Thursday, December 23, 2021

Teresita Dovalpage & La Niña

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Teresita Dovalpage, college professor and author of three theater plays and twelve novels. The last four belong to the Havana Mystery series published by Soho Crime. Death under the Perseids is the most recent one, set on a cruise ship headed for Cuba. And then there is La Niña, a five-year-old English foxhound mix with some heeler and husky. A girl with an attitude!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The beginning of a new day. My husband and I love to have our morning coffee with La Niña in the sitting room. She plops down on a chair and watches us. When she considers that we should be done with the cafecito, she rolls over on the rug and demands a tummy rub. Naturally, she gets it.

What's brewing?

Café Bustelo. Espresso. Muy Cubano, unsweetened and super strong for me so I can start the day energized. With half-and-half and tons of sugar for my husband.

Any treats for you or La Niña on this occasion?

She adores fruit peels—mango, pear and apricot peels are her favorites. In the summer, our orchard provides fresh pears and apricots, but at this time of the year, store-bought fruit has to do.

How were you and La Niña united?

When we adopted her, she was a bit skittish at first. But one day she came over and put what we now call her “possessive paw” on my hand. She left it there for what felt like ten minutes, and I didn’t move. Perhaps it was some kind of a test. Afterwards, she became more comfortable and began to offer kisses on a daily basis.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

I have always called her Niña, Spanish for “girl.” Sometimes we also call her Miss Fluff—tongue-in-cheek, because she has no fluff at all.

Does La Niña do more to help or hinder your writing?

To help, definitely. She sits on an armchair and takes long naps while I write. It’s a comforting, quiet presence, until she sees a squirrel outside. Then tranquility goes out the window! But usually she is just there, snoring softly. When I get tired, I take ten minutes off to snuggle with her—very relaxing. Inspirational, too. That’s how she made a cameo in Death under the Perseids. I was on “her” chair, proofreading a printed copy of the manuscript (it’s too easy to miss errors on screen) and La Niña placed her aforementioned possessive paw on a page. It was a scene where the protagonist’s grandmother, Mamina, complains about being lonely. So I gave Mamina a puppy and named her Nena—an affectionate Spanish term for “girl.”

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel! She has never caught one, though not for lack of trying. We have plenty in the backyard, but she has gotten a little Rubenesque lately, which makes chasing squirrels (and anything else for that matter) somewhat difficult.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Pillows. Of course, she has her own, but if she can get hold of some else’s, much better. Early on, she’d chew on books. La Niña mala! I am happy to report that she has outgrown that stage.

Who is La Niña's best pet-pal?

It used to be Maxx, our Rhodesian Ridgeback [photo, left] who is now in puppy heaven. Maybe it’s time to get her a new friend!

What is La Niña's best quality?

She is a people’s dog. She rarely meets a human she doesn’t want to play kissy face with.

If La Niña could change one thing about New Mexico, what would it be?

I think she would say something like: “The wind wouldn’t blow so hard here. It gets awfully windy in this corner of the world and it scares me!”

If La Niña could answer only one question in English or Spanish, what would you ask her?

Why do you always take bones to a rug and not, let’s say, the backyard, chica?

What advice would La Niña give if asked?

When offered treats or compliments, accept them graciously.

Visit Teresa Dovalpage's website,

Learn more about Death under the Perseids.

Writers Read: Teresa Dovalpage (April 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Death Comes in through the Kitchen.

My Book, The Movie: Death Comes in through the Kitchen.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. What a treat to have a Coffee with a Canine email today. And I put the first bk of series on my Audible wish list.

  2. Yes, indeed! Good to see Coffee back. 😊

  3. Me encantó la entrevista. ¡Menuda personalidad tiene La Niña!

  4. Welcome back! You've been missed. And Niña is beyond adorable!