Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Merrill Markoe & Jimmy, Ginger, Puppyboy, and Hedda

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Merrill Markoe and I laughingly refer to myself as a writer. My dogs are: Jimmy, age 6, Flatcoated Retriever and his wife Ginger, age 6, Golden Retriever, Puppyboy age 12, Tijuana Shepherd and Hedda, age 6, Southern California Shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

When I am writing, which is always, I make frequent trips to the kitchen to get more coffee because (along with paying bills) it is one of the few acceptable excuses for not writing. That coffee is apparently bad for dogs doesn't prevent all 4 of them from going with me 100% of the time.

What's brewing?

Trader Joe's Cafe Femenino is what I have been making lately. Overwhelmed by their puzzling assortment of oddly named house brands, I have tried various Trader Joe's coffee blends and temporarily settled on Femenino because it is spiky yet mellow. And this is despite the fact that the name embarrasses me. It reminds me of the Dodge La Femme, a car from 1956 designed for "her" which came with a car coat, hat, and luggage that matched the upholstery. Though now that I think about it, that was a pretty good idea. I'd like a car like that. Maybe I better stop being so judgmental.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

None for me. I have been on a diet every second of the live long day since 1926. Which doesn't mean I don't sneak a snack and pretend I didn't.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

My dogs believe that they live in a 24 hour treat cycle. Chances are they just had a treat. But now are ready for another treat. And as soon as I give them this one, they will be ready for another one. I don't want to be an enabler but it may be too late because they believe that if they just stare at me hard enough there will be treats until the end of time. And they're not wrong.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

The married couple (Jimmy and Ginger) were given to me by my vet after their father was arrested for ponzi schemes. Puppyboy was found at an L.A. nightclub called Largo by my boyfriend, Mr. Andy Prieboy. Hedda was from New Leash on Life, a rescue I visited after I performed at a benefit for them.

How did they get their names?

Hedda came with that name. Puppyboy was named by Andy before I ever met either of them. (Andy, by the way, was named by his parents.) Jimmy and Ginger seemed utterly unfamiliar with the unpronounceable names the Ponzi schemer called them. Jimmy was named because after we brought him home, I kept saying "Excuse me while I kiss this guy." Which is (not really) a line from Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. Andy and I have really struggled to re-name Ginger but I guess we've given up. Though not a day goes by that Andy doesn't say something like "Pie! That's what we should have named her!" or "Circus Dog! We should have called her Circus Dog!" Or today he said "Residue! We should have named her Residue!" I wish my parents had put that much thought into naming me.

What's your favorite Stupid Dog Trick?

I would like to answer this with a video of my dog Puppyboy in "I'm Forever Chasing Bottles." (Original soundtrack by Mr. Prieboy.)

What's the craziest celebrity dog behavior you've witnessed?

I don't have an answer for this. I don't know any celebrity dogs. My dog walker does. Once she brought a couple of the Barry Manilow dog children over. They were certainly pleasant enough.

Are the dogs of Nose Down, Eyes Up modeled on your own pets?

Yes, Jimmy is modeled on...uh... Jimmy. Ginger is the model for Fruity. (That's what we should have named her! Fruity!) Puppyboy is the model for Cheney. Hedda doesn't know she wasn't included. Please don't say anything if you meet her.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

They rush in to wake me up at 6 AM even though breakfast isn't served until 9. They like me to get a good 3 hour head start, and also they believe that if they keep waking me up earlier and earlier, they will arrive at a moment where one breakfast melds with another and there is a continuous 24 hours of breakfast.

After that they follow me in to my office and sit in various locations around me, staring while I pretend to write. I always wonder what they think I do for a living. Then 4 times a week two of them get picked up and go off hiking with a dog walker. Her name is Dawn and I used her for the model of Dawn in Walking in Circles Before Lying Down. I used to be able to afford to have her walk 4 dogs 5 times a week. Now it is two dogs 4 times a week and I walk the other two on those days and all four on the other three days. (Boy, talk about more information than you needed). There is hell to pay if I don't schedule any walks so don't think I can just let it slide.

After that, there's a lot of hanging around barking at each other and me and people who work for me that they have met hundreds of times but still do not recognize. Puppyboy checks everyone's ID a lot, especially those of the other 3 dogs. Puppyboy is like a birther. He thinks there is something suspicious about everyone that he needs to check in to.

The day ends with Andy singing a special song written for the last treats of the day. A lot of people I know sing to their dogs, but Andy is a professional singer-songwriter and as such is the first person I have ever met who writes personalized stupid dog songs for our dogs that have a verse and a chorus, then another verse. When Andy starts to sing the "last call for treats" song, for the dogs it is like the Rolling Stones doing Jumping Jack Flash or Bruce Springsteen doing Born to Run. It is that rousing anthem that satisfies the fans.

What are your dogs' best qualities?

Puppyboy is very smart. His penetrating stare makes me laugh. Jimmy is very affectionate. Ginger has the best running dive in to a swimming pool I have ever seen anywhere. And Hedda wins "most enthusiastic." Her boingy springy bouncey thing when she thinks a walk is imminent is not just hilarious but oddly touching, because of how much faith she seems to have in how great this walk is going to be. Makes me want to deliver a really great walk. And I try. Except on the days when she sees a rabbit and pulls me in to a hedge at the speed of sound.

When have your dogs made you proudest? Embarrassed you the most?

Well, this video would have to be my proudest moment. It is my dog Jimmy distinguishing himself by giving his opinions on the issues that challenge our country.

And this would be my most embarrassing moment: The way my dogs responded to my rescue needs.

Merrill Markoe is the author of three books of humorous essays and the novels It’s My F---ing Birthday, What the Dogs Have Taught Me, and Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, and Nose Down, Eyes Up. She has also co-authored with Andy Prieboy the novel The Psycho Ex Game.

And she has won
multiple Emmy awards.

Merrill Markoe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue