Who is in the photo at right?
This is me, Sheila Webster Boneham, and my lovely BFF Lily with the judge on the day Lily finished her UCDX, which is an intermediate level obedience title (which some of the characters in my mystery series are working on, too).
Lily is retired from competition now, but we used to train and compete in obedience. We also did quite a bit of tracking, and Lily earned her Tracking Dog title at one year old. Lily is also a registered therapy dog, and a lovely hiking companion. She didn’t really like competing—it made her very nervous—so I retired her early and let her just be our best friend.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Forgive me, but I’m actually having Tea with a Canine. Every day after lunch Lily and I cuddle up in my big comfy chair to read (I’m pretty sure she can) with a cuppa. That’s occasion enough for us!
I do love coffee, but it doesn’t love me anymore, so I drink various teas & herbals (much like Goldie Sunshine, my protagonist’s neighbor and BFF. But she bakes, and I barely know how to turn the oven on!). So today—ginger tea! Mmmmm.
Any treats for you or Lily on this occasion?
Lily gets lots of treats! She’s particularly fond of fruits (apples! pears! bananas!) and, of course, cheese! Today we’re nibbling a bit of sharp provolone.
How were you and Lily united?
I looked long and hard for a Labrador Retriever puppy. As a former Australian Shepherd breeder, a long-time rescuer (especially of Labs and Aussies), and the author of fourteen books about dogs, I’m very fussy about where I get my pets, especially if money changes hands. This applies to rescue organizations as well as breeders, by the way.
Our previous Lab, my lovely Annie, had serious orthopedic problems, and I was determined to find a pup whose extended family was healthy and carefully screened for genetic issues. I also had a very specific style of Lab in mind—I love a moderate, athletic dog—and I wanted her to come from a breeder who not only showed her dogs in conformation but also actively competed in performance events. It took months, but I finally found what I was looking for—mostly! I actually wanted a black male, but when I saw the all-yellow litter I thought, okay, a yellow boy. My husband, Roger, and I drove the three hours to see the puppies when they were five weeks old, and in the process of playing with puppies, assessing their structures and personalities and behaviors, we both zeroed in on baby Lily. Two weeks later we made the drive again and brought her home.
How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?
My Aussie kennel name is Perennial, and I really liked the name Waterlily for a Lab, since they’re water dogs. Lily was bred by Gerry Cochran, whose kennel name is Diamond, and she generously allowed me to include my kennel name in Lily’s registered name, so she is officially Diamonds Perennial Waterlily (with a number of obedience, rally, tracking, and therapy titles attached!).
Unofficially, she answers to Lily, Silly Lily, Lily Billy, Lily Manilly, Lilybug, and several tooth-achingly sweet endearments.
[photo right: Jay the Aussie with Lily on the day she arrived.]
Does Lily do more to help or hinder your writing?
Aww, Lily can only help. She often lies under my desk when I’m writing, and occasionally she reminds me that all work and no play is a very dull life. She also helps around the house when I’m not writing—she carries empty plastic bottles and milk jugs to the recycling container, and carries dirty socks to the hamper and just-washed socks from the dryer to the bedroom! Besides, just looking at her face makes me happy, and that’s a big help.
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?
Absolutely! My Animals in Focus mystery series is, of course, full of dogs and cats and a few other critters. Jay, the “protagdog,” is an Australian Shepherd closely based on my real-life Jay. Drake, a black Lab who belongs to “the love interest,” is a composite of my own three Labs—Raja, Annie, and Lily—and Winnie, the new Lab puppy who shows up in Shepherd’s Crook, was inspired by my lovely Annie and Lily, although neither one ever got into quite as much trouble as Winnie does! Other dogs in my books are all inspired by dogs I’ve known over the years.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
Squeaky and mute furrytoy friends!
Who is Lily's best pet-pal?
Jay was her “big brother” and all-time best friend.
What is Lily's best quality?
Just one? She has so many! But okay, if I have to pick one, I’d have to say her sweet gentleness.
If Lily could change one thing about North Carolinians, what would it be?
The North Carolinians Lily knows are lovely people just as they are. But there are areas in the state with terrible pet abandonment rates, so if she could, Lily would make sure everyone acts responsibly toward all their friends and families, animal and human.
[photo right: Jay & Lily, a few years ago]
If Lily could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?
“What do you think about?”
What advice would Lily give if asked?
“Play more! Eat more!”
Coffee with Canine: Sheila Webster Boneham & Sunny (May 2013).
Visit Sheila Webster Boneham's website and Facebook page.