Monday, August 31, 2009

Nicholas Dodman & Rusty

Who is in the photo at right?

That is me, Nicholas Dodman. I am a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University near Boston, MA. To my left is Rusty, my 9-month-old neutered male mixed-breed rescue dog.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Photo op.

What's brewing?

Javana Kona blend Arabica coffee. Made in French piston coffee maker on the table in front of us.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

No empty calories for me.

Any treat for Rusty on this occasion?

Not really - just praise, petting.

How did Rusty come to be united with you?

We rescued him from the Baypath Humane Society shelter in Hopkinton, MA.

How did Rusty get his name?

His color.

You are the author of a number respected books, including "If Only They Could Speak" which made the Wall Street Journal's list of the five best books about dogs. Does Rusty figure in these books?

No, I got him after my latest book, "The Well-Adjusted Dog."

What's an ordinary day like for Rusty?

Walk, breakfast, longer walk, hanging around, playing with toys, spending time with the family, walk, car ride, hanging out again, walk, dinner, walk, couch time, walk, sleeping in my daughter's room.

Who is your dog's best pet-pal?

The cat - but the cat does not always agree.

What's your dog's best quality?

He's a really a gentle soul.

What's Rusty's proudest moment so far?

He's proud of everything he does.

His most embarrassing?

Accident on floor (excited urination).

Nicholas Dodman's books include "The Dog Who Loved Too Much," "Dogs Behaving Badly," "If Only They Could Speak," and "The Well-Adjusted Dog."

Learn more about Nicholas Dodman at The Pet Docs website and at his Tufts faculty website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eileen McVety & Shamrock

Who is in the photo at right?

Eileen McVety, owner of Spot-on Writing and author of the humor book "Welcome to the Company (or what it’s really like working here)" with Shamrock, her 2-1/2-year-old male golden retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The sun is out, the weather is warm, and the back porch glider beckons.

What's brewing?

Folgers Breakfast Blend with a generous serving of half and half. I know … it’s not cool. But it tastes good and I can get 240 cups out of a $9 plastic container. At least that’s what it says on the label and we all know that advertising copy never lies.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Coffee was prefaced with a heaping bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats.

Any treat for Shamrock on this occasion?

Yes. Slivers of cheddar cheese that he found lying on the porch by the grill and devoured instantly.

How did Shamrock come to be united with you?

We found a wonderful breeder of golden retrievers in suburban Philadelphia. The breeder picked him out for us but I like to think that there may have been some unnamed spiritual force guiding her decision.

How did Shamrock get his name?

Our last name is McVety and our daughters are Molly and Erin. We knew we wanted our dog to have an Irish name. Initially, we searched a map of Ireland to find a town name that might work but nothing seemed appropriate. I couldn’t imagine hollering across the yard, “Come here, Killarney!” or “Here, Cork, fetch!” One day, I was flipping through a catalog that featured St. Patrick’s Day decorations when I stopped to inquire of my husband and kids, “What do you think of the name Shamrock?” The rest is history.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick,...?

Tennis ball, for sure. Shamrock is an excellent retriever but a pathetic releaser. We spend a great deal of time every day trying to wrestle slobbery balls from the vice-like grip of his jaw. You’d think he’d get the hang of the whole fetch-and-release thing after 2 years, but no such luck.

Has your dog influenced your writing in any way?
My husband thinks that Shamrock has calmed me down, allowing me to be more focused. I think he’s opened my eyes to the silliness of the every day. One thing we can agree on: he keeps my feet warm on cold days at the computer.

What's an ordinary day like for Shamrock?

Mornings are usually spent with his chin on the laps of my daughters as they eat their breakfast, eagerly awaiting the wayward drop of a morsel of waffle. There’s a lot of lying around beneath people’s feet throughout the day and sniffing around the yard. Shamrock and I usually get a 2-mile walk in after dinner when the temperature’s a little cooler. As soon as the dinner dishes are washed, he follows me around from room to room like a furry stalker.

Who is your dog's best pet-pal?

India, a neighborhood boxer, who always stops by our yard for a visit during her daily walks. India and Shamrock sniff each other frantically, then India and her owner head off up the street. The encounters are brief but full of adrenalin and joy. Soon after, Shamrock returns to his preferred state of calm.

What's Shamrock's best quality?

His genuine (and sometimes heartbreaking) belief in the inherent goodness of others.

What's your dog's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

I’d say that his proudest moment was the first time he barked. He was about 6 months old at the time and was initially startled by the rich guttural sound that his throat produced. That feeling was quickly replaced by a proud glow of accomplishment, like, “Hey, I just became a dog today.”

His most embarrassing moments happen anytime we’re taking a walk and he cowers in the presence of a small passing dog. He has no concept of being 85 pounds with lion-like paws. In his mind, he’s the size of a hamster.

Eileen McVety is a professional writer with more than 20 years of communications writing experience. At Spot-on Writing she has developed award-winning branding campaigns and communications materials for clients in both the pharmaceutical and business-to-business sectors. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and is a published essayist and short-story writer whose work has appeared in the "Chicago Tribune," "Tiny Lights," "Career Woman," "Philosophical Mother," and "The Minetta Review."

"Welcome to the Company (or what it's really like working here)," McVety's first book, was published in March 2009.

Learn more about Eileen McVety at the Spot-on Writing website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edie Jarolim & Frankie

Who is in the photo at right?

Edie Jarolim. As my website puts it, I’m a writer, editor and dog slave. I’ve written three travel guides but I’m proudest of my latest book, "Am I Boring My Dog?: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew."

The dog I am enslaved to, pictured here, is Frankie, a rescue who is now about 10 or 11 years old. He is part terrier for sure; as for the rest, your guess is as good as mine.

For a small dog, he wields a LOT of power.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This interview. I can be rather literal minded, so I had my friend Jackie take a picture of me and Frankie at a favorite coffee place [below left].

Unfortunately, we don’t have coffee together very often, except at home. The logistics are a bit complicated for coffee with a canine because you generally have to order at an indoor counter. Cute as Frankie is, he’s not welcomed inside places that sell food. But when I enlist a friend to go in to get the coffee or to watch Frankie while I go inside, the patio of Beyond Bread is a prime choice.

What's brewing?

Cafe Feminino, a shade-grown, organic dark roast from a women’s farm co-op in Peru. I get my caffeine and social-consciousness fix at the same time.

I take my coffee straight up, with a little low fat milk.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

It’s practically impossible to just get a cup of coffee at Beyond Bread. Though there are lots of menu items “beyond” it, bread -- fresh baked every morning -- rules here. And while waiting to put in your order, you’re faced with a sampling bin of various breads of the day and a tub of fresh, soft butter. Resistance is futile.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

No, I’m afraid Frankie’s on a strict diet because he has diabetes. Even whole grain bread-- my favorite -- isn’t good for him.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

I became friends with Rebecca, a fellow food writer -- I’m the contributing dining editor for "Tucson Guide" magazine -- who also happened to be a dog rescuer. Talk about resistance being futile. I had wanted a dog for as long as I could remember, but hesitated for a variety of reasons, the foremost of them being fear that I wouldn’t know how to take care of a pup because I didn’t have one while I was growing up. Rebecca convinced me that I could do it, and that working at home made me a great caretaker candidate.

I still held out for a while, but then Rebecca emailed me a picture of the world’s cutest dog. That was that.

How did he get his name?

Frankie came pre-named, after the golf partner of Rebecca’s friend’s husband (how’s that for an obscure connection?). Frankie’s not a duffer-type pup -- although he has been known to pee on the greens at resort courses -- but the name nevertheless suited the little guy to a tee.

What's Frankie's role in your new book, "Am I Boring My Dog?"

Frankie was instrumental. He was my inspiration for writing it, and serves to illustrate many of the points I make. Because I was a first-time dog owner and thus clueless about dogs in general and Frankie in particular, I panicked when I first got him. As a result, I read lots of books and asked lots of questions.

Once I felt I had finally succeeded with Frankie -- if you can call having an 11-pound alien take over your life a success -- I realized I was in a unique position to help others who were as clueless as I was when I first adopted him. Unlike those who grew up with dogs, I knew just how much I didn’t know. That’s how "Am I Boring My Dog?" got started.

Who is your dog's best pet-pal?

Ouch. That’s a touchy question. Frankie is a shy guy. There was a time when I thought he’d be friends with Archie, my best friend’s dog, but after an initial bout of adoration, Frankie apparently decided he wasn’t interested in any having any pals, canine or human, besides me. I’ve described Frankie’s evolving position on friendship in two stories that I posted on my blog: Doggie Chic, Doggie Chakras, Scottsale and Sedona and Palm Springs Break: A Tale of Two Dogs.

Frankie does peacefully co-exist with Angel, a poodle that he walks with a couple of times a week and who is even shyer than he is. My friend Jackie, who took the pictures at Beyond Bread, is Angel’s caretaker, so that’s Angel you see with Frankie in my lap [photo, above left]. They don’t usually get that close, though Frankie did sniff her butt the other day -- a first!

What's Frankie's best quality?

Perkiness. I generally loathe that quality in people but in a dog it’s extremely endearing. Frankie likes to cock his head inquisitively, as though asking me what’s on the agenda and trusting me to come up with something great. He also has a little prancing walk, like a tiny Lippizaner stallion. All in all, he exudes optimism and makes me want to live up to his expectations.

What's your dog's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

Frankie’s proudest moment is being the spokesdog for my book on a series of videos posted on YouTube. He’s a natural in front of the camera.

As for an embarrassing moment, I’d say it also happened recently, on our first vacation together since Frankie was diagnosed with diabetes. Every morning and evening, I have to collect urine samples in order to test his blood sugar. The pee collection is usually done in the privacy of my backyard, but that wasn’t possible in San Diego. Although there was a nice, discreet park close to our hotel, Frankie insisted on peeing as soon as we arrived in front of the hotel’s sidewalk cafe, in full view of the evening dining contingent. Couldn’t he hold it until we were a few feet away? Nooooo!

Edie Jarolim got a Ph.D. in American literature from New York University (which explains the occasional literary allusion in her restaurant reviews); worked as a senior editor for Frommers and Fodor’s travel guides (not simultaneously); and translated guidebooks from British to American English in the London office of Rough Guides (proof that the U.S. and England are indeed separated by a common tongue). After moving to Tucson, Arizona, in the early 1990s, she became a freelance writer, editor, and ... slave to Frankie.

Her new book, Am I Boring My Dog?: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew, is published by Alpha/Penguin.

Visit the Will My Dog Hate Me? blog and Edie Jarolim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2009

Diane Rich & Dubs

Who is in the photo at right?

Diane Rich [in the black hat] and friends. I am a dog trainer and the official trainer for the University of Washington's new mascot, Dubs. My dog training career has been ongoing for over two decades. I offer 1:1 training that includes obedience training, problem prevention, and problem solutions including rehabilitation for all canines. I start 1:1 training when the pup is 7 weeks of age and work with dogs up to the senior plus years. I also offer group classes for dogs 10 weeks and older and offer boarding or boarding training exclusively for my client's dogs. I also coordinate animal therapy programs for local hospitals, nursing homes and special camps for children.

Dubs is a very handsome 10 month old Alaskan Malamute. I am not Dub's parent, just his teacher.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Dubs day-cared with us at Camp Fraser along with a month of boarding training to further prepare him for his responsibilities as the mascot for the Washington Huskies. I have coffee in my office very early every morning and Dub's morning routine after I would prepare his breakfast was to relax on the guest dog bed in my office while I responded to phone calls and emails. My boyz, Fraser and Chase joined him in my office, as they do all guests. Then, I would either review training with Dubs, work on new behaviors, go for our morning walk or take Dubs with us for the day on training appointments.

What's brewing?

I grind fresh beans every morning and my current flavor bean is Ethiopian Fancy from Peets in Redmond, WA. I drink it black with a splash of non-fat soy.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I tend not to include any goodies with my morning coffee.

How did you and Dubs first get together?

The University of WA researched the trainers in the Seattle and via referrals contacted me.
My job description initially was to train Dubs, 1:1 which would fast track the results they wanted to prepare him for his many duties representing the University. I began his training and owner education when Dubs was 10 weeks old. My signature training is what I call Real World training which helps all dogs, no matter the age, gain confidence in all settings and be able to respond to the pet parent no matter the distractions. I trained Dubs initially at home or in a low key environment to learn basic commands, then introduced him to the stadium and other more stimulating situations. As Dubs would be meeting his fans, working with him on proper public manners or what I call meet and greets with strangers was included in his early training. Pet Parents are required to be a part of all the training so they can reinforce all the skills. I kept my eye on the ball as the initial goal is his debut Sept 5th for the LSU game along with a few other public appearances.

How did Dubs get his name?

I believe the school held a contest and people emailed in names for the new mascot, voted and the name Dubs, for UW ("Udub") was selected.

You are known for your Basic Training Philosophy: "Catch your dog doing something right!" What did you catch Dubs doing right?

I began training Dubs at 10 weeks of age at the owner's home. This beautiful puppy had brains and beauty and was a willing student, enjoyed his lessons with me and caught on very quickly. He did everything right during our sessions.

Are huskies especially easy or especially tough to train?

Although the school team is named Washington Huskies, the University has traditionally selected the Alaskan Malamute breed as their mascot. I do not find any breed dog particularly challenging to train if one understands how the dog is hardwired, is patient and reinforces the training properly. Malamutes can be willful and independent by nature and do not hand over compliance. A pet parent needs to earn their dog's trust and respect and maintain that respect throughout the dog's life, so that being said it is not the canine end of the leash that can present the challenge.

You've trained therapy pets. Is Dubs suited for that kind of task?

I think when he matures he could make a suitable therapy pet in some environments.

Please tell us a bit about Dubs' friends Fraser and Chase [photo, right] and their relationship.

They are great friends. Fraser was Dub's first canine buddy and mentor which expedited Dub's training. Dubs met Chase at Camp Fraser when he daycared with us a couple times and he and Chase were inseparable.

Dubs also stayed with us for one month for boarding training. The boyz went hiking together, enjoyed daily walks which included training of course, and Dubs was included with my boyz in helping train other client's dogs in both a 1:1 setting and my group classes. Dubs modeled after both Fraser and Chase which fast tracked Dub's training and matured him faster than normal weekly sessions.

Dubs is making his debut this season at the UW football games. How did you prepare him for a football stadium full of noise and people running around?

First, Dubs is a confident, solid dog. I started his training early and exposed him in small doses to every kind of stimulation you can imagine similar to what puppy raisers do for service dogs. I associate the stimulation with something positive and did not overwhelm the puppy with too much too soon. I started working with him at Husky stadium when he was 11 weeks old and built up his focus on me rather than all the activity on the field. I exposed him properly to adults and small children, crowds and noise in a positive way. His owners were taught how to reinforce the same behavior and how to manage his many fans and surprises. One must be patient with a puppy and be knowledgeable enough to read the dog's body language to make sure the dog is not overwhelmed. I did a practice run at UW's spring game where the band played, cheerleaders did their thing and the 10,000 fans enjoyed all the various activities.

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

Although most fans are enamored with his good looks where he just has to vogue for the camera, I am proud of him that he, so far, takes his job description in stride. I believe I need to keep those embarrassing moments under wraps.

Diane Rich & Chase and Fraser were featured on Coffee with a Canine earlier this month.

Visit Diane Rich's website to learn more about her work.

Check out Dubs' blog, "A Dawg's Life," and Dubs' Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hart Johnson & Joel

Tell us about who’s in the picture to the right.

The short fluffy one is Joel, a Corgi mix who’s been part of our family for almost five years. We adopted Joel through the Humane Society. The poor little guy was abandoned on their doorstep on Christmas Eve with no information, but from his quirks we’ve put together a few guesses as to his heritage and first year. I’m Hart Johnson, also known as the Watery Tart, a social scientist by day and writer by identity.

What are you and Joel drinking?

It’s Friday afternoon, and my weekend is started so this is a Tart Special. My husband drinks decaf, and sometimes when I get home there is coffee left. I poured it over ice and added sugar, Baileys and just a little rum. Perfect unwind.

Are you having any treats with that?

Just the break. I work full time, am a mom, and write on the side, so a little time to just relax with the pooch is DEFINITELY a treat.

Any treats for Joel?

Joel eez on ze carrots. He is overweight and we finally figured out the dog treats were probably the culprit, so he gets carrots instead most of the time.

What’s Joel's heritage?

From his build, it’s pretty clear that Corgi is the dominant breed, and his personality supports that too--he doesn’t like to be told what to do, which I’ve heard is a Corgi trait. But he also has fur growing between the pads on his paws, which the vet says is a sign he has some arctic breed in him, and his fur grows almost in a lion pattern. All of it gets a little long, but his mane and haunches get quite long, though at the moment he has a summer haircut.

And what about his story?

Do you have a tissue ready? He can be really skittish, jumping back if someone reaches too fast, and extremely slow to warm up to new people. We think he was probably abused, maybe not with abusive intent, but in the end, abuse is abuse. Looking at him, and knowing his quirks, we suspect somebody adopted or bought him because he was so CUTE, but when he is reprimanded he growls, and if you take something from him, he’ll bite. He also sleepwalks, and can be downright mean if he wakes suddenly because he is disoriented. We think the first owners didn’t have the patience or skills to learn that he needs to be treated more like a two-year-old--distraction, coaxing, bribery. Yelling or sternness doesn’t work.

Joel, why don’t you tell us what you like to do?

My favorite thing EVER is going for walks with my daddy. I don’t usually have to wear a leash and we meander around a couple blocks sniffing things. Next best is probably playing with Cali.

Who’s Cali?

Joel: My sister, but she’s thinner and faster and can jump real high.

Hart: A cat.

Joel, what do you and Cali play?

Well, sometimes I chase her. And sometimes she leaps out from hiding onto me. And she lets me clean her ears. I like that a lot.

What other quirks does Joel have?

He’s a greeter. It’s very sweet. He has to be greeted by each one of us personally every morning and every time we come home or he whimpers about it (and if we aren’t up by nine, he reminds us we haven’t greeted him yet.) He’s really got a loving temperament, other than not liking to be told what to do, but I share the quality, and so am sympathetic.

And does Joel read?

He often joins my son and I when we read, so I guess at the moment he’s reading the latest Pendragon book.

Doesn’t he like the books you write?

My books all seem to combine family, academic life and conspiracy theory, so they are a little mature for Joel, who gets scared easily. He’s really hoping "Confluence" sells though, as if it were to do really well, I could quit my day job and be home with him to write.

About "Confluence":
A blood oath taken by a nine year-old boy, a young girl of unusual ancestry, a strange cult that’s not what it seems, and a family caught in the middle… When Mac Rawlins, scientist, is recruited to a prestigious Behavioral Genetic Program in a small university town, it seems the perfect launch to his career and the perfect place to raise his children. Right from the beginning however, the move is burdened with obstacles; his unwilling fifteen year-old from an earlier marriage accompanies them and they find a town with divided loyalties and strange undercurrents. Unwelcome events, one by one, begin to alter the lives of the members of his family as they struggle to understand what they are really doing there.
Learn more about Hart Johnson and her writing at her blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart, and her Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lauren O'Neil & Simon

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Lauren O'Neil, I do radio and TV, and my man Simon. Simon is my heart. He is half husky and half keeshond, a year and a seven months old, and full of energy! He has a beautiful silver and dark grey coat and a big fluffy curlicue tail. He absolutely loves to play (especially tug-of-war), go to the puppy parks and beaches, long walks and runs, swimming, play catch (sometimes when he wants to bring it back) and get lots of lovins from his mommy and daddy. He can be mischievous, and the refrigerator must be duct-taped shut when he is puppysitting himself, but he is a very loved boy.

How did Simon come to be united with you?

A friend of my mother's had a litter. I went to visit and Simon picked me out! My best friend Amy ended up in love with his sister Starr and they love to play and go to the beach together.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Simon snuggles with me every morning while I enjoy my cup of coffee and watch SportsCenter, but this morning we hopped in the car to hit the puppy beach!

What's brewing?

Home-brewed organic coffee with amaretto creamer and whipped cream on top.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Grapefruit and a hard boiled egg with ketchup before we hit the road.

Any treat for the dog on this occasion?

Simon enjoys salt-water infused air in his face.

How did Simon get his name?

Simon actually picked his own name. I did a whole campaign to get suggestions from my listeners, and came up with nothing for a month! Finally, my boyfriend Jay and I sat across from each other and starting running down the list of potentials. Simon was the only one he liked so it stuck!

Is Simon's bark worse than his bite?

Simon is turning into quite the little watchdog. He has his moments when he will bark for no reason, but we are very proud of him becoming the ruler of his domain. He never bites, but he may sneak a nibble of dad’s beard.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, ...?

All of the above. Also, but not limited to: footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, ropes, dad’s shoes, etc.

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

Simon's nickname is "The Lizard King." And our porch seems to be some sort of lizard swinger's joint, so it can get pretty tumultuous out there!

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

He would like to catch anything he can get his paws on; and mommy tries to save the object of his affection before he loves it too much. He learned the hard way that he plays a little too rough for the local frogs.

Listen to Lauren O'Neil from 9 AM to 2 PM at 104.1, The Rock of New Orleans, in Oklahoma City from 10 AM - 2 PM at 94.7 The Buzz, on the Kage Kult show on 98 Rock, 3-7 PM in Tampa, and weekends on Radio 104.5 in Philly.

Check out a couple dozen photos of Simon as a puppy.

Visit Lauren O'Neil's MySpace page and follow her on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2009

Randy Sue Coburn & Binx

A Day in the Life of Randy Sue Coburn

By Binx (her floppy-eared terrier)

I am a literary dog not only because an author belongs to me, but because I was named for the narrator of one of her favorite books—"The Moviegoer," by Walker Percy. I’m glad she didn’t name me Walker, which would have been confusing come walk time (“Want to go for a walk, Walker?”), or even worse, Percy, which is much too prissy to suit my personality. She tells me that she considered both.

I hate to hurt my author’s feelings, but if it weren’t for me, a typical day in her life when she’s working on a book would be incredibly boring. For one thing, it always starts the same—with her filling the kettle, grinding a handful of organic French roast coffee beans, and brewing up the morning’s supply in a manual white ceramic drip pot. I wish she’d invest in one of those automatic gizmos that brews coffee so it’s ready the moment her eyes pop open, but good luck trying to get an author to change a ritual (and they say dogs are creatures of habit). The only way she’ll even consider snapping on my leash before the coffee’s ready is if I show signs of urgent need. So I amuse myself with morning stretches and cuddling with her on the couch until that cup is empty.

Then I get her outside for a walk through Seattle’s Pike Place Market, which is just a block north of where we live. Sad to say, more of the fish mongers and green grocers call out to me by name than they do her. I guess on the whole, dogs just have more outgoing dispositions than authors. Not to mention far more discerning noses. I wish I had a rawhide chew for every time I’ve heard my author say, “I’m so jealous of Binx. One little sniff of another dog and he knows exactly who he’s dealing with.”

Before we go home I encourage her to exercise by throwing my tennis ball in the park, though frankly, I do most of the work. But the more tired I get, the better, because after breakfast, things get pretty dull. Bursts of tapping on the keyboard punctuated by long silent spells of staring at the computer screen. She likes to write in bed, so I snooze with my head on her feet. Sometimes she speaks, which always gets my hopes up for quality time together—until I realize she’s just reading aloud what she’s written.

Not to brag, but one of the most interesting characters in her new book, "A Better View of Paradise," is a border terrier named Pip, who is a thinly disguised version of me. He performs some of my most clever tricks, like fetching toys by name and walking on his hind legs for treats. Whenever the other characters in this book get all torqued out by human problems, Pip is there to remind them of what really matters—food and love. I don’t mind being fictionalized. But even if I did, well, let’s just say it would be difficult for me to prove libel.

Still, I am proud to be a literary dog. We play an important part in authors’ lives. There’s Charley (Steinbeck’s poodle), Flush (Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel), and Enzo, the terrier mix who narrates "The Art of Racing in the Rain," a novel written by another Seattle author, Garth Stein. Don’t even talk to me about "Edgar Sawtelle," though, because I can’t get excited about a book in which so many dogs die. Our only flaw is that we don’t live long enough, and I hate to be reminded. Maybe living on in books helps make up for that. That’s what my author says, and I hope she’s right.

Among the early praise for Randy Sue Coburn's new novel:
"As the heroine of A BETTER VIEW OF PARADISE sheds her city trappings and retreats to the island landscape of her childhood, you will feel as though she has tucked you into her suitcase. Randy Sue Coburn writes with a rare combination of crisp intelligence and lush sensuality; her artful storytelling brings together a cast of characters who are as emotionally complex as they are damaged. Reading A BETTER VIEW OF PARADISE, your dreams will be infused—as mine were—with the spicy-sweet scents of island cooking, the mischievous interventions of Hawaiian goddesses, and tropical flowers in bloom."
—Stephanie Kallos, author of BROKEN FOR YOU and SING THEM HOME
Read more about the book and author at Randy Sue Coburn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kate Buckley & Mac and Murphy

Who is in these first two photos?

The human is Kate Buckley (me). I'm a poet and visual artist and Internet executive. The two gorgeous pooches beside me are Mac [photo right] & Murphy [below left] (4-year-old male Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniels). They are awfully good at lying at one's feet when one is trying to make sense of a sonnet or wade through obscure Victoriana.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We have a ritual: I get out of bed first (I only exist to serve them, don't you know?), and they deign to rise when they hear the kibble hit the bowl. And I may be an indulgent mother, but I draw the line at canine coffee. Particularly since I no longer partake of it myself -- it's now Yerba Mate tea for me (with organic skim milk and raw agave nectar). You get the kick without the crazy-jangles -- and it's good for you.

What's brewing?

So, this particular brand is from Guayaki. And the particular flavor I most enjoy is called "Moca Macca." It's just brilliant and fabulous for you.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not really -- save for the aforementioned organic skim milk and raw agave nectar. I don't tend to get hungry until later and then I make my fabulous "Kate Shake" (frozen berries, flax seeds, whey protein powder, greens, orange flavored fish oil and kefir -- sounds revolting, but it's phenomenal!).

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Ummm ... breakfast? I feed them an organic fish-based kibble twice a day ... better for their metabolism than once a day.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

I bought Mac as a pup from an AKC & CKCSC approved breeder in North County San Diego. Murphy was a rescue I adopted when he was 11 1/2 months old. I like to tell people that I "had one and adopted one."

How did they get their names?

What can I tell you? I'm Irish.

Where do you usually take Mac & Murphy out for fresh air?

If I awaken insanely early (and I often do), I'll walk them down to the beach to watch the sun rise. Otherwise, we venture out in the early evening and take our turn around Woods Cove (my neighborhood in Laguna Beach). One of my neighbors keeps chickens and the boys are obsessed!

Where is the best nearby dog park?

The beach! But one has to observe the time strictures in the summer. Which is entirely unfair as the boys are far more well behaved than most of the tourists. Although Mac does delight in finding stray pacifiers [see photo], children's toys and engagingly stinky shells to carry home in his careful mouth.

Are the boys' barks worse than their bites?

Murphy almost never barks. He's my little cerebral Mensa-child (and currently has more degrees than I do). Mac, on the other hand, has a running vendetta with the neighbor's Siamese. However, neither has ever bitten anything other than rawhide -- although Mac does take odd pleasure in disemboweling stuffed animals. One $3000 vet bill later, he is no longer allowed squeaky toys.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, ...?

Murphy isn't interested. At all. He is solidly human-oriented. At the beach or the dog park, he seeks out the "friendly/likely people" without error (the dog should work for the CIA). Mac, on the other hand, is all about the tennis ball. He's pretty much a Golden Retriever in a Cavalier's body. I have to carry a "chuck-it" in the trunk of my car, otherwise my hands get too mucky.

Would Mac & Murphy rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

Mac: A Tennis Ball. Murphy: Anything Edible. (The dog catches celery bits when I chop vegetables!)

Would Mac & Murphy rather catch a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman...?

Mac has brought in the odd dead rat. And here's a true confession: I'm usually quite good in crises, but I draw the line at dead vermin and instead retreat to an almost Victorian hysteria and fan my forehead while I dial Animal Control (now on speed dial).

Which TV dog is Mac or Murphy most similar to?

Murphy actually reminds me of a canine Joan Collins, whereas Mac reminds me of Mr. Rogers. Or Alf.

What's the most embarrassing thing Mac or Murphy ever did?

Mac's nickname is "Mac Kerouac" for his frequent "On the Road" escapades. Once, a casual acquaintance returned him while I was out gardening and I was mortified that I hadn't even known he'd escaped! So: not embarrassing for Mac, but a little painful for me. Murphy's most embarrassing moments, on the other hand, aren't exactly fit for family viewing -- let's just say, for a dog whose been fixed, he's remarkably ignorant of that fact.

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?

As I'm not an absurdist, I don't know if I can comment on that idea on the bare face of it, except to say -- My dogs read me: They make my dark light.

Kate Buckley is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed "A Wild Region" and the forthcoming "Follow Me Down."

She lives in Laguna Beach, California with her dogs, the extremely entertaining Mac & Murphy.

Visit Buckley's website to read selected poems and view some of her paintings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Katie Ganshert & Bubba

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Katie Ganshert, and my furry son, Bubba. I’m a wife, mother, 5th grade teacher, and writer. Bubba’s a male purebred black lab. It’s hard to believe, but he’s already five years old!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I don’t usually splurge on coffee drinks, but since the summer is almost over and school is starting, I thought it would be fun to stop by Panera and grab an iced coffee on our way to Bubba’s favorite water hole.

What's brewing?

Since I splurged, I went all out. A frozen Caramel. It’s this delicious blend of icy espresso and creamy caramel, topped with whipped cream and caramel syrup. I love caramel. Definitely not your low fat beverage.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I think the whipped cream and caramel syrup was goodie enough!

Any treat for the dog on this occasion?

His treat was swimming in the pond. Give him a tennis ball and water, and he is one happy camper.

How did Bubba come to be united with you?

When my husband and I got married, we were sitting around our house one afternoon and we thought, “Why don’t we get a dog?” We bought a newspaper, looked in the classifieds, and that very evening, drove to a small town in Wisconsin (we lived in Madison at the time) and picked out an eight week old black lab. We’re a wee bit impulsive. But if you could see what he looked like as a pup, you would understand why we couldn’t resist him. He’s been part of our family ever since.

How did Bubba get his name?

We had about a dozen names picked out for him. Onyx. Shadow. Sergeant. Judge, etc. But that first night, we kept calling him Bubba-Wubba. So we thought, why not Bubba? Bubba’s a good name for a lab. I usually call him Bubbers and some people call him Bubbalicious.

What’s life been like with Bubba?

A wonderful roller coaster. Bubba has such an endearing personality. He’s such a goofball, so he makes us laugh a lot. You should see the way he sits sometimes, leaning back on our sofa (yes, we let him up on the furniture), with his hind legs splayed out in front of him. It’s hilarious. But the poor guy has had a lot of health problems. He’s extremely allergic to chicken (we went through a stomach surgery to find this one out). My husband used to take him pheasant hunting, so he’s had his share of barbed wire injuries and subsequent stitches. And recently, we found out Bubba has elbow dysplasia. It’s this last diagnosis that really breaks my heart. That’s why I took him swimming. He’s obsessed with fetch, but running on the land isn’t good for his elbows. The water’s great for his elbows, and labs adore water.

Who’s Bubba best friend?

I’d like to say me, but I’ve been replaced. Our son was born nine months ago, and now that he can crawl, he chases Bubba around the house. Our son climbs all over Bubba. He pulls his ears and his tail, and Bubba loves all of it. We’re teaching our son, “Be nice to the doggie.” Bubba’s favorite thing to do is lick baby food off our son, we just have to make sure there’s no chicken in it.

What’s your favorite thing about Bubba?

His ears. He’s got ridiculously big, floppy ears, which made him look like a puppy until he was three. People would say, “Awww, how old is your puppy?” And I would say, “He’s two and a half.”

Any advice for people who want to get a lab?

Buy lots of tennis balls, make sure you have a high-powered vacuum cleaner, and get ready to be on the receiving end of lots of licks and unconditional love.

Visit Katie Ganshert's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2009

Diane Rich & Chase and Fraser

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Diane Rich and I am a dog trainer in the greater Seattle area. Dog training is mostly people training and as a former teacher I enjoy also teaching the human or pet parent. My business includes both obedience training and behavior modification. I started my business in Los Angeles in the early 80's. I moved up to Seattle in the early 90's where I started another training business. When asked what is the most difficult dog to train, my answer is always, it's not usually the dog that presents the most challenge.

I would like to introduce you to my "boyz." Chase is the Black Doberman with cropped ears. His breeder, like many Doberman breeders, crop the ears before the dog is either picked up or shipped out. Chase is 4 years old and landed at Seatac at 9 weeks of age from a breeder in Montana. Fraser, is my Red Doberman who also found his way to my heart at 9 weeks of age. I know Fraser's coat is brown in color but his flavor is called a red. You can see his ears are natural. Fraser is almost 12, so although he is "grandpa" he remains a very active senior boy.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I am a morning person and am in my office (home based) first thing in the morning. Maybe second thing as preparing fresh coffee in the morning is usually the first thing. Fraser joins me in my office and relaxes on his very comfy bed. I have dog beds in most rooms of my home. Chase is either under my desk thinking he still fits or laying next to my office chair.

What's brewing?

My preferred bean at the moment, and yes I am a coffee snob living in Seattle, is from a company called Peet's. I buy whole bean called Ethiopian fancy and grind the beans each and every morning. My very large mug filled to the top accompanies me to my office where I am glued to my computer for a couple hours each morning. I like large mugs so I don't have to make countless trips back to the kitchen. I drink it black with a little splash of soy.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I tend not to eat in the morning during the work week, something I am trying to change. Sometimes a banana is my "goodie" for this morning ritual.

Any treat for Chase and Fraser on this occasion?

My dogs usually get breakfast around 8 a.m. They love breakfast, no matter what is being served that morning. I am one to cook some whole foods for them, such as organic turkey breast which is added to their breakfast bowl. During the summer, I go to our local farmer's markets and buy fresh organic fruit. Blueberries are also added to their breakfast. Sometimes they get scrambled eggs as a little addition to their kibble. In the fall, they LOVE sharing my daily apple.

How did your dogs come to be associated with you?

When my German Shepherd passed, the hole in my heart was too large to immediately go out and get another dog. Took awhile. In my local search for another Shepherd, I was disappointed with what I was seeing. Also, I could not seem to look at another Shepherd without an emotional response and then decided I did not want to put a German Shepherd into the position of replacing my boy. A good friend had Dobermans that I trained and I thought, I know the breed well, imported them from Germany at one time, so ended up connecting with a breeder and got Fraser.

As Dobes are not known for long lives, when he was about 8 I thought I better add another dog to our world as Fraser is an amazing mentor, great with pups and all animals and he could help me train the pup.

How did Chase and Fraser get their names?

Fraser was named in honor of my German Shepherd that preceded him in my heart. He has far surpassed any expectation I could ever have of a dog and has spoiled me forever. Chase was with me for a few days until I found a name that fit. He is a brilliant dog and the most affectionate dog that has ever graced my world.

You are known for your Basic Training Philosophy: "Catch your dog doing something right!" What did you catch your dogs doing right?

I believe in setting dogs up for success, be it mine or my client's dogs. I am so used to them doing so many things right it is challenging to pinpoint one thing.

You've trained therapy pets. Are your dogs suited for that kind of task?

Both of my dogs are registered therapy pets and visit care giving facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. Currently, Fraser is working with me at a special camp for medically ill children.

Please tell us a bit about Fraser and Chase's relationship with other dogs you've trained.

My dogs meet almost all of my client's dogs and become their mentors. Fraser helps with aggressive dogs and very shy dogs and meets all the pups at my Puppy School classes. Chase is the camp counselor at Camp Fraser as I board many of my client's dogs. Their most recent buddy was Dubs, the University of Washington mascot. I am the official trainer and I guess my boyz are his official training buddies. Dubs has been here for daycare and for boarding training. I was part of the process at U.W. to recruit student handlers who will manage Dubs at games and events and Chase was Dub's stand in when we interviewed the handlers. Camp Fraser has been host to a variety of breeds from Yorkies to Great Danes.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far?

There are so many. Fraser has helped me start all the therapy programs in the Seattle area. We started a visiting program at Overlake hospital in Bellevue, Camp Korey in Carnation which is part of Paul Newman's hole in the wall camps and we will be starting another new program for a specialty school in Bellevue. This school caters to children with some emotional challenges. We visit nursing homes and retirement centers. Chase started visiting the hospital when he was 10 weeks old. Both make me proud daily with their love, devotion, silliness and brains.

And their most embarrassing moments?

They both have embarrassed me, on many occasions.

Visit Diane Rich's website to learn more about her work...and about Chase and Fraser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 7, 2009

Elizabeth Spann Craig & Chloe

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Chloe, a four year old Pembroke Welsh corgi. I’m Elizabeth Spann Craig, a mystery writer for Midnight Ink and Berkley Prime Crime.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Chloe and I were celebrating the August 1 release of my cozy mystery, "Pretty is as Pretty Dies." She’s been sooo excited about my book.

What's brewing?

Dilworth Coffee shop’s vanilla chai tea latte. It’s divine. Chloe thought so, too (she drank the last few drops of it.)

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I’d just polished off a large bowl of buttered cheese grits, so I decided against any additional goodies for myself.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

Chloe had “Buddy Biscuits.” And some latte.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

Chloe was born at a nearby horse farm. Her mother and father and aunts and uncles still live at the farm.

How did she get her name?

We consulted a baby-name book. We shared some of the ideas with her and she seemed to like Chloe best. Our children (the non-furry ones) helped us with the decision.

Where do you usually take Chloe out for fresh air?

She loves to chase the tennis ball in the back yard and is also fond of the trails at Colonel Beatty Park. Walks around the subdivision with my husband and me are also a real treat for her. A neighbor’s dog is named Oscar, and whenever Chloe goes on a walk, she flaunts her good fortune by running up and down beside the fenced-in Oscar.

Is Chloe's bark worse than her bite?

Chloe sounds like a holy terror and turns into a lamb who wants her tummy-rubbed as soon as you approach.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, ...?

Tennis ball! Chloe is the tennis ball chasing queen.

Would Chloe rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, her tail, the mailman, ...?

Chloe is a typical herding dog, so loves to keep squirrels from our birdfeeders and rabbits out of our vegetable garden. Oh—she likes to herd our cats, too, much to their dismay.

Is Chloe a good girl?

Most of the time, she’s a wonderfully-behaved girl. But she has a real mischievous streak that she has trouble controlling. This is how she ended up dumping out the contents of the kitchen garbage can one night while we all slept. She just couldn’t help herself—corgis are basically stomachs with legs.

Visit Elizabeth Spann Craig's website and her Mystery Writing is Murder blog.

From the "Publishers Weekly" review of "Pretty is as Pretty Dies": "The amusing first in a new cozy series from Craig... Myrtle's wacky personality is a delight." "Mystery Scene" magazine added: "Craig’s skill at evoking a small town and its idiosyncratic inhabitants renders this mystery a pleasure to read. I’m looking forward to the further exploits of Myrtle Clover.”

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ray Taras & Zin and Zephyr

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Ray Taras surrounded by border collies by a duck pond in northern Utah in summer of 2009. I write non-fiction books, most recently on ethnic conflict, xenophobia, and European culture. I review novels as well, a great pretext for reading as much world literature as I can manage.

Border collies—lots of them—have entered our lives these last five years. I live in Salt Lake with wife Margie and twelve-year old daughter Gabby. Moving to the Intermountain West as a hurricane Katrina displaced person made this possible. The BCs that we have owned—they sometimes behave as if they own us—and the ones we have fostered—who arguably have fostered us—have come from Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah. Their names have been Zia, Zephyr, Zin, Zandy, Zorro, along with a Tux and a Meg.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

As much as I love both, it’s rare that I can combine coffee with canine company anywhere other than at home. Our dogs are too young—Zeph is a few months shy of two, Zinnie of one—to sit in a docile manner in a café for longer than 60 seconds. Most of the writing for my last book was done at home, precisely because I wanted to have it all: BCs and coffee.

What's brewing?

Occasionally I pop in to the Jack Mormon Coffee House in the Avenues for a cup of Guatemalan El Carmen or Kenyan Tassia, ground and brewed for me on the spot. Peet’s doesn’t do that, though that’s great coffee too. More often, I’ll phone in an order for a pound or two of beans, to be roasted ready for pickup 20 minutes later. This is the Place for the celestial bean, if not for hanging out or entertaining hyper puppies. For writing and coffee (free on Mondays until the Dow hits 10,000!) the Place is Cucina, just around the corner from the house.

Where is the best nearby dog park?

Lindsey Gardens is on the far upper side of the historic city cemetery from our house. You have to walk past a lot of Pioneer graves, even more graves of Pioneer wives, and scan gravestones engraved with the finite pool of Scandinavian names (”Jensen,” “Christiansen,” “Larson”) permutated many times before the dogs can be let off leash to chase up the steep hill. While they’re busy, usually pursuing tennis balls in conjunction with other black-and-white dogs in a complex game structured by a set of esoteric rules that only the BCs understand, I get to take in a view spanning the Wasatch range to the east, the Oquirrhs to the west, with the city center squatting in between. The Great Salt Lake is barely visible in the hazy distance.

Would the border collies rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, their tails, the mail carrier?

There is one animal that BCs are bred to chase--or rather to put in order. That’s Zephyr in the photo turning on a dime in pursuit of an errant sheep. And he’s not even as good at it as housemate Zin.

What's the most embarrassing thing Zephyr ever did?

Let’s make it easier and limit it to just the past 30 days. Shortly after Zeph was scolded for gripping a sheep during his last (read: final) herding lesson, he decided he had enough, crawled under the fence, ran to my side, and plopped down with his back ostentatiously to the sheep. He was happy to let the other four collies—all female—take over.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

It can get lonely in a small town (elev. 9,000, nicknamed “Icebox of the Nation”) in a sparsely populated county (pop. 13,000) separated from Denver by a steep pass over the Continental Divide. Gabby was nine; this was her last chance at having her own puppy as a kid. We saw a card on a bulletin board in a café about a border collie litter on a cattle ranch close to the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. When we went to pick up the puppy, it seemed cruel to take it out of that extraordinary alpine scenery. For a moment we considered asking if the ranchers would instead take Gabby and raise her there.

How did the dogs get their names?

We named our first border collie Zia because she was the daughter of Lea and she embodied sunshine. That’s Zia, Gabby, and me [above, left] with the Golden Gate bridge in the background. Zia became a star of the search-and-rescue dog team in the high Rockies. During a training mission last year near Capitol Reef, in southern Utah, she died of poisoning. We had already acquired another puppy of Lea’s—the calmest pup in the litter, the “wise soul”—and named him Zephyr, for the westerly winds that blow over the mountains. That’s Zeph and his litter mate staring in awe at older half-sis Zia catching snow I had kicked up for her.

Which café will your travels take you to next with Zeph?

While Mom Lea was a cattle dog on a Colorado ranch, Zephyr’s father was an AKC border collie from San Francisco--a pretty “Barbie collie.” (A star-crossed romance in the shadow of the snow-capped Never Summer range.) Zeph is looking forward to soaking up San Francisco coffee house society when he visits there soon with us. Farley’s, up on Portero Hill—Grateful Dead country—is our favorite source of caffeine in the city and we know Zeph will like hanging out there. He won’t be shown up at herding by his uppity house mate. And he’ll enjoy a great view of the Bay Bridge just around the corner.

Ray Taras is a visiting scholar at Stanford University. His many books include the recently released Europe Old and New: Transnationalism, Belonging, Xenophobia and Understanding Ethnic Conflict, 4th edition.

His world literature reviews at the Campaign for the American Reader include:
Bernardo Atxaga's The Accordionist’s Son
Elina Hirvonen's When I Forgot
Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce
Per Petterson's To Siberia
Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger
Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses
M.G. Vassanji's The Assassin's Song
3 Works by Dorota Masłowska
Andreï Makine's L’amour humain
Michel Houellebecq's The Possibility of an Island
Emmanuel Dongala's Johnny Mad Dog
Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide

Read his reports from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

--Marshal Zeringue