Who is in the photo at right?
That’s me, Stephanie Gangi, with Enzo at Bob’s Your Uncle in Manhattan. By the late afternoon, we’re both ready for a break, me from writing (my debut novel, The Next, comes out from St. Martin’s Press in October and I’m working on #2) and Enzo from sleeping off his busy mornings. He likes the long walk north from my apartment to the bar, through Riverside Park and then east across 106th Street.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Bob’s is owned by a writer friend of mine, Danielle. There are always dogs at the bar. Craig the bartender serves up the water bowls, the day-drinkers give scratches, the other dogs do the sniffing thing. It’s pretty mellow. I’ve got a Chardonnay and he’s got a fauxtini, and we’re engaged in our favorite Morningside Heights pastime, people-watching. Enzo is an eight-year old chocolate standard poodle. He’s huge, nearly 90 pounds.
Enzo has grown up in Manhattan. He is completely comfortable on the streets, especially because he gets a lot of attention. Out-of-towners always look worried – “That poor big dog cooped up in an apartment!” – but they don’t get it. I live a half block from Riverside Park, and dogs are off-leash before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. We get out there early and do the ball thing, and he has his posse of dog friends and they run like mad through the underbrush, the mud puddles, across the fields, probably doing more socializing in the park than suburban dogs in yards. On the way home he stops to say hello to all the Superintendent’s hosing down the sidewalks – and charms them into letting him drink from the hose. I live in a dog-friendly building. He’s very popular in the elevator. He has a great, active city life.
How were you and your dog united?
I got Enzo during the end days of a love affair when I knew in my heart that it was truly over. I hadn’t had a dog in a couple of years, and I thought it would be a healthy diversion. Considering his size and personality, he’s kind of turned into my rebound man. In limited ways!
How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?
I wanted to name him Victor but my kids voted up Enzo. I had not yet read The Art of Racing in the Rain, a great book about a dog named Enzo but everyone assumes I named him after that guy, especially because I’m a writer. At this point, I just say, Yes! I named him after the dog in the book! because people seem disappointed if I tell the truth. His only alias is Poppy, which is what my kids called my dad, now gone, when they were very little. Nicknaming him after my dad’s nickname just kind of happened, and then became fortuitous. The connection between my father and Enzo – they never met – morphed into a key element of my novel, without me really planning on it.
Does your dog do more to help or hinder your writing?
Enzo is a tremendous help to me as a writer. First and foremost, he is an early riser, and therefore, so am I. We’re out the door by six a.m., off to the park, rain or shine. Watching him play with gusto and pure dog joy is good for my soul. Not to mention, early mornings are great for the writer’s constitution, and walking helps me think through plot challenges. During early drafts of The Next, Enzo hung out nearby and every once in a while he’d nudge my arm with his giant nose, to kind of say, Take a break. And I would. I had no intention of having a dog character in the novel, but he found his way into the plot and would not leave until he’d pretty much taken it over. It’s an aspect of the book that emerged in an almost mystical way, and it felt completely right to let him in in the form of Tom, the dog character. And of course, as you can probably guess, Tom was my father’s name.
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