Who is in the photo at right?
I'm on the left. My name is Kiera Stewart and I'm an author for teens and tweens. Casper's on the right. He's a 14-year-old mutt whose main ingredients are yellow Lab and White Shepherd.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
It's a sacred and honored daily ritual for us. There are no exceptions.
Taylor Maid Farms (local to Sonoma County). I tend to go French Roast, whole bean, and I grind them in overly loud, insanely short-corded bean grinder that I found at Goodwill. The cord is so short that you actually have to hold the grinder about three inches from the wall socket, but every obnoxious second is well worth it. I drink it with half-and-half only -- the real thing, never the fat-free version.
Any treats for you or Casper on this occasion?
I think he got a few cucumber slices, which are extremely high-ranking in his treat list.
How were you and Casper united?
Twelve years ago, I adopted Casper from Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA), an organization in Northern Virginia that provides temporary homes for shelter dogs/cats until they can find families. Casper has an interesting past -- he came from an animal hoarder in West Virginia. Whoever this person was, I believe he/she was a good-hearted person who meant well but perhaps got a little carried away, because Casper has been a gentle little spirit from the start. He was about two years old when I adopted him, but I often daydream about what he must have looked/been like as a puppy.
How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?
He came to us pre-named. My family and I did try to come up with something else we could agree on, just because the name Casper sounded way too "friendly ghost." I wanted to go with Cassius, but I was outvoted. We couldn't agree on anything else, so the name stuck. After a while, it became apparent that he was always sort of a Casper anyway. Still, that doesn't stop me from trying to change it from time to time. He may or may not occasionally answer to Capicola, Swedish (Meatball), and Chico.
Does Casper do more to help or hinder your writing?
I actually credit Casper with the fact that I'm published at all. I was writing at the time we adopted him, but wasn't have much luck getting past very bad rough drafts. But once he became part of the family, I found myself interested in lots of dog-training programs -- Animal Planet and National Geographic Channel had some really good ones at the time. The shows got me thinking about what would happen if you used adaptations of some of these dog-training techniques in social settings, particularly the most challenging ones. Like middle school, which I remember all too well. This sparked the idea behind Fetching, which landed me a wonderful agent and a book deal with Disney-Hyperion, and has allowed me to continue writing middle-grade books. My second novel, How to Break a Heart, came out in December 2015, and my third novel, Summer of Bad Ideas, with HarperCollins Children's Books, is expected to release in 2017.
Has Casper inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?
Yes! Oomlot (intentional misspelling) is the Fetching version of Casper.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
Believe it or not, none of the above or anywhere else. Casper chases nothing. He's pretty much been an old man since he was a puppy.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
He also chews nothing. Sometimes I'm sure he thinks he's above all of those normal-dog urges. Except occasional discreet humping attempts at the small dog park.
Who is Casper's best pet-pal?
He's more of a people-person than an animal person, but he did seem to like Delta, a puppy pal, who came for a recent visit. Of course, they had to work out some issues first. They may look pretty innocent in the picture here [photo right], but this photo was taken shortly after both peed on the rug.
What is Casper's best quality?
Consideration. In his fourteenth year, he's started becoming a little weaker in the bladder. But amazingly, he more often than not finds his way to the shower stall when the need strikes. So, I'd say he scores very high the category of being a considerate pet.
If Casper could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?
They would be Northern Virginians or Metro-DCers. He still hasn't really forgiven me for moving him across the country.*
If Casper could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
What sort of vital and important messages do you give/receive through the whole 'marking your territory' business?
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Casper could speak, who should voice him?
Rex Harrison. If you're wondering what he sounds like, just think of Stewie's voice from Family Guy.
What advice would Casper give if asked?
* Don't get into that crate.
Visit Kiera Stewart's website.