Saturday, September 9, 2023

Sung J. Woo & Koda

Who is in the photo at right?

The canine in the photo is Koda, a two-year-old male whippet. Our previous dog was a German shepherd (Ginny), and I still can't quite get over how different Koda is in comparison to Ginny. Sometimes I think Koda is a cat...! A working breed he is not.

The guy holding the dog is me. My name is Sung J. Woo, and I'm a novelist, though I have written a handful of personal essays for outlets like The New York Times and Vox.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I take Koda for his morning walk every morning. It's a mile around our neighborhood park, about twenty minutes. And when I get back, after making his breakfast (which includes heating up half a cup of water to pour over his kibble), I click on the little coffee machine.

What's brewing?

I was not a daily coffee drinker until my wife gifted me a little Breville Nespresso Pixie. Before this coffee maker came into my life, I drank coffee when I traveled but never at home. It always seemed like such a hassle, but the Nespresso pods make it very easy. For forty seconds, I nuke a splash of almond creamer and a splash of soy milk in my mug. With my lactose intolerance, I'm very glad many supermarket shelves are devoted to non-dairy creamers. Anyway, a button press and a screech later, I have a wonderful longo-sized cup of joe. My favorite pod is Peets, but as long as the casing is aluminum, I'm happy. I do recycle those!

Any treats for you or Koda on this occasion?

Nothing special. Koda's treat is his breakfast; mine is this slightly sweet and bitter brown liquid. Even though I try to slow down with my cup, I slurp it down just as fast as Koda inhales his meal.

How were you and Koda united?

After Ginny passed, I didn't want another dog. Her passing was so intensely sad that I really did not want to experience it again. But then time passed, and my wife and I looked around a bit, and there happened to be this whippet breeder not even ten minutes from our house. And like Hemingway's quote about bankruptcy, it all happened gradually, and then suddenly.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

On a visit to the breeder prior to bringing him home, we saw a black bear by the side of the road. Naming him Bear seemed too simple, so then we went on the internet, and we found a movie we've never seen: Brother Bear. It's an animated film, and one of the main characters is named Koda. It's Native American (Sioux) for "friend" or "ally," which was exactly what we were hoping he would be when he came into our lives.

Does Koda do more to help or hinder your writing?

I think it might be dead even. He helps because in my morning walks, which I never did with Ginny, I often find my mind wandering about whatever I'm working on. A wandering mind is fast becoming a rare occurrence nowadays, when we have so much entertainment (podcasts, ebooks, internet, etc.) at our fingertips at all times. So the walks definitely help. But Koda also takes up a significant part of my attention -- letting him out, boarding him when we're away, vet visits...etc. He's not a difficult dog to have around, and most of the time I'm upstairs with the cats while my wife is with him downstairs, so I'm probably casting undeserved blame. Sorry, Koda!

Has Koda inspired you to create any fictional canines?

In my fourth novel, Deep Roots, I have a whippet named Mare who comes into the story; nothing too involved, kind of like Koda himself. Here's the introductory sentence: "If the Queen of England saw what Her Majesty’s Charters
looked like, she would not be a fan. She may even have the palace guards tear down the signage, for it featured a dog in a tiara."

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

We are still attempting to acclimate him to our two cats; it's a work in progress. Koda loves people so if he did see the mail carrier (our mailbox is out of sight from him), he'd probably fall right in love. Squirrels, on the other hand...and rabbits and groundhogs...though nothing sets him off like deer.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Koda likes really small stuffed animals (and tearing them apart, of course). We have been showered with many gifts, including a wood bone (shaped and tastes like wood) and a silent squeak toy that only dogs can hear.

Who is Koda's best pet-pal?

I'd say his best pet BFF is Cooper, a friend's dog. He spent an afternoon with him in their yard, and they became fast friends. Neither my wife nor I are social butterflies, so I'm afraid Koda doesn't get a huge amount of fellow canine socialization.

What is Koda's best quality?

He barks very rarely. He does have a rather strange howl-yowl combination that he employs when very excited or distressed, but by and large, he is a silent dog.

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

"Can you please be a bit more generous with the treats?"

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

"When you have that blank look about you, what are you thinking about?"

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

I wish for Michael Peña, but in reality, he's probably more aligned with David Hyde Pierce.

What advice would Koda give if asked?

"What's not to like?"

Visit Sung J. Woo's website.

Q&A with Sung J. Woo.

My Book, The Movie: Deep Roots.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Roots.

Writers Read: Sung J. Woo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 31, 2023

Nan Fischer & Boone

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Nan Fischer, an author, and that's Boone beside me. He's a Vizsla and almost 15 years old!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I always bring a coffee down to the beach - Boone's favorite spot. You can't see my mug in the photo - Boone would knock it over. The beach is his favorite place and even at 14.5 he gets the zoomies once he hits the sand.

What's brewing?

I drink my coffee black, use a Jura machine for perfect crema, and prefer Stumptown beans.

Any treats for you or Boone on this occasion?

Boone doesn't get any treats from me at the beach because pretty much every dog owner down there has some in their pockets! Boone didn't always trust strangers so it's a great way to get him to interact in a positive way with people he doesn't know and learn to like them.

How were you and Boone united?

I grew up with rescue Beagles from a medical testing facility, but allergies led my husband and I to get a Vizsla as they're super short haired and easy to keep clean. Even so, my husband had hives around his eyes for a full year before his body got used to Boone! Our dog was rejected from the show ring (of course we think he's perfect) and so the breeder wanted a home for him where he'd have tons of love and exercise and we fit that bill.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I was flipping through books looking for unique names and saw Boone and it just fit as he's a gift and treasure in our lives. Aliases include Monkey, Sweetpea, Boonimul, and Lovebug.

Does Boone do more to help or hinder your writing?

Boone definitely helps my writing! He sleeps under my desk, keeps me company, and forces me to take breaks to exercise us both!

Has Boone inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Boone is in every single novel I've written! But in The Book of Silver Linings he was the inspiration for a dog named Growler who has behavioral problems and is in danger of being euthanized. Boone, too, had some pretty serious behavioral issues. If my husband and I hadn't been incredibly committed, he probably would've ended up at a shelter with a very bleak future. But we were devoted, stayed consistent, loved him even when it was hard, and he's come a very long way and we couldn't be more proud of him.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel for sure!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Boone loves every stuffed toy he's ever gotten and never rips them apart. His favorite is a giant fleece bone.

Who is Boone's best pet-pal?

Boone has never met a little dog he doesn't love. He's over the moon for my sister's dachshund mixes, Sydney and Oskar.

What is Boone's best quality?

Just one??? He's goofy, devoted to us and also lives in the moment.

If Boone could change one thing about people of the Pacific Northwest, what would it be?

He'd probably say that we shouldn't go outside when it rains and is cold. But that would be a lot of the winter.

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

What do you need most from us as you're getting older?

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

Wow! That's a fun question!! Maybe Ashton Kutcher? He strikes me as an actor with an enormous heart, like Boone!

What advice would Boone give if asked?

Live in the moment, try not to bark at strangers, and snuggle whenever possible.

Visit Nan Fischer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Richardson Fischer (October 2019).

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Falling Objects.

The Page 69 Test: The Speed of Falling Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 27, 2023

Margaret Fenton & Roly, Lady and Mimi

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello! My name is Margaret Fenton, and I am a mystery writer from Birmingham, Alabama, USA. I write the Claire Conover social work series, which starts with Little Lamb Lost, followed by Little Girl Gone, and then Little White Lies. I have three dogs, and they are all Papillons. I have a male named Roly, and two females named Lady and Mimi. In the picture, Roly is in my lap, Lady is on the back of the chair, and Mimi is on the armrest to my right. Roly and Mimi are ten years old, and Lady is nine.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I drink coffee every day with my canines, or anyone else who shows up.

What's brewing?

I’m going to be totally honest: My husband is the coffee snob. He buys whole bean coffee and grinds it himself daily. We went through a time where he tried every brand of coffee, and he says the best is the stuff he gets at Sam’s Club. It’s called Pablo’s Pride and it comes from Guatemala. Honestly, I’ll drink anything but this is good stuff. And I like it black black black.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

Not usually. I drink coffee in the morning and we don’t eat until lunch.

How were you and your dogs united?

Ten years ago, I wanted a dog. I’m allergic to cats so a dog was kinda the only option for a furry pet other than some form of rodent (no, thank you). My husband said he wasn’t a dog person and we couldn’t get one (Ha! So wrong). I literally begged and begged until he gave in, but his only stipulation was to get one like my brother had. At the time, my brother and his (now ex-) wife had a Papillion named Cinderella who was so beautiful and smart. So I found a lady here in Alabama who had Pap puppies for sale. I knew I wanted a male and she had three four-month-olds that were available. I went to her house and she took all the females out of the room and I sat on the floor with the three males. Roly walked over and sat in my lap. His birth-owner said, “I think that’s your dog.”

No truer statement has ever been uttered. So I bring Roly home and it takes, oh, about a month before my husband falls deeply, madly and truly in love with Roly. He looked at me and said, “Go get another one!” I called Roly’s birth-owner and she had Roly’s half-sister for sale, so we got her and that’s Lady. Mimi was my above-mentioned brother’s dog. He was very sick with diabetes and complications so we took Mimi in several years before he passed away in April of 2022.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Roly came out of his mother nice and round and plump, so they called him “the roly-poly one” and the name just stuck. He’s always been very food motivated. I was going to change his name to Doodlebug, and his birth-owner told me to call him by the name his knows, Roly, and then say Doodlebug after that and eventually drop the Roly and he will respond to his new name. Well, in all the chaos of being new pet parents and potty training and everything, we got lazy and he just became Rolybug. So the name change thing didn’t go very well. Lady was named by my two best friends. I told them we were getting a female puppy and they said to name her Lady, and then we’d have Rolybug and Ladybug. Brilliant! Mimi was named by my brother and mimi is the Japanese word for ears. Not hard to see why that name was perfect.

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

I don’t think they do either. They sit on a chair and I take breaks to be a Dog Butler and get the door for them. I swear I’m putting that title on my resume.

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

Not yet. I have dreams of writing a cozy, so we’ll see.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel!!! I encourage the chasing of those rat-bastards who chew on the wood of my house.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Lady will chase a small tennis ball for days. Just say “ball” and she goes nuts.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other, I think.

What is each dog's best quality?

Rolybug is the sweetest dog ever. Really. He loves all people and is your friend instantly. Lady doesn’t have any good qualities. Just kidding. They are all really sweet, but Lady is the loudest dog ever. Her bark is high pitched and just…loud. I don’t know if that’s a best quality or not, but nobody is walking into my
house unnoticed. Mimi is my back-of-pack caretaker and will stop everything to make sure you are okay.

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

I’m sure they’d love for me to get up from this computer and walk them more often.

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

You know there’s a dog door, right? Just push with your nose.

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

Yeah, so truthfully, I’m not much of a movie watcher. I’m a reader. I have zero idea what actors/actresses are out there now. Roly would be someone kind. Lady—someone loud. Mimi—someone friendly.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Take time to smell the world.

Visit Margaret Fenton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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...?


[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