Monday, November 2, 2015

Kristine Smith & Gaby

Who is in the photo at right?

My name depends on which book you're holding. I'm a writer--I've written a supernatural thriller entitled Gideon that was released earlier this year under the pseudonym Alex Gordon; the follow-up, Jericho, will hit shelves and e-readers in April 2016. I've also authored science fiction and fantasy under my real name, Kristine Smith.

Gaby is a female terrier mix, and she's about 8 1/2 years old. That's a guess because she was a rescue.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We've just arrived at puppy playcare, which is a daytime playdate at a local kennel. Gaby usually gets two playdates a week. I started bringing her in 2013, after we lost her buddy, King, because I wanted her to have the chance to play with other dogs.

What's brewing?

I brought along a cup of home brew. The current brand of choice is Steep 'n' Brew. Just regular drip grind with a shot of half and half.

Any treats for you or Gaby on this occasion?

No--we both had breakfast, so it's just coffee for me. After her breakfast, Gaby had a treat, followed by a second treat, so she's not hungry now, either. I think.

[photo left: Gaby & King]

How were you and Gaby united?

In August 2008, someone left Gaby tied to the front door of my vet's office--the staff arrived that Monday morning to find her waiting for them, along with a note that she had all her shots. No name or other information. The next day, I brought King in for a check-up, and during the exam the vet made note of his uncharacteristically timid behavior. A month earlier, King and I had suffered the loss of Mickey, a lab mix who had been King's good buddy for over 4 years. King was in pretty bad shape after that. He was a worrier who hated change, and he had suffered through a lot of it over the previous 12 months--in addition to losing Mickey, he had lost his best friend when my Mom passed away the previous year.

I tell you this because when the vet recommended that I consider adopting Gaby, I was concerned. She appeared malnourished, and weighed only 26 pounds. How would she adjust to playing with King, a 115-pound GSD-lab mix who tended to get rough? But I couldn't forget her face, or the way she gave me her paw when I bent to pet her. After a few days' consideration, I decided to give it a shot.

I shouldn't have worried. King's bouncy personality reasserted itself as soon as the two of them hit the backyard, and Gaby became his new best friend. We did hit a few speed bumps along the way. It turned out that Gaby's malnourished state was due to undiagnosed inflammatory bowel disease. It took a while to adjust her diet, but she eventually gained weight--she's 38 pounds now--and got healthy. And so it went until we had to say goodbye to King in March 2013.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Gaby was the name given to her at the vet's office. They named her the double-b version, but I changed it to Gaby with one b. Short for Gabrielle, Xena's companion.

Aliases? The list is long and ever-changing. Gabamatrix (after the film The Matrix, for reasons I can no longer recall). The Gabanomicon, because like the Necronomicon, the Lovecraftian grimoire, she is a repository of evil. Also, Naughtiness. Evilness. Little Girl. Fluff Monster. Whatever pops into my head.

Does Gaby do more to help or hinder your writing?

A little of both. I'm a morning writer, but before I am able to sit down and work, I have to take Gaby for a morning walk. We walk 4-5 miles, 5 days a week, weather permitting. She loves it, and even though I lose chair time, it really does do me a world of good both physically and mentally. I have worked out more sticky plot issues during these walks than I ever did while sitting at a desk. Something about the fresh air and the ability to ponder the scenery and let the backbrain do its thing.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

Oddly enough, as much as I love dogs, I have not yet managed to work any into my stories. I have tried, but other than mentions of a barking in the distance, I can't make them fit.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel. A very fast squirrel. The slow ones have moved on for reasons of self-preservation.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball. A tennis ball, which is about the largest size that Gaby can handle. She doesn't play fetch often, but when she does, she zooms around the yard, ball in mouth. Then she drops the ball and catches it on the bounce.

Who is Gaby's best pet-pal?

She is currently an item with a Shih Tzu at playcare--I'm withholding his name for the sake of privacy.

What is Gaby's best quality?

She's so sweet. She loves people. Other dogs. People smile when they see her. She has that movie-dog-that-brings-everyone-together quality. Friends call her a Disney dog.

If Gaby could change one thing about Illinoisans, what would it be?

All Illinoisans would be required to carry stinky treats in their pockets. Salmon treats are a favorite. The fishier-smelling, the better.

If Gaby could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Was she well-treated at her first home?

I'd like to think she was, since whoever it was left her at a vet's office instead of turning her in to a shelter or releasing her in the forest preserve. And she had no behavioral issues that led me to think she had been mistreated.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Gaby could speak, who should voice her?

Amy Poehler during the deadpan, terrier-laser-stare moments.

During the zoomy, Playtime! moments, Kristin Chenoweth, complete with musical interludes.

What advice would Gaby give if asked?

The world would be a better place if everyone took more walks through the woods, or along the lake. Walks are the best things ever. So are splashes in the lake, followed by rolling in the grass.

Visit Alex Gordon's website and Kristine Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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