Who is in the photo at right?
This is Ariat, a Border Collie, and Russell, an English Springer Spaniel.
I’m Nina Revoyr, a novelist. We live in Los Angeles.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
We’re marking the publication of my fifth novel, Lost Canyon, a mountain adventure story that features a Border Collie. The book is about wilderness, race, middle age, drug production, and Los Angeles. But Ariat doesn’t care about any of that—she only cares about the dog.
I’m a huge fan of Mother Lode Coffee, which is produced in small batches in Sonora, California—a Sierra foothill town that saw its heyday during the Gold Rush. We always bring it home after trips to the mountains, and now I’ve converted a bunch of other city folk to Mother Lode, too. French Roast is my favorite, although I also love the 49er blend.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
Coffee is Ariat’s favorite treat. She waits for us to turn our backs and then steals from our cups. Russell was a fan of lemons. He’d jump spectacularly to pick them off the tree, and would bark if he couldn’t reach them.
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
Ariat’s previous owners named her for a pair of cowboy boots she destroyed as a puppy. She was originally adopted from a rodeo, and then was running loose in the mountains. Russell, my Springer Spaniel, was a rolly-polly puppy boy, very sweet, and the name just fit.
How were you and your dogs united?
Ariat showed up one day during a blizzard in the Sierras, and completely wrapped us around her paw. The people she was living with were about to take her to the pound. They couldn’t handle her—she’d get out and dig through people’s trash, cross the highway. She was wild and beautiful, with an unruly spirit—and she clearly needed someone to love her. I got Russell from a breeder in upstate New York when he was eight weeks old. He’s the cousin of a friend’s dog—I used to live in the area—and they come from a line of goofy, good-natured, sweet and beautiful dogs.
How do your dogs help--or hinder--your work?
Russell would lie at my feet, or next to me. He was always at my side. Ariat often disapproves of me working and paws at me. But they have always helped my spirit, which helps my work.
Have your dogs inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?
Russell was the inspiration for Brett in my last novel, Wingshooters. I am so very glad I wrote about him, because we just lost him recently, and it comforts me to know that he lives on in that book. Ariat is the inspiration for Timber in the new book, Lost Canyon. But it’s a bit misleading to say the dogs are fictional. The dogs are very much my dogs—personality, physical traits, everything. The dogs are real, but the stories are made up.
Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?
Russell loved them all. In fact, there’s a comical scene of Brett with a massive stick in Wingshooters.
Squirrel, postman, cat....?
Ariat hates them all, especially squirrels. She patrols our yard and chases them out.
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
What is each dog's best quality?
Russell had tremendous emotional intelligence and empathy—he was a solid, wonderful, fiercely loyal, caretaking boy. Also a total clown.
Ariat is constantly engaged and energetic, very curious. She keeps us on our toes.
If your dogs could change one thing about Angelenos, what would it be?
Russell would want everyone to chill out. Ariat would want everyone to get organized.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
My spouse was amazingly good at channeling Russell’s thoughts and voice. No actor could measure up.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
English isn’t necessary—they answer me all the time.
What advice would your dogs give if asked?
Get outside more often. And take more naps.
Visit Nina Revoyr's website.