Who is in the photo at right?
That's me, Laurel Saville, author of North of Here and other books, and Ainsley and Jack.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
The first sunny day after a long stretch of gray, on a spring morning after a record rainy winter in the Pacific NW.
I live on an island in the Puget Sound just west of Seattle, so we have quite the coffee culture here. I tend to rotate between the few local island roasteries.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
I always have a pocket with treats to reinforce my dogs’ welcome behaviors and work small moments of training into the daily rounds.
How were you and your dogs united?
The black dog came from a private Border Collie rescue group in Central New York state. We’ve been together 8 years. The red dog is some sort of herding/spaniel mix I got a few months ago from the Seattle Animal Shelter where I volunteer.
How did your dogs get their names?
Ainsley is a Scottish name meaning “hermitage in the woods.” Given that she is a Border Collie who was abandoned in the woods and found living under the front porch of an old hunting camp, it seemed appropriate. Jack is just, well, I always wanted a little boy dog with a simple name, and it really fit his personality.
Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?
Help! So much of my writing thinking, planning and pondering happens when I’m taking walks in the woods, and a dog seems a necessary accompaniment to that activity. Not people – they talk too much and wreck my concentration. Ainsley is too old and infirm for hikes anymore, so now it’s me and Jack. She does help when I’m gardening, though.
Have your dogs inspired the creation of any fictional canines?
Dix, one of the main characters in North of Here, finds a dog in the woods whose injuries are similar to those we discovered in Ainsley after we adopted her. She was not caught in a trap as Dix’s dog, Lucky, was, but she was for sure the inspiration.
Cat, postman, squirrel?
“Get the squirrel” is a favorite game. As is “Chase the deer” out of the garden and off the property. Our household also includes a small ginger cat and three ducks, so they have learned not to chase them. Sort of. Because, let’s face it, they’re herding dogs and it’s hard to resist.
Ball, squeaky toy, stick?
Ainsley clearly missed out on all kinds of formative experiences and had to be taught how to play. For a long time, squeaky toys scared her – she’d slink out of the room. She never developed much “fetch” interest and didn’t know how to play or appropriately interact with other dogs. She is not much like other Border Collies, that’s for sure. Part of why we got Jack was in the hopes she’d learn, at this late stage of her life – she’s maybe 13 years old – and even though she mostly blind and quite a gimp, how to be a dog. Much to our surprise, it worked, and now she romps and plays and grabs the other end of his stick and chases him through the yard. It’s quite a joy to witness.
What are your dogs' best qualities?
They are both very sweet in temperament.
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
Ainsley likes Jack a little more than he likes her, because he is a tad jealous of our attentions to her. In turn, Jack likes the cat a bit more than she likes him, but they get along well. The ducks are unsure of all the others, but it’s really quite a peaceable, if rag tag, crew of rescues.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
Tell me what happened before you came into my life.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, who should voice them?
Lauren Bacall and Mickey Rooney.
What advice would your dogs give if asked?
Don’t abandon or neglect your dog friends. If you can’t care for us, take us to a reputable shelter or rescue and they’ll find someone to love and care for us.
Visit Laurel Saville's website.
Writers Read: Laurel Saville.
The Page 69 Test: North of Here.