Who is in the photo at right?
That's me, Lucy Keating, author of Dreamology, and Ernie Francis Keating, age 4. The DNA test I did said he is 1/4 poodle, 1/4 dachshund and 1/2 staffordshire terrier, which is basically a kind of pitbull. Nobody believes that part because all they see is the scraggly fur, and old man beard, but it's in his shoulders.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Ernie makes sure I get out of the house. We like to do an afternoon walk around my neighborhood in Venice, then occasionally stop for a coffee on the way home, and do a little people watching.
I usually drink home brewed beans in the morning (that I always grind myself) so in the afternoon I sometimes grab a caffe mocha. I really wish I wasn't a coffee snob, but I am. It doesn't have to be expensive, but I am just particular about how it tastes.
Any treats for you or Ernie on this occasion?
Occasionally we will grab a pretzel Croissant from a bakery called Three Square and share it as we walk. Okay I eat most of it, to Ernie's great frustration.
How were you and Ernie united?
I had been thinking about getting a dog for a while. First I wanted a boxer or a pitbull, but I moved to Los Angeles and kept seeing all these crazy kinds of mixes that people had adopted. They weren't any breed, they were just dog. I loved them, and a friend sent me a photo of Ernie, who was being fostered by a woman in San Francisco. I went to meet him and that was it. A friend called and said "How did the meet and greet go?" And I said "Pretty well...he is in the car with me now."
How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?
Ernie actually came with his name. By the time I adopted him he was 7 months old. His adoption papers, however, say Timmy. But the person who fostered him changed it. It suits him very well! If I'd gotten him younger I might have named him Henry. Ernie has a lot of nicknames. Erns, Ernie Berns, Oonie, Bear, Mouse, Tiny One.
Does Ernie do more to help or hinder your writing?
Hinder, unfortunately. He has this thing where he makes direct eye contact all the time, like he's trying to communicate telepathically. I think it's the poodle part of him. I read somewhere that when dogs do that they are just trying to read our body language and figure us out. But it's distracting. I can't even tell you how many times a day I turn and say out loud to him, "What?"
Has Ernie inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?
I hope that every book I ever write will have a creature of some kind, and there will be parts of Ernie in all. Ernie is not as calm as Jerry in Dreamology, but Jerry does the staring, and like Jerry, Ernie constantly loses his tennis ball under the couch, barks until I get it out, then promptly bounces it once and loses it again.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
All of them. "Death to squirrels! Save the village!" Is what I imagine him yelling every time he sees one. Sometimes they cause him to have legitimate temper tantrums on the street. It can get embarrassing.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
All of them. He's partial to deer antlers, and I only get him stuffed animals on special occasions because he will murder one in under 3 minutes.
Who is Ernie's best pet-pal?
Ernie's best pal is a basset hound named Bogart. One day we ran into Bogart's parents at a coffee shop near our house. The dogs sat together while we talked, and as Ernie and I walked away, I heard this completely heartbreaking howl erupt from the table behind us. Like, "Come back!"
What is Ernie's best quality?
He is an incredibly loving goofball. He can make shy dogs play, he can make people who are unsure about dogs smile. But he can be a bit over eager, so not everyone is into that.
If Ernie could change one thing about Angelenos, what would it be?
No more cars. He is terrified of them, and buses, trucks...I think it has something to do with his days as a dog on the street. Poor Ernie!
If Ernie could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
"Why do you act like you are going to eat our very nice mail man, yet do absolutely nothing when a creepy guy on the street tries to hit on me?"
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Ernie could speak, who should voice him?
This is Ernie's greatest mystery. Probably Sean Connery.
What advice would Ernie give if asked?
He would say don't forget to stop and pee on the roses once in a while.
Visit Lucy Keating's website.
Dreamology is among Eric Smith's top five YA reads that explore dreams.