Saturday, May 1, 2021

Ann Garvin & Peanut

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Ann Garvin, author, speaker, teacher, Tall Poppy Writer founder, and general nice lady. This is Peanut and he would never use his legs if I would only give in and carry him everywhere.

He is a mix from the humane society and is nine going on no idea. My newest book I Thought You Said This Would Work is a road trip book with dogs and sort-of friends. It’s funny and sad like all human beings.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Peanut and I have a standing coffee date. Every morning, I sip and he barks like a penned-in, irate New York cabbie at all mammals that walk past my house. We are not the wake up slowly couple, we are the wake up and shout at people couple seen in all romantic comedies (not really).

What's brewing?

The brew is whatever comes from Imperfect Produce where all the oddball foods that are too miss-shapen to get into the supermarket (Prom) go. I like their strange coffee because Peanut and I like a good weirdo.

Any treats for you or Peanut on this occasion?

He gets his antidepressant (not kidding).

How were you and Peanut united?

I went to the Humane Society on a whim and he was there, with a crazy look in his eye that I identified with. I said, I see you, dude. Let’s do this.

How did Peanut get his name? Any aliases?

It was the name he was given when I got him. He was so stressed out, I didn’t think it would be fair to change his name on top of a big move.

Does Peanut do more to help or hinder your writing?

Both. He makes me more compassionate but he has to pee no less than 100 times a day. It’s lovely and terrible but great exercise.

I don't imagine that it's a coincidence that the over-sized diabetic Great Pyrenees in your new novel is also named Peanut. How are the real and fictional Peanuts alike...and different?

I liked the idea that a Great Pyrenees would have a diminutive name. Also, it was a stunning moment of a lack of imagination on my part. They are alike as they both have serious issues with personal space. Peanut is constantly asking with his eyes, is this too close? Peanut from the book understands so much more than my Peanut. Book-Peanut is much wiser.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Absolutely apoplectic at the mailman. I made Peanut give the mailman a check for Christmas in apology. My mailman seems unfazed. He must be a very secure person.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

He only has eyes for me.

Who is Peanut's best pet-pal?

Asked and answered (see above).

What is Peanut's best quality?

Loyalty and major cuddle skills.

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

That I have friends.

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

Why is he so mad at other dogs?

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

Someone with a lisp. Peanut would have a lisp.

What advice would Peanut give if asked?

Never let your person go anywhere without consulting you.

Visit Ann Garvin's website.

Writers Read: Ann Garvin (July 2014).

My Book, The Movie: The Dog Year.

The Page 69 Test: The Dog Year.


--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dorri Olds & Busta Rhymes

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Dorri Olds, holding my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Busta Rhymes for our very first walk. He’s in a blue puppy carrier. You know, the same kind that humans tote their babies in. My first name for the little feller came from his gorgeous brown eyebrows. I named him Buster Brown. It was also a play on words. There was an old-time Buster Brown shoe company. The logo was a winking kid and a bug-eyed brown pet.

However, many New Yorkers have an accent. We drop the R’s. Since I heard myself always calling him Busta, and because he was such a soulful dude, I changed his name to Busta Rhymes — you know, like the rapper. Sometimes I call him Busta Move. Or just Busta or Bustaboy. I never knew I could love anyone as much as I loved my previous pup Buddy. At first, I felt like I was cheating on Buddy by loving Busta so much. But my friend said, Buddy loved you so much, he’d want you to be happy.

I’ve been freelancing out of my Chelsea home-office since 1994. I am a writer, author, graphic designer, internet strategist, and more. I do branding, marketing, book design. I was born on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I’ve checked out a few parts of this country, and Europe, but Manhattan is where I fit. Before I go on about me, here’s an interesting thing about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. There are four types: Blenheim, Black and Tan, Tricolor, and Ruby. These can all be born in the same litter. I love him so much I painted his precious face [image left].

As a 15-year-old runaway, I discovered a magical place: Greenwich Village. It was stuck in a time-warp and I’d always wanted to be a hippie but was born too late for that. I got caught, went back to school, then got accepted at Boston University. I had ants in my pants and I loved to dance. It was so hard to find the right school. After attending four colleges, I took a two-year leave of absence from Parsons School of Design. I knew I was going to be rockstar. Ha! My poor parents. I became a waitress. I nabbed a cool apartment on MacDougal Street. I went back to Parsons. I was in an indie documentary —I even have an IMDb page now! I lived on MacDougal Street for 17 years. I loved it but it wasn’t magical anymore—too cleaned up. The creatives and the fun gritty-city characters were replaced by NYU staff and students.

After graduating Parsons, I bought a 1-bedroom in Chelsea and paid off my mortgage in nine years. Back then, I worked as an Art Director for a litigations graphics firm. We made huge charts that illustrated evidence for the jurors. We did high-profile cases the press nicknamed. These included John Gotti's Windows Trial, The Central Park Jogger, and the Exxon Valdez horrific oil spill. I worked about 60 hours a week. In my time off, I had exhibits and sold 51 of my paintings. I also kept writing and got short stories and articles published.

What's the occasion for your Coffee with a Canine?

Busta Rhymes is a Black and Tan Cavalier, but just like the Blenheim Buddy, Busta follows me wherever I go. I hear Busta padding behind me whenever I beeline to the kitchen. He sits and stares—just like Buddy did—watching me first flick the on switch and then open the fridge to grab a carton of Silk's vanilla soy milk.

What's brewing?

As Bustello espresso drips into its waiting glass cup, I foam the milk. Oh, that smell! I think of Italian cafes in the Village.

When the cup is full, I sprinkle a cinnamon-chocolate mix of powders on top of the steamed milk in the mug. After pouring the espresso in, I’m intoxicated by the aroma filling the room, then I down three delicious gulps.

Any treats for you or Busta on this occasion?

After my wake-up ritual, I turn towards Busta and stare back at him. He stays seated, but his tail starts swishing back and forth on the kitchen tiles. I say, “Busta, are you hungry?” The tail goes nuts, thump-thump-thumping. Then he looks at me like I’m the best doggie mom in the world. He eats slowly, chewing each morsel. Buddy inhaled his food. I know it’s weird to compare them, but I can’t help it. Buddy was so alpha, he demanded the spotlight—like his mama. Busta is mellower. It’s funny though. Whenever I tried to get Buddy to fetch a toy, he looked at me like, “Pullease. Whaddya think? I’m not a dog.” But Busta loves fetch almost as much as food and walks. It’s a dumb, monotonous game. Busta’s euphoria comes when he chases the ball. Then, he races up the doggie steps onto the bed. He pushes the slobbery ball against my arm, until I throw it again. I lose interest in whatever I was watching on Netflix.

How were you and Busta united?

After Buddy’s death, I was spiraling down. You know that blues song, “Gloomy Sunday”? Billie Holiday’s aching wail tells the story of a woman on her way to her boyfriend’s funeral. The mournful lyrics got the song banned. “Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?” I was getting that despondent after Buddy died. I didn’t know how I’d ever be ok again. But, just as Buddy had been a gift from a loving friend, my Mother and a different dear friend, brought me my puppy and told me, now I had to get out of bed. They were so right!! You know us creative types—high highs and low lows. But Busta is such a snuggly lovebug. As was Buddy.

What is Busta's best quality?

He is so sweet.

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

He’d say, “Mom, can’t you stop working so much? We could be playing right now.”

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

We have that covered: When I ask him “Busta, are you hungry?” his crazy thumping tail is the answer.

Or maybe the question should be this:
“Busta, can you please stop being a drama queen? Why can’t you understand that I have to finish this work before we can go see Uncle Terry for a playdate."

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

What a great question! My favorite voices are manly men like Mads Mikkelsen, and lovable and distinct kooky voices like Christopher Walken, and booming voices like James Earl Jones. But none of those would fit for my Bustaboy’s voice. It would have to be soft-spoken, and sweet. Jack Nicholson is too edgy. Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones are too raspy and tough. Oh! I know who could do it!! John Legend. He can sound very sweet.

What advice would Busta give if asked?

He’d say, “Mom, why can’t you get it? Those humongous plastic garbage bags outside by the curb freak me out! Especially if it is windy. I need you to hear me. Please respect my boundaries. And another thing, I don’t like wheels. I don’t like your laundry cart, or people on skateboards, or those baby strollers, or bicycles. No, I don’t need prozac, Mom. I need you to listen to me."

Visit Dorri Olds's website, Instagram page, Twitter perch, YouTube channel, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 8, 2021

Mark Edward Langley & Lady Cora

Who is in the photo at right?

Why it’s Author Mark Edward Langley and his two-year-old Cockapoo, Lady Cora!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We hardly ever go out for coffee. When you have a Keurig Duo machine at home, relaxing on the patio surrounded by tall arborvitae and a warm breeze is the best place to be. Sometimes Lady Cora even lays on the patio table under the umbrella and relaxes.

What's brewing?

My choice of java depends on how I’m feeling—sometimes it’s Costa Rica blend, other times it’s Nantucket, and yet again other times it’s Bourbon Pecan.

Any treats for you or Lady Cora on this occasion?

Normally I sit and enjoy just the nectar of the gods by itself, but there are times when I may choose any flavor or yogurt or—as this morning—a hot cocoa roll with marshmallow icing. Cora doesn’t like to eat outside.

How were you and Lady Cora united?

After our first dog Denny Crane--named after you know who--crossed he rainbow bridge, it was a while before my wife and could get another family member. It took about five years, I believe, before we missed having that unconditional love around. That’s when we started looking and found Lady Cora.

How did your dog get her name?

As you might guess, my wife and I love Downton Abbey, so when she wanted to name our new love, she thought nothing fit her better than Lady Cora!

Does Lady Cora do more to help or hinder your writing?

I would say that she—like Denny—helps. Sometimes when I’m working, she will walk into my office and hop up on my leather recliner and lay down and just watch me. I wonder if she knows what I’m doing? Now the wolf dog that is Arthur’s buddy he rescued from an shelter in the Nakai series has every mannerism, every look and every emotion as our Denny Crane. As I was writing my first Arthur Nakai Mystery, he would come and sit with me. I told him that everyone was going to know him because I was using him in my books.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Aside from a few other dogs where we live, she loves to bark at squirrels that climb the arborvitae that surround the patio.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Lady Cora loves chasing her tennis balls, chewing on her squeaky toys and—most of all—taking out her ferocious, primal instincts on her limp rabbit, skunk and fox. They crunch when she bites them and flail when she shakes her head trying to render them lifeless. Funny to watch!

Where is Lady Cora's favorite outdoor destination?

Wherever there’s a pool, she’s the first to jump in! We don’t have one and don’t want the hassle of them, but if we take her anywhere there is a pool, she acts like Ester Williams!

Who is Lady Cora's best pet-pal?

I’d have to say Charlie. He’s an old white Golden Retriever. Cora loves him, but she’s too much of an excited teenager for him. He’s so past caring about the PYT’s.

What is Lady Cora's best quality?

That’s an easy question; the love she gives. Every morning I make my coffee and sit in my chair to catch some local news, she jumps up and lays in my lap, takes a big breath, and just lays there. She loves being petted, too. She lays in bed on my wife’s side, or between us, and takes up space and the end of the bed.

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

To work less so we could go on more walks in the park close by.

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

She is sooooo much like our Denny, I’d love to know if he was reincarnated inside her. The similarities are uncanny! We couldn’t get that lucky twice!

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

Hmmmmm? Dame Helen Mirren. I think she would have the perfect attitude to play Lady Cora!

What advice would Lady Cora give if asked?

Hey, Dad, make sure you take me out more times, okay? My bladder’s killin’ me here!

Visit Mark Edward Langley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Death Waits in the Dark.


--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Morris Ardoin & Hugo

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Morris Ardoin, a PR practitioner in New York City and writer in Cornwallville, a little town in the Catskill mountains. My pooch is Hugo, an 18-month-old Vizsla.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The only time that Hugo respects my humanly need for consumption without his begging is coffee time. He seems to get that he needs to let me fully awaken so I can devote the rest of my existence each day to his needs. So he lets my have my coffee in peace.

What's brewing?

I use a French press to brew my coffee each morning. Community Coffee, shipped from Baton Rouge, La. is my preferred brew, but when I run out of that, I like a blend of French and regular roast whole beans I get from the Russian market down the block from my apartment in New York. No matter the brew, I take my coffee with whole milk and sugar.

Any treats for you or Hugo on this occasion?

No treats for him or me accompany coffee time – it’s all about the coffee. On big-breakfast weekends, however, that rule goes out the window. And then anything is possible.

How were you and Hugo united?

We got Hugo from the same breeder that sold us our previous pooch, Moby. She only breeds vizslas. Hugo was one of 14 puppies. When we got there, there were only three of the siblings left. Hugo rushed right up to me (the other two were otherwise distracted) – and I said, “This one is Hugo,” and that was that.


How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

After having Moby for 13 years, we were very familiar with the breed; it’s quirks; attributes; and physical aspects. Those all played a part in our brainstorming for names that would work with such a dog. Hugo quickly rose to the top of about 25 names we considered. At first, when he was just a wee little thing, I called him “The Nugget” because of his rich golden color, but he soon owned the name Hugo – and has been called only that ever since.

Is Hugo more of a help or a hinder to your writing?

Unlike Moby, who sat attentively near me as I wrote my book, and genuinely seemed to be interested in what I read back to him, Hugo is aloof – he is not one to listen to reading. If he is not tired, he starts fidgeting pretty quickly, so he has been a bit of a handful to deal with while I write these days. But he’s a love, so I do my best.

You dedicated your new memoir to your late dog Moby? Please tell us about him.

Moby was wonderfully laid back and, like most vizslas, a “Velcro dog” – always clinging to my side. Moby was totally loyal and took commands very readily. It was very difficult to let him go when it was time. He lived 13 too-short years with us and I miss him every day.

Does Hugo have a favorite place to go for walk?

Yes – Hugo loves to walk around our pond in Cornwallville, New York. He actually prefers running to walking – so it is good that we have several acres of property for him to run around on up here in the Catskills.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

All of the above. He has not yet learned that he can’t jump up on the postman or delivery people. He has a knack, though, for putting them at ease with his friendly disposition. He does not come across as menacing. With cats, he’s very playful – but with birds, his hunting instincts kick in, so we have to keep an eye on him.

Who is Hugo's best pet pal?

Hugo’s best pal is Clover, a pit bull mix belonging to one of our close friends. The two of them can spend hours together without tiring. The mention of her name gets him jumping.

What is Hugo's best quality? What was Moby's?

Hugo’s best quality is his gregariousness. He loves all other dogs – has no issues with certain breeds, like some dogs can. He also loves humans. In a group situation, he tends to be the ring-leader. Other dogs love him.

Moby’s best quality was his quiet way of showing affection. He did not jump around like Hugo does; and he was very loyal – and took commands readily. That said, he could be very skittish around certain breeds of dogs.

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

I’m sure Hugo would love for me to quit spending so much time on my laptop – or on anything that takes my attention away from him.

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

Hugo would be voiced by Jim Carrey.

Moby would be voiced by Adam Sandler.

What advice would Hugo give if asked?

Lighten up and play more. Life is short!

Visit Morris Ardoin's website and learn about his memoir, Stone Motel: Memoirs of a Cajun Boy.

The Page 99 Test: Stone Motel.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Beth Morrey & Polly

Who is in the photo at right?

The human is me: I am a writer called Beth Morrey. My first book, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, is published by Putman on 7th April. In my previous life I was a TV producer, and nowadays as well as writing I have a podcast series, One Torn Every Minute, which is about childbirth, and also write a TV blog called Square Eyes. The dog is Polly. She is a labradoodle and she is 13 years old. Her occupation is lying on furniture, and going out for the occasional perambulation.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Polly and I like to stop at the café in our local park in North London. We sit outside on the verandah and enjoy the views, often talking to people and dogs we know who pass by.

What's brewing?

I like a very plain Americano with lots of cold milk. Polly prefers puddle water.

Any treats for you or Polly on this occasion?

The reason Polly likes going to this particular café is they do a very good sourdough toast. We usually cut it in half and share it, and she insists on butter and jam. The combination of butter and sugar makes her drool uncontrollably. Me too.

How were you and Polly united?

My husband and I got her from a farm in Chepstow in Wales. She was three months old when we met her, and it was love at first sight.


How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Her full name is Polly Wolly Doodle the Brave the Good and the True. We often call her Poll Woll for short, or the Pollster, or the Brave Doodle of Barking & Pawchester. She has many aliases and pays no attention to any of them.

Does Polly do more to help or hinder your writing?

She often occupies my writing chair when I want to sit in it. Or, while I am sitting in it, she paws me aggressively and barks until I get out and let her have it. So no, she’s not particularly helpful. And yet I credit her as my muse in my Acknowledgements.

In your work, have any actual dogs inspired the creation of fictional ones?

Yes – the character of Bobby in my novel was inspired by a handsome Australian shepherd we see in the park. He’s really gorgeous with vivid blue eyes. My husband and I refer to him as The Most Beautiful Dog in the Park because we don’t know his name. Oddly though, he’s not particularly friendly, whereas the Bobby in my book is a very affectionate hound. My dog also appears in my book, but it’s just a brief cameo for her fans, and she’s not named, to protect her privacy.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Polly loathes cats and does highly embarrassing howls whenever she sees them in the street. She’s not keen on squirrels and will chase them in a business-like way. She barks at the postman, but only in the sense that she barks at anybody who comes to the house – she’s not remotely threatening; more like a very loud doorbell.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Polly occasionally picks up sticks to chew them, but she would never chase a thrown stick as she’s too grand. She also used to love finding discarded tennis balls, but now she’s a more senior lady, she’s not so interested. She has always loved soft toys, and gets a new one for birthdays and Christmas. Her favourite is called Bob (oh my God, I’ve just realised that’s why I called the dog Bob in my book – duh!). Bob is a very large soft toy Labrador from Ikea. She often uses him as a pillow.

Where is Polly's favorite outdoor destination?

There’s a stretch of grassland alongside a row of houses in Highbury, where we live. It’s not very well-maintained, and there’s lots of rubbish and dubious substances left there. She loves it, and always tries to drag me over there when we walk past. Her favourite thing is to pick up and eat a discarded wet wipe. We tried one of those muzzle things, but it didn't work and she still managed to suck things up. She’s utterly vile.

Who is Polly's best pet-pal?

Polly doesn’t really like other dogs as she doesn’t see herself as one. But if she had to pick a BFF (Best Four-Legged Friend), it would probably be Baxter, a border-terrier owned by the guy who took my author photos. She deigns to romp with him occasionally.

What is Polly's best quality?

She is incredibly expressive, and doesn’t need words to communicate – you know exactly what she wants from her facial expressions. Her best physical quality is her fine lustrous beard, which is currently shaved because of a rather unpleasant mouth infection.

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

She would want me to be less affectionate around her – she doesn’t like being cuddled and would rather I stayed away. I am constantly mauling her.

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

What is it about filthy wet wipes that you love so much?

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

Ooooh! What an interesting question. My husband and I do impressions of Polly’s speaking voice and it sounds like no one on Earth. But I guess if I was casting, I’d choose Amy Poehler, make her do an English accent and then slow down the recording.

What advice would Polly give if asked?

Leave me alone.

Visit Beth Morrey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Kate O'Shaughnessy & Mo

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Kate O’Shaughnessy, a middle grade author, and in this picture I’m having coffee with my stalwart writing companion, Mo. She’s pretty lazy as far as writing assistants go, but at least she’s pretty cute. I’ve been obsessed with dogs my whole life—when I was twelve, I for some strange reason decided to memorize every dog breed recognized by the AKC to prove to my parents that I was ready for a dog—so this blog is totally my jam.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The first thing I do every morning is make a giant mug of coffee and take it to my desk, which overlooks our garden. Whenever I sit down, Mo joins me in the office in the big armchair directly behind me.

What's brewing?

On vacation in Big Sur this past October, my husband and I tried Verve Coffee Roasters for the first time and were immediately obsessed. Before we left, I made sure to write down the bean variety the hotel served (Seabright!), and the first thing we did on our drive back to Berkeley was a stop in Santa Cruz to pick up a bunch of bags. Our car smelled like coffee in the best way for two days, and we haven’t brewed any other kind of coffee since!

Any treats for you or Mo on this occasion?

As I write this, I have leftover cake in the freezer from The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane book launch last week. I just may have to reward myself with a slice if I get enough writing done today. As for Mo, we spoil her. She’s not really food-motivated, but the words “chicken” or “bone” will get those giant ears of hers to perk up.

How were you and Mo united?

We first spotted Mo’s profile on the website of a local rescue, and were immediately taken by her incredible smile. When we reached out to see if we could meet her, we were told that she was actually a part of their international program—and was located in Taiwan! At first we didn’t feel comfortable adopting a dog without meeting them first, but the rescue continued to send us videos of Mo and we fell increasingly in love with her. Finally, we decided to go for it—and picked her up at the San Francisco airport! It was a rough adjustment—she had a ton of trauma in her past, including abuse, abandonment, and the loss of her puppies—but with a lot of love and patience she’s completely bloomed, as you can hopefully see. The picture above left is Mo when she was first picked up off the streets and the second [photo right] is after about a year with us. We love her so much!

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

The rescue had randomly assigned her the name “Mona,” which we liked but didn’t love. So instead of giving her an entirely new name, we shortened it to Mo. We’ve also given her endless nicknames. She’s Mo, Mo Mo, Mosephine Dingus, but more than anything, we call her “Piggy.” She got that nickname because when she stretches out on the couch, she sort of thrusts her belly forward so she looks a little chubbier than she really is [photo left]. Sort of like a pig!

Does Mo do more to help or hinder your writing?

She’s a great help. I love her company—usually she’s sleeping in the armchair behind me—and when I’ve been sitting for too long, she jumps down to come nose me for pets and beg for a walk. She reminds me it’s okay to get up and stretch my legs every now and again.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The dog in The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Pickle, is definitely one of the most important characters. He’s a dachshund with special needs, and shows Maybelle that sometimes it feels good to take care of other people—which opens her up to letting other people take care of her. Pickle was treated badly and neglected by his previous owner, so while Pickle wasn’t inspired by a real life dog, he somehow inspired me to become ready to adopt one of my own. We got Mo about a year after I finished writing Maybelle.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

She loves to chase squirrels, the postman is her mortal enemy, and she’s extremely interested in but unsure about cats.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

None, sadly. When we first got Mo she had no clue how to play with toys. Now she only likes to play with soft things. Her favorite thing to do is to attack the tags on blankets. The most fearsome predator!

Where is Mo's favorite outdoor destination?

The beach!! Mo turns into the most joyful version of herself on the beach. She rolls in the sand, gets the fastest, most wild-eyed zoomies, and says hello to everyone there. She loves the sand but hates the water.

Who is Mo's best pet-pal?

There’s a dog in our neighborhood, Rufus, who Mo one day decided to become obsessed with. She can be standoffish with other dogs, but she just fell in love with Rufus—every time we see him, she cries, wags her tail, and strains on the leash to get to him. His feelings toward her are lukewarm, but Mo is persistent in her love.

What is Mo's best quality?

So many! She’s incredibly chill, and happy to relax on the couch for hours. At the same time, she’s always up for adventure.

My first book is about a road trip, because I love going on them—and luckily Mo does too! She’s the most loyal companion you could imagine.

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

That we don’t live every second of our lives at the park, on a walk in the woods, or on a beach.

Mo lives for walks and doesn’t understand why people don’t take them 20-30 times a day instead of just twice.

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

Are you happy? And I hope her answer would be yes!

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

Given that Mo is originally from Taiwan, I would choose Constance Wu, whose parents emigrated from Taiwan.

What advice would Mo give if asked?

Don’t trust the postman. Or FedEx trucks. Or any delivery truck in general. Or people that walk by on the sidewalk minding their own business. They’re all up to no good. Stay vigilant!!!!

Visit Kate O’Shaughnessy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Richard Fifield & Frank and Oscar

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Richard Fifield, and I’m an author and a designer, and this is Frank. He’s a male, a basenji, and our best guess is that he’s eleven or twelve. He is an anomaly—he seems to be aging in reverse. More spry, no gray, and the vet was astonished that he had less tartar on his teeth than at his first examination, six years ago.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’ve taken my two dogs, the aforementioned Frank and my elderly chihuahua/dachshund mix Oscar on a walk to the gas station. Where I live, there are no coffee shops, and the streets are filled with feral rabbits, all black. We enjoy walking to the gas station, Frank and Oscar because of the rabbits, and me because of the gossip I get at the counter. Even though I keep both dogs on a tight leash, they pull in opposite directions, and the leads tangle around my legs so often that I’ve gotten used to stopping to unwind every block. There have been a few occasions where the tangle actually caused me to fall, but thankfully, never any injuries!

What's brewing?

At the gas station, the coffee is cheap and plentiful. I love gas station coffee, and at the tiny store, the owners allow me to bring Frank and Oscar inside with me. I must drink my coffee while I gossip with the cashier—walking two dogs on leashes and a cup of hot coffee is a recipe for disaster. Especially with wild rabbits dashing everywhere.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

I always carry dog treats with me—every coat (and I have a lot of coats) has a dog treat, even when I’m without my dogs. I’m like a mailman! Because Oscar is sixteen years old, I carry Milk Bone Pill Pouches, because they are soft and it helps when I need to give Oscar his medications every morning. For years, I tried peanut butter, but it was messy!

How were you and Oscar and Frank united?

Oscar and Frank are both rescue dogs—I adopted them from Animal Control, instead of the Humane Society. Animal Control takes the dogs that nobody wants to adopt. Except for me. I want to adopt the most unlovable, difficult cases. I think this is because I see myself in them.

You also had Blanche with you until very recently. Sixteen years is a good, long life for a dog, I know, but.... Are Oscar and Frank adjusting well enough with Blanche gone?

Last year, my third dog Blanche had to be put down. She was sixteen, and she was the first dog I ever owned. I adopted her as a puppy, and she was a bizarre mix of corgi and border collie, so she had a really long body and tiny legs. She had a personality like a disapproving grandmother, even early on. Border collies like to herd, and Blanche was always barking at her brother and sister for being rambunctious and not following her directions. Putting her down was not an easy decision, but it was the right one. Due to her long body and tiny legs, she had a lot of hip and spine problems, and the last year of her life, she had to be lifted to be brought outside to use the bathroom. It was an honor to take care of her, and an honor to be there with her when she was finally at peace. Oscar took it the worst, as he had spent the most time with her, and when I returned from the vet without Blanche, he was scared of me for an entire month. He was confused, and I completely understand. I was confused, too.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

I named Blanche after Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Oscar already had his name when I adopted him. Frank was a street dog, and didn’t have a home, but the people at Animal Control called him Klaus. I did not like that name, and had recently published my first novel, which featured a wild dog named Frank, who serves as the heart of the book. It seemed too much of a coincidence, so his name became Frank, and it suits him. My dogs always have nicknames—many nicknames, but the most used is “The Tank” for Frank, and because Oscar was covered in scars when I adopted him (he had a hard life), I call him “Oh-Scar.”

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

My dogs actually don’t seem to notice when I’m writing or designing. They are very autonomous creatures, and they do what they want all day. They are both burrowers, so you can usually find them at the bottom of a bed. I gave up making my beds a long time ago!

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

In my fiction, I’ve only featured one canine, the aforementioned Frank. When people meet the real Frank, they assume he inspired the fictional dog, but after spending time with him, they quickly realize that my Frank is not cut out for therapy.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

All of my dogs despise anybody with a package of any kind. They are very, very protective of their fenced yard, and mail delivery and I have an understanding. They leave packages outside of the fence. Just in case there is a new delivery person, I have a sign on my gate. Frank, despite years of obedience school and one-on-one training, goes for the ankle of any person he is unfamiliar with that dares enter the yard, carrying a package. Basenjis were the first dog breed, and pharaohs in Egypt trained them to take down lions, and were buried with their favorite hunter. That DNA is still strong in Frank. He also does not share—he likes to take things from the other dogs and bury them in the yard. We don’t have any toys as a result, just sticks. He can’t dig up the yard to bury a giant stick.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

My dogs love the forests around Montana, but they are both terrified of water. They prefer to walk on the streets of our small town, because they are fascinated by other lives and other homes. They are just like their owner.

What is each dog's best quality?

Oscar’s best quality is his devotion—he is the type of dog that follows you around (when he’s not burrowed in blankets) and needs to know where you are at all times. Frank’s best quality is his personality—I’m sure your readers picture a vicious little creature, but he is the most affectionate dog I’ve ever owned—basenjis are very much like cats, and they like to nuzzle your chin. He is unlike any dog on earth—every person that watches my dogs remarks on how strange Frank is. They all love him, and want to take him home, because he is such a mystery.

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

I would ask Oscar and Frank both to tell me about where they came from, and what their lives were like before they came to live with me. I’m sure they have stories. Both are fighters, and indomitable creatures.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Oscar, Frank and Blanche could speak, who should voice them?

Oscar would be voiced by Patrick Stewart, as he is very self-assured and proper.

Frank would be voiced by Billy Eichner, of Billy On The Street, as he is a comedian and instantly recognizable. 

What advice would Oscar and Frank give if asked?

I think both dogs would give the same answer—accept the love that is given to you, and have faith that you will be taken care of. It’s an honor to be their person.

Visit Richard Fifield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue