Monday, February 15, 2016

Susan Schubel & Pipsi and Huckleberry

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Susan Schubel, and Pipsi Ruby Rhubarb (the Pug, age 8) with her ukulele backup band at the 2015 World Championship Boatyard Dog Competition in Rockland Maine (we tied for second). Another photo [below left] is a rare in-focus photo of Huckleberry Honeysuckle (the Jaroodle, age 5) with me on a snowy woods walk.

I work for National Audubon’s Project Puffin as assistant sanctuary manager in the summer and outreach educator in the winter. It is excellent fun work which encompasses birds, research, conservation, construction of field stations, boat work, lots of weather, kids, and education.

Sometimes I work at the Hog Island Audubon Camp - a nature camp for adults, teens, and families. My side business is Murremaid Music Boxes, a company which makes sound systems to attract birds to safe or historic breeding areas.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The summer is a very busy time for me, being bird season, so winter is when I have more time to linger with my pooches. We just took a walk in the snowy woods (no school today!) and are going to settle down with a warm cuppa.

What's brewing?

Drinking bird-friendly coffee from Old Dodge Farm Roasters, cooked up in an stovetop espresso pot, with half and half. I always feel best when drinking a bird-friendly coffee since it is grown in a diverse shady understory habitat which can support more wildlife, including “our” northern birds on their wintering grounds. (Though I admit to Dunkin’ Donuts on the road…) This coffee is delicious and so much better for the planet!

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Always treats. There are always treats. A bowl of popcorn with butter and salt makes us all very happy!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

I was in search of a dog to name Rhubarb, but when we found our little puppy my daughter thought she was a Pipsi. Her name just flowed together when we added the middle name Ruby. Pips, Pug O’ My Heart, Sweet Puggy Wug, and Your Highness, are some of her many nicknames. Huckleberry Honeysuckle just goes by Huckleberry, Grumbler, Fluffin, or “Stop Barking!".

How were you and your dogs united?

After losing my dog Jibbie (JibAsInTheSail, a lab-shepherd) I decided to never just have one dog at a time, and to stagger their ages. The lack of toenails tapping on the the wooden floor was just too much for me. We got Bessie Puddin’ Pie (a houndy mix) as a puppy in 1999, so our daughter wouldn’t have to be born into the world with no dog to snuffle her. When Bessie was seven, I had nurtured my pug obsession to the point of no return and we started looking for puppies. Once one starts looking for puppies, one must find a puppy! We found Pipsi in an ad in the local swap/sell it journal (Uncle Henry’s) and met her nice family in a neighborhood full of kids. They had dad (Toby), and acquired the mom (Tiny) from a fellow customer at another Maine standard, Marden’s. Pug puppies are so cute!!! A year after we lost Bessie, when Pipsi was 3, we began to think about another pup, a birthday pup for my daughter. Again puppy desperation kicked in, and we searched the Uncle Henry’s and newspapers to find one — cute little Jack Russell/Poodle mixes were found nearby. Both parents were absolutely nuts, but still we took her! Pipsi wondered why she had to come live with us, and still looks at me from time to time in frustration at this crazy jack russellian energy we’ve added to the house.

Please tell us about Project Puffin and Hog Island Audubon Camp.

Project Puffin is Audubon’s Seabird Restoration Program, and works to protect and restore seabird colonies in Maine and beyond. We work on seven islands in Maine which are home to terns, puffins, guillemots and other species. This project was integral in getting puffins and terns back to the islands of Maine after they were decimated by plume-hunters in the late 1800’s. Now the focus is research and protection of these important sanctuaries. The Hog Island Camp is a very special place in Muscongus Bay - the oldest Conservation Camp in the country. Anyone who enjoys birds and nature will definitely want to come for a session!

[photo left: a puffin]

Cat, postman, squirrel….?

Everyone must bark at everything and everyone. All the time. Huckleberry is very obsessed with squirrels and mice. Pipsi would like to eat snow plows and passing large dogs.

Squeaky-toy, ball, stick…?

There are favorite stuffies, most of whom have been desqueaked by chewing. Pipsi chewed the nose off her favorite dog to make it more puglike. There is some stick chasing on our morning woods walk, and in the winter the snowball catching game is very popular!

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

We walk in our woods every day, just a short loop but there is dirt to eat and things like fox trails to sniff. Huckleberry really likes the chance to go to a beach for a swim. We think she might swim across the whole ocean given the chance. When daughter Ayla was smaller, we would have both dogs pull her in a sled down the road (Pipsi most of the muscle and Huckle most of the song) and thought perhaps we could start a small sled dog race called the “Itty bitty Iditty”.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Pipsi tends to prefer small dogs, pugs, and some rough-around-the edges dogs that seem to have a bone to pick - including Penny, a fellow ruffian she used to do agility with. Pipsi particularly dislikes the happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever types and tries to eat them.

Huckleberry is very nervous about everyone and everything, but I think she does like Pipsi. Her new pal is a Pomeranian named Jose.

[photo right: Pipsi was the first contender at Boatyard Dogs to tie knots. Here she ties a cleat hitch.]

What is each dog's best quality?

Pipsi is loving, snuggly and very devoted. She is solid and does not get stage fright.

Huckleberry is sweet mostly, and can run like the wind and swim like an otter. It is a joy to watch her revel as an athlete.

If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They would like me to be with them all the time. Why must I go off to these dog-unfriendly islands?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

I’ve thought and thought about this and decided that Pipsi would probably have a large, no-nonsense, take-charge, deep woman’s voice, where as Huckle would have a nerve-wracked, high-pitched frenzied voice. Can’t pin them down exactly though as the thought of them speaking in human voices is disturbing.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

Pipsi, why must you go after all these big dogs?!

Huckleberry, why do you growl in your sleep?

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Even though we always have treats, I’m sure they would re-iterate that “It’s always time for a treat!”.

Visit the Facebook page for Murremaid Music Boxes, a company which makes sound systems to attract birds to safe or historic breeding areas. Learn more about Project Puffin and Hog Island Audubon Camp.

--Marshal Zeringue

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