Who is pictured in these photos?
I’m Polly Dugan, a writer and the author of two books, So Much a Part of You, a linked short story collection, and a novel, The Sweetheart Deal. I’m married with two sons and I also have a little dog-sitting business, so I’m often surrounded by multiple dogs when I work.
Tripp is an English type Labrador Retriever who will turn six in October. He’s very handsome and gets by on his good looks a lot. He’s very popular at my sons’ school and considers himself the Mayor of the Beach since anytime we go to the coast he has to meet and greet every other dog he sees, sometimes from a great distance. He likes the canine company my dog-sitting generates. Some of our guests have included an English bulldog named Mac, a standard poodle named Rosie and a career-changed guide dog from Guide Dog Foundation named Jack Pot.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
I’m a daily coffee drinker so I begin every morning with at least the first cup in bed with Tripp lying between my husband and me. He doesn’t sleep with us but he knows once we’re awake that he’s allowed in ‘his spot’ in the middle. If I’m dog-sitting there may be one or two other dogs on the floor next to the bed waiting to be fed. When school’s in session my final cup in the morning is in a travel mug so when I drop my boys off at school my accessories are Tripp’s leash in one hand, my mug in the other.
We brew Starbucks Italian Roast, ground on 7 ½, in our Cuisinart coffee maker equipped with a timer so the coffee’s hot and ready to drink, black, first thing.
Any treats for you or Tripp on this occasion?
Tripp’s diet is pretty unremarkable, although he would eat himself to death if he had the opportunity, which I take pains to prevent. Every day is a standard fare of kibble with treats of baby carrots and pieces of apple. He knows he’s going to get lucky when I get the apple corer out of the drawer. When the school year is in session I occasionally stop at a local coffee shop and get a breakfast bagel sandwich. They have a jar of free dog treats and I’ll nab a couple for him so we can indulge together.
How were you and Tripp united?
Tripp is a very finely bred English Labrador Retriever but when he was a little over two years old, 85 pounds and still unneutered, his original owner planned to surrender him at her local animal shelter until her friend intervened with an alternate option.
The friend had Tripp neutered and then posted him on Craigslist, which is where I found him. He was a great addition to our family as we had just lost one of our two beloved dogs to cancer a few months earlier, but he was a handful, never having had any kind of discipline or training.
Because the friend provided the breeder’s information, I was able to get in touch with her and let her know her dog had been rehomed with me. Because Portland is the small town that it is, not long after I got him I discovered that another family at my sons’ school owns one of Tripp’s littermates, Lily. We’ve celebrated their birthdays together.
[photo right: Tripp and Mac]
How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?
Tripp’s breeder named him because, being an incredibly loyal dog, he follows his people everywhere and is often underfoot. We’ve literally tripped over him more times than I can count. We never tire of joking: “Why isn’t your name Waldo again?” because we always know exactly where he is unlike Waldo, who always has people wondering over his whereabouts.
He has a bunch of aliases: Triple Dog (because he was such a handful when he first came to us, he was like having three dogs), Trippy, Triples, The Grand Poohbah, Poohbah, Pooh, Baby Bear, Baby Buffalo, The Black Dog, Bubba.
Does Tripp do more to help or hinder your writing?
He for sure helps, simply by keeping me company, since I spend so much time alone, but his constant companionship is never intrusive since he’s a pretty chill guy. And he keeps me mindful for things like taking breaks to eat or take a walk or just go outside to enjoy the day for a few minutes.
Has Tripp inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?
Yes. In “Collateral,” the last story in my first book, So Much a Part of You, a firefighter and his family own a dog named Emmett, who was completely inspired by Tripp. Although Emmett isn’t a central character in the story, his supporting role is significant.
What is Tripp's best quality?
His temperament. He’s just a giant, gentle spirit.
Who is Tripp's best pet-pal?
My dear friend Carolyn’s three-legged black Lab mix named Jane. They have a great time together wherever they are. Jane bosses Tripp around and he adores her unconditionally, which is a mutually successful relationship model.
[photo right: Tripp & Jane]
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Tripp lives with his cat sister, Ritz, and the two of them enjoy a pretty unremarkable cohabitation. Yet any other cat or dog walking down the sidewalk in front of our house sends Tripp into a barking frenzy. And there are always squirrels in our yard, so as soon as he’s out the back door, everyone is off and running—the hunter and the hunted. I swear they lay in wait to taunt him. One summer there was an opossum that nightly lounged on our fence and tormented us all.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
If Tripp had his way, I’d give him a new squeaky toy every day, which he would eviscerate within the hour, so that never happens. Like any good Lab, he loves a game of fetch with a tennis ball, especially with a Chuckit! to achieve those long-distance throws, but he’s not obsessed the way some dogs are. And, the truth is, another dog’s ball is always far more interesting than his. He’s mostly a stuffed Kong, nylon Galileo bone connoisseur.
If Tripp could change one thing about the good people of Portlandia, what would it be?
He’s generally averse to change so he would probably consult me first, and we would co-answer: 1) don’t get a pet unless you’re committed to a responsible, life-long relationship with her/him; 2) pick up your dogs’ poop; 3) keep your dogs on leash; and, 4) if you’re living on the street, don’t get a dog.
If Tripp could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
In no less than 300 non-identical words, what’s it fundamentally like being a dog? For example, ‘Great!’ 300 times is not an acceptable answer. You’re going to have to work a little harder.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Tripp could speak, who should voice him?
Someone who is funny and affable who can also do voices. Tripp alternately employs a begging puppy bark he relies on when necessary as well as a fierce, intimidating, deep killer-bear bark, which keeps primarily invisible and imaginary (and perhaps some genuine) threats out of our yard. I’d go with either Tom Hanks or Jimmy Fallon. They’re both popular nice guys and so is Tripp.
What advice would Tripp give if asked?
We should spend more time at the beach and also, let’s get a puppy.
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My Book, The Movie: The Sweetheart Deal.