Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tracey S. Phillips & Jack and Mimi

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Tracey S. Phillips, debut author of Best Kept Secrets. I write psychological fiction about dark female characters. I live in Wisconsin with my husband and 2 dogs, Jack [right] and Mimi [left].

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning I wake up early to write. So it’s always take your dog to work day at my house. After feeding them, I take my warm cup to the lower level where Jack always lays by my feet or on the couch beside my desk while I’m writing. Mimi joins us when she feels like it. She’s more the fickle female type. She goes where she wants and does what she pleases.

What's brewing?

It used to be 2 cups of dark roast coffee but lately I’ve switched to Irish Breakfast Tea. Coffee made me too jittery after writing tense, scary scenes. I had to scale back the caffeine intake. (laughs out loud!)

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

The dogs get treats all the time! I’ll tell you a funny story about Jack. When he was a puppy, we had a long and very cold winter here, like there are never long cold winters in Wisconsin. He was a very active dog (still is for a 12 year old) and we needed to keep him busy. So we spent time teaching him tricks. He learned how to sit up, roll over, shake, pound it (with a fist), speak, and even play dead. If you shoot him with your finger and say “Bang!” he falls over, dead. He’s very treat motivated so he’ll perform these tricks any time for a handful of Charlie Bears. Funny thing about him though, we could never teach him to come when he was called. Now, they get treats for coming in the house every time. It works!

How were you and Jack and Mimi united?

Jack and Mimi are our angel dogs. Jack was 6 weeks old when my mom-in-law bought him. At the time, my dad-in-law was dying of cancer. Little Jack was way too much dog for them to care for so they couldn’t keep him. My kids were 11 and 14 at the time, and they were delighted to take him. A few months later, my dad-in-law passed away.

Mimi was my mom’s dog and she was a rescue. We don’t know much about her past, only that she lived on the street and had at least 2 litters. She a tough chick and she’ll let Jack know when he’s crossed some invisible line. Mimi came home with me last October after my mom died in hospice care. In those last few days, I went to visit my mom (who lived in Indianapolis) with the intention of bringing Mimi home. I have some amazing stories of Mimi around that time. She absolutely knew what was happening and once I arrived, she wouldn’t let me out of her sight.

Right after my mom passed away, family members lined up at her bedroom door to say their goodbyes. I hugged each person before they entered and at the end of the line, Mimi stood up on her back feet. She needed a hug too. Of course, I picked her up and held her.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Not for Mimi, but Jack was named after some of my favorite fictional characters: Jack Skellington, Jack Bower (24) and Captain Jack Sparrow. He has many, many nicknames and I’m pretty sure he knows them all. We have called him Bug, Buggie, Bugswell, Butthead, Jackson, and Jack-alope. Together they are the Mups as in muppet-pups. They remind me of Dr. Seuss creatures and when their hair gets long, they get Grinch feet.

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

I think they know when I’m writing. Mostly, they are quiet and respectful right up until it’s time to go for a walk. They have an internal clock or something that goes off about 10 AM. Then they get fidgety and restless. Jack will paw at my leg and Mimi whines. Her whine sounds like whale-talk. My husband calls her Orca sometimes.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

My other job is teaching piano lessons from my home. The dogs love it because of the constant parade of students. And it means more attention, and treats. They do tend to bark at everyone as they come into the house. No one seems to care though. Jack and Mimi are just saying hello.

Sometimes Jack sits on my lap while I’m teaching. They both like listening to the music.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

That has to be my neighbors house. Tom and Phyllis always have treats for the neighborhood dogs. We can’t walk past without the dogs pulling me toward their door.

What do they eat?

Jack and Mimi can attribute their good looks and longevity to a healthy diet. Aside from Iam’s mature dog food, I make lean turkey burger and they get frozen peas added to their meal. For snacks, they eat pears, orange pieces and apples. Jack likes banana chunks but Mimi won’t eat that. She absolutely loves cucumbers and mushrooms. I could toss anything to Jack and he would swallow it whole, even his pills!

If Jack and Mimi could change one thing about Wisconsinites, what would it be?

The dogs love people, so that isn’t an issue for them. I think they would change the local weather though. They don’t like the long winters here, but neither do I.

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

I would ask Jack why he is such a nervous dog. He has polydipsia—a condition where he tends to drink way too much water. We have to ration it, ½ cup at a time or he finishes it all. When he’s upset, he asks for water often. I think it’s like a pacifier for him.

If you look into Mimi’s eyes, you’ll think she is very wise. I’d ask her what her life was like before my mom. You can tell she’s been through a lot.

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

Bill Murray for Jack! No question and Meryl Streep for Mimi because she needs a mature, wise voice.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

These two give me enough inspiration. And I try to put a dog in every book. You’ll notice Morgan Jewell’s boyfriend Rob has a German shepherd named Gretta. Gretta gets a good amount of page-time in Best Kept Secrets.

Visit Tracey S. Phillips's website and view pictures of Jack and Mimi on Instagram.

My Book, The Movie: Best Kept Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: Best Kept Secrets.


--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Lisa M. Miller & Daisy

Who is in the photo at right?

The sweet pup to the right is Daisy. She is a three-year-old West Highland Terrier who is as friendly as she is cute. My name is Lisa M. Miller, and I write books that make you want to sleep with the lights on. I help readers face the unknown from the comfort of their reading spaces.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The morning routine consists of French press coffee with Daisy by my side. It's not the smell of fresh ground beans that motivates Daisy, but the sound of the toaster.

What's brewing?

Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend Dark Roast in the French press.

Any treats for you or Daisy on this occasion?

Daisy is enjoying a pumpkin treat from her favorite gourmet shop, Three Dog Bakery. We splurged on some fancy snacks, it is her birthday month after all!

How were you and Daisy united?

A few years ago, we surprised our sons with a huge Christmas present. As they opened a box for an Xbox gaming system, out jumped a ten week-old Westie.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

She is named after Daisy Buchanan, without all of the Gatsby drama.

Does Daisy do more to help or hinder your writing?

Before I settle in to write or edit, she needs to go for a walk or play with her basket of toys. If not, I will find a pile of stuffed animals at my feet or barking directed towards her leash.

Please tell us about your new novel.

My new YA Thriller, My Skull Possession, released on October 15th, the same day as Daisy's birthday.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

She gets along with cats, greets the postman, but she loathes squirrels. She has a daily race along the fence, hoping her nemesis loses his balance as he scurries along the top of the posts.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She loves her nesting toys. A small plush stump with, what else, little squirrels inside.

Where is Daisy's favorite outdoor destination?

Daisy has visited the beach a few times. She is not a fan of the water but loves hanging out with her family.

Who is Daisy's best pet-pal?

Daisy has a doppelganger who lives down the street from us. She and Mia are good pals.

What is Daisy's best quality?

She is a delightful little dog with a great disposition. But if she senses something is wrong, look out. She'll protect her family with a big dog attitude.

If Daisy could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Less screen time. More fresh air and green time.

If Daisy could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Do you know how unbelievably cute and loved you are?

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

Michelle Williams. Her response when told she gets to go for more walks, “Oh, how gorgeous!”

What advice would Daisy give if asked?

Life is short. Take the trip. Eat the cake. If you don't, I will.

Watch a trailer for My Skull Possession.

Visit Lisa M. Miller's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Katy McQuaid & Grace

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Grace with me, Katy McQuaid. I’m the author of a children’s book series, "Everybody Loves Grace." I am also the founder of McQuaid Corporate Performance, LLC, and my goal is to support people and organizations in experiencing successful, meaningful, and empowered transformations. Grace is a 12-year-old Finnish Lapphund who came to live with me when she was four years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Grace and I recently went on a road trip to Boerne, Texas to release her third book, Everybody Loves Grace: An Amazing True Story of Grace’s Adventure to Texas. While there we met for coffee with LeeAnn, a dear friend, who used take care of Grace’s big brother Tinto when I lived in Texas. We met at a new coffee shop in Fair Oaks Ranch called The Spotted Deer.

What's brewing?

I’m a pretty simple coffee drinker, just the house drip and I take it black.

Any treats for you or Grace on this occasion?

Ha, that’s a great question. I ordered a delicious egg sandwich on a homemade bagel with pesto, cheese and bacon. It was yummy and I shared some of my eggs with Grace.

How were you and Grace united?

Grace came to me when she was four years old. I was looking for a companion for Tinto who was my 15-year old Finnish Lapphund at the time. Tinto advised me it would be okay to get another dog as long as it wasn’t a puppy and it was a female. He also said it would be best if it was another Lappie. Armed with his request, I went on a hunt for an adult female Lappie that needed a home.

It turns out there was a family on a farm who needed to find a home for Grace. They offered to put her on a plane and send her to me. I met Grace for the first time at the Denver International Airport in May 2011.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Grace came to me with a different name and I called her by that name for two years. Finally, after two years of my veterinary doctors telling me her name wasn’t really Malia, the name Grace kept popping in my head. I decided while sitting in my veterinarian's office one day that I would change her name to Grace. I later learned that her mother’s name was Amazing Grace.

Grace has all sorts of nicknames such as Bear, Sweet Pea, and Lover Bear. I have to say, she truly is one of the most graceful dogs you’ll ever meet. Her name suits her perfectly.

Does Grace do more to help or hinder your writing?

Grace is a huge help with my writing. I just let her know it’s time for me to write and while I write she goes into “her office” which is the guest bathroom. She is truly amazing. Without fail, Grace knows when I’m finished writing and she emerges from her office, greets me, and asks to go for a walk.

In addition to supporting me when I’m actually writing, she gives me wonderful material to use in the "Everybody Loves Grace" books, blogs, and articles. She gives me so much material to write about just in our daily walks. Grace brings love to everyone she meets, and she makes a difference in people’s lives every single day.

Please tell us about your "Everybody Loves Grace" series.

The “Everybody Loves Grace” illustrated books are true stories told from the perspective of Grace. While they are written in a fun, light, and humorous tone, they also address some of the most challenging situations people encounter in life.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Grace is very curious about cats. She loves to look at them and watch them from a distance. She is very respectful of other animals and their space.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Her favorite toy is a soft pink bone. She loves to run down the hall with it on our way to the elevator.

Where is Grace's favorite outdoor destination?

Anywhere that involves a park, hike, mountains, or a road trip. Grace is an amazing traveler in the car. She likes our quick trips to the mountains outside of Denver as much as our long road trips to Texas and the East Coast.

Who is Grace's best pet-pal?

Grace’s best pal is Aunt Carol who watches her when I have to be out of town or travel for my consulting business. She loves to sit by Aunt Carol’s feet as she works at home on her computer. She also loves to take Aunt Carol to Ace Hardware on her walks so she can get treats from the salesclerk.

What is Grace's best quality?

Grace’s most endearing quality is her ability to look deeply into someone’s eyes and all the way into their heart. Grace reminds us that "Everybody Needs Grace" and her gift of presence is her greatest gift.

If Grace could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Grace would ask me to have more fun, not take life so seriously, and to take her on more road trips. She has asked me on more than one occasion to let my light shine for people to see.

If Grace could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Where do you want to go on our next road trip?

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

My vision is to have Grace’s story made into a movie or cartoon series. Drew Barrymore would be the perfect voice of Grace.

What advice would Grace give if asked?

* Simple acts of kindness can have a profound effect on others; they can even change lives.
* Have the courage to move forward through life's changes and trust that things will turn out well.
* We can choose to turn uncertain situations into positive experiences.
* Every day is an adventure and the journey is an important part of every adventure.
* Good things can happen on the “trail less traveled.”
* Moving to a new place is a chance for new beginnings and the opportunity to make new, special friends.

Visit the Everybody Needs Grace website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Lincoln Mitchell & Isis

Who is in the photo at right?
Photo credit: Randi Klein

The photo is me, Lincoln Mitchell, and my beloved Isis. I am a consultant and writer who works on a number of different projects. I write a great deal about politics, baseball and San Francisco. When possible, I try to write about all these things together. I also evaluate US foreign assistance projects in different countries and teach political science at Columbia University. Isis is a nine and a half year old female goldendoodle. She is an extraordinarily mellow, sweet and even tempered beast.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I like this neighborhood café because they have great WiFi, good non-dairy drink options and mostly because they love dogs. I can come here to get out of the house for a few hours without having to leave Isis at home. Isis does not like being alone, so I try to take her with me as much as possible.

What's brewing?

Hot chocolate made with almond milk. I try to avoid dairy as much as possible, but love chocolate. Isis drinks water.

Any treats for you or Isis on this occasion?

I gave Isis her favorite fish treat, before we left the house. I think she might be part seal as she loves fish so much.

How were you and Isis united?

When my younger son was five, he asked if we could get a dog. He then asked every day for three more years. We finally gave in and said yes. I had never had a dog before, but decided that if we were going to get a dog, I would try to throw myself into the experience. My younger son and my mother are both allergic to dogs, so we had to get a hypoallergenic breed. It may have taken a full 45 seconds after meeting Isis before I fell in love with her. She and my younger son remain extremely close. That five year old boy is now a 6’3” high school senior, but he still sleeps with Isis in his bed many nights. My mother also adores Isis and brings her a bone every time she comes to New York from San Francisco to visit.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Well, if you name your dog Isis this question comes up a lot. She got the name Isis because my older son was 11 and studying Egyptian mythology in school when we started talking about dog names, so he proposed Isis. The rest of us thought it was a cool name and agreed. I also thought of the Bob Dylan song “Isis” which is a great tune. We call her a number of nicknames now because sometimes yelling “Isis!” in Central Park can create some problems. I call her Icy or Icicle a lot. Sometimes I call her Fierceness, for the same reason you call the bald guy curly.

Does Isis do more to help or hinder your writing?

She is a fantastic writing assistant. She is very quiet. She has never once barked when I am on a call or doing an interview. Every now and then she pokes her head between my arm and my chest when I am writing so I can pet her, but that is hardly a problem. Isis also forces me to get out of the house every 4-6 hours when I am writing no matter the weather. She loves the New York City winters unless it drops below ten degrees. However, she falls asleep on the job pretty much every day.

I'm aware Isis merits mention in your new book. Please tell us about San Francisco Year Zero.

San Francisco Year Zero is about San Francisco in 1978, but rather than focus on only the assassinations and Jonestown, I also examine the role of the nascent punk rock movement of that time and take a close look at the Giants 1978 season, when they were in first place for three months and for much of the year were the big story in the city. San Francisco Year Zero does more than just describe that extraordinary, tumultuous, exciting and tragic year. I also argue that the roots of the San Francisco of today, where social tolerance and some radical politics coincide with a real estate and tech driven economic boom that has created massive income inequality and myriad challenges related to that, has its roots in the events of 1978.

The book is well-researched, drawing on numerous sources including dozens of interviews with people ranging from Hank Greenwald to Jello Biafra to Allen Bennett, the rabbi at Sha’ar Zahav (the San Francisco synagogue Harvey Milk attended), but it is not academic in tone. Rather, it is an accessible non-fiction style that also has elements of first-person narrative as I grew up in San Francisco.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Isis loves to chase squirrels. Sometimes when I take her to Central Park for her midday walk, I let her go off-leash to chase squirrels, even though she is supposed to be on a leash at that hour. Tourists often stop and photograph this. Isis have never caught a squirrel and would have no idea what to do if she did.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Isis will occasionally play with a ball, but she seems much more interested in her human and canine friends.

Who is Isis's best pet-pal?

Isis’s best friend is another goldendoodle with the unlikely name of Wrinkle Hot Dog Astronaut. Wrinkle’s family are very close relatives of ours, so the two dogs see each other a lot. Whenever one family goes out town and cannot bring the dog, the other family takes care of both dogs. Wrinkle is higher energy than Isis, but they have a lot of fun together.

What is Isis's best quality?

Isis has many fantastic qualities. She is very sweet, even tempered and playful. However, her best quality is how attuned she is to the emotional state of the people in her life. Twice since Isis has been part of our lives, I have lost close relatives. On both occasions, for days afterwards Isis was reluctant to leave my side and was extremely supportive of me and my family.

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

I just asked her that question and she looked up and wagged her tail, so I have to try to interpret that. I suspect Isis would like New Yorkers to slow down a little bit so that they could pet her more when she goes out for walks. A lot of people stop to pet her, but amazingly, they all have things to do and cannot spend hours petting a dog they just met.

If Isis could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

I would ask her if there was anything I could do to make her life happier. I assume that because she is mellow, healthy and affectionate that she is happy, but I would like to know that for sure-and do what I could to make her happy if she is not.

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

Dame Judi Dench would be great to voice Isis. I have learned that if you name your dog after a goddess, she acts like one. Dench’s imperious tone, but also comic timing, would reflect how Isis expects the world to come to her.

What advice would Isis give if asked?

For my son’s tenth birthday, Isis went to the pet store and bought him a dog tag that said “Be Here Now” on one side and “Roll With The Punches” on the other. That was Isis’s advice then. I suspect it is the same now.

Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Maria Goodavage & Gus

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Gus, on one of our first coffee dates back in 2016. As I had done when my human child was a puppy (she’s now 22), I brought Gus something comfy and some toys to keep him occupied. I live in San Francisco, which is full of dog-friendly eateries with outdoor tables, so I wanted him to get used to chilling out with me at these places early in life.

The other person is me, Maria Goodavage. I’m a journalist, formerly of USA Today, who long ago started writing about dogs. My previous three nonfiction books, Soldier Dogs, Top Dog, and Secret Service Dogs, made the New York Times bestseller list, which made my tail wag. The books are about the brave, faithful, smart, good dogs who protect and save lives alongside their handlers in the military and the Secret Service. My next book comes out October 1, and I’m really excited about it. It’s called Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine. Gus is no doctor dog, but he appears in the book as kind of a representative of the “everydog.”

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I got up early for a taped radio segment about Doctor Dogs. Being on the West coast has many advantages but interviews with people on the East Coast in the morning can be a bit early for my night-owl brain (today’s was at 9:30 Eastern, so 6:30 Pacific). Coffee politely but firmly ushers the sandman out of my brain.

What's brewing?

I graduated into the world of coffee only a few years ago, and for a long time I needed my coffee to taste like melted ice-cream, with loads of cream and sugar. My coffee esthetic has matured slightly since then, but I still prefer a gentle brew, nothing too dark or robust, and have about one-third the amount of cream and sugar as I used to.

Today I’m enjoying “House Blend Wind & Sea” from Andytown Coffee Roasters, which has three shops in my neighborhood near the beach. The description on the little bag: “Sweet, bold, and best paired with a foggy day,” and indeed it’s a foggy morning so far! I grind my beans and do a pour-over. I’m drinking it with a little half and half and honey (ran out of sugar!) in a big “Dutton” mug, which was a holiday gift a few years ago from the publisher I’ve had for my last four books. In the background, the foghorn bellows.

Any treats for you or Gus on this occasion?

I recently got back from a month in rural Japan, and I miss it, so I’m enjoying a couple of flavorful rice crackers. Gus had breakfast and a brisk off-leash walk at the beach after my radio interview, so he’s snoozing. No treats needed.

How were you and Gus united?

I’ve adopted my previous dogs, but Gus has a special story. He is a “Kory Wiens and Cooper memorial puppy” – a living memorial to a fallen soldier and his military working dog. Gus was given to me by the father of Army dog handler Kory Wiens, who was killed by an IED along with his yellow Lab, Cooper, in Iraq in 2007. I didn't have the fortune of knowing Kory, but he was an important part of my book Top Dog. After Kory’s death, his dad, Kevin, started taking in yellow Labs to feel as if some part of his son was still with him. Kory used to call his dog Cooper “my son” because they were so close, and having these Labs literally surrounding Kevin when he sat in his EZ chair in his doublewide mobile home in Oregon made him feel less empty.

Kevin and I kept in touch after our interviews. It turned out one of his dogs was an unspayed female, and he asked some people who were special in his life if they would like to have a memorial pup if he could find a good dog dad. I was very moved when he offered me a pup from the memorial litter. Our dear yellow Lab, Jake, had passed way in January of 2015, and I was finally thinking about adopting another Lab, so the timing was excellent – except for the fact that he would enter my life when I had about one month to go on a book deadline. I don’t recommend that timing to anyone, but Gus was worth it.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

About 20 years ago when we were staying at a cabin near Lake Tahoe for the holidays, a giant shaggy dog, mostly Lab I think, walked into our cabin when the door was open. He made himself at home by the hearth, next to our Lab, Jake. I looked at his tag to see who this fellow was, and it said “GUS.” On the back, where the phone number would normally be, it read, “Just say ‘Go home Gus’ and he will.” We thought that was pretty cute, and it turned out he lived really close and knew his way around. The name “Gus” fit him perfectly, and I decided that if I get a dog who is anything remotely “Gussy,” that’s what I would name my next dog. Our Gus’s name is perfect for him. He’s a big, happy guy, always smiling, very friendly and very Gussy.

Does Gus do more to help or hinder your writing?

When I first got him, he was nine weeks old and I had a month to go on a book, so that was not ideal -- to put it mildly. It was almost like having a newborn on deadline. I’d get up two or three times a night to let him out, and when he slept during the day I’d try to be productive, but when he was awake and chewing everything he could get his mouth on, my productivity plummeted. I managed to get the book in on time, but wow was I tired! These days he’s a joy to have near me as I write. And because of him I’m forced to pry myself away from my computer in the morning and in the evening when no one else can walk him, and to go to the beach or the park, which clears my head. When I return to my desk, I’m usually re-energized.

I enjoyed the one-minute Doctor Dogs book trailer. Please tell us more about your new book.

I’ll let my press materials describe it, if you don’t mind! “This groundbreaking book is an in-depth and engaging investigation of the cutting-edge science behind how dogs are able to detect disease and aid people who suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, including cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, sleep disorders, autism, and schizophrenia. Doctor Dogs is Goodavage’s most personal book to date, as she has a difficult-to-diagnose cancer threat in her own family. Dogs have been shown to be able to detect this cancer in laboratory samples in its earliest stages. The dogs’ primary tool for their medical feats? Their astonishingly sensitive noses, which can sniff in parts per trillion, as well as in 3-D.”

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Raccoon. Our backyard seems to be part of the Raccoon Superhighway. Every night there’s inevitably a raccoon or two or five walking along the top of our wooden fence. Gus does not like this. At all.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Yes! (He is a Lab, after all.)

Who is Gus's best pet-pal?

This is absolutely his sister Kaia. My friend whose dog Gracie – my old dog Jake’s previous “girlfriend” – had died the same month as Jake – was talking about the fact that she and her family were almost ready for a new dog around the same time Gus was born. I asked Kevin if Gus had any brothers or sisters who were not spoken for yet. He decided that Gus should have a friend in San Francisco, and ended up giving one of his sisters to my friend, who lives ten minutes away. She was over the moon. Gus and Kaia see each other all the time, and Kaia often spends the night here.

What is Gus's best quality?

His loving friendliness and his happiness. And not just at home with loved ones. Almost everyone is a loved one as far as Gus is concerned! He makes so many people smile just by bouncing down the sidewalk with a smile on his face and a wag in his tail whenever someone looks at him.

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

The lines people wait in to get coffee. He would make them longer so as we walk by he’d get even more love and attention from people who are just standing around staring at their cell phones.

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

Please describe in rich detail a day in your life in the world of scent. Bonus question: Do you know I’m coming home when I have to go away on long trips?

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

Long ago we had Ed Asner play the voice of our old dog Joe for a children’s video called Here’s Looking at You, Kid. He was perfect. But for Gus, I’d have to say maybe Chris Evans, of Captain America fame. His voice is kind of gentle, but youngish, and has a positive yet thoughtful feel about it.

What advice would Gus give if asked?

Be here now. Be present.

Visit Maria Goodavage's website, Facebook page, Instagram home, and Twitter perch. Find Gus on Instagram, too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Melissa Payne & Max

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Max and he’s a fun loving, squirrel chasing ten-year-old mutt with perhaps a dash of Belgian Malinois. His human is me, Melissa Payne, debut author of The Secrets of Lost Stones, and a life-long writer with a penchant for telling stories and a love for all things dark and mystical.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s just another day for Max. After he helps me get the kids to school, then it’s our time to get some serious writing done and for Max to give me story suggestions every so often in the form of a whine or a bark or two. His ideas generally involve squirrels or peanut butter so it’s a bit limiting, but I do enjoy the collaboration.

What's brewing?

Freshly ground drip coffee, black, light to medium roast and whatever brand my husband buys because he’s the true coffee lover in the family.

Any treats for you or Max on this occasion?

I always have a handful of almonds with my coffee and almonds happen to be one of Max’s favorite snacks. He can hear me bite down on one from outside. So, the deal between us is I get one almond then Max gets one almond and so on. He sits patiently, drooling, by my side until the handful is gone.

How were you and Max united?

Max was a rescue dog and I found him just after the rescue organization had pulled him from a shelter where he was scheduled to be euthanized. Once I saw his picture on their website, I knew immediately that he was the right one for our family. And when we met him in person we quickly loaded him into our car before anyone else could adopt him.

How did your dog get his name?

His name at the shelter was King but we decided to call him Max, like King Max from Where the Wild Things Are. And it’s a perfect name for him because Max’s nature is one of curiosity and adventure with just a dash of stubbornness.

Does Max do more to help or hinder your writing?

This is my favorite question. Writing is a solitary pursuit that doesn’t lend itself toward much socialization during the working hours. But with Max I have a work partner whose only requirement is that we go on epic hikes and that he gets belly rubs whenever he rolls onto his back. He makes my day.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Oh, yes! I have a work in progress about a former military working dog. The research I’ve done for this book has left me even more in awe of dogs and their amazing abilities that combined with such loving and dedicated spirits make for just about the most perfect pet. (Please don’t let my cat read this or I’ll have to deny all of it.)

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel, always the squirrels!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

A Kong filled with peanut butter.

Where is Max's favorite outdoor destination?

A long hike on any of the trails around our mountain town.

Who is Max's best pet-pal?

Lucy, his only cat friend who weighs about as much as his paw yet rules the roost.

What is Max's best quality?

He has so many! He’s loving and kind to others and always on alert, ready to protect his kids from wild animals, if needed. And he’s the most content when he is with us, whether that’s at home, on a walk, or his favorite, in the car on the way to a camping trip.

If Max could change one thing about you, what would it be?

He would want me to stop talking to the cat. He prefers when I use that tone of voice with him.

And almonds. He’d prefer I’d give him the whole handful at once.

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

Do you feel loved?

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

Patrick Warburton.

What advice would Max give if asked?

Don’t growl unless you have a really good reason, like a bear is prowling the yard. See the good in everyone, even the cat. Always chase squirrels. And never pass up an opportunity to jump in the car and go somewhere. Life is meant to be lived, even if it means a trip to the vet instead of a camp site.

Visit Melissa Payne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 23, 2019

Evan Ramzipoor & Lada

Who is in the photo at right?

The human one is me, Evan Ramzipoor. I write novels like The Ventriloquists, but also essays, blogs about cybercrime, and short stories. The photogenic one with the angsty bangs is Lada, a Portuguese Podengo*/terrier hybrid of some sort. I swear “Portuguese Podengo” is a real breed and not a style of dance.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning after my wife takes Lada on a run, Lada and I sit down for coffee. Well, Lada sits down for breakfast crumbs. The coffee is just a bonus.

What’s brewing?

I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, so I’m huffy about my coffee in a way that my East Coast friends find both unreasonable and endearing (I hope). I brew Philz coffee in my AeroPress, I take my coffee with oat milk, and I’m perfectly fine being a stereotype. My Philz blend of choice is Silken Splendor. Also, I aerate my coffee—which sounds complicated, but it really means I pour the coffee back and forth between two cups to introduce air. It creates smooth coffee and makes me feel like a mad scientist.

Any treats for you or Lada on this occasion?

Lada lived on the street for a year, so as far as she’s concerned, anything is a treat if you put your mind to it.

How were you and Lada united?

A few years ago, we learned there was going to be a massive adoption fair in Marin: goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, cats, and dogs. After my wife vetoed goats and chickens, we made a list of pups we wanted to meet. They were mostly large, sturdy dogs we could take running and hiking. I was especially interested in a stately specimen named Charlie.

We got to the fair twenty minutes before it officially opened. While walking to meet the first dog on our list, my wife stumbled across a little scruff-ball in a crate. I drifted away to try and woo an aloof spaniel. When I returned, my wife was holding this a strange, fuzzy alien with a long body and curly tail. I knelt down, and the pup snuggled into my arms. Ten minutes before the fair opened, we left with Lada.

I hope Charlie found a good home with appropriately stately owners.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

We adopted our pup while I was working on my first novel, which features a mischievous smuggler named Lada. After a failed naming brainstorm session, my wife suggested we use “Lada” as a placeholder until we figured out something less…self-serving.

Three years later, I’m starting to believe it’s no longer a placeholder.

Does Lada do more to help or hinder your writing?

I like to refer to Lada as my muse. She has a knack for picking up her squeakiest, slobberiest toy and bashing it into my knee when I’m in the middle of a great writing session. But something about breaking that flow ultimately helps my writing.

Yes, Lada did answer this question for me. No, she’s not taking any further questions at this time.

Has Lada inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Dogs are so wonderful; I’m not sure my writing could do them justice.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Oh yes. And bus. And skateboard. I’m actually not sure whether she adores skateboards or despises them. For Lada, these emotions manifest in the same way.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

All of the above. She fetches tennis balls inside the house, but she won’t fetch outdoors. At the dog park, she will try to fetch other dogs who are fetching.

Where is Lada's favorite outdoor destination?

Lada loves going anywhere with people or food, preferably both. She thinks eye contact is an invitation to be best friends, so she’s constantly interrupting our walks to abscond with a new human.

Who is Lada's best pet-pal?

Who isn’t?

What is Lada's best quality?

Lada is the friendliest, most open-minded creature I have ever met. In her eyes, every human, dog, cat, turtle, and squirrel is a potential friend. There’s no adventure too small for this pup.

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

Every person who gets on public transit with us has gathered specifically to pet Lada, right? No? Then that’s what she would change.

If Lada could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Lada was a stray for about a year before I met her. I’m dying to know what kind of mischief she got up to during that lost year. It sounds strange, but people often say she’s the most charismatic dog they’ve ever met. I want to know where this charisma comes from and what kind of misadventures led her into my life.

Or I’d ask her why she’s so deathly afraid of plastic bags.

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

I know we’re a few decades late, but definitely Lucille Ball.

What advice would Lada give if asked?

The vacuum cleaner is extremely dangerous and should only be approached by trained professionals.

Visit E.R. Ramzipoor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok

Who is in the photo at right?

The being with less of a beard in this photograph is me, mostly human writer Kira Jane Buxton. The four-legged, bearded chap is my canine partner-in-crime, Ewok. He is ten years young and a Brussels Griffon. We were, naturally, cosplaying as Sherlock Holmes and Watson in this picture.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We stopped by our local Viennese coffee shop. It’s beautiful and very fancy, and you are not allowed to order things by their American names. Instead of latte, you must say “wiener melange.” I find this wonderful, whimsical, and occasional hysterical.

What's brewing?

I am very pathetic and can’t handle coffee anymore, so I order a decaf with almond milk and vanilla, which means I am an utter embarrassment to the city of Seattle.

Any treats for you or Ewok on this occasion?

Cafe Vienna has a drive through window, which Ewok loves going through. He whines, sticks his head out of the car window and “performs” for a snack. We recently got a new car with tinted windows, and in his anxiety that the barista can’t see him through those dark windows he has developed this manic routine where he barks like the UPS man is breaking in and scratches manically at the new leather seats. This is very effective and he gets lifted to the front seat so that he can flirt with his barista. He often receives a Milk Bone that is the appropriate size for a Great Dane and we have to ration it into bits because he gets anxious if his treats are too large.

How were you and Ewok united?

We got Ewok from a breeder when we were living in LA. It was love at first sight (as a puppy he looked like a little bald gremlin with long wisps of dark hair, with a natural prancing gait, mohawk and full beard). We brought him home and he was partially raised by one of my three rescue cats.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

There was really no other choice. We considered “Wicket” and also “Fizzgig” but Ewok just fit him so perfectly. Every time we go anywhere, people yell, “Dude! Your dog looks like an Ewok!” It’s very satisfying.

Does Ewok do more to help or hinder your writing?

He’s an enormous helper. Brussels Griffons are velcro dogs, so he and I do almost everything together. He’s very good about recognizing when I’ve been sitting typing too long and it’s time for us to go on some sort of adventure. I write full time from home, so I spend more time with Ewok than anyone else.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

In Hollow Kingdom, I write from the perspective of animals, many of whom have been inspired by real animals. One of the main characters is a bloodhound named Dennis, who I think in part was inspired by our family dog, Douglas. Douglas was a very special dog my mom rescued from drowning in a Singapore storm drain. I also once knew a Weimaraner named Raja who was hellbent on getting into trouble and I think young Dennis was a little inspired by him.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

All of them. Squirrels are for chasing, even off-limits squirrels like my backyard buddy, Earl The Squirrel. Ewok has three cats at home, so by extension, this means that all the kitties in the world belong to him. He likes the mailman, but by thunder, if he hears the mail truck or worst still, a UPS truck, he goes bananas! I even introduced him to the UPS man to try and sort this prejudice out. Now he loves the UPS man, but the truck he drives—that truck is nefarious and cannot be trusted.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Squeaky toys—Justin Beaver, Lionel Richie, Bun DMC, and Mr. Blue.

Where is Ewok's favorite outdoor destination?

He likes to walk around the neighborhood and tries to convince me to walk into the homes of people we know (and sometimes those we don’t). He also loves kids and tries to follow them home. I have been trying to explain the human concept of “trespassing’ to him for quite some time.

Who is Ewok's best pet-pal?

China, the puggle. Also, sometimes Kabuki, the Siamese cat who raised him, but only sometimes. A lot of times, he’s biting her on her butt without provocation.

What is Ewok's best quality?

He makes everyone laugh everywhere he goes. Grown men giggle as he walks by, children squeal in delight. Everyone loves Ewok and it is a pleasure to see him spread so much joy (we have to factor in an additional twenty minutes anytime we go anywhere so people can fuss over him.)

If Ewok could change one thing about Seattleites, what would it be?

Their annoying habit of leaving their doors locked.

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

I’d ask him what adventures he’d like to go on (and then while I had his full attention, quickly add “your farts are neither dangerous or a conspiracy, dude, I promise”). I was going to say “I’d tell him how much I adore him”, but he already knows that.

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

Benedict Cumberbatch. There is no other option.

What advice would Ewok give if asked?

Enjoy your life. Make sure to sniff some flowers, sit in the sun, have a tasty snack, love the people in your life fiercely, and laugh a lot (Ewok has a great sense of humor and he’s all about hedonism). And for god sakes, keep your beard long and luscious.

Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cate Holahan & Westley

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Cate Holahan and the handsome hound to the right is Westley. He’s a pug/beagle mix, known as a puggle, and is eleven and a half years young. I’m a bestselling author of psychological thrillers and Westley is my uncertified therapy dog. Whenever I am penning a stressful scene, he’s there to let me pet him and takeaway some of my anxiety.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Westley and I have coffee together every morning after his morning walk, before I start writing.

What's brewing?

I have a Miele coffee maker and Starbucks blonde roast is brewing. Today, I’ve put some ice in it because it’s hot out here in NJ.

Any treats for you or Westley on this occasion?

Westley lives for treats. He’s chewing on some dehydrated chicken.

How were you and Westley united?

Westley and I found one another through a Craigslist post. Someone had a litter of puggles and he was the runt. Poor little guy had worms. I adopted him and got him to the vet. And he’s clearly not the runt anymore.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My husband and I named him Westley after the pirate in The Princess Bride. We’d hoped he would do “as you wish.” Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, he really does as he wishes.

Does Westley do more to help or hinder your writing?

Westley definitely helps me not feel so alone when I’m writing a scary or tense scene.

Has Westley inspired the creation of any fictional canines?

I love dogs, but I don’t really write about them.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

My dog catches squirrels. He has a strong prey drive, despite his age and his fondness for treats.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky ball.

Who is Westley's best pet-pal?

Westley loves his “cousin” Jack, a ten-year-old Australian shepherd (my sister’s dog). He also is infatuated with her cat and whines for her attention. But she wants nothing to do with him.

What is Westley's best quality?

He’s a good time guy. He loves everything. I think he even loves squirrels… just not in the way they’d appreciate.

If Westley could change one thing about New Jerseyans, what would it be?

Traffic.

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

If he’s been happy.

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

Edward Norton.

What advice would Westley give if asked?

Don’t stress. Have a snack.

Visit Cate Holahan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Laura Sibson & Nala

Who is in the photo at right?

In this photo you see me, Laura Sibson, with Nala, our 11-year-old female Labrador Retriever lying nearby on her dog bed. I am a writer living in the northwest corner of Philadelphia. My debut young adult novel The Art of Breaking Things has just been released on June 18! My favorite place to write is this kitchen table and Nala is never far from me.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is pretty much us every day. As a writer, I often work at home and Nala is my primary company. There are days when I don’t speak to anyone all day except for Nala. I’m grateful for her company.

What's brewing?

I’m so glad you asked! My favorite coffee is La Colombe. My husband and I are equally hooked on coffee so we have it delivered in 5 lb. bags. We brew traditional coffee at home, but when I write in a coffee house, I’ll treat myself to a latte.

Any treats for you or Nala on this occasion?

Nala is always up for treats. As a Labrador Retriever, she’s an opportunistic eater. Now that she’s an aging dog, her daily treats are the joint supplements that the vet recommended. I’m just happy with my coffee in this moment.

How were you and Nala united?

We found Nala through a recommendation from a friend. The breeder was located in New Jersey, which was only about a 45-minute drive from our home. So, on a cold February day, my two sons and I picked up the 8-week-old bundle of fluff that was Nala and brought her home.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

When Nala came to us, our sons were 11 and 8 years old. My husband, sons and I made lists of possible names. Nala won because at that point, she looked like Nala from The Lion King. We also call her Fluffernutter because she’s fluffy and she’s the color of peanut butter.

Does Nala do more to help or hinder your writing?

Nala is an old dog now, so doesn’t hinder me at all. (As opposed to when she was a puppy, chewing everything in reach and making messes on the floor.) She helps me when I’m struggling in one of my stories because I find that walks always help to untangle story knots. And Nala is always up for a walk.

Has Nala inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet! But I’ve had a couple of ideas that could pan out in future stories.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

The postman is at risk of getting licked to death if Nala is outside when he arrives. In her prime, she would dart after squirrels, deer and even a fox one time. But these days, she can’t be bothered.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Nala is a Retriever that loves to pick up items, but never brings them back. She chases balls and sticks – especially in the lake where we vacation. And she has a whole host of toys that she cycles through, greeting us at the door with any number of them.

Where is Nala's favorite outdoor destination?

Nala and I have logged many miles in Fairmount Park, which is only about a mile behind my house and which offers a whole network of trails to explore. But watch out when she gets near the creek! There’s no stopping Nala from swimming.

Who is Nala's best pet-pal?

When I was working in higher education, she attended a daily dog party where she was able to run around with a half dozen dogs. But one of her favorite dog friends has always been Tonks, my friend’s rescue. We take long walks together and when I tell Nala that we are going to see Tonks, she wags her tail like crazy.

What is Nala's best quality?

I don’t think I can name just one! Nala is extremely gentle. Dogs that don’t get along with other dogs often get along with Nala and people who don’t like dogs often like Nala. She’s also very quiet. Oddly quiet, actually. I don’t think I’ve heard her bark in a year or more.

If Nala could change one thing about Philadelphians, what would it be?

Nala would urge Philadelphians to slow down and stop taking things so seriously.

If Nala could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

My husband and sons are suggesting that we get a puppy, reasoning that Nala will train the puppy by example. I’d ask Nala what she thinks of that idea – would she want a puppy in the house, and would she really train it?

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

Amy Poehler from when she voiced Joy in Inside Out.

What advice would Nala give if asked?

Nala would advise us to enjoy the journey and not be so focused on the destination. She’d definitely tell us to stop and smell the roses -- and the honeysuckle and the grass and the pee on that leaf down there.

Visit Laura Sibson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Scott MacDonald & Sadie

Who is in the photo at right?

Sadie is a mixed breed with some obvious Yellow Lab. She recently turned 6 years old. My son rescued her after she was picked up by Beaumont TX Animal Control; she and her mom were living in the wild, and Sadie (named by my son Ross) had serious health issues including heartworm, which is normally fatal to dogs. A dog DNA testing service analyzed her DNA and found lab and no other significant breed DNA meaning her parents were mixed breed, her grandparents were likely mixed, and maybe her great grandparents. She is a mutt, just like most Americans.

I'm Scott MacDonald. I have had a long career in real estate, often working for investors to fix troubled companies and projects throughout the world. My last full time assignment was CEO of the Investa Property Group in Sydney Australia. I wrote a book about that experience: Saving Investa: How An Ex-Factory Worker Helped Save One Of Australia's Iconic Companies. I am now semi retired but still providing real estate investment advice to pension funds.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Sadie and I frequently walk to Starbucks in Del Mar, California together. I have a Grande black coffee (no room please) and Sadie enjoys treats. She waits patiently outside when I enter the coffee shop, and frequently gets pets by others coming and going. When we stay downtown San Diego on occasion, Sadie and I go to a restaurant for coffee and breakfast; Sadie knows the way and the restaurant (Cafe 222) staff find a large dog biscuit for her as soon as they see us approach.

What's brewing?

I like my coffee bold and undiluted.

Any treats for you or Sadie on this occasion?

Always. Treats are an essential part of life.

How were you and Sadie united?

My son Ross saved Sadie when he was a law student at the University of Texas. When he accepted a full time job at a prestigious Houston law firm, he could not keep Sadie and asked me, his father, to take Sadie in. I was not looking for a dog, I was traveling back and forth to Australia, and having a dog created complications. But Ross is my son and he loved this dog, so I did what I think most parents would do - I took Sadie and made adjustments.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

When Animal Control picked her up, they called the puppy “Blondie.” When Ross adopted her, he named her “Sadie.” He liked the name and she didn’t care what she was called as long as there was love and treats.

Please tell us about your book, Think Like a Dog.

The book is a self-help advice book based on observed canine behavior. Sadie writes part of each chapter in “her” distinct voice about her priorities and preferences. Then I talk in my voice about lessons learned and apply Sadie’s message to human life and conditions. The book is filled with cartoons and fun illustrations, and each chapter is punctuated with true stores of dogs doing things that demonstrate a point. Chapters include Being persistent, Knowing when to bark, Being a good sniffer, Leaving your mark, etc.

Sadie transitioned from a scared rescue dog afraid of virtually everything to a confident, outgoing dog engaging with people and dogs. There are many lessons to be learned as people encounter change and challenging conditions.

What is Sadie's best quality?

Unconditional love. It is hard to stay upset about something, when Sadie is waiting at the front door with a waging tail to greet me after a challenging day.

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy…?

She likes to play tug-of-war with a rope toy, especially with other dogs. Although one of her friends is a Bernese Mountain Dog, and Sadie has realized she is not going to budge Titan so she tries to get Titan to chase her instead (Titan is not very fast).

Postman, cat, squirrel…

She likes to stalk and chase rabbits. She will never catch one, but she is persistent. Some of the letter carriers carry dog treats, and Sadie is fond of greeting them.

If Sadie could change one thing about Cailfornians, what would it be?

Everyone should be required to carry treats.

If Sadie could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

What are you thinking?

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

A woman with gentle but determined voice. Sadie generally gets her way by wagging her tail, curling up beside someone, and staring with her big brown eyes. She never threatens and never shows anger. But she is persistent and charming.

What advice would Sadie give if asked?

Read the book. It is filled with advice.

Visit Scott MacDonald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Allie Larkin & Stella

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Allie Larkin, author of the novels Stay, Why Can't I Be You, and Swimming for Sunlight, which all include lovable literary pups. I’m having coffee with my friend, Stella, who is an eleven-year-old German Shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

After she’s hit the yard and eaten breakfast, Stella likes to herd me over to sit with her for our usual quiet time. I have a folded futon mattress in my office that makes for an excellent meditation spot/dog bed, and we like to sit there while I drink my coffee. It is so peaceful.

What's brewing?

I’m pretty no frills about coffee. I like pour over best. Black or with a little soy milk. My two favorites are Philz Philharmonic roast and Caffe Appassionato’s Organic Shade Grown Emperor’s Blend.

Any treats for you or Stella on this occasion?

Stella is just getting over a tummy ache, so I’m doing the lame thing where I pretend her regular kibble is treats. It feels like the equivalent of giving out raisins on Halloween, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She eats Natural Planet kibble and is endlessly excited about it. She also loves Checkups dental bones and Zukes Mini Naturals.

How were you and Stella united?

Before we moved to the Bay Area, we lived in Rochester, NY. We had a German Shepherd named Argo (who was actually the cover-dog for the hardcover version of my first novel, Stay). When we had to travel, we used to board him at a great place just outside of Rochester. The people who ran the boarding facility knew of a thirteen-month-old German Shepherd who needed a new home and called to see if we’d be interested in adding to our family.

Stella was a holy terror when we first got her and Argo was miserable about it. But eventually, they settled in and became best friends. When Argo got cancer, Stella was the most brilliant comfort to him. All of her anxiety and young dog hyperactivity faded away, and she was calm and careful for him. It was beautiful to witness. The depth and breadth of Stella’s heart never cease to amaze me.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

She didn’t answer to the name she had when she came to us, so we started making a list of possible names. Then my husband was telling me about Stellarium, which is an open source desktop planetarium, and suddenly Stella seemed like the perfect name. So, I suppose she’s actually named after software. I call her Stellar or Stells sometimes.

Does Stella do more to help or hinder your writing?

Once Stella made it through her teen dog angst, she became a pretty low key dog. In the book Quiet, Susan Cain mentions that animals can also be introverts. Stella is definitely an introvert dog. She wants to know where I am at all times, and she hangs out in the same room with me, but she likes her personal space. She’s the ideal office mate. As long as we stick to her walk-play-food schedule, she’s pretty content to let me work, and just having her physical presence in the room makes me happy.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

There are a lot of cats who wander our neighborhood. Stella desperately wants to be friends, but they aren’t interested. At night, she needs to sniff around the yard to see where they’ve been.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Stella has a menagerie of stuffed animals that she grooms and cares for. Her current favorite is a Fluff & Tuff rabbit we call Rabbert. She knows him by name and will retrieve him if we ask where he is.

Where is Stella's favorite outdoor destination?

She loves our daily walks to a nearby P-A-R-K, but we’ve had the chance to take her backpacking in the Sierras a few times and she loved that. I also got to take her hiking to the Lost Coast up by Mendocino. It was her first time at the ocean, and she took it all in stride. She loved lying in the warm sand and watching the waves.

Who is Stella's best pet-pal?

Argo was the love of Stella’s life. After he passed away, she started getting fearful of other dogs. We thought about getting another dog, but ultimately decided it would be best for her to get our undivided attention. So, I suppose I am Stella’s best pet-pal now. I often joke that over our time together, Stella has become a little bit human and I’ve become a little bit dog.

What is Stella's best quality?

Stella is afraid of so many things, but she has never let her fear get in the way of being a good friend. I have so much respect for how hard she works to love fiercely. It’s inspiring.

If Stella could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I think Stella would prefer that I spend my entire day in one spot. She gets so annoyed when she’s settled herself and all her stuffed animals in my office and then I go to the kitchen to make lunch.

If Stella could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

I always wonder what she’s dreaming about when she runs in her sleep.

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

Has anyone ever gone wrong choosing Emma Thompson for anything?

What advice would Stella give if asked?

It’s important to know where your pack members are.

Visit Allie Larkin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Laura Testino & Rita June

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Rita June and I! I’m Laura Testino, a life and culture reporting fellow at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. It is ridiculous that my job exists, because it requires that I write about some of the most interesting and entertaining people and places in New Orleans, coincidentally one of the most interesting and entertaining cities in the world. Rita and I are both from the South; her from Alabama and myself from Georgia, but I adopted her a couple of years ago when I was living in New York City. She’s a spunky and energetic cattle dog mix, but gets along great in the city. The best guess for her age is around 5 (she celebrates her birthday in October), but most people who meet her think she is much younger.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Rita loves walking to this library in our neighborhood. It used to be an old home (once the residence of film star Marguerite Clark!), so it has a large and hilly lawn with several pockets for her to sniff and explore. While we lived in New York, her favorite place to go was the steps of the MET Museum, because she liked to watch the people and the cars travel orderly (read: herd themselves) down 5th Avenue. I think there’s a similar attraction for her, a herding dog, to sit on the steps at this library and watch the streetcar and other cars and people. She thinks she is very fancy, I’m sure.

We walk over to the library a few times each week, and I either bring my own coffee or make a pit stop at French Truck Coffee, which is on the way.

What's brewing?

On this coffee date, it was coffee brewed at home. I like the routine of coffee each day and save the frills for special occasions. I usually brew about 4 cups of Trader Joe’s medium roast for a serving, which probably means I have a very unhealthy addiction. If I’m drinking iced coffee, it gets a splash of almond milk and extra ice.

From French Truck coffee, I like their NOLA Iced Coffee, but order it half sweetened.

Any treats for you or Rita on this occasion?

Yes! My family was in town, and my mom brought me some homemade blueberry muffins. Rita loves blueberries, so she got to have a few pieces herself.

How were you and Rita united?

I chalk that up to a knowingly irresponsible decision that I, truthfully, have been lucky enough to not ever regret, (except maybe on the weekend mornings when I’d rather not be awake before 8).

Rita was on Petfinder a few weeks after I’d moved to New York City from Alabama, where I graduated college, and I had wanted to have another dog for a long time. My first dog, Daisy, was a gift for my kindergarten graduation, but died right when I started high school.

I went to the shelter with the intent of just visiting Rita. Her Petfinder profile pegged her at the perfect apartment size (about 35 pounds), and I liked that she wasn’t a puppy but still a young 3-years-old. Once I got there, I found out she’d been adopted and returned a couple times, and it crushed me. When I found out she was from Alabama and born on a date that was special to me, I knew I had to get her. She came to her new home a week later.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Rita was Rita in the shelter, and I added her middle name, June. There, they nicknamed her “Ri-Ri,” but from me she gets: Rita, Rita J, Rita June, RJ and Rita bean.

When you're writing, does Rita do more to help or hinder your work?

If Rita is awake, she probably wants attention. She once sat for half an hour in the tiny barstool seat in my kitchen next to mine while I was writing. Her wet nose often pops up under my elbow while I’m typing to remind me that Hello, My name is Rita and you haven’t pet me in, like 5 whole minutes.

Even though it’s not productive to work in the same room as her, having her to keep me on a routine is great. I catch up on reading while we’re out at the park, and taking a couple walks each day is a great work break to look forward to and recharge from.

Your article "New Orleans UPS driver shares photos of the pups on his route" blew up in my social media feeds. Has Rita met the driver?

Ha! I wish she could meet Jay. Unfortunately, we don’t live on his route.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cats are public enemy number 1. She’s been known to chase a squirrel’s shadow, though, also.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

“Green ball” is her favorite to play with inside, but she has squeaky pig, duck and snake toys that she’ll make music with for attention. Rita loves to find a stick to munch on for a while at the library.

Where is Rita's favorite outdoor destination?

She loves going to any park, or anywhere else where there’s lots to sniff and room to run in circles at a million miles a minute. Specifically, though, any place with springy grass to roll in is Rita Heaven.

Who is Rita's best pet-pal?

Rita June is one intense lady, and playing is no joking matter. She doesn’t have one best pal in particular, but welcomes any other pup who enjoys being chased at lightning speed.

What is Rita's best quality?

She’s spunky and smart! It’s great to have a furry companion that is so observant and attentive.

If Rita could change one thing about New Orleanians, what would it be?

Ha, probably to keep their cats inside unless said cats can be chased!

If Rita could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

I’d really like to know how much different her life is now from what it was before she was adopted. I don’t know much, other than that she was rescued by one shelter from living in a little concrete, fenced-in patio area with a couple other dogs, and then shipped up to the shelter in New York where I found her.

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

Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama accent would do.

What advice would Rita give if asked?

Rita June would say to go after what you want, and to play as hard as you work as hard as you rest.

Read Laura Testino's reporting at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

--Marshal Zeringue