Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Maryglenn McCombs & Garcia

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Maryglenn McCombs, with Garcia, my nine-and-a-half year old Old English Sheepdog. Garcia, as you can probably tell from the photo, is a pretty sizable dog. He weighs in somewhere in the 120-130 pound range.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

How could I resist the opportunity to talk about two of my favorite things – coffee and my dog?

What's brewing?

Really, really, really strong French Roast – brewed with cold water, and consumed black.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

No goodies, but always served in my favorite Old English Sheepdog coffee mug, a gift from my husband.

Any treat for Garcia on this occasion?

Always! My morning routine is to wake up, make coffee, and read the paper while sitting at the kitchen counter. Garcia usually tumbles out of bed shortly after me, joins me in the kitchen, and knocks on the door to our pantry until I give him at least one Milk Bone.

How did Garcia come to be united with you?

Oh, I hate to admit it, but I bought Garcia from a breeder. I’ve always been a dog lover and do lots of rescue work with our local humane association, but feel a little guilty about having bought a dog when there are so many wonderful homeless animals available for adoption and waiting for good homes. I grew up around Sheepdogs and knew that I wanted a Sheepdog of my own. When I got Garcia, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a breed-specific rescue. Do I feel guilty? A little. If I could go back in time and change it? Not on your life.

How did Garcia get his name?

I named Garcia after one of my heroes, Jerry Garcia. When Garcia has his full coat, I swear there’s a resemblance!

Where do you usually take Garcia out for fresh air?

Garcia and I walk around the neighborhood every morning. I don’t know which of us enjoys our walks more. We live in a very dog-friendly area, and I think Garcia and I both enjoy getting out, seeing the neighbors – both human and canine – and starting our day this way. One of our neighbors described Garcia as “the most recognizable and popular dog in the neighborhood.” I loved that!

Where is the best nearby dog park?

Our nearest dog park is at Centennial Park here in Nashville. It’s a wonderful park. Garcia and I made a few journeys to the dog park which he always seemed to enjoy. Unfortunately, we no longer go to the dog park these days.

Last August, Garcia went completely blind. He has a condition called immune mediated retinopathy and after treatment, his sight was partially restored. The condition came back this April and we tried treatment again, but this time the treatment was not successful, so Garcia is completely blind now and his veterinary ophthalmologist believes that the blindness is going to be permanent.

Garcia’s losing his sight was so clearly a bigger deal for me than for him. I was really worried about how he would adjust, if he’d be able to lead a happy life, still go on his walks, and learn to navigate our home, the steps leading outside, etc. How Garcia has adjusted has been nothing short of incredible. There are days I have to remind myself that he can’t see. He’s completely surefooted, comfortable on his walks, and able to go up and down the steps without my help. His adjustment has earned him the nickname of “Amazing Garcia.”

I had read that blindness in dogs was not such a big deal, but had a hard time believing it until I saw how Garcia adjusted to not having sight. It is nothing short of remarkable.

So in a completely circuitous way of answering the question about the dog park, we don’t go to the park now that Garcia is blind. Garcia loves all dogs, but unfortunately, not all dogs love him. With him being blind, I wouldn’t want to put him in a situation where he might encounter an unfriendly dog off-leash.

Would Garcia rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

The only thing I have ever known Garcia to chase is a Milk Bone. He probably would chase his tail if he had a tail, though.

Would Garcia rather catch a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

None of the above. He would much rather catch a Milk Bone.

Which TV dog is Garcia most similar to?

Oh, boy. That’s a tough one. In looks alone, Garcia is definitely most similar to the dog in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” (Am I ever dating myself!) He’s also a lot like The Shaggy Dog, Wilby – smart, mischievous, and a little bit goofy.

What's the most embarrassing thing Garcia ever did?

I think it’s a lot funnier than it is embarrassing, but years ago, Garcia developed a terrible crush on our mail carrier, Kathy. He would wait at the door around the time she’d come by to deliver our mail and on more than one occasion, I caught him “posing” for her – lying in the floor on his back with all four paws straight up in the air. I kid you not…

And I guess I should mention the Santa debacle of a few years back, too. My husband and I sent out Christmas cards that feature a photo of Garcia with Santa each year. One year, during the photo session, Garcia decided that he wanted to play tug with Santa’s beard. Not good!

Groucho Marx said, "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." Was he right?

Totally! I actually have that quote on my web site –

Garcia is so much more than a friend – he’s a lovable, loyal, and faithful companion.

I have a home office, so I spend my days working with Garcia at my feet. I’ve named him my Employee of the Month -- every month.

So Garcia’s a pure bred?

Yes. He’s an Old English Sheepdog, also known as a Bobtail, or “Shaggy Dog.”

What is Garcia’s best quality?

Unbridled enthusiasm.

What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from Garcia?

There are way too many to list! I love how he’s shown me resilience in his being able to adapt to being blind, and I also love that he approaches every day with a “best day of my life so far” attitude.

What surprises you most about Garcia?

Undoubtedly, I’m amazed by how smart he is. Most Old English Sheepdogs I’ve been around are like clowns: they’re big, furry, shaggy creatures and they wiggle like crazy. Beneath Garcia’s cuteness is a whole lot of smart. He learns very quickly, and is very observant.

Maryglenn McCombs, a 1993 graduate of Vanderbilt University, has been actively working in the book publishing industry for over 10 years. During that time she has been involved with literally hundreds of books.

Now she offers targeted book publicity for a wide variety of authors. Visit her website.

--Marshal Zeringue