Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ismée Williams & Rowan

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Rowan. He’s an eighteen-month old Australian Labradoodle. I am the one wearing the dress. My name is Ismée Williams. I am a pediatric cardiologist and an author. My debut YA novel, Water in May, released Sept 12, 2017 with Amulet Books.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Well, Rowan had to have his influenza vaccine (something I recommend everyone should all get every fall, unless you have a contraindication such as an egg allergy or a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome – remember, I’m a doctor). Since Rowan did such a good job at the vet, I thought he deserved a treat!

What's brewing?

We love Starbucks, because they make something special for Rowan: a puppaccino (a cup filled with whipped cream). I prefer their decaf lattes but today I have a chocolate chip Frappuccino because it is hot and muggy out!

Any treats for you or Rowan on this occasion?

None other than the puppaccino!

How were you and Rowan united?

Our girls had been begging for a dog for years–basically since they could talk. Getting a dog didn’t fit into our hectic two-working-parent city lifestyle. So I always brushed them off by saying if I get a book published, we can get a dog. Well, you can bet that was the first thing they thought of when I told everyone about my book deal in 2015. The kids jumped from their seats at the dinner table and started shrieking, “Now we can get a dog!” So much for postponing the inevitable! But here’s the other catch: I am allergic to dogs. I always have been. I had horrible eczema and asthma as a child. So we did a lot of research before committing and found out this breed is supposed to be hypoallergenic. We even visited the home of a colleague of my husband’s who had an Australian Labradoodle from the same breeder we ended up using just to make sure it was true. A few months later, a tiny bundle of red joy arrived. Now I can’t imagine our family without him.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

There are five of us in the family. And we are all rather stubborn and opinionated. We must have gone through a hundred names. Finally, we settled on Rowan. It was my suggestion, based on the character from Sarah J. Maas’s amazing Throne of Glass series. I thought we would end up with an honorable, brave, stoic dog. My eldest daughter just this summer tore through the Throne of Glass series and announced that our pup Rowan could not be more different than Sarah J. Maas’s Rowan! Oh well. But there’s more to the story. My husband wants to point out that Rowan was the one name he didn't like. He was out of town when the final decisions were made. My 6-year announced the verdict to him over the phone and explained that his vote didn’t count as much as the four females in the house. Luckily, my husband didn’t mind too much!

Does Rowan do more to help or hinder your writing?

Rowan doesn’t hinder too much, except for when he is walking around the apartment looking pathetic because no one will play with him. He has perfected what we call the ‘saddest dog in the world’ face.

Has Rowan inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet. But he has enough cuteness to star in is his own picture book series, I think.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel. Hands down. He loves to chase squirrels. Luckily, he’s not fast enough to catch them!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Rowan loves all his toys. For my own sanity, I don’t give him squeakers. His favorite toy is a rubber Frisbee by Kong. He’s not the most athletic dog, but he will on occasion catch the Frisbee in mid-air.

Where is Rowan's favorite outdoor destination?

We have a small cottage in CT that has a fenced in pool area. That is Rowan’s favorite place because we let him off-leash and he can chase the Frisbee (and the squirrels).

Who is Rowan's best pet-pal?

My good friend has a very attractive and sweet goldendoodle named Maple who lives a few blocks away from us in New York City. Maple and Rowan met as puppies and they have been besties ever since. Sometimes the dogs see each other before my friend and I do and they start going nuts pulling us towards one another!

What is Rowan's best quality?

Rowan is very sweet and calm. He is even a certified therapy dog already! He loves to be pet and he is incredibly soft.

If Rowan could change one thing about New Yorkers, what would it be?

Rowan would make it a rule that every New Yorker has to stop and pet him. When he was a puppy we would laugh because his head would follow each person down the sidewalk, cocking as if in disbelief the person didn’t stop to pay him any compliments and attention.

If Rowan could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

What do you think about the whole dogs versus cats debate?

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

Chris Pratt from Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy. He has just the right mix of cute humor and goofiness.

What advice would Rowan give if asked?

Chillax. Everything is going to be all right.

Visit Ismée Williams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Christina Steiner & Sentry

C:\Users\Christina\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\019.jpgWho is in the photo at right?

My name is Christina Steiner and I’m a writer, mother of two daughters, grandmother of twins (boy and girl). I have a great love for dogs, especially Hungarian Kuvasz and horses and a passion for nature. On the left is Sentry, at that time about six months old.

Sentry is my Hungarian Kuvasz, soon to be eight years old on 11/11/17. He is large for his breed, weighing in at around 160 lbs.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m an early riser, but not as early as my significant other. This has advantages. Tom brings me coffee every morning, at around five o’clock. Sentry at this time is still lounging on his dog pillow next to my bed… unless he has to defend me against possible intruders. Well that’s his job. His roommates, four Chesapeake Bay retrievers are scattered around the foot of the bed as well. Sentry looks at me, “Is it time to get going,” he seems to ask. I shake my head.

What's brewing?

The smell of freshly brewed coffee (a custom blend of ground Starbucks French Roast and Costco’s Colombian San Jose) with two spoons of sugar and heavy cream whipped to perfection permeates the room. Irresistible. What a way to start the day.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

In the meantime, I hear dog dishes prepared out in the kitchen. The spilling of kibble into the metal bowls wakes all the dogs to alert statues. With great expectations, they run out to Tom who measures out the portions for Sentry, Boomer, Harvard Girl, C:\Users\Christina\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\052.jpgBetty Boop Boop and Flinn. Each canine has their specific kitchen corner for their dish. Treats in our house rare. Their favorites are raw turkey necks. They’re a special treat with the advantage that it cleans their teeth at the same time.

How were you and Sentry united?

Sentry is my third Kuvasz. I knew of a breeder in our area. I went to visit the litter when the puppies were six weeks old. He had 12 brothers and sisters. At 12 weeks, he was ready to join my household. At that time his name was Black Boy.

How did Sentry get his name? Any aliases?

Sentry as a puppy had the tendency to sit there on his haunches very quietly and astute, just like the queen’s guards. Hence fore the name Sentry. One of our friends calls him Yeti, the reason is obvious.

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

Without question, they all inspire me. My children’s books are about nature and looking into their soulful eyes gives me a view into the world of animals in general.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

I’ve written a short story, where the dog was the savoir. The dog Balderdash was fictional and I believe a combination of all my dogs from the past.

C:\Users\Christina\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\20160511_073531.jpgCat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrels absolutely…. In my recent book Shimji the Channel Island Vixen, there’s a chapter where the squirrels make fun of the dogs in the dog park. Most postmen and delivery people flee when they hear the ruckus of the dogs in the breezeway. But the dogs just do their job….

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Balls for our Chessies, who retrieve with abundance as that is what they were breed for. Sentry will go after the ball once, then he looks at me and says, “I know how to do this, besides I need to watch over the herd… What are you thinking…”

Never a squeaky-toy, it’s a sure measure to start a dog fight. Sticks are to be chewed on.

Who is Sentry's best pet-pal?

Betsy Ross, a Chesapeake Bay retriever born on the fourth of July in 2014, who is in the show circuit at the moment. Sentry and Betsy shared a kennel when we had to go out of town, which was a great consolation for Sentry in my absence.

What is Sentry's best quality?

Sentry is a true gentleman. Despite his awe-inspiring size he is very gentle with children and old people.

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

More off-leash parks and hiking areas. Though Ventura is great because dogs can surf and be leash free in many areas along our beaches.

If Sentry could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

This is a sad question. Because of Sentry’s age and size I would want to ask him, when I should let him go over the rainbow bridge.

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

Sean Connery would be perfect.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Please, humans, just relax. Enjoy life whatever it brings. Tomorrow is another day.

Visit Christina Steiner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue