Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jennifer King & Poppy

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Jennifer King, and I’m a writer, novelist, wife, and mom — to three great boys, and a precious puppy named Poppy. Poppy is three months old, and is a miniature Labradoodle.

What’s the occasion for coffee with a Canine?

European coffee has us hooked, and we’ve recently invested in an European coffee machine … so, I love to have coffee with Poppy, everyday, any time.

What’s brewing?

Illy Espresso Long Coffee, prepared as a Latte or Cappuccino.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not usually, unless someone happens to have a bit of dark chocolate out …

Any treat for Poppy on this occasion?

Eukanuba Puppy food, for now. She still loves it.

How did you come to be united with Poppy?

Our family moved this past summer from Cincinnati, Ohio, US, to be expats in Prague, Czech Republic. We’ll be here for a few years, which is really exciting for us. But our former family dog died a few months before we moved—she was a Boxer, and was 10 years old, and her passing left a huge hole in our hearts. So when things settled down for us here after the move, Prague felt like home, but our new home was missing a dog. After mentioning this to a friend, we discovered another new expat family’s two Labradoodles had just had a litter of puppies. And the rest is history! Poppy joined our family about a month ago, and is a real delight to us all. We’re so grateful.

How did she get her name?

Actually, her name is Popelka, which means Cinderella in Czech. We call her Poppy, like the flower, but she is mostly black (Popel in Czech means ‘soot’) with two white back feet, which we call her glass slippers. Popelka is a perfect name for her.

Stick, ball, Frisbee?

Chewy toy … anything but slippers (which are currently her favorite).

What’s an ordinary day like for Poppy?

We get up quite early to work out in the morning. And Poppy is up right with us, which means she’s sacked out quite soon after our boys are up and out the door for school. When I write, Poppy loves to lay under my chair, and chew on toys, or sleep. And the rest of the time, she’s about two inches behind my feet at all times. She’s a great companion.

Does she understand Czech as well as English?

I actually think the only Czech word she knows is her name!

Where is Poppy’s favorite place to go for a walk?

Soon, when Spring comes and Poppy is a bit bigger, we’ll be walking her near our home in the Czech National Forest just down the street from our house. It’s beautiful—and it goes for miles and miles.

Who is Poppy’s best pet-pal?

Poppy’s only pet-friend so far is a dear friend’s dog named Pepe, who is a Spanish Water Dog. Just based on the combinations of their two names alone, I’d say they’ll be friends for life.

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

That I would never have to leave the house …

What is Poppy’s best quality?

That she loves to be with us!

What’s her proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

Poppy must be most proud that she is finally learning to do her business outside. Certainly her most embarrassing moments result from her lack of discretion on where she does her business (in the house). She’s trained very quickly (and we’re very grateful!).

Visit Jennifer King's website and blog, and follow her on Twitter.

Read more about her book, The One Year Mini for Busy Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mike Angley & Brynn

Who is in the photo at right?

This is me, Mike Angley, mystery/thriller writer and my two-year-old American Beagle, Lady Brynn Starr, or just Brynn, for short.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Brynn and I have coffee every morning together. Okay, actually, I have the coffee while Brynn “hangs out” with me, typically curled up next to me on a chair as I work on my novels, the Child Finder Trilogy, on my laptop. I guess she’s a laptop dog…alright that was corny.

What's brewing?

Starbucks French Roast! It’s my absolute favorite. I tend to be a bit of a coffee snob (so I’m told) so it has to be Starbucks-Something. If I go out for coffee, I usually will get a cafĂ© mocha since I lack the skills to brew that myself.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Brynn gets her breakfast when I make the coffee, so she typically wolfs that down and finishes it off in time to curl up with me as I sip and type. Me? Just an apple. That’s my daily breakfast.

Any treat for Brynn on this occasion?

Nothing special this time since it really is a daily ritual for us.

How did you come to be united with Brynn?

We used to have an English Cocker, Shanna, who passed on in 2004 while we were stationed in Okinawa, Japan. We had had her for over 16 years, so she had a great life and got to see the world (two times in Japan!). It took us awhile to get our heads into the idea of a new dog, but a couple years back, our daughter Meghan (13 at the time) had been pining for a beagle puppy. I started looking via the Internet but found it very difficult to find beagle puppies in Colorado Springs. I even checked the neighboring states for breeders! We got lucky one day when I read a good old fashioned print newspaper and saw an ad from a breeder in Pueblo. She had a new litter ready for adoption. We made the drive and our kids fell in love with Brynn instantly. The rest is history!

How did Brynn get her name?

We’re an Irish-American family (as is the main character in my thrillers, Air Force Special Agent Patrick Sean O’Donnell), so we’ve always liked Irish names.

Does she have an aliases?

No, but the way she acts up sometimes I think she may be wanted in a few states…okay, getting silly again.

Has Brynn had any influence on your work?

Not really, other than letting her snoot hit the keyboard when I write and causing stray characters my editor and I fight to catch! In my trilogy none of my characters have pets, except for a bit player…some old woman in a trailer park in the first novel, Child Finder, who had a cat that my protagonist was allergic to.

What's an ordinary day like for Brynn?

Coffee with me, curling up next to me on my writing chair, and sometimes putting her face on the keyboard because it’s warm. She spends the rest of the day sleeping or trying to play catch with me, or even tug-of-war with a toy.

Postman, cat, squirrel...?

We have lots of wildlife in our area, and if there’s a squirrel, fox, or coyote in the yard, she will growl and try to chase it. She’s always on a leash so we keep her out of mischief. One night, there was a giant buck in the yard…had to have a 14 point rack, and easily stood six feet to the shoulder. Bryn decided to growl…the buck lowered its antlers, and I calmly and slowly walked backwards until we were safely back inside our house. I got on my knees and had a long chat with Brynn about big animals, but she just licked my face. Not sure she got it.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick...?

She loves rubber toys like bones and balls. She enjoys fetch and tug-of-war.

Where is your Brynn's favorite place to go for walk?

Around our neighborhood, except on Mondays because that’s when the trash collectors come around. To her, the trucks must seem like enormous steel monsters…loud and angry with giant forked jaws. It is hard to get her out of the house when she hears them, even if they are blocks away.

Who is Brynn's best pet-pal?

I think it’s everyone in the family. She has no other pet friends, just humans!

What's Brynn's best quality?

Her “clinginess.” She’s not content with simply being in the same room with us; she has to be snuggled up to someone whenever possible. If I take a snooze during the day on the sofa, she’ll squeeze in and “spoon” up with me even if there’s only a few inches of sofa surface available.

What's Brynn's proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

As a hound dog, she is a great “early warning system” for the house. She’s very territorial, so if someone walks near the house she starts to bark or growl. We’re real proud of that (but she can overdo it, like when I come in with groceries and she starts howling at me for a few moments). Embarrassing? Probably when one of those big green steel Waste Management monsters frightened her so much, she ran upstairs and hid under our bed for over an hour.

Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the Child Finder Trilogy. When his debut novel, Child Finder, launched in June 2009 the prestigious Library Journal placed it on its Summer Reads List and called it a “compelling debut novel,” and “a real find.” It won the Silver Medal for fiction from the Military Writers Society of America in 2009. The second novel, Child Finder: Resurrection, released in November 2009, and is available for purchase, as is the first novel. The final story in the trilogy, Child Finder: Revelation, will release circa December 2010. Mike promises this one will “blow your mind!” On his website he says, “Some people think the truth is out there, but it’s not. It’s in here. In the final book, and it’s not anything you can imagine.”

Mike is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI – similar to the NCIS). He served on five command tours, and in his last assignment as Commander of OSI Region 8, at Air Force Space Command, he was fond of saying, “If it entered or exited Earth’s atmosphere, I had a dog in the fight!”

Visit Mike Angley at his website. He is also on FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, and PoliceLink. Links to his social network sites appear on his website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Robert Forto & Ineka

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Dr. Robert Forto and I am a professional musher, public speaker, business coach and father of three. I live in beautiful Colorado with my family and we own and operate several business including Denver Dog Works. The picture is of me and my 12 year old Siberian Husky Ineka.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I was given the wonderful opportunity to share my story on Coffee with a Canine.

What's brewing?

Since it is the week of Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season, I thought it would be appropriate to brew up a pot of Eggnog coffee purchased from a specialty grocery here in Denver with a scoop of Maple Sugar and a dash of cream.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

No goodies. I am in training for the Iditarod in the next couple of years so I am watching what I eat, especially treats!

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

No, Ineka is very finicky when it comes to treats. The only thing that he really likes is cheese. He and I have been sharing cheese since they day he came to us from Washington. I remember when we used to live up in the mountains in Bailey, Colorado, we used to have our office in the basement and that’s where I would spend most of my time. We also had a refrigerator down there and I am a huge cheese nut! Every time I would head to the fridge, Ineka would run in and follow me and he and I would share a hunk of cheese. The smellier the better! Our favorite has always been garlic cheese from a mom and pop operation out of Wisconsin (of course!).

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

I had just recently moved from Northern Minnesota to Bailey, Colorado and I wanted to start up a dog sledding team here. I started scouring the Internet for Siberians for sale of rescue and came across a lady in Washington State that was fostering a male Siberian that was up for adoption. He was supposed to be 2 ½ years old. After numerous calls and email, I arranged to have the dog flown to Denver so that I could adopt him. He arrived on a cold March morning and was not what I or my wife, Michele, was expecting. He was a large 60-pound black and white male with striking blue eyes and missing one of his canine teeth. The lady in Washington said he was pure white!

We loaded him in the truck and headed back up the mountain to Bailey and talked about what we would do with him in training for the next racing season. Neither Michele nor I held much hope for this new member of the team but we wanted to see what he was made of. We already had thirty Siberians so it would be hard for the new dog to make the team.

How did he get his name?

Ineka, pronounced IN-eck-A means rescued friend in a northern Canadian dialect.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

While Ineka is now retired I would like to share a quick story about Ineka’s first days as a member of our family. The morning after we brought the new dog home a storm rolled in and dumped several inches of fresh snow in Bailey, so I decided to take the team out for a run. I started putting the harnesses on the team and the new dog, which now had his name, and he went nuts! He was barking and jumping around like mad and I made a comment to Michele, “I think he has done this before!”

I hooked up the team and placed Ineka in point position, right behind Zerlina, one of the lead dogs. During the five-mile run Ineka knew just what to do and even responded when I barked out commands from behind the sled. Ineka was a natural -- a rare find, and he showed promise to the up-and-coming team with hopes of running the next season.

During the warm spring and summer months Ineka took on the job as the kennel Sergeant. His unbridled confidence was shown in his “strut” around the kennel and he would keep all the dogs in line when they started to make a ruckus. When the new puppies were able to join the kennel, Ineka took on the job as mentor for the little guys.

As the snow fell the next October and I made up my team line ups for the racing season, I had learned over the summer training runs on the cart that Ineka could be placed just about anywhere from leader to wheel. This is rare for a dog to hold that many positions and do well. The racing season didn’t go as expected and I didn’t qualify for the Iditarod as I had hoped, but Ineka was right by my side through it all.

Can you briefly tell us about your radio show?

The Dog Doctor Radio Show is a weekly radio program that can be heard on It is a worldwide show with a different topic each week. We talk about everything DOG on our show. We are not your typical pet radio show: we have covered such topics as breed bans, Michael Vick, therapy dogs, service dogs, canine sports, working dogs and of course dog sledding. Our show can be heard every Saturday morning at 9:30 am MST or you can download it anytime from our website or through iTunes -- just search Dog Doctor in the iTunes store. We welcome callers and guests. We have a live chat room and people can email us questions, stories and show topics to

How well does Ineka get along with others?

Ineka is been called the Sergeant of the dog kennel, whether it be my sled dog kennel in Bailey or our training school at Denver Dog Works, Ineka has an uncanny ability to keep everyone in line. He is a true alpha dog and any dog that comes in contact somehow knows that immediately. I have seen the biggest, toughest dogs move out of the way when Ineka “struts” on his toes and his tail held high.

Ineka also has an ability to be one of the best therapy dogs I have ever seen. We have taken him many times on visits to different places and he lets anyone just grab on to him and hug him. I remember one time we went to a nursing home for people with Alzheimer’s and he sat there patiently while they petted his soft fur and asked questions about sled dogs.

What's Ineka's best quality?

I dedicated my doctorate dissertation to my friend of friends, Ineka, he who has taught me the definition of unconditional love. In addition to Ineka, I dedicated my opus to all other sled pups that have unselfishly provided comfort, compassion and unparalleled commitment to humans. This dedication is generally without measure of our right to such gifts or of our own commitment to reciprocate.

It is this affection that has given me the ability to survive, with relative sanity, in an often difficult world. The power of this unconditional love has been the inspiration for my dissertation and the project that produced it. May this project bring power to those who want to chase their dreams. May this project also give us a better appreciation for those creatures with which we share the earth.

What's Ineka's proudest moment so far?

Ineka is now retired and spends most of his days lounging around the house or at Denver Dog Works where he still tries to be the boss. Most mornings he can be found with me in my home office working on my first book, Run With Poodles; it is about overcoming adversity in business based on the principles of leadership on a dog sledding team. I had no idea just how difficult a project it is to write a book from scratch!

Ineka is the inspiration behind our service dog training organization, aptly named, The Ineka Project. The Ineka Project is a service dog training organization that trains service dogs for children with Autism, although we have placed several dogs with other disabilities such as PTSD, bi-polar, and mobility. Every day when we are training dogs a little bit of Ineka is rubbed off on the new members of the team.

Ineka is now twelve and he is showing his age. While it will be the most difficult thing for me, when he passes his legacy will live on. He truly is my inspiration and he keeps my drive alive. I have named my Iditarod team, TEAM INEKA and plan to run under that banner when I attempt the 1000+ mile race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska in 2013. And if Ineka has passed on by then my goal is to spread his ashes along the Iditarod trail. If he has not passed, he will be 16 at the time, he will be waiting for me at the famed arch in Nome with my wife and kids!

Visit the Denver Dog Works website and learn more about Team Ineka.

Listen to The Dog Doctor Radio Show.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 21, 2009

Juliet Marillier & Gretel, Pippa and Sara

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Juliet Marillier, a full time writer of novels that span the genres of historical fiction, romance and fantasy. My most recent book is Heart’s Blood, a romantic ghost story loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. I live in a riverside suburb of Perth, Western Australia. With me in the picture are Gretel and Pippa. My third dog, Sara, needs her own photo [below left] because she’s fussy about whom she allows close. Gretel is an intriguing cross breed, aged about 8. She’s part miniature pinscher, part something with really big ears. Pippa is a purebred miniature pinscher, aged 4. Sara is mostly Maltese. She is an old lady, at least 12.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

A work break for me, on the couch at home. The dogs are very strict about enforcing these breaks, so I can attend to their needs.

What's brewing?

A decaff long black for me, made in the plunger.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I’m having almonds and dried apricots.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Pip and Gretel are having a Greenie, a type of dog treat that is good for their teeth. Sara is too old to be bothered chewing anything challenging. We’re all on special diets for various health reasons.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

They are all rescue dogs. Gretel has been with me for six years. She was found wandering in an industrial district and taken to a refuge – she was there several months before I adopted her. It is amazing that nobody took her earlier as she is a good-tempered, pretty little dog. She does have a major health issue – she’s epileptic and needs daily medication for life. My best companion.

I’ve had elderly, blind Sara for just over a year. Most of the time she’s sweet as pie, but she can transform instantly into a growling, biting ball of aggression. I took her in as a foster dog, and once she was settled here it seemed too cruel to expect her to move again. She has a heart condition but is doing OK thanks to good veterinary attention plus love and care. She spends a lot of the time sleeping.

Pippa is the newest arrival. Her owner was an elderly acquaintance of mine who died suddenly last winter. Pip was his precious only child, and I took her rather than see her go to a refuge. She came complete with a wardrobe of hand-sewn dog coats ranging from brocade to faux fur. She’s had to learn to share her house and her human with other animals. A bundle of energy in a small body. Oh, and she’s so good at those pleading eyes…

How did they get their names?

Pippa was originally just Pip, and named after an English cartoon character called Pipsqueak. Sara came from the shelter with her name, which I thought suited her, though on second thoughts Her Ladyship or Princess might be more apt. In the refuge Gretel was named Petunia. I knew I’d never use that in public! Since she’s part pinscher, a Germanic name seemed appropriate, so I named her after a German fairy tale character.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

In theory it’s structured around my work routine, but actually it’s structured entirely around the animals. Gretel, Pippa and Sonia the cat all sleep in with me. Once someone wakes up, we’re all up. I make their breakfast and administer their various medications, then we listen to the radio news while I have my breakfast.

Next come walkies in rain or shine. Dogs never seem to understand that if it’s raining out the back it will be raining out the front as well. I’m lucky enough to live in a riverside suburb with many great places for dogs to play, explore, socialise and, in summer, swim. Not that mine do – they are all timid about water. Gretel and Pippa get their walk first, a long, brisk one. Sara lives her life at a slower pace than the others, and that includes her walks. Being totally blind, she has to stay on the lead. We make a regular visit to the corner store for our daily newspaper. Sara likes to stop every few paces and have a good sniff around.

After the two walks, I settle down to write for most of the day, with breaks for coffee and meals.

In the late afternoon we repeat the whole routine. I usually work some more in the evenings, but the dogs prefer it when I watch TV. Gretel, Pippa and Sonia the cat take turns on my lap, with the others snuggling as close as possible. When Sara has her turn on the lap, everyone else moves away rather than risk a sudden random attack.

Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

They provide inspiration for the dog characters in my books. In my most recent novel, Heart’s Blood, there is a giant hound named Fianchu, of whom it’s said that he can eat a ram in one bite. He plays quite a big role in the story, and part of his tale is based on real life experience. I think readers will be able to work out which part it is and why it was so difficult to write. My work-in-progress contains a crotchety little white dog called Fang. No prizes for guessing which member of the household she’s based on!

Cat, rabbit, postman…

Cat, but not our own cat Sonia, who is unafraid of dogs. Pippa is still learning about this.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Gretel likes Sonia the cat – they’ve been here longest and are happy to curl up and sleep side by side. Pippa likes Gretel best, as she is a good walk buddy and super-tolerant. Sara doesn’t like anyone.

What's each dog's best quality?

Gretel: sweet temper
Pippa: courage
Sara: super-cuddliness

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

They all get ‘proudest moment’ awards for their unstinting support this year during my long course of breast cancer treatment. That’s why my hair is so short in the photo – it’s growing back after chemo. My dogs’ unconditional love was a major factor in my staying brave and positive through this challenge. Gretel especially liked sharing the daytime naps.

Most embarrassing? Well, dogs have no concept of embarrassment, but there have been a few moments involving bodily functions and public places.

What would your life be like without your dogs?

Too quiet! I’d go a little crazy if it was just me and my laptop all day. My exercise regime would suffer, and instead of talking to the dogs I would have to start talking to myself … I’d miss the cuddles and affection terribly. The love you give a dog is returned a hundredfold. It’s unlikely I will ever be without at least one dog. I find it very hard to turn away a waif who needs a home.

Best dog book?

Street Dogs by Traer Scott, a wonderful photo essay on dogs living alone or in packs in Puerto Rico and Mexico. It will make you cry, but it’s uplifting too.

Juliet Marillier's historical fantasy novels are published internationally and have won a number of awards.

Wildwood Dancing made Amazon's 2007 list of top ten books for young adults; it also won the 2006 Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel.

Juliet Marillier's website to learn more about her books and works in progress, and read her "author's spotlight" essay at the Random House website. Also, check out Writer Unboxed, a genre writing blog which she shares with several other writers and editors.

an excerpt from Heart’s Blood.

The Page 69 Test: Heart’s Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shari Margolin & Cali

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Miss Cali, our 8-year-old black lab mix. She’s posing as a reindeer for our holiday cards. My husband’s a photographer, so she has a standing gig as a model.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Shari Margolin, and I’m a graphic designer and writer. I design full time for Cartoon Network, part time as a freelancer, and I also freelance write for Daily Candy Atlanta.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m not a regular coffee drinker, but I love iced coffees and have a bit of a weakness for pumpkin lattes this time of year. Cali has a fondness for walks and outings any time of the year, so she’s always up for a quick trek to the neighborhood coffee shop. And so am I when I’m procrastinating on this project I’m working on….

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Nope! We’ve actually tried to be strict about not giving Cali too much people food or extra snacks. Even though she’s a skinny girl, she’s gained more weight than she should have in the last couple of years. So it’s pretty much a milk bone before bed if we don’t succumb to the puppy eyes at dinner!

How did your dog come to be united with you?

I’ve had dogs all my life, but had just graduated from college and moved back home to Philadelphia to figure out the next step. Our family dog had passed away about a year before that, and it was a little disarming to me how empty the house felt. I kept dragging my mom to animal shelters where we would cuddle puppies and then she’d say no – she and my dad had just moved to a brand new house and didn’t want a puppy chewing on or ruining anything. Eventually we wound up at a humane society that had just got in a litter of ten black lab mix puppies. They were so tiny and sweet, and the longer we held the runt, the harder it was to give her back. So my mom said, Your dad will get over it. (Shortly after I moved out, my mom decided they needed to get their own puppy - oops!)

How did she get her name?

I was planning on moving to California after college, but things didn’t work out that way. My mom joked that that little puppy was my consolation price for moving home instead. So we called her Cali.

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

Oh, tennis ball for sure! Every morning for at least twenty minutes. Although sticks do make a good substitute when we’re walking. Frisbees are a hard concept to grasp apparently.

Cat, squirrel, postman, car...?

Bus, leaves, neighbors, friends, us. When Cali’s in the house, it is her house. And if anything moves outside of it, she makes sure everyone knows. Funnily enough, she doesn’t make a peep when she’s outside of the house.

What's an ordinary day like for Cali?

She comes to visit me when my alarm goes off and then goes back to sleep until I’m showered and dressed. Next, she fetches the tennis ball for 20-30 minutes. Then eats breakfast. Wakes up my husband. Plays with her treat ball (oh wait, maybe that’s why she’s gained some weight…) or her favorite toy, her hedgehog. Naps until everyone’s home for dinner. Silently wills us to give her table scraps, goes for a walk, and then hangs out with us until it’s time for bed.

Who is Cali’s best pet-pal?

Cali isn’t much of a dog-dog. When we go to the dog park, she scoots her butt in between the humans sitting on the rocks, joining the group she thinks she belongs with. But she does have one buddy. My mother-in-law’s dog Bailey. He’s also a black lab and loves tennis balls even more than she does!

What's Cali's best quality?

She’s just so sweet. She loves to cuddle and is very equal opportunity with her affection. If you pet her for 3 minutes, she’ll lick you for approximately 2 minutes and 55 seconds.

Has Cali inspired any design work?

Yes, she certainly has. For the longest time, I couldn’t find a collar or leash I felt matched her personality and my taste. Finally I gave up and decided to make my own! I’ve developed 5 designs [photo at right] and am in the process of getting a line produced to hopefully sell in doggie boutiques. Keep your paws crossed!

Does Cali have any tricks?

Yup, tons. She can dance, hop across a room on two feet, and play dead. But Cali’s best trick is waving goodbye.

Shari Margolin-Meister is
a graphic designer and a contributing writer for Daily Candy Atlanta. Her husband Josh Meister is a commercial photographer. They live with Cali in Atlanta, Georgia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cindy, Kirby & Buster and Barney Pringle

Who is in the photo at right?

In the photo, left to right: Barney Pringle, Kirby Pringle, Buster Pringle and Cindy Pringle on coffee break in their new Dogtown Artworks Gallery & Studio in Tuscola, Ill.

We are fine art photographers. We take photos of our dogs, Buster and Barney, and turn them into "dog people" — dogs with humanlike bodies. We also take photos of other people's dogs and turn them into dog people, too. We've been professional photographers for 20 years and have specialized in creating dog people for the past 8 years. We just opened a new gallery and photo studio in Tuscola, Ill., and are working on our third book that features the characters Earl Barker (Buster) and his wife, Pearl Barker (Barney). Our first book, Happy Tails: Earl and Pearl on the Farm came out in 2006 and our second book, Happy Tails: The Call of Nature, came out in 2008. We sell prints from our two books and also "stand alone" photos, along with note cards.

Our two dogs are Buster (a white boxer, although he may have some American bulldog in him), 11 1/2 years old, and Barney (a boxer mix), 10 1/2. Both are neutered males and both are rescue dogs.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We're on coffee break at our new gallery and photo studio in Tuscola, Ill. You would think with a name like Tuscola (Arcola is 9 miles south — really), that we should be drinking Pepsi-Cola or Coca-Cola or Royal Crown Cola. Our dogs are always with us in the gallery and customers' well-behaved pets are welcome, too. We're in a hidden location, but we have a park right across the street, so it works out well for taking a walk after lunch.

What's brewing?

We always buy the Eight O'Clock 100 percent Columbian Coffee. It goes in our 15-year-old drip coffee maker. Eight O'Clock is good stuff for not a lot of money. Consumer Reports always recommends it, so what's good enough for Consumer Reports is good enough for us.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Oh yeah. Donuts usually. We like the big-calorie daddies, Entemann's chocolate donuts. The Casey's General Store (a chain of Midwestern convenience stores) has pretty good donuts, too. That's where we buy a box of day-old donuts on the cheap.

Any treat for Buster and Barney on this occasion?

They get a dog biscuit on our coffee breaks.

How did they come to be united with you?

We adopted Barney after our first boxer, Bobo, passed away. Our veterinarian took in a bunch of mistreated puppies and Barney was one of them. We adopted Buster about a year later. We found him at a small town in southern Illinois. His owner moved into a rental house that did not allow pets, so she just set him loose. He had been a street dog for 18 months when we saw him standing in front of a cafe with a couple of kids on bicycle feeding him a candy bar. Buster, who was not fixed at the time, also had an adoring harem of female dogs around him. We made inquiries, contacted the owner, and then bought him from her.

How did they get their names?

Barney just looked like a Barney. He looked sort of like Barney Fife. Buster's name was originally Chauncey. We didn't like that name and rechristened him Buster. Again, he just looked like a Buster.

How many of your photographs have you created featuring Buster and Barney? Do you have a favorite?

We've done about 150 photos that feature Buster and Barney and the list keeps growing. Kirby's favorite is "The Long Road Home" [photo, above left], it's got a classic John Steinbeck, dustbowl feel to it. It's our Dogs of Wrath tribute. Cindy's favorite is "His 'N' Hers" [photo, right] because of the looks on Buster's and Barney's faces and the fun details in the shot.

Is there a photo of Buster and Barney playing poker (or does that question betray my lack of imagination)?

We have people request that photo all the time, especially at art fairs. It is actually on our "to-do list," but we haven't gotten around to it. Part of it is because we want to do an original interpretation and the other part is that we haven't found a cool old pool hall in central Illinois that we can use for the shot.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

They are your average dogs in almost every respect. They eat, they sleep and then go do their business. They differ from other dogs in one way: both are really good at posing for photographs. Our photo sessions last about 15 minutes and we use dog treats to get them to look a certain way or in a certain direction. We also use squeaky toys, harmonicas and cat-calls. Our dogs are very food motivated and both have very expressive eyes — great for our type of photography.

Where is your dogs' favorite place to go for walk?

Lake Shelbyville, a big lake in central Illinois. They both like to walk along the water and we do, too. We go there about every weekend. Our goal is to live near a large body of water.

Who are Buster and Barney's best pet-pals?

Buster and Barney are each other's best pals. We're all good pals.

What's each dog's best quality?

Buster's name should be Happy because he is ALWAYS happy and easy-going (except around mice, strange dogs and his bowl of dog food). Barney is nervous and shy, and doesn't really have a boxer personality. But he gives us those perfect "concerned" looks for our photos.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? The most embarrassing?

Buster is quite the mouser. One time he caught a mouse in the garage and WOULD NOT let go. Cindy could not pry it away from him. So he rode in the car to the local post office, and then back home, with a mouse dangling from his muzzle the whole time [photo, above left]. He was very proud of his catch. He doesn't eat the mice he catches. He just likes to hold them in his muzzle.

Barney, on the other hand, loves corn. Our house is surrounded by tall fields of corn and Barney absolutely loves to run into the field, pull up the whole stalk, run back home, remove the ear from the stalk and then husk the ear of corn. It's fun to watch. He would eat the entire ear of corn if we let him, but we take it away before he gets that far.

Buster's most embarrassing moment was when he got sprayed by a skunk on Christmas day. Guests thought we were having Indian food for the meal, but it was just Buster stink.

Barney's most embarrassing moment was when Cindy was taking photographs outside and Barney was wearing a black sweater, big curly wig and a pearl necklace [photo right]. The UPS man pulled into the driveway and Barney went running to greet the driver, forgetting that he was still wearing his sweater, wig and necklace. We think this is the first time a UPS driver has been greeted by a dog in drag.

Visit the website for Dogtown Artworks Gallery & Studio. View sample pages from Happy Tails: Earl and Pearl on the Farm and Happy Tails: The Call of Nature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 14, 2009

India Edghill & Harry, Bella, Stephanie, Bevil and Amy

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm the writer India Edghill. My dogs are Harry, Bevil (the big red one), Bella (on my lap), in this photo, Amy (on my lap in the photo below left, with Harry again) and Stephanie, not pictured... Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. (Not "King Charles Spaniels" and not "Cavvies" -- "Cavaliers" for short.)

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I start my days with about a quart mug of very strong tea. The Cavaliers wait around hoping I'll drop food...

What's brewing?

Twining's Earl Grey. V.v. strong, with a lot of Sweet'N Low and skim milk.

Any goodies to go with the tea?

Not usually. I can't face breakfast at breakfast time! Try me with it at 10:00 a.m.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

They get their morning biscuit -- either Mother Hubbard or Cinnabones (which they ADORE). That's it. It's really hard keeping weight off small dogs, but it's vital for their health.

How did you come to be united with your spaniels?

Well, a while back -- about 12 years ago now -- I was working on a book and the heroine needed a dog. Since said heroine, like Little Moi is what Elizabeth Peters call a "historical necrophiliac" (see her novel The Murders of Richard III -- a lot of fun, and not what it sounds like from the title, so all you people in the Richard III Society can just not write me nasty e-mails, okay?) -- where was I? Oh, yes -- so the heroine got a Cavalier, because Charles II is my favorite English king, and he had dozens of the little spaniels. And I fell in love with the breed, and ... well, here I am with five of them. I always say it's a good thing I didn't give that character Great Danes!

How did they get their names?

Their names are (first name is their call name, second is their official name):

1. Harry, age 9-1/2 (he was going to be Bodie, after my favorite character in The Professionals, but I tried the name out at home and realized that a Beau (cat) and a Bodie wouldn't do.) -- aka Britt Tax Deduction at Mooncoign (Britt is the breeder's affix; Mooncoign is mine; his litter was born on tax day and all have tax names)

2. Bella, age 10 -- aka Britt Silver Bell at Mooncoign (a Christmas litter)

3. Stephanie, age 10 -- Britt Sugar Plum at Mooncoign (Bella's litter sister), and if you can't guess why Sugar Plum is called Stephanie, I heartily recommend Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series!

4. Bevil, age 3 -- Wystar Heir Jordan at Mooncoign -- Bevil is a good English Civil War name, on the Royalist side, of course!

5. Amy, age 1 -- Wystar Feel That Fire at Mooncoign -- she's pretty, and she's a fusspot, just like Amy in Little Women. It seemed to fit.

Have your dogs had any influence on your work?

Sort of -- dog food doesn't fall free from the sky! And they inspired one my favorite short stories: "A Spaniel For The King", which was in Sirius: The Dog Star, and is available in full text free on my website. Go to short stories and click on the title.)

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

A breakfast biscuit, a walk before I go to work, lying around snoring all day, get fed dinner .... classes for some of them.

Where is your dogs' favorite place to go for walk?

Anywhere I'm going!

What's each dog's best quality?

Well, Harry is Perfect; sweet, tolerant, loving. Bella and Stephanie are darlings. Bevil is beautiful and a big baby. Amy's a bit young to have developed her real nature yet, but she loves to sleep across my neck.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? The most embarrassing?

Well, to keep this short: Embarrassing: Bella was in the ring doing Novice A (obedience) and during the recall, she came charging at me, dashed out of the ring to her crate, realized I wasn't there, and dashed back into the ring to me. I was laughing so hard the judge must have thought I was nuts. (We didn't Q, of course!) Proudest: Harry nailing the third leg on his CD title.

I could go on about my Cavaliers for PAGES, but I won't. Suffice it to say I adore them and am very proud of them, and there's nothing like sleeping with a pack of dogs to make you feel secure and loved.

India Edghill lives in the Mid-Hudson Valley in New York.

She is the author of the novels
Wisdom's Daughter, which was a Romantic Times Nominee for Best Historical Fiction, File M for Murder, Queenmaker, and the recently released Delilah.

an excerpt from Delilah, and learn more about the author and her books at India Edghill's website. Watch the Delilah video trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Delilah.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 11, 2009

Marion Winik & Beau

Who is in the photo at right?

Marion Winik, writer and advice columnist, and her miniature dachshund and personal savior, Beau, a 5-yr-old male.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We had a beautiful Indian summer day here in Baltimore in mid-November and I just had to walk around the corner to Roland Park Bagel and sit outside for a while.

What's brewing?

When I go out, I like a double Americano, very short, with half-and-half. At home I drink some really strong Puerto Rican stuff black.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not edible ones, but I did get my bff Ken to come down and meet me. We talked about what we did last night and how crazy our other friends are.

Any treat for Beau on this occasion?

I always share my treats with Beau. I have none of these "people food" boundaries.

How did Beau come to be united with you?

Five years ago at Christmas time, I decided to give my then-16-year-old son Hayes a miniature dachshund for Christmas. I had grown up with an amazing black-and-tan dachshund named Schnapps and had been wanting another one ever since. But it seemed like there was always a reason not to get a dog. Having babies, moving across the country, stuff like that. When I finally started scheming to find a puppy, people STILL said I was nuts. How could I take on more responsibility, what with my pre-existing group of teenagers, toddlers, cats, and husband, all having to be fed and cared for? Well, it’s not even going to be my dog! I explained, I was giving HAYES the dog.

I searched on the Internet until I found a likely vendor of miniature dachshunds in the rural town of Dillsburg, PA, and I sneaked off with Hayes's younger brother Vince to see a litter of puppies when they were just six weeks old. They were all male, and the smallest one had a large scar across the top of his head. This is the one Vince selected immediately, to the breeder’s surprise. She assured us the vet had said it would eventually disappear. Actually, it has gotten much, much more pronounced and now I have to answer the question, "what is that lump hanging off Beau's head?" many times every day. Oh well. He doesn't even know it's there.

How did he get his name?

So ... I drove back to Discount Dachshunds of Dillsburg, as I had come to think of it, with Hayes on Christmas Eve. He was moved by the gift (there was a slight adjustment period because he thought the "life-changing" present I’d teased him about was a car) and immediately suggested naming his tiny new pet after his father, who died when he was six. Oh, my. I could just picture his grandmother, my late husband's mom, coming for a visit: "And this our new dog, Tony." Honestly, I couldn’t handle it either. So we went with Beau Tali, which was one of his dad's nicknames. He is more often called just Beau ... and, mostly by me, Beau Heinie Beau.

So is Beau Hayes's dog?

Well, I guess not. Hayes left home for college 4 years ago and Beau did not go with him. Instead Beau went into the mental health service supporting me through my divorce from my second husband, my mother's death and other horrible, yet simultaneous life transitions that befell me in 2006 - 2008. I want to nominate him for a Purple Heart. Meanwhile, Hayes thinks I should go ahead and send him $500 since I have apparently repo'ed the dog.

What is Beau's theme song?

Think back to that 1980 gay-nightclub hit, I'm Comin' Out, by Diana Ross. (I'm coming out, I want the world to know, I've got to let it show...). Now, sing these words: "Beau Heinie Beau, he wants the world to know, he is the baby Beau." This song has given us endless hours of pleasure -- perhaps I could better convince you if I could actually sing it for you, but perhaps not.

What's an ordinary day like for Beau?

I try to take him almost everywhere I go, and have a leopard dog bag for sneaking him into my work so he can attend MFA writing classes. He loves other people and other dogs and they mostly love him too.

When he is left home alone, he sits in the front room, watching the door and waiting.

When I am working at my desk, he sits on the lucite and leather couch I inherited from my mother, right behind me, trying to make sure I don't escape without him.

His passion for life and for everyone and everything in it is amazing. No wonder he has to sleep so much.

Who is Beau's best pet-pal?

The little guy in the sweater beside him is Keith Richards, of Pittsburgh, a close pal, and the beautiful English cream longhaired mini in the other photo is his girlfriend Greta, of New Freedom, PA. Greta stole him from her big sister, an Irish terrier named Ellie. He is two-timing Greta since we moved to Baltimore with an Australian setter named Adelaide. At 13, she's a bit of a cougar.

Marion Winik is the author of eight books of creative nonfiction and poetry, most recently The Glen Rock Book of the Dead (Counterpoint, 2008.) Her other works include Telling (Random House, 1994), a best-selling collection of personal essays; First Comes Love (Random House, 1996), a memoir now in development for motion-picture release; The Lunch-Box Chronicles (Random House, 1998); Rules for the Unruly (Simon and Schuster, 2001) and Above Us Only Sky (Seal Press, 2005.) She is also the author of two books of poetry.

Winik's essays and articles have been published in
The New York Times Magazine, O, Salon, Real Simple, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. Her commentaries have been heard on All Things Considered since 1991, and are collected on the website. She was the 2008 "My Life As A Mom" columnist for Ladies Home Journal, and continues in 2009 as that publication's "Advice Lady."

Visit Marion Winik's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WaiSing Lee & Hero

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, WaiSing Lee, and next to me is Hero, a 3-year-old male red brushcoat sharpei. I have been working at investment banks as a wheeling and dealing corporate banker, as a boisterous treasury trader, and currently as an analytical risk manager. Hmmm, come to think of it, my career progression somehow seems to be correlated with global economic trends. Anyways, that would be my part-time job, my other full-time job is being a companion, playmate, driver, personal photographer and secretary to Hero; in other words, I'm his butler. But I must admit the latter is a much more fulfilling and rewarding job.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

As with some weekends, I will usually have a cuppa coffee in the morning sitting on the floor at the balcony of our house. Hero will join me for a nibble or two of whatever goodies that goes with my coffee.

What's brewing?

I would love a caramel macchiato or a tall skim latte from Starbucks but will settle for Ipoh white roasted coffee for now.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Yes, I like to have this particular marie biscuits with my coffee which I grew up eating as a kid. It comes in all kinds of animal shapes: you have tortoise, elephant, owl, fish, etc. ... and they compliment the coffee well.

Any treat for Hero on this occasion?

You bet. Hero will have a couple of the same biscuits to go. I swear for some reasons, he is particularly fond of the cat shaped ones.

How did Hero come to be united with you?

My wife and I were looking for a dog after we got married. A sharpei to be specific, but it is hard to find such breed in Malaysia. We had to source from the neighbouring countries and have the pup brought into Malaysia. Hero was born in Indonesia by parents from California, USA. It was not an easy journey for Hero and we were very concerned about his welfare at that time. He was three months old then and had to endure a 1,500 mile journey over land, sea and air for three days under treacherous conditions before reaching us. Luckily, it turned out well and all is good.

How did he get his name?

The name was given by my wife, even prior to us getting Hero. It's a name that apparently appeared in her dream where she woke up one morning exclaiming "I'm naming our dog Hero!". My wife had two other dogs before and I had one.

Where is Hero's favorite place for an outing?

As long as it's an outing, he seems to enjoy all of them. But I guess his favourite would be the beach where he gets to run along the sandy shore and swim in the sea. Whenever we plan to go to the beach, he seems to know it the night before and he will wake up all hyperactive early in the morning, running up and down the house whilst we are still dreaming in bed. Beats me how he figures that out as we have not even packed our stuff yet.

Stick, Frisbee, tennis ball...?

Tennis ball, he loves fetching the ball.

Cat, rodent, postman...?

Without a doubt, it's the cat and rodent sharing the top position as some kind of sworn enemies from his previous life. Having said that, the feral cats like to taunt him and watch him whimper. I guess the cats get some thrill out of doing that.

Is Hero's bark worse than his bite?

For a medium size dog, Hero has a loud fierce bark that reverberates through the house, but he seldom barks unless he feels we are threatened. As for the bite, I think he has been saving it for the cats.

What's an ordinary day like for Hero?

The day for Hero can start as early as three in the morning when he wants to go out for a pee during those odd days. He will come over to my side of the bed and start poking and scratching me with his paw. If I continue to ignore him, he will jump over and lick my face until I relent and finally get up to open the door for him. After doing his business at the garden, Hero will quickly rush back in upstairs to continue with his sleep for a couple of hours more before waking up to have his breakfast. The rest of the day is spent playing with his toys and getting himself in the middle of everything with some naps in between. He greets us at the door when we come home and after dinner, he will eagerly await for his walk at the park before bed.

Any favorite treats?

Roasted chestnuts! The slightest sound of cracking the nut shell will send him dashing madly towards you and pounce on you. Once we left a packet of roasted chestnuts on the floor in the room and he practically slept next to it guarding the treat till morning. I kid you not.

What's Hero's best quality?

Hero does receive compliments for his looks but to me, he is such a clown and I adore him for that.

What's Hero's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

Hero's proudest moment would be the time when we were trying to teach him how to swim although we knew sharpeis are not known to like water, let alone swim. We were unsure how he would cope but proceeded anyway with the sink or swim method. We took him to the middle of a lake and put him into the deep water alone. To our surprise, he doggie paddled back to shore without much difficulty. After a couple more drop-offs at the lake, he took to water like a duck; now swimming is one of his favourite activities.

On the other hand, Hero never fails when it comes to putting us in an awkward situation. Hero has this fixation with fetching our underwear waiting to be washed from the laundry basket and bringing it to us hoping we will react and start to chase him around for the item in his mouth and some catching fun on his part. It's a habit he developed during his puppy days which we found amusing then but really regret now when we have to buy new underwear every so often. There was this one time when the vet was over at our house to check on him. As I was talking to the vet, Hero took off to the laundry room and came back with my underwear in his mouth and proudly showed it to the vet. The situation was compounded in a way as he literally shoved the underwear at the vet's face as we were sitting on the floor. I really did not see that coming.

There was this other time when we stayed at a nice pet-friendly hotel cum resort. We just came out from the elevator and were happily walking through the swanky marble flooring lobby with Hero in tow. I noticed that people were particularly paying attention to Hero which I naturally thought was due to people being curious of his breed. But it suddenly struck me that people around us were actually trying frantically to keep their distance away from us. I looked down at Hero only to realize that he was actually walking with his hind legs open and peeing at the same time, leaving a trail of fresh pee all the way from the elevator. He must have his bladder so full that he couldn't control any longer. It was really embarrassing for all of us.

Did I mention about how Hero dropped out of obedience training school? Well, I think I'll save that for some other day.

Visit Hero's blog, "Life Journal of a Sharpei Named Hero."

--Marshal Zeringue