Friday, September 14, 2018

Andrew Peterson & Gia, Lilli, and Fiona

Who is in the photo at right?

My wife, Carla, me, Andy Peterson, of course and our dogs – all female. The one out front is Gia, she’s a Spinone Italiano and is 1 year old. The proud black Giant Schnauzer is Lilli – she is definitely high energy and 2-1/2 in the photo. The big girl is Fiona, an Irish Wolfhound also one year old. We’re photographed at an open public preserve along the central coast of California. It’s a great place to walk our dogs

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s a routine event with me! Every day I’m up with my pooches by 5:30am, with the coffee maker already brewing on auto. After adding half and half and squirt of Stevia, I’m out the back door into our fenced patio area with my girls. We live remotely in southern Monterey County surrounded by beautiful oak-covered hillsides and native grasses; lots of pines too. Here’s our morning view looking north on a clear day [below, left].

What's brewing?

Home prep includes a Cuisinart drip coffeemaker as my brew master. Yes, it’s that simple. I like a light roast that I purchase from the Naga Café, a local coffee house about 20 miles away near Lake Nacimiento. If you’re ever in the area and drop in, tell Tony I sent you. When I’m at Naga my order is a hot, triple shot, 16 oz latte with whole-milk and one Splenda. Okay, sometimes two Splendas.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

No, not really. Carla keeps our girls on a pretty healthy diet. Since childhood, we’ve always had dogs in our lives. We’re not really strict with their diet, but when we give treats we use glucosamine chewies, chewable vitamin C or something I’m eating - you know the last bite of my sandwich, a chip, etc.... Life without dogs is no life at all – at least that’s true in our home.

How were you and your dogs united?

We made an earnest effort to find the best breeders in the western states. We don’t mind supporting breeders working hard to keep improving their breed of choice. All of the breeders screened us with a telephone interview and written questionnaire – which we appreciated. We also traveled to the National Spinone Specialty dog show in Seattle to familiarize ourselves with the breed and meet a few breeders. It was a fun trip and we met some very interesting people and learned a lot.

Lilli, our Giant Schnauzer, came from Skansen Kennel in Sebastopol which is about an hour north of San Francisco (we’ve owned 2 other Giant Schnauzers from this breeder). Fiona our Wolfhound came from Taryn’s Kennel in Gainesville, Texas, and Gia’s from Alla Festa Kennel in Rapid City, South Dakota.

In case you’re wondering, we drove over 4,000 miles to pick up Fiona and Gia. Lilli went with us on the trip. Traveling by car with three dogs isn’t as bad as it sounds. We all survived!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

We usually try to name our dogs after their ethnic origin. Lilli is named Lillith, a very old German name. Lilli’s also known as the “Monster” and “Gomer Girl.” Gia’s breed originates from Italy. She’s also referred to as “Peanut” and “Brown Sugar.” Fiona is an old Irish name and I especially like it because I love Princess Fiona in Shrek! She’s also referred to as “Lanky” and “Big Dog.”

Do Fiona, Lilli and Gia do more to help or hinder your writing?

It’s really a mix of both. I love being at my computer with all three of the girls at my feet – asleep of course. After a few hours they stir and remind me that I’ve been sitting too long. So I get up, walk them down two flights of stairs, grab another cup of coffee, and take them outside for some playtime. Of course, the day is a little different when Carla’s home.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Absolutely! The working dogs of law enforcement agencies and the military inspired me to include them in my series. Nathan McBride, the hero of my novels, owns two Giant Schnauzers who are trained tactical dogs. I chose the Giant Schnauzer breed for a couple reasons. First of all, we owned 2 at the time I was writing First to Kill. Secondly, in Germany (as well as other countries), Giant Schnauzers are used right along side the German Shepard and Doberman as police dogs. If you ever see one in person you’ll understand why. The Giant Schnauzer commands a presence that makes a person pause before approaching. It must be something about their size, posture, color, and those high pointy ears. Their absolute fearlessness is another great characteristic when it comes to tactical work. To see Lilli jump in the air – like a Frisbee dog – is a sight to behold. Giant Schnauzers are not only athletic, they’re incredibly strong.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above for these three. Fiona can destroy anything made of rubber, including Kong toys. She loves to chew on hard toys that taste like wood. Gia loves to prance around with a toy football in her mouth. She also loves the hard wood-tasting toys. Lilli just wants to run, chase the ball. Her favorite thing to grab is a dirty sock out of the hamper – fortunately, she just carries it around and doesn’t eat it. Gia, on the other hand, eats just about everything. We’ve avoided serious vet trouble – so far…

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

With Lilli it’s literally anything that moves.

Gia’s all about birds – after all, she’s a hunting dog breed. [Gia "pointing" hummingbirds; photo left] It’s funny to note that she doesn’t like getting her feet wet. Go figure. I guess she’s high maintenance.

Fiona watches yellowjackets and butterflies, but she’ll chase down anything and anyone running away from her. She also focuses on Black-tailed deer moving through our property in the early morning and late evening.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Carla is everyone’s best pal – she takes care of all of us!

When it comes to the dogs, Gia loves to wrestle with Lilli, Fiona loves to chase Lilli. And even little Gia will take on big Fiona at times. I refer to Gia as little, but she’s a 73 pound dog. Lilli weighs about the same, but is taller and much more athletic. Fiona weighs in at 140 pounds – we’re very thankful she’s a gentle giant.

What is each dog's best quality?

Lilli – Alert. Protective. Loyal. Affectionate. Wants to please and doesn’t shed!

Fiona – Gentle, but watch that tail. It’s at the perfect height to inflict major damage to a certain body part, or should I say “two” body parts! She’s super affectionate, but independent and very quiet. She hardly ever barks.

Gia – Goofy. Docile. Smart. Very tactile (she always want to be touching you, leaning on you, or resting her head on your foot, etc…) But she also stubborn!

If Fiona, Lilli and Gia could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

I believe my girls would want people to be better stewards of their pets. Care for them properly. Don’t let them get overweight. If you don’t have the time to spend with dogs, don’t get any!!! Also be mindful of your dog’s activities, especially when they’re in public places. In other words, please pick up after your dog!!! Be responsible! The reason so many places don’t allow dogs is because people don’t act responsibly.

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

What do you dream about?

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

Wow, this is a tough question. Since I have female dogs this is especially hard. I guess my fall back position will again be based on ethnic origin. Gia would be good with Sophia Loren’s voice. Even though she’s Danish, I’d pick Brigitte Nielsen for Lilli’s voice. For Fiona I’d go with Saoirse Ronan (Atonement and The Lovely Bones); she’s not only Irish but is known for her excellent grasp of performing many accents. I’m thinking a couple of my choices definitely show my age.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Wag more, bark less!!

Visit Andrew Peterson's website, and learn more about the latest novel in his Nathan McBride Series, Hired to Kill.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. That's quite the pack you have going on there! LOVE the IW (my daughter raises them and the breed is a family favorite).

  2. Beautiful dogs!
    Hello Fiona, Lilli and Gia. Woof! - Buffy and Fluffy