since then. When I left my marriage, less than a year later, she was practically the only thing I took with me. It’s a longstanding joke among all who know me how hyper-attached we are to each other.
How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?
She’s a Portuguese Water Dog, and so we wanted to give her the name of a Portuguese water goddess. We couldn't find any that we liked, so we settled for a Greek water goddess, Leucothia. That was shortened to Leuco, although as all of our friends who know Latin kept pointing out, “Leuco” means white and she is black. It also sounds like a male name, and she’s a girly-girl. She has no official aliases but she gets called “pup” as lot, as in “Who’s the puppiest pup that ever pupped?” I try to only do that in private. In fact I can’t believe I just admitted to saying that.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Squirrel! Squirrel squirrel squirrel oh boy squirrel! And maybe cat, depends on how squirrelly it is. But never Postman. We love Postman because he is Human, so we will sit at his feet and look up at him hopefully in case he’s planning to give us a treat. Maybe if we wag our tail just a little? Or lean against his shin?
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
At the beach, with Billy teasing her, Leuco goes bananas over balls, sticks, Frisbees… It is literally the only time she ever barks. Otherwise, she mostly just wants floppy toys that are full of stuffing so she can eviscerate them and then play tug with their carcasses.
Who is Leuco’s best pet-pal?
She “grew up” with a friend’s English shepherd, Jackson, whom she still loves, but after playing together for about 10 minutes, they ignore each other like an old married couple. With Obie, on the other hand – a dog we often dog-sit for – she gets more excited and playful the longer they are in each other’s company, so that evening generally finds them tumbling all over each other and tearing all the tug-toys apart. But Henry (immortalized in Kate Feiffer’s Henry, The Dog With No Tail) has been her big brother from puppyhood, and although he’s an old man now, and can’t even take walks with us, I believe he holds a particularly sacred place in her heart.
What is Leuco’s best quality?
I have gotten used to hearing “She’s the sweetest dog I’ve ever met.” “Sweet” is such a generic and uninteresting adjective, but her sweetness is neither generic nor uninteresting. She very gently throws a ton of love at everyone. I think she has a calling to be a therapy dog, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to be a therapy-dog-handler.
Does Leuco do more to help or hinder your writing?
Oh I wish I didn’t have to face this question. The truth is, I get more done when she’s not around, but I like having her around. (I would like to point out that this is also true about my husband.)
What is Leuco’s favorite book?
Stepdog, of course, because she is the Stepdog. (Or she was, anyhow.)
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?
Cody, the dog in Stepdog, is Leuco dressed up as a Golden Retriever. Peter Sagal, who kindly read an early copy and wrote a blurb for us, wrote me to ask if Leuco was actually as endearing as the dog in the book, because it was hard for him to believe any dog could be as endearing as the dog in the book.
If Leuco could change one thing about you, what would it be?
I would grow an extra arm and hand so that I could give her belly-rubs 24/7.
If Leuco could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?
“Do you understand that when I give you a bath, it’s not because I’m a sadist?”
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Leuco could speak, who should voice her?
This is a great question…she’s so quiet that I can’t imagine her speaking at all. Maybe Barbara Luddy, if she were still alive - she was the voice of Lady in Lady and the Tramp, and Kanga in Winnie-the-Pooh.
What advice would Leuco give if asked?
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