Friday, December 23, 2022

Elle Grawl & Olive and Truffle

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Elle Grawl and I'm the author of the psychological thriller One of Those Faces. In this photo, my dog Truffle (an 8-year-old shepherd mix) is in front of me.

My other dog, Olive (a 1-year-old Goldendoodle), isn't pictured here.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

As I write this, we're preparing to make a quick trip to a coffee shop before I need to head to the office for my day-job as a lawyer.

What's brewing?

I typically like to support the independent coffee shops in my neighborhood, but on days when I bring my dogs, I'll swing through the Starbucks drive-thru for my venti dark roast coffee (hot, no cream or sugar), so they can get a puppucino.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

No treats for me, but the dogs love their puppucinos, which are these tiny cups that the baristas fill with whipped cream. Olive and Truffle don't get them very often, so they cherish each one!

How were you and Olive and Truffle united?

My husband and I wanted to buy a coffee plant one Saturday morning while I was in law school and we returned with Truffle instead! While we were looking for the plant, we stumbled upon a local shelter event and we really connected with Truffle. We'd been wanting to get a second dog for some time and had been on waiting lists with doodle-mix rescues in the area for a while before we got to meet Olive!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

My husband and I like to cook together and we love truffle as an ingredient. When we talked about getting a dog, we'd always joke that "Truffle" would be a great name for a dog. I sometimes call him "Truffie" or "Chuckles" because he always looks like he's smiling.

We had a couple of name ideas for our second dog, but when we met her, "Olive" seemed to fit for some reason. She also responds to "Ollie," "Ollie-kins," and "Stinky."

Do Olive and Truffle do more to help or hinder your writing?

They somehow manage to do both!

When we first got Olive, she was a handful and required a lot of attention as a puppy so I didn't have as much time for writing. These days, they both love to curl up by me when I write and it's so comforting to have them around. But when they're super playful or if they spot a squirrel anywhere near a window, I usually opt to close my laptop and take them outside.

Have your actual canines inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Actually, yes! Truffle inspired a shelter-adopted shepherd mix in one of my works-in-progress and Olive inspired a brief interaction that the main character has with a Goldendoodle at a house party in a different novel I'm working on.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Truffle and Olive both love to run after squirrels. We have the occasional cat pass through our yard and those are Olive's favorite to watch through the window (I never let them out when a cat is around).

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

They love all three, but the ball is a particular favorite since they get to chase after it!

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Before Olive, Truffle used to have a good group of corgi friends at our last place. But right now, they are each other's best pals!

What is each dog's best quality?

They are both so smart and so great at training. They're also incredibly loving and cuddly.

If Olive and Truffle could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They would definitely change how I manage my schedule so that I could spend every waking moment with them!

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

For Truffle, I would ask "what was your life like before we adopted you?" I've always been curious about where he came from since he was picked up from the street but was clearly accustomed to being in a house with a family.

For Olive, I would ask "what makes you happiest?"

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

For some reason, I feel like a good fit for Truffle would be Aziz Ansari. Haley Lu Richardson would be a perfect voice for Olive.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

I'm pretty sure they would tell me to "stop stressing out so much and play with us" which is obviously great advice!

Visit Elle Grawl's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Barry Wilker & Sam

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Barry Wilker. I am a retired interior designer who spent 43 years in the depths of residential interiors. Now I write, paint and read. I have written a book, The Lapone Sisters, which is my debut novel.

My canine friend here is Sam, an 18-month-old Springer Spaniel puppy.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is more a cocktail with a canine than Coffee with a canine. Every evening around 6:30, just before dinner, David has a Gin and I have a Scotch. We sit with Sam and talk about the day and what we are going to do tomorrow. Sam just listens. Before our dinner we give him his cocktail, which is a training treat.

What's brewing?

Gin and scotch.

Any treats for you or Sam on this occasion?

Just the normal treats. Training treats and kisses.

How were you and Sam united?

We were united via kismet. We are a dog family. Our previous two PBGV’s (Petit Brussels Griffon Vendeens) died 2 years apart. We were waiting for the breeder to let us pick one from a new litter that was 6 months in the future. We became pretty morose. We lost our last PBGV in November of 2021. During the depths of depression, a neighbor became worried about us and came across Sam at 7 months old. Sam was up for adoption due to a divorce situation. We were interviewed here at our home and loved him immediately. He had been professionally trained so there was very little for us to do other than love him and get him used to having parents 24/7. It was easy for the 3 of us.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He came with his name. Sam. That was somewhat problematic at first because my father’s name was Sam. Toward the end of my father’s life, we were not very close. After trying to think of names that rhymed with Sam, once he entered our lives, I knew he had to keep his name.

Sometimes I call him Sammy-Whammy.

Does Sam do more to help or hinder your writing?

Writing, does he hinder? Not in the least. He lays by me in his bed and sleeps.

I truly think that he understands about 150 words. In fact, I know he does.

Speaking of writing - I want to share something that I wrote about 8 years ago.

“When I look at my Dog and stare deep into his eyes; I often wonder If he was once a person, and now he is still a person, only with Locked in Syndrome.

And when I think, maybe; and wonder possibly as a person he talked too much, and never bothered to listen?

Being a dog is sort of an abstract punishment; you can have all the love in the world and yet, the only way to say thank you is to wag your tail.

Being mistreated and punished is the same thing. You have nowhere to turn; only curl up in a corner and be miserable.

Some people only like to do that as a sport.

Being miserable is their comfort.

But being a dog is to remain silent, good or bad.

I love Dogs.” ---Barry Wilker

Has Sam inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Just Sam the dog that speaks with his eyes. I have never had a dog this literal with his body language.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Sam is always after the chipmunks in the yard. He has realized that all of the deer are his gentle friends. And he flips out at the sight of turkeys. It’s about the only time he barks. Turkeys hate loud noises and he scares them off, after which he proudly struts away with me.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

I’ve included a photo of Sam with his favorite doll [photo right]. Mr. Piggy. He loves to find sticks and chew, but that is when he gets the comment in English, “No, drop it,” and he does.

Who is Sam's best pet-pal?

Sam has a number of neighborhood dogs that he socializes with during his morning walks. He is infatuated with Goya and Luna (small mixed breed dogs) and he also has a good relationship with two Beagles, Wyatt and Liddy. He is telepathic with an older Standard Poodle, named Cody. Cody is generally dog averse. They sit across the road and communicate while we communicate with Cody’s owner. There are many more. Every so often Sam has play dates in our yard with my brother’s Weimaraner, who is named Asher.

What is Sam's best quality?

Sam’s best quality is being himself.

If Sam could change one thing about Nashvillians, what would it be?


Sam should be a poster dog for kindness in Nashville.

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

If I could ask Sam one question in English, it would be “Who were you before we met at this time? I know you are someone from the past-- and you know who it is, but you can’t tell me.”

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

I think Sam could use the voice of Paul Newman.

What advice would Sam give if asked?

His advice would be “Love me and I will Love you.” And Sam also has some helpful hints from Heloise that we won’t go into.

Visit Barry Wilker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Alysa Wishingrad & Cleo and Lucy

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Alysa Wishingrad, I write upper middle grade books with a historical and fantastical twist. My debut The Verdigris Pawn came out in July 21 and my next book Between Monsters and Marvels will be out Fall ‘23.

My friend here is Lucy, a 5-year-old beauty with some shepherd and who knows what else in her who, along with Cleo, was rescinded in Alexandria, Eqypt.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We like to have our morning tea outside anytime we can. This was a balmy Halloween morning- perfect time to sit in the sun!

What's brewing?

I have to admit I don’t drink much coffee anymore. But I am very devoted to, and picky about my tea.

AM: A cup of Joko tea with a splash of oat or almond milk – JOKO is a South African black tea in the style of a Morning Breakfast. had never been a fan of black tea my
best friend, who is from SA, introduced me to the tea. It’s so smooth and lovely, I can’t start my day without a cup.

Mid-Day is for a second cup of black tea– maybe a cup of Paris with steamed oat milk – the perfect treat!

Evenings are not complete without a cup of Rooibos, yup again, with a splash of oat or almond milk.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

The dogs get plenty of treats throughout the day, so they tend to skip tea time.

How were you and the dogs united?

A friend of a friend rescued them in Alexandria, Egypt. She’s a flight attendant and had friends and family in Egypt who were devoted to rescuing street dogs – of which there are countless numbers.

Cleo [photo right] was found in a box with her siblings at just a few days old. They all had parvo, she was the only one to survive.

Lucy was found wandering the streets on her own at about eight weeks old. The rescuers put the two girls together and they bonded immediately.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Cleo was called Sugar in Egypt.

Lucy was called Princess.

We didn’t much care for those names, and the girls didn’t seem terribly attached either. It took our family days to land on their names but we finally reached an agreement.

As for aliases, how much time do you have?

Here’s how their nicknames have evolved:

Cleo (short for Cleopatra) > Cleopatricia > CleoPat > Patty Anne > Patty > Pat.

Lucy [photo left]: We had a lot of debate in our family before landing on her name – I wanted to call her Lulu, no one else did. So, we named her Lucy and ... you guessed it her nickname is Lulu!

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

When they were younger they did a lot more to hinder my writing, but now that they’re 5, almost 6 years old they don’t demand quite as much attention.

I do value my twice daily long walks with them though- I do some of my best thinking and knot untangling during our walks.

Have your actual canines inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

I’ve yet to write any dogs into my books, although there is a little Beasty in my next book, Between Monsters and Marvels, whose personality was certainly informed by all the beasts I’ve had in my life.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Yes.

[photo right: Lucy and Cleo back in Egypt]

And hawks, and coyote, fox and deer shouting in the night.

And cars in the driveway.

And deer off in the woods.

And and and and and....

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

They used to love to tear apart soft toys and chew on antlers, but they’re not that interested in them much anymore.

What is each dog's best quality?

Cleo is the sweetest, most lovely girl, and she’s very funny too.

Lucy is a great big cuddle bunny, she’ll put her head on your lap and stay as long as you let her.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Mae, our cat [photo left].

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

That I’d give them a cookie every single time they walk back into the house.

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

Would you like to have dinner?

And they’d answer: We’ve been waiting for you to ask for hours!

(Reader: they eat dinner at 5-5:30, about 8-9 hours after breakfast, not exactly an interminable wait.)

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

Cleo: Scarlett Johnasson

Lucy: Tina Fey

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Watch out for the basement door, there’s something down there!!!!!

Visit Alysa Wishingrad's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Erin Flanagan & Mavis and Lorna

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m the human, Erin Flanagan, author most recently of the novel Blackout. Mavis is the Springer Spaniel (she just had a birthday and turned 10!) and Lorna is the Poodle (5).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

All of us are so excited to get up in the morning for coffee and breakfast it’s amazing we can sleep at all. We’re writing this now (Erin is transcribing and all are contributing) after two bellies full of Purina Pro Plan and a spoonful of liverwurst (with pills hidden inside for Mavis; shh, don’t tell!) and a cup of coffee for Erin.

What's brewing?

Folgers Colombian with vanilla Premier Protein.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

Just each others’ company (and the liverwurst mentioned above).

How were you and the dogs united?

Mavis was a gift from Erin’s soon-to-be fiancé, Barry, back in 2012. She was on leave from work for the year and Barry thought it would be a good time to get her the puppy she’d always wanted. Barry would be moving in a year later, and Erin’s father thought it was hilarious that he got her a puppy first so he wouldn’t have to train her. He took this as a sign Barry would be able to hold his own against Erin.

Lorna came to us through 4 Paws for Ability, a local organization that trains service dogs for clients nationally. She flunked out of the program because she wasn’t willing to walk on the right side of her person, but is incredibly intelligent and sweet. Mavis has anxiety and Lorna is like her service animal. Whenever Mavis gets worked up, Lorna runs over and licks inside her ear which seems to really calm her down. She tried this with Erin once and it had the opposite effect.

How did Mavis and Lorna get their names? Any aliases?

About a week before Mavis came home, Erin was walking on a bike trail and someone behind her started calling “Mavis! Mavis!” She turned around and was being chased by a pig. The man yelling the name finally emerged and yelled, “Be careful!” Having grown up on a hog farm, Erin knew pigs could get mean so stayed still and hoped for the best. She still doesn’t know if the pig was family or dinner. Mavis’s nicknames are Hoob and F*cknut.

Lorna was named by Barry, a compromise Erin agreed to in order to get a second dog. Lorna also goes by Doone, Lor-pie, and Poodle.

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

The dogs provide Erin with so much joy they are definitely a help, but she doesn’t always remember this when they start up one of their pointless barking sessions and annoy the crap out of her.

Have your dogs inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Oh, this is terrible. In Erin’s novel Deer Season there’s a Springer named Patty that bites a neighbor and gets shot.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

These dogs are equal opportunity annoying and will bark at absolutely anything, and sometimes at nothing just to let you know they’re still on the job. Their white whale is the Rumpke dump truck that comes on Friday mornings. If they ever catch that, they can retire.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

The best dog toy on the market is the Jolly Pets Tug-a-Mals animals in size Large. Any one of us would be happy to do a sponsorship deal.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

They are best friends and also love it when their buddies Alma and Riley come to visit. Alma is a Black Lab/Golden Retriever (also from 4 Paws) and lives with Erin’s ex-husband, and Riley is a Goldendoodle who lives with Erin’s parents.

What is each dog's best quality?

Mavis is the most loving dog on the planet and looks at her people with so much adoration it’s almost embarrassing. Lorna is a self-sufficient problem solver, and when she shows affection it’s like you’ve won the lottery because she’s so selective. Both dogs appreciate you not asking for their worst qualities.

If Mavis and Lorna could change one thing about Ohioans, what would it be?

Less pollen would equal more walks outside.

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

Mavis, why must you bark at absolutely everything?
Lorna, exactly how high on the counters can you reach?

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

Mavis would be voiced by Eeyore. She’s not depressed, but the voice we use for her is very similar to this only not sad. Jane Lynch would be perfect for Lorna. She needs to be voiced by someone smart, confident, and condescending, who can portray that they think they’re better than everyone else, but still be loveable.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Mavis would tell you to stay vigilant. Do not let anyone pass without saying hello. They might have pets to give and they deserve the opportunity. Lorna would tell you to figure things out on your own. Erin’s advice is that everyone needs two such great dogs.

Visit Erin Flanagan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blackout.

My Book, The Movie: Blackout.


--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Jehanne Dubrow & Lola and Bandit

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Lola the Bedlington Terrier on the first day I met her, when she was only ten weeks. She’s now nearly nine. Bandit, who is her littermate, came to live with us when he was five, after he retired from his fancy show career. I'm Jehanne Dubrow, poet and author of creative nonfiction. My new book is Taste: A Book of Small Bites.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Our favorite coffee expedition is to a little drive-through place in town called The Mug. I always get a lavender latte with almond milk.

What's brewing?

I make many, many espressos, lattes, and mochas at home. In my early twenties I was a barista and managed a small chain of gourmet coffee shops. I’ll give myself any excuse—I’m tired, it’s the afternoon, we just ate dinner—to drink a cup of caffeine.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

Lola and Bandit are fans of the grain-free Pumpkin & Cinnamon Treats from Blue Buffalo, which we call cookies of course.

How were you and the dogs united?

After Argos—our beloved Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier—died when he was only seven, I swore that I would never have another dog. Argos was my first dog, and I hadn’t realized until his death how much the loss would hurt. But, five weeks later, I adopted Lola! The house was just so lonely without a dog. I went to meet Lola at a dog show, telling myself that I wasn’t going to take her home. As you can see from the photograph above, it was love at first sight. We adored one another instantly. For the first week after I adopted her, she wouldn’t leave my lap and just curled there, deep asleep. Holding that little gray seashell of a dog helped me to mourn Argos’s death and to recognize that dogs will always find room in our hearts.

Bandit lived with the breeders until he was five; after that, he stopped showing, came to live with us, and entered a life of leisure.

How did Lola and Bandit get their names? Any aliases?

Lola and Bandit came from what was known as “the Vegas litter.” Their sire was Vegas, a very successful show dog. All the puppies in the litter were given Las Vegas-themed names. Lola is a showgirl, as the song goes. And Bandit, well, I guess there are lots of robbers and outlaws in Vegas?

Lola also goes by Mouse. Sometimes she sits and looks up at me like the little rodent in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, smart and quizzical and most certainly in need of a treat.

Bandit is also known as Moose and Big Caribou. When he first came to us, he still had his show cut, which included a rather tall top knot and luxurious mane. Bandit is a gangly fellow, and I became convinced that he looked more like a caribou than a show dog. I have a theory about comedy: if I say something enough times, eventually I can persuade others that my jokes are funny! I kept calling Bandit a caribou until eventually my husband gave in and agreed. And that’s how Moose and Big Caribou came into being.

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

Well, they bark a lot. Other than that, they are tremendously helpful writing assistants. They both inspire me and frequently end up in my poems and essays. I also do some of my best writing when I go on walks with them. All that contemplative sniffing is good for brainstorming, for working out a difficult line in a poem or a paragraph that doesn’t want to cohere.

Did Lola and Bandit know Argos?

They didn’t! Occasionally, however, when they do something that reminds us of Argos (a look, a particular behavior), my husband and I will joke that Argos left them “Instructions for Being a Dog” pinned to the underside of the sofa.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Oh, they have a particular hatred for all forms of delivery people. Since they’re terriers, Lola and Bandit also have an incredible prey drive. Lola, in particular, can become a real hunter if she smells a rodent or a toad in the grass. She could track a suspicious scent for hours.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Lola prefers a squeaky-toy because she likes the sound, the feeling of throttling a small animal (yikes). Bandit prefers a ball. He enjoys sitting on the couch with a tennis ball held in his mouth (until his jaw grows tired and he eventually drops it).

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

One another. Lola was attacked by a 150 lb. off-leash dog when she was a tiny puppy. The fact that she has come to love Bandit is a huge accomplishment. For a long time, I thought that she would fear all other dogs.

What is each dog's best quality?

Lola is terrifyingly smart. She’s sensitive and thoughtful. She’s also very independent.

Bandit is a love-bug. He just wants to receive side-belly rubs and hang out with his people. When he’s really happy, he hums a beautiful song. Sometimes I will hum at him, and then he hums back to me; we make a delicate duet.

If Lola and Bandit could change one thing about Texans, what would it be?

I think they would probably ask for an occasional snowfall. Both enjoy romping in the cold.

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

Who is your favorite dog from literature?

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

Bedlington Terriers originated in England. Lola would be voiced by the elegant and brilliant Emma Thompson. And Rowan Atkinson (or maybe John Cleese) would voice Bandit, because he has a gift for comedy.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Lola: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gray dog in possession of a hungry belly must be in want of a cookie.”

Bandit: “To misquote Glengarry Glen Ross, always be tail-wagging.”

Visit Jehanne Dubrow's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow and Argos.


--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Laurien Berenson & Dash

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Laurien Berenson and I write the long-running Melanie Travis canine mystery series. The debut of my new spin-off series, Peg and Rose Solve a Murder, comes out this month. With me is Dash, who's a 12-year-old smooth Collie.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Early summer mornings, Dash and I are almost always outside. We live on a small farm so there are peacocks squawking and rabbits to chase, and Dash usually likes to say hello to the neighbor's donkey.

What's brewing?

I know it seems like heresy but I'm a tea drinker: English Breakfast Tea with a splash of milk.

Any treats for you or Dash on this occasion?

Dash is a great dog so he gets treats on any and all occasions. His favorite treat is tuna fish, which is even better if he can lick the bowl while my husband eats a tuna sandwich.

How were you and Dash united?

I got Dash from a wonderful breeder whom I'd met at a dog show. She and I have since become good friends. Dash and I met for the first time when he was 2 weeks old. Over the next 6 weeks until I could take him home, I also got to know his sire and dam and all the puppies in his litter.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I like short names, and Dash just seemed to fit. He also answers to Dee-Boy and Snoop Dog (although he rolls his eyes at the latter.)

Does Dash do more to help or hinder your writing? Has Dash inspired you to create any fictional canines?

He definitely helps. My Melanie Travis mysteries are all about dogs and Dash serves as a wonderful inspiration for all things canine. Plus, when I get stuck, he's already ready to go for a run.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

None of the above. His specialties are rabbits, peacocks, and guinea hens.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Absolutely squeaky toy, and the noisier, the better. As soon as he picks up a toy, he locates the squeaker and bites down on it repeatedly.

Who is Dash's best pet-pal?

Dash's best pet-pal was our other smooth Collie, Blaze, who we unfortunately lost recently. Now it's probably the donkey.

What is Dash's best quality?

His intelligence. Dash has never met a problem he can't solve. If I show him something twice, he's already learned it. He will follow the direction of a pointing finger so I can send him anywhere. And being a Collie he herds beautifully, even though he's never been trained to do so.

If Dash could change one thing about Kentuckians, what would it be?

I think he might ask that they have fewer horses and more dogs.

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

Do you want me to get another puppy to keep you company or do you like being an only dog?

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

George Clooney.

What advice would Dash give if asked?

He'd probably tell me to stop worrying and just take life as it comes.

Follow Laurien Berenson on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Karate Valentino, aka Mr. Boy, aka, Medium Baby. He’s a boxer/shar pei mix, and I’m convinced that he is the best dog in the history of dogs—and not just because dogs don’t much remember the past. He is 3 going on 4 at the end of August!

And that’s me in the photo, too. My name is Alex Jennings, and I’m an author/teacher/performer who has been living in New Orleans for the past—hm—sixteen years, now.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Usually, Karate and I take our coffee at home, but we live nearby a community green space called The Lafitte Greenway. Our favorite local coffee company, French Truck, has a café there, so sometimes we stop in to buy beans and a pastry or two, and give the local folx a chance to shower Karate with admiration and pets.

What’s brewing?

Almost always French Truck, and in the warmer months, I use my Toddy to make cold brew concentrate that I’ll then mix with a bit of water, some oat milk, and Splenda. And, of course, I’m brewing up my second novel, so may God have mercy on my poor soul!

Any treats?

Karate looooves his dried lamb’s lungs, but he’s also deeply appreciative of Cheez-its and white cheddar Cheetos. He deserves all these things, as he is the Best Boy, but we try not to overdo it.

How were you and Karate united?

During the first few months of the Pandemic, my roommate Kytara and I were overwhelmed by that buried-alive feeling of being stuck in our apartment trying to be good citizens, knowing even as we did that Covid 19 wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I was feeling pretty bad about the Covid weight I’d gained, and we decided that we needed something to cut through that loneliness and despair and help us be more active. We started looking for a dog and Karate wasn’t the first one we tried for, but when I saw his photo on the Animal Rescue of New Orleans (ARNO) website, I sensed that he was my dog.

We went out to Harahan, which was relatively distant to us as neither of us drives or has a car, and as we walked Karate (then erroneously named “Soldier”), I began to worry that we wouldn’t be able to complete the adoption on the spot and that I’d be separated from this guy who was clearly our dog. It turned out ARNO was able to get the paperwork done right away, and the three of us were frolicking together that same day.

How did Karate get his name?

I’m a fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and there’s a song created for the show called “The Day Man.”

The chorus is as follows:
Day Man
Fighter of the Night Man
You’re a master of Karate
And friendship
For everyone
So, in my mind, Karate and friendship go hand-in-hand, and Karate is definitely my best friend, so that part of his name came naturally. We’re also very much a queer household with a lot of respect for ballroom culture, so Karate is named for one of the great houses. I will say, though, that he’s barely able to vogue, and his death-drop skills are… questionable.

Does Karate do more to help or hinder your writing?

Karate 100 percent enables my decadent and indolent authorial lifestyle. When we got him, he had heart worms, (and ARNO paid for his treatment) so he was low-energy, but once he was over his illness, he was still very mellow. He had just come out of puppyhood when we got him, and he’s always been pretty distinguished, so he spends much of his time lolling on the sofa or curled up in his bed while I hunch maniacally over my laptop keyboard.

Has Karate inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Oh, definitely. Last year (I think it was last year, but what is time?) I wrote a horror story called “Them Doghead Boys” that was published in, of all places, Current Affairs magazine. The story was set in our New Orleans neighborhood and involved a sort of corrupted and diluted brand of lycanthropy where those who contract it remain mostly human but gain the heads of dogs. Karate was the model for our illustration, and I so loved seeing him rendered in black-and-white with his soulful eyes and august wrinkles.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cat, for sure. Every time we go out, Karate is hoping to make friends with a cat. He’s a lover, not a fighter, so I don’t think he’s interested in harming them, but cats have generally made it clear to him that they don’t want him within three feet, so unless Kytara or I get a cat, I don’t think he’ll ever have a chance to live his dream.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

This one is a little embarrassing as I feel like we haven’t done a great job teaching Karate to play. He is basically unmoved by balls or squeaky toys, and maybe that’s because he considers them beneath his dignity. Every once in a while, he’ll play with a stick, but honestly, if it’s not flavored in any way, he loses interest pretty quickly.

Who is Karate’s best pet pal?

The local poet Shaina Monet is a good friend of mine, and her black lab, Booker sometimes has play-dates with Karate. The two of them got along from the start, even though Book was much more of a puppy when they met. They have a good time together, for sure.

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

Honestly, if he was Emperor of the Universe, all New Orleanians would be made of cheese so that he could get pets, cuddles, and treats from the same exact source.

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

When Kytara and I board you because we’re both traveling, are you aware that we’re coming back and that you are still very much ours?

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

This one’s easy: Keith David.

What advice would Karate give if asked?

“Just chill. No reason to get worked up, just take life as it comes—unless there’s a very loud engine, in which case, you should lose yore effin mind!”

Visit Alex Jennings's website.

--Marshal Zeringue