Friday, August 23, 2019

Evan Ramzipoor & Lada

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What’s brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Lada on this occasion?

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

How were you and Lada united?

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

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

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

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

Does Lada do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

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

Has Lada inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

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

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

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

Where is Lada's favorite outdoor destination?

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

Who is Lada's best pet-pal?

Who isn’t?

What is Lada's best quality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice would Lada give if asked?

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

Visit E.R. Ramzipoor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Ewok on this occasion?

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

How were you and Ewok united?

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

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

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

Does Ewok do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

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

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

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

Where is Ewok's favorite outdoor destination?

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

Who is Ewok's best pet-pal?

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

What is Ewok's best quality?

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

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

Their annoying habit of leaving their doors locked.

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

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

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

Benedict Cumberbatch. There is no other option.

What advice would Ewok give if asked?

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

Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cate Holahan & Westley

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Westley on this occasion?

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

How were you and Westley united?

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

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

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

Does Westley do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

Has Westley inspired the creation of any fictional canines?

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

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky ball.

Who is Westley's best pet-pal?

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

What is Westley's best quality?

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

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

Traffic.

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

If he’s been happy.

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

Edward Norton.

What advice would Westley give if asked?

Don’t stress. Have a snack.

Visit Cate Holahan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Laura Sibson & Nala

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Nala on this occasion?

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

How were you and Nala united?

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

Does Nala do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

Has Nala inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

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

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

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

Where is Nala's favorite outdoor destination?

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

Who is Nala's best pet-pal?

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

What is Nala's best quality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Poehler from when she voiced Joy in Inside Out.

What advice would Nala give if asked?

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

Visit Laura Sibson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Scott MacDonald & Sadie

Who is in the photo at right?

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

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

I like my coffee bold and undiluted.

Any treats for you or Sadie on this occasion?

Always. Treats are an essential part of life.

How were you and Sadie united?

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

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

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

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

What is Sadie's best quality?

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

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy…?

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

Postman, cat, squirrel…

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

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

Everyone should be required to carry treats.

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

What are you thinking?

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

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

What advice would Sadie give if asked?

Read the book. It is filled with advice.

Visit Scott MacDonald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Allie Larkin & Stella

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

What's brewing?

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

Any treats for you or Stella on this occasion?

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

How were you and Stella united?

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

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

Does Stella do more to help or hinder your writing?

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

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

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

Where is Stella's favorite outdoor destination?

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

Who is Stella's best pet-pal?

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

What is Stella's best quality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Has anyone ever gone wrong choosing Emma Thompson for anything?

What advice would Stella give if asked?

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

Visit Allie Larkin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Laura Testino & Rita June

Who is in the photo at right?

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

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

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

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

What's brewing?

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

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

Any treats for you or Rita on this occasion?

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

How were you and Rita united?

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

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

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

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

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

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

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

Where is Rita's favorite outdoor destination?

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

Who is Rita's best pet-pal?

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

What is Rita's best quality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama accent would do.

What advice would Rita give if asked?

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue