Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bruce Coston & Starr

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Bruce Coston. I am a veterinarian first and, as of September 1, author of the new release "Ask The Animals: A Vet’s-Eye View of Pets and the People They Love" published by St. Martins Press. With me is my dog, Starr. She is an 11 year old female spayed mixed breed dog who is often accused of being a Golden Retriever puppy, but is in reality more likely of the Cocker Spaniel persuasion. She hasn’t ever revealed the truth; and I’m far too polite to ask.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

You need an occasion? This is just a relaxing interlude at sunset on my deck overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. I have just finished another newspaper interview about the release of "Ask The Animals" and have just returned from seeing my book on the New Releases table at Books A Million. Additional caffeine could have little effect in comparison to those mind rushes.

What’s the brew?

Sorry, nothing overly exciting. General Foods International Suisse Mocha straight up. I’m easy to please.

Any goodies with the coffee?

A beautiful cool fall evening, clear sky, wonderful view, adoring companion ... That’s not enough goodies? No, nothing else.

Any treat for Starr on this occasion?

The camera adds a few pounds. But so does my neighbor. Starr has beautiful brown eyes and she knows how to use them. She gets her treats by going to the next door neighbor’s door and boofing. Though Foelke (my neighbor is very German) no longer has a dog of her own, she still buys treats for mine. Every day is Halloween for Starr.

How did Starr come to be united with you?

She was presented to my office by a dog rescuer for spaying. I thought she was exceptionally sweet and bonded with me more than most. We had promised our two boys a dog when the right one came along and she was it.

You are the author of "Ask The Animals: A Vet’s-Eye View of Pets and the People They Love"; what’s your dog’s relationship to the book?

Starr is mentioned in the book in a chapter called “What’s In a Name” in which I explain our family’s method of pet nomenclature and outline some of the more interesting pet names I have encountered over the years. Other than that, Starr is only tangentially related to the book. It is through my relationship with Starr and our cats (currently Webster, Flinn and Phelps) that I can empathize with the depth of feeling invested in my patients by their devoted owners. I know because I am as sappy with my pets as any of my clients are.

You practice in the Shenandoah Valley. When I lived near there I had many encounters with wildlife (like deer and skunks). Has Starr had any interesting experiences with Virginia’s fauna?

Let’s just say that when your dog is hit with a direct, point blank smart bomb skunk attack to the face, the intensity of the odor is so acrid that you are tempted to question whether it’s really a skunk. Of course, this event must occur at 12:30 AM on the night before you are leaving on vacation and the remnants of skunkicity travel with you like a clinging child on the airplane all the way to San Diego. On the up side, there were uncharacteristically more empty seats beside you on the plane. Woodchucks and squirrels also enjoy an on-going game of tag with Starr who always seems to be optimistic, but always IT.

Who is your dog’s best pet-pal?

Without question, it’s Flinn. Flinn is our 12 year old male domestic short hair kitty. He has never met a stranger and has loved Starr since she first came to the house. There’s an inordinate amount of head butting and butt sniffing and I think both are signs of friendship. Or so it seems when I head butt the kitties. That’s where I draw the line, though.

What’s Starr's best quality?

Ignorance and a limited sphere of friends. Despite all evidence to the contrary, she still thinks I’m number one in the universe.

What’s your dog’s proudest moment so far?

When she was able to effectively protect the house from the dangerous Christmas lights. One day upon our return from church she proudly led us to the yard where she had carefully pulled every string of Christmas lights down from the eaves then meticulously chewed and broke each bulb along the string just to be sure they would not pose any further danger. She expected a medal.

Her most embarrassing moment?

When she went to greet a group of teenage girls who were lounging in a ski boat tied to the dock. Apparently she had not considered what occurs when you put your paws on the gunwales and the boat edges away from you, causing you to straddle ever-increasing distances between boat and dock. Only one outcome: wet dog.

In March of 1992, Bruce Coston and family moved to Woodstock, Virginia, on a Sunday; he opened the doors of Seven Bends Veterinary Hospital the next day. Today the hospital has a staff of more than twenty, with four veterinarians practicing in a new, state-of-the-art facility.

The simple and true stories in his new book, "Ask The Animals," came from his practice life and first appeared as monthly articles in a regional newspaper.

Read excerpts and some of the early praise for "Ask the Animals," and learn more about the book and author at Bruce Coston's website.

--Marshal Zeringue