Sunday, November 27, 2016

M. Ann Vanderlaan & her dogs

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Ann Vanderlaan, a former oilfield engineer and data management specialist. (My knees are to the left in the photo.) I studied Neurophysiology, Neuropsychology, and Veterinary Systems Physiology in graduate school. The common threads in this crazy patchwork are mathematics and a desire to know how things work in a crowd—takes more than one person to make a mob. I taught in courses in veterinary, medical, and nursing schools before moving on to jobs in the oil patch, advanced software development and data analytics.

The dogs in the photo (left to right) are:

Angel (4+ years at the time), male American Pit Bull Terrier mix; adopted October 2010.
Spike (3+ years), male Dogo Argentino/American bulldog mix; deaf, adopted June 2011.
R Kane (4+ years), male American Bully, adopted late July 2012.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

At the time the photo was taken in September 2012 I had recently added a new dog, Kane, to my pack. Almost all of our coffee moments are learning situations for my dogs. The occasion was a chance to socialize and reinforce behavior in an all-male pack of large dogs, which sometimes rescues are reluctant to consider as suitable homes for adoption or foster dogs.

The goals for this tête-à-tête were non-competitive sharing and “everybody gets a lick”, especially when there’s a stranger around to take pics and stir up the pot.

What's brewing?

The “Coffee with a Canine” moment started out with a nearly empty bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino and progressed to dipping the bottle neck in chicken broth—although Shiner Bock would have worked too. I prefer regular coffee from home-roasted beans (Kenya, Brazil, or Costa Rica) that I grind by hand before brewing or French-pressing.

How were you and your dogs united?

All of my current dogs are rescues. Since this picture was taken, I have adopted or fostered 3 more dogs, one of which recently died. So I currently have five bully breed dogs in my home.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

At the time I started adopting bully breeds I was first watching the Joss Whedon series Angel. Angel and Spike were perfectly matched to their characters in the series. I ran into difficulty when Kane joined the Thundertail Tribe. The obvious male character names available were Gunn, Lorne, and Lindsey (Pee-Pee demon was never a consideration). Since none of these seemed a good fit for a future therapy dog, I named Kane for the actor Christian Kane who played Lindsey.

All of my dogs except Spike have both call and “Don’t Mess With Me” (DFMW) names. Spike has a single hand sign.

Angel / Angelo (his rescue name).
Kane / R Kane – adopted. (The “R” stands for ‛raising’.)
Diva / Godiva (her rescue name) – adopted May 2014, deceased October 2016
Norma / Norma Jean (her rescue name) – hospice foster since January 2015
Fiona (her rescue name) / Madame –foster to adopt November 2016.

Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?

Always help. Play breaks, walks, and vet visits are very little to pay for what they teach me about behavior and how they manipulate humans. They are quite entertaining and great snugglers if you don’t mind being stepped on by seventy pounds plus.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Kane’s ongoing therapy efforts and nosework have informed all of the tracking and therapy-related content in Lone Wolf.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

The only one of those we like are the UPS and FedEx delivery people who come bearing food boxes from or Nobody barks when they come on the porch except for Fiona who hasn’t learned the rules yet. Diva hated cats so much she would growl at a cat statue at the vet.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Jolly Ball Horse toys and elk antlers to chew—they are big dogs.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Spike and Angel.
Kane and the ladies (Diva, Norma Jean, Fiona).

What is each dog's best quality?

Angel (loyalty), Spike (earnest and honest), Kane (loves to comfort people and adores children), Diva (attitude), Norma Jean (sweet), Fiona (best snuggler, and she doesn’t weigh seventy pounds)

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

BBQ. Texans barbecue with mesquite and Kane is extremely allergic to mesquite. I can’t even bring leftovers home from a restaurant.

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

When we move to the mountains will heavier sweaters be enough?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, who should voice them?

That would be Diva Iron Paw Thundertail. Although she wasn’t with me for long, Diva was the perfect blend of life as we live it, powering through obstacles, voicing her opinion, and running the Tribe. I was only privileged to have Diva in my pack for 2½ years, but she was a true heart dog. She was the only dog I’ve ever had that watched TV. Her favorite show was Vikings—I think it was the screams.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

“Chill Mom, we got this” as they try to jump fences or chase frogs on the walls of the pond, and “Hurry up and feed us before we expire” if a meal is late.

Visit Ann Vanderlaan's Facebook page, and read more about Lone Wolf: An FBI K-9 Novel by Sara Driscoll (the pen name of Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan).

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Getting to know the Thundertail Tribe has been both a pleasure and a privilege. Megan, Australia.

  2. This woman is the real deal. She is as kind, generous, compassionate and smart as they come.

  3. Rescue is a good thing.
    I am from a rescue from Texas now in Washington.


  4. We 💗 bullys and these guys are very handsome!