Friday, July 24, 2009

Nicholas Griffin & Otto

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Nicholas Griffin with my Border Terrier, Otto. I write fiction and non-fiction and a bit of journalism in between. Border Terriers, like me, come from England – but he was from a litter born in northern New Jersey, which explains our different accents. He’s suffered from the weight swings of a college freshman ever since he had pneumonia twice when he was a puppy. He has scarred lungs, so when he wakes up he sounds like a forty-a-day smoker, but right now he’s doing well. He’s a solid 22 pounds and looking great.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We take our morning walk together and either buy a cup walking around our New York block, or if I’m lucky, my wife hands me a cup on the way out the door. If I haven’t finished it by the time I get home and it's not raining, we sit together on a stoop.

What's brewing?

If it’s from the store, I never ask. Otherwise it’s organic Venezuelan, like my wife.

How did Otto get his name?

Otto’s full name is the Baron Otto von Griffin. Luckily, Otto preceded my two kids so we managed to ruin his life rather than seeing our kids suffer in kindergarten.

Otto’s favorite thing to chase:

That would be a tennis ball. I was warned by his breeder that Border Terriers are prone to sudden mad dashes at seeing anything small and furry. Since we live in the middle of New York City, maybe the urban experience has switched off his killer gene. Squirrels tap dance on his back, cats sharpen their claws on his dog bowl and nothing perturbs him. His only revenge is that he seems to love watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons with my son [photo, right]. Every time Tom explodes or falls off a cliff, the two of them start to laugh.

If Otto wasn’t a dog, he’d be a …

He could work as a professional foot warmer, great in New York winters. He also feels no pain whatsoever. You can stand on him by accident and he’ll roll over to make sure he’s getting all your weight. I think that would make him great under harsh circumstances, perhaps a behind-the-lines spy who could withstand interrogation.

Any worries about having a dog in a big city?

He loves the dog parks, I’m not so keen. A French bulldog took a bite out of his ear last week so he came home, shook his head and redecorated the kitchen in blood. Every now and then, when I take him to the country, he tries to make friends with anyone who walks past hoping to be adopted and spared a return to a life of concrete and peeing against piles of trash. Last week, out of the city, he surreptitiously crept into someone’s golf cart while I was talking to them and almost made it to a life of grass and trees. I like to think of him as a canine Steve McQueen and we’re serving our time in the city together.

Nicholas Griffin's books include the historical novels "The Requiem Shark" and "House of Sight and Shadow" and the nonfiction work, "Caucasus." His latest novel is "Dizzy City."

Among the praise for "Dizzy City:"
Nicholas Griffin has made historical fiction his literary playground ... [and] 1916 Manhattan proves especially fertile ground... Griffin writes with authority on his chosen subjects, and even though he employs enough point-of-view shifts to give an unintended meaning to his book’s title, the effect works, raising the question: Who is conning, and who is being conned?
—Sarah Weinman, "Time Out New York"
Visit Nicholas Griffin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue