Who is in the photo at right?
That is me (Zana Fraillon) with my two gorgeous Golden Retrievers, Moomin and Tishkin (Moomin is the one lying quietly and calmly). I write books for kids, so I am lucky enough to spend the day working with my dogs at my feet. Taking them for a walk along the river is also a sure fire way to overcome writer’s block. Tishkin has just turned one, so we are hoping he is just about over his destruction phase (it is a phase, right?), and Moomin is 4. She is far more sensible, although has a thing for carrying shoes around – this has caused many a late morning when at least one of us will have to rummage in the garden for the missing shoe…
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Coffee is an essential part of my day, and sitting on the front porch is the perfect place to have it. The dogs always join me – both for the morning tea titbits which often find their way into the dogs’ mouths, and for the lovely morning sun that soaks the porch. We have all sorts of wild birds around here (including the rather bossy cockatoos who tear up the wood on our porch when the neighbours have neglected to fill their bird feeder) so the dogs are on lookout for intruders. Of course, they are a little scared of the cockatoos (they are huge birds), so bark from a safe distance.
A latte is my coffee of choice. We usually use beans from our favourite café – Everyday Coffee in Collingwood – which at the moment is a blend of Colombia La Playa and Colombia Yancanquer.
Any treats for you or Tishkin and Moomin on this occasion?
I did enjoy some lemon syrup cupcakes left over from the kids’ lunchboxes, and shortly after this photo was taken the dogs both enjoyed their daily bone in the back yard. They have recently worked out that they can both enjoy their bones if they stick to separate spots in the garden, which makes for a much more relaxing morning.
How were you and your dogs united?
Moomin was the first Golden Retriever we have ever had. We bought her from a woman who wanted her dog to have just the one litter (and despite us pleading to have more after we bought Moomin, she stuck to her promise). We bought Moomin when our previous two dogs had reached 13 and 12 years of age. Moomin re-energised them both, and made the transition from ‘old dog’ family to ‘young dog’ family as smooth as it can be.
We knew after the success with Moomin that we wanted another Golden Retriever, and searched Golden Retriever Rescue for a long time. Most of the dogs there though were old and ‘needed a quiet life’ or interstate and unable to travel. With a fairly young dog already and three young boys we decided to go for a puppy instead. We found Tishkin through a reputable breeder and have really enjoyed watching him grow up with the kids.
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
Both the dogs are named after book characters. When we first got Moomin, she looked exactly like a Moomintroll – fat, white and fluffy. She also made a noise that sounded a lot like Chewbacca, so for a while we couldn’t decide. In the end we decided that if we called her Chewbacca she would get Chewy for short, which would surely only cement her desire to eat everything. As it is, she gets Moomy and Moom (or Moomin Troll Fraillon when we are being formal) and doesn’t chew a thing.
Tishkin was named after the character Tishkin Silk. This is a book by the wonderful Glenda Millard, and just a beautiful story. We had all read the book and loved it, and Tishkin suited the pup straight away. Funnily enough, he ended up with the same middle name as Moomin, so he gets Tishkin Troll Fraillon, which makes no sense at all.
Do Tishkin and Moomin do more to help or hinder your writing?
They definitely do more to help me write. Dogs are wonderful for bringing people back to the important things in life, and their daily walk is one of the best parts of the day. They have also taken me to explore places I wouldn’t otherwise have ventured to, and these places inevitably end up in my books.
Have your dogs inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?
Not yet – although they have inspired the creation of characters of different species. Undying loyalty and unconditional love are the hallmarks of dogs, as well as their ability to know when something is wrong without you having to say a single thing. They are perceptive and know exactly when to cosy up for a snuggle, or when what is really needed is a good game of fetch (which, by the way, they are both hopeless at. They chase the ball, they pick up the ball, then they drop the ball where they are and wait for me to come and get it. I guess they haven’t cottoned on to the ‘retriever’ part of their gene pool…)
Cat, postman, rabbits...?
Both Tish and Moom love chasing rabbits. I always wonder what would happen if they were fast enough to catch up to one – I suspect they would run away. They do also enjoy chasing cats, but only to play with. They look quite offended when the cat in question takes a swipe. The postman seems largely irrelevant to the dogs, although parcel deliveries which make it to the front door are always met with waggy tails and the hope of a pat.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
Anything, especially if it is in the water. They both love swimming and taking them to the beach is wonderful. It always makes me wish we could live near enough to a beach that I could take them swimming more regularly. We have a river near us, but the risk of snake bite means we can only swim the dogs there for about 4 months of the year.
Who are Tishkin and Moomin's best pet-pals?
Each other. They love meeting new friends down at the park, but invariably end up charging around with one another, while their bemused new friend looks on.
What is each dog's best quality?
Moomin’s best quality is her calm nature. At some stage I will do some therapy dog work with her, because she is so in tune with people and so calm. I have taken her to the kids’ school where she has been surrounded by 50 excited, yelling 6 year olds, and she just sits in the middle of the circle and lets them pat her.
Tishkin is also wonderful at adjusting his play - he will lie down as soon as a baby arrives at the house, or when he meets a small dog. He is also fiercely intelligent so very easy to train. Of course, this does mean he can get bored if we are out for the day, but who wouldn’t?
If Tishkin and Moomin could change one thing about you, what would it be?
Not having enough time in the day. They are both very chilled dogs, and as I speed around trying to fit everything in, they do look at me wearily. If only life was one big holiday, we could all live as happily as dogs.
If Tishkin and Moomin could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
I would ask Tishkin why he always steals the newspaper from the table and the tea towel from the oven door, even though he knows he shouldn’t…and I would ask Moomin what they actually do when we are out. I can tell by the look on her face when we return that they haven’t been sleeping quietly in the sun...
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Tishkin and Moomin could speak, who should voice them?
Oh that is so hard! My old dog Trapper, I would have said Clarke Peters (Lester Freeman from The Wire) but he is too old for Tishkin’s voice…If we could go back in time, I would choose Wayne Rogers (Trapper from M*A*S*H) for Tishkin, and Carrie Fisher for Moomin (because who wouldn’t choose Princess Leia to be their voice, right?) – although really I can’t imagine them having a voice at all. I have a feeling if they could talk, it would totally change their character. Things are much wiser when you can’t understand them…
What advice would your dogs give if asked?
‘Ladies and Gentlemen take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice…’ (The dogs are both huge M*A*S*H fans as well…)
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