Friday, October 30, 2009

Neil Plakcy & Samwise

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Neil Plakcy, and I write a mystery series set in Honolulu which so far includes four books: Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire, and Mahu Vice, which just came out in August 2009. With me is Samwise, my sweetheart of a nine-year-old male Golden Retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I usually do my writing at Starbucks, but this morning the weather was so miserable (rain, thunder and lightning) that I decided to stay home and keep the dog company. He’s very phobic about thunderstorms, so he has crawled under the desk and on top of my feet. I’m not as good at making coffee as the baristas are, but I try my best.

What's brewing?

My favorite drink is a raspberry mocha with whip and a mocha drizzle. At home I make it by pouring espresso over a heaping helping of raspberry-flavored hot chocolate, along with a dollop of raspberry syrup for extra oomph. Foamed milk, whipped cream from a squirt bottle, and a tracing of chocolate syrup on top.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Today I’m nibbling on homemade apple bread. Sam would probably like some, too, but I have a strict no-people-food policy. Unfortunately his other daddy, my partner, doesn’t go along with that. It’s easier to train the dog than the human, so Sam knows not to bother begging from me.

Any treat for the dog on this occasion?

Sam comes running any time you rattle the treat box—sometimes he’ll come down the stairs so fast he splays all four paws out when he hits the tile floor. His current favorites are tiny t-bones from Walmart, and heart-shaped cookies from Newman’s Own.

How did Sam come to be united with you?

When I met my partner, he had a Yorkshire Terrier and a Collie. A few months after we all moved in together, the Collie passed away, and we wanted another big dog. We went to a kennel run by a vet where we looked at a bunch of different breeds. We kept coming back to Sam, though. I had friends with a Golden and knew they were sweet and smart, and Sam won us over with his happy, playful personality.

How did Samwise get his name?

One of my favorite books is (obviously) JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. My partner wanted to call the puppy Sam, and I agreed, provided we could register him with the AKC as Samwise. I already knew he was going to become my faithful companion, just as the hobbit Samwise is to Frodo in the books. (Plus he has furry feet, just like a hobbit.)

Where do you usually take Samwise out for fresh air?

We have a morning and an evening circuit within our community. We walk around a big lake ringed with palm trees in the morning, which is so beautiful and peaceful. On clear days it reminds me of a Monet painting, the landscape reflected in the water. Sam likes to play with the ducks—at least he thinks he’s playing when he romps after them. In the evening we walk around the residential streets so Sam can meet up with some of his doggy friends. He’s very sociable.

Does Samwise have any best friends?

Of course, once I learned that the Collie down the street was named Frodo, I had to arrange a meeting for him and Sam. They’re best pals now, and we dog-sit Frodo when his family goes away for a couple of weeks in the summer. They return the favor, but I don’t think Sam likes going visiting as much as he likes having Frodo as a house guest.

Has Samwise found his way into your mystery novels?

He has such a big place in my heart there’s no way he couldn’t. My hero is an openly gay homicide detective in Honolulu, and in the fifth book, the one I’m revising right now, he moves in with his partner, an investigator for the Honolulu Fire Department. About halfway through the book, Mike works a fire in which a heroic Golden Retriever saves his family. Sadly, the only new home the family can find is one that does not allow them to keep their dog, and Mike and Kimo adopt him. Roby is just as smart, sweet and happy as Sam. It’s lots of fun building Golden moments into this new book!

Neil Plakcy is the author of Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire, and Mahu Vice, mystery novels which take place in Hawaii.

He is co-editor of Paws & Reflect: A Special Bond Between Man and Dog (Alyson Books, 2006) and editor of Hard Hats (Cleis, June 2008).

Placky is a journalist and book reviewer as well as an assistant professor of English at Broward College's south campus in Pembroke Pines. He is a member of Sisters in Crime, vice president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a frequent contributor to gay anthologies.

Neil Placky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Charlaine Harris & Scrunch, Rocky, and Oscar

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Charlaine Harris, writer, and my dogs are Oscar, an aged male dachshund, Rocky, a male boxer-spaniel crossbreed, and Scrunch, female, a sort of terrier. Of course, all our dogs are neutered.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day at my house. They’re my constant companions in my office, and the dogs and a cup of coffee are the way I start my day.

What's brewing?

Folgers Dark.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not this morning.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Beggin Strips.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

We adopted all of them. Rocky was a puppy; he’s probably eight years old now. The lady who was giving his litter away brought all of them over in her car trunk. W e have no idea how old Oscar is, but he’s a grumpy old man. I found him in the local animal shelter when our priest did a blessing of the animals on St. Francis Day. Scrunch is about three, and a horse had kicked her, crushing her hip. The lady that owned her (I’m gathering) may not have wanted to deal with all the surgery Scrunch needed.

How did they get their names?

I named Oscar for the weiner, my son thought Rocky was a good tough name for a dog, and Scrunch already had a name.

Have your dogs influenced your writing in any way?

Probably, by constant interruption.

In your Southern Vampire series, Sam Merlotte is a shape-shifter. He can change into any kind of animal yet usually transforms himself into a collie. Why a collie? Any chance of him someday changing into, say, a pit-bull or bison frise?

Sam shifts into a collie because he knows people really like them, and are less likely to whip out their varmint rifle if the dog they see is a collie. Sam can change dogs any time he wants to; for that matter, he’s been a lion.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

Eat, poop, sleep, bark at the enemies all around them that threaten our home daily. That would be the mailman, the UPS delivery guy, and our goose.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Oh, Shade from down the street is their best buddy.

What are your dogs' best qualities?

They can’t talk, and they love us. Oscar sticks close to home, Scrunch is very loving, and Rocky has a very soft coat.

What are your dogs' proudest moments so far? Their most embarrassing?

I can’t think of any. My kids tried to dress Oscar in a sweater one time, and he refused to take a step. He just fell over. Passive resistance at its finest. That’s all I can think of.

Charlaine Harris' books include the lighthearted Aurora Teagarden series, featuring "a diminutive Georgia librarian whose life never turns out quite the way she planned"; the much edgier Shakespeare series -- set not in England, but in rural Arkansas -- featuring "Lily Bard, a tough and taciturn woman whose life has been permanently reshaped by a terrible crime and its consequences"; and the Southern Vampire series, starring a telepathic barmaid called Sookie Stackhouse and her life among vampires and werewolves and other creatures of the night.

The Southern Vampire series is the basis for HBO's hit series, True Blood.

Visit Charlaine Harris' website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2009

Laura Wiess, Janie & Maggie May

Who is in the photo at right?

That'd be me, Laura Wiess (left), author of the S&S novels Such a Pretty Girl, Leftovers and most recently, How It Ends. I'm hanging out with my friend Janie who generously cured my dog-less state by making me an auntie to Marvelous Maggie May, Janie's smart and sassy three year-old spayed Welsh Corgi.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My weak will. I'm totally susceptible to the siren song of dogs, friends and coffee. I can't help it, and in all honesty, I don’t even try. It's a glorious surrender.

What's brewing?

Good, strong Community Coffee from Baton Rouge. Pure and simple.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Oh, yes. We devoured half an apple pie Janie made fresh with Johnny Mac apples picked up at a local orchard.

Any treat for Maggie May on this occasion?

Besides all of those hugs and kisses? Beggin' Strips, her favorite.

How did you meet the dog; how did she come to be united with Janie?

Jane's Basset hound took gravely ill and died suddenly, leaving her heartbroken, and swearing she could never bear to get another dog. But as time passed the house felt too lonely, so she began to think about it.

She went on a retreat and while walking in the woods with her sister, Jane broached the still painful subject of perhaps getting another dog, specifically a Welsh Corgi.

Five minutes after Jane had finished explaining the breed to her sister, who was unfamiliar with them, she looked up and blurted, "There! That's a Welsh Corgi right there!" because – and talk about a truly bizarre coincidence -- one had just darted out of the woods and down the path in front of them.

So Jane went home, located a woman who showed Corgis and was told of a family that had bred their Corgi one time before spaying, and there were pups available.

Jane drove out to see them, and came home with her Maggie girl.

As for me? I met Janie through her delightful brother Stew, and was totally enchanted with Maggie the first moment I saw her. I am a very proud auntie.

How did she get her name?

On the car ride home, Janie looked at the wee pup and said, "Are you a Molly…" No response. "…or a Maggie?" Much Corgi enthusiasm ensued, so it was a done deal.

What's an ordinary day like for Maggie?

Maggie wakes up bright-eyed and ready for adventures like...
playing Frisbee…
sneaking the forbidden…
getting feisty and full of beans…
being on the look-out for marauding bears…
sacrificing herself to the burden of being adored…
and adoring her beloved in return.
Who is Maggie's best pet-pal?

Riley, the polite, handsome German Shorthair/Black Lab mix next door. She loves chasing, and then kissing on him. (He enjoys it too, although he's too gentlemanly to say so.)

What's Maggie's best quality?

Jane says it's Maggie's affectionate nature. I'd add her blithe, never-say-die enthusiasm, in that she's determined to be bosom buddies with Livy the cat, much to Livy's overwhelming horror at the thought.

What's Maggie's proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

She's very proud of the welcome she gets when she and Janie visit the nursing home, and always greets her friends and family there with the utmost tenderness.

As for embarrassing, well…although hiding behind the toilet during a thunderstorm seems more sensible than embarrassing to me, Maggie does come out afterward looking kind of sheepish, so...

Have any dogs influenced your writing in any way?

Oh, yes. I can think of four, right off the top.

Although my own two big, beautiful girls have long since passed, I still miss them. Cody, a very smart, protective German shepherd, was the first dog I ever had as an adult, and she was my heart. Velvet, a soft, sweet, silky girl with a feathered tail and bloomers was a mixed breed, and gentle enough to raise five rescue kittens. (Both dogs were spayed, as I'm a fan of not adding to the pet overpopulation problem.)

The second was a short story I read years ago in a book called Animals You Will Never Forget (Readers Digest). It was titled "Savage Dog" and it broke my heart. To this day, just thinking about it makes me tearful.

And last but not least, there is Wendy Darling, an elderly Golden Retriever in my second book Leftovers. Wendy was born of loving and missing Cody and Velvet, and feeling really fierce about the fate of dogs left to those who do not keep good care of their beautiful, loyal hearts.

So while I have no doubt that I will someday find another dog of my own, for now I'm content with being Auntie Laura to the charming, cheerful little Maggie May.

I mean really, what could be better than this?

Laura Wiess is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Such a Pretty Girl, chosen as one of the ALA’s 2008 Best Books for Young Adults and 2008 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, Leftovers, and the recently published How It Ends.

Originally from Milltown, New Jersey, she traded bumper-to-bumper traffic, excellent pizza, and summer days down the shore for scenic roads, bears, no pizza delivery, and the irresistible allure of an old stone house surrounded by forests in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains Region.

Visit the official Laura Wiess website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sydney Salter & Jack and Rosie

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Sydney Salter, author of My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, Jungle Crossing, and Swoon At Your Own Risk. My dogs are five-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog siblings named Jack and Rosie.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We took the dogs hiking up Adams Canyon where they splashed in the stream, sniffed other dogs, and helped haul me up the steep parts (a distinct advantage to large dogs). On the way home we stopped for coffee and a snack. Jack and Rosie were more than happy to relax on the grass.

What's brewing?

I’m sipping a mocha outside of Grounds For Coffee (a Utah favorite).

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I couldn’t resist the pumpkin scone with white chocolate chips.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

The dogs shared a day-old bagel that I’m sure paired beautifully with the stream water they drank.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Our puppies arrived via a long airline flight from Iowa—in desperate need of a bath! Three days later doctors found a (thankfully benign) tumor in my 8-year-old daughter’s spine. What a crazy time—we flew in both grandmothers to care for my four-year-old and our not-yet-potty trained puppies while my husband and I lived at the hospital for a week. Jack and Rosie provided a happy distraction while my daughter recovered from surgery.

Do your dogs influence your writing?

Actually, my writing influences my dogs. I used to be a cat person. Not having grown up with anyone of the canine persuasion, I didn’t get dogs. Compared to cats they seemed rather needy, plus they didn’t know how to use litter boxes. But then I started researching a novel set in Alaska. Again and again, I read amazing tales about the dogs beloved by native Inuit, gold rush adventurers, and many others who survived those harsh winters. Hmm, I thought, my cat would not sit through a snowstorm to warm my frostbitten body, unless it benefited him, of course. I decided I wanted to live with one of these amazing creatures—or maybe two (part of me hankered for a whole dog sled team). My family was thrilled when I announced that I was finally ready to own dogs.

Now that I have big, hairy, shedding dogs who eat 40 pounds of dog food every ten days or so, I understand the appeal of small dogs.

How did they get their names?

We named them after their parents (John & Rozan Kat), not the characters in Titanic.

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

Rosie has a stuffed football that she carries around to the delight of my football-loving husband. Jack likes a good rawhide chew, but he’ll often sacrifice it to his sister.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

Jack and Rosie start their day with a cookie (why not?) and some backyard playtime. Then they come inside and watch us bustle around getting ready for work and school (98% of the time my daughter remembers to feed them). The majority of their day is spent napping or watching me write. At dinnertime, I feel like Rachel Ray as the dogs politely sit in the kitchen observing my every move. In the evenings, they put us to work letting them in and out, in and out, until more cookies at bedtime.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Both of them would like to get to know our pet tortoises much better, even though their attempt to make friends with the cats didn’t work out so well. Ouch! They love to wrestle and tussle with each other or canine friends.

What's each dog's best quality?

Rosie is probably the sweetest creature I’ve ever known. She adores everyone! And she’s got a fun, goofy personality.

Jack is a true gentleman. When we hike, I have to ask him to walk ahead of me when the trail narrows. He also sits around the house with his legs politely crossed.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? Their most embarrassing?

Jack’s most embarrassing moment is really one of mine. Back when they were large, eager, but not so-well-trained puppies, we took Jack and Rosie to the Oregon Coast. I had not yet discovered the ideal collar that would minimize the effects of Jack’s enthusiasm and heft as he charged away from me. More than once, Jack bounded toward the surf, causing me to stumble to my knees. The worst time was when he leapt toward a well-behaved Newfoundland. I sprawled on the sand, arm outstretched, still clinging onto the handle of the retractable leash. The Newfie’s owner was not amused. Jack kept pulling, rolling me onto my back, but I held on, arm stretching farther and farther. At this point, I resembled a beached seal. My family laughed so hard that they sounded like barking seals!

Rosie’s proudest moment happened the summer before last. We found her at bedtime, crumpled in the yard in horrific pain. We took her up to sleep, but my husband quickly realized she needed to go to the vet ER. We drove several miles to the only twenty-four hour clinic in our area. Rosie slumped on the waiting room floor, lifeless. She had bloat (a twisted intestine). Yet, when the doctor walked in to examine her, she managed to enthusiastically thump her tail several times in greeting. Right then we realized that we would do just about anything to save her life. Her $urgery was $ucce$$ful and within a week she was leaping around like her usual goofy self.

Sydney Salter published two books this year: My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters and Jungle Crossing. Her third novel, Swoon At Your Own Risk, is due out in 2010.

She held a variety of jobs before becoming a full-time writer, including a brief stint delivering pies and flowers, wrecking vans, and destroying wedding cakes in Reno, Nevada.

Visit Sydney Salter's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Elizabeth Beasley & Queen

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Elizabeth and I’m copywriter at Cartoon Network. I also perform with The Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy and teach improv for DuMore Improv. This is my next-door neighbor Queen. She’s a lady, of course, and I think she’s around 3 years old. Not sure of her royal lineage but I’ll bet there was a Rottweiler in her family tree.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I actually don’t drink coffee. But I stop by and visit with Queen every night when I get home. So it’s kind of an after-dinner “drink.”

Any goodies to go with the after-dinner visit?

I’m usually bringing leftovers from dinner out.

Any treat for Queen on this occasion?

Yep. She apparently likes Five Guys French fries as much as I do.

How did you meet Queen?

One day she just showed up in my neighbor’s back yard. He’s an old guy and has been through several dogs since I moved in 11 years ago. A friend of his gave him Queen and she’s been the sweetest of them all.

How did she get her name?

Wish I knew. I think she was named by her previous owner. It’s funny because she’s pretty tiny. More like a Princess.

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

There is a pink plastic pig that I gave one of her predecessors and she still plays with it sometimes.

Cat, squirrel, postman, car...?

Crack head. I live in the ‘hood so lots of people wander by. She's good about letting the neighbors know when someone is on the prowl.

What's an ordinary day like for Queen?

Wake up. Lay in the corner of the fence. Run up and down the fence barking like crazy when someone walks by. Get scratched through the fence by the nice lady next door. Eat scraps that that old guy brings out every night. Sleep in the dog house. Repeat.

Who is Queen's best pet-pal?

Of course I’m gonna say me! She doesn’t ever get to leave the fence so no other dog friends except the ones that walk by.

What's Queen's best quality?

She always gets up and barks hello to me when I get out of my car at night. It’s nice, because my dog died from a brain tumor in 2008 and I really miss her. Bella was an awesome basset hound who would howl greetings to everyone. But Queen is a good surrogate, even if I only get to pet her through the fence.

Where's Queen's favorite place to go for a walk or run?

Up and down the fence. Over and over and over again.

Does she have any tricks?

You’d have to ask her pimp.

Elizabeth Beasley writes advertising copy for Cartoon Network, as well as humor articles for and Though her funniest writing tends to be the ambien-inspired text messages she sends her ex-boyfriends on a regular basis. And when she’s tired of typing, she performs with her improv troupe The Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy and works for DuMore Improv teaching folks how to use improvisation in business. Elizabeth uses her improv skills every single day. Especially when she has to explain to her boss why she took such a long lunch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yona Zeldis McDonough & Queenie and Tallulah

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Yona Zeldis McDonough, a novelist, children’s book author and essayist living in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The dog I am holding in the photo is my Pomeranian, Queenie. She is almost five. I also have another Pom, Tallulah [photo below left, yawning in an antique doll bed]. Since I got her from a shelter, I am not sure of her exact age. But the vet guesses she is now about thirteen.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

In truth, both of my dogs are couch canines, and are not too interested in long walks of any kind. But occasionally we stop in for something hot or cool at a charming little place around the corner called Trois Pommes.

What's brewing?

I love coffee but even decaff keeps me up. So I have switched to tea. Twining’s English Breakfast w/milk is a cool weather favorite; Twining’s Black Currant is best on ice in the summer. I also drink Red or Lemon Zinger when I feel a cold coming on. And for a bit of Paris right in my own backyard, I go for the chocolate rose tea sold by Marie Belle, a French chocolate shop in Manhattan, or the rich, delicious hot chocolate from Jacques Torres in Brooklyn.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Tea cries out for biscotti, a crisp cookie or a muffin.

Any treat for Queenie and Tallulah on this occasion?

Yes, I might give them a little taste of a muffin. And I usually have one of their biscuits in my pocket. Who likes to eat alone?

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

I bought Queenie from a lovely breeder in Ronkonkoma NY. Tallulah came from a local shelter called the Brooklyn Animal Foster Network.

How did they get their names?

Queenie was about six months old when we got her, and had been given a name to which she already answered. We liked it, so we kept it. Tallulah was named by my daughter Kate, who was ten at the time.

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

Queenie loves balled up socks, loose socks, socks, socks, socks. Tallulah is not frisky at all; she does not show any interest in toys.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

A lot of snoozing: on the bed, couch, chair, rug, in a favorite sunny spot in the dining room. Short walks around the ‘hood. A bit of romping and a few belly rubs (for Queenie). If the weather is nice, I take both dogs out in the our very small, urban backyard. They like to sniff.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pal?

Each other.

What are their best qualities?

Queenie is adorable, frisky, affectionate. Tallulah has a kind patience and acceptance that are very touching.

What is each dog's proudest moment so far?

Tallulah has learned to push her food dish into the center of the room with her snout to indicate that it is chow time; I think she is very pleased with herself for having figured this out. Queenie is most proud, I think of her athletic prowess: she can leap, prance and run like the wind, despite her very short legs.

Their most embarrassing?

Having an “accident” indoors; both dogs seem so ashamed when they slip up.

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels The Four Temperaments, In Dahlia's Wake, and Breaking the Bank.

She is also the editor of the essay collections The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty and All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader. Her short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines, and newspapers.

Visit Yona Zeldis McDonough's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2009

T. Lynn Ocean & Captain Salty and Tiki

Who is in the photo at right?

Captain Salty (the Lab) and Tiki (a Schnoodle). Salty is a trained water safety dog but he's 11 and retired years ago. Tiki is almost 5 months old. At first, Salty wanted nothing to do with the new addition, but they quickly became buds. They're always together now.

And in the photo below, left?

I'm T. Lynn Ocean, author of the novels Fool Me Once, Sweet Home Carolina, Southern Fatality, Southern Poison, and Southern Peril (St. Martin's Press).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have a tendency to stay up late in the evenings to write, so in the mornings my brain usually screams for coffee. I've tried a bunch of different "chino's" and flavors but my favorite is still a cup of great, straight brew. I'll often grab a cup of Mickey D's in the drive-thru and then hit the beach with the boys. Salty loves to play in the waves. Tiki is scared of the water but he can dig a mean hole in the sand.

What's brewing?

I go with any restaurant that's nearby and quick. For brewing at home, I only buy 8 O'clock Bean coffee in the red bag. It's best if you buy the whole beans and grind them yourself.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I know breakfast is supposed to be most important meal of the day, but my stomach never wakes up until brunch time. Both of the pooches always get a bite of banana every morning, though, before we hit the beach. Hey, the fresh fruit goes well the little minnows and crabs that Salty tries to catch.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

When Myrtle Beach, SC, first got it baseball stadium and a single A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, they also got a team dog named Dinger. I was originally involved with helping to train Dinger to do tricks such as run the bases between innings. When Dinger was bred, I got the choice of first puppy. I could tell right off the bat that Salty would be a totally cool, laid back dog, even when he was a little fur ball with huge paws. As far as Tiki goes, he was simply a pup who needed a good home. I adopted him to irritate my husband :) Just like Salty, at first, hubby wanted nothing to do with the new puppy. But hubby soon caved. I actually caught Tiki sleeping in his lap the other day when the football game was on.

Have your dogs influenced your writing in any way?

Every book I've written has had animals in it, including a schizophrenic poodle, a lazy lab, and a thieving raccoon. I love animals and think that they remind humans to be kind and appreciative.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

Is that a trick question? Hello? Sleep, eat, play, pee, poop, walk, repeat.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

My sister has a poodle. The boys love to visit their cousin.

What are your dogs' best qualities?

Salty is just cool; people go out of their way to offer to keep him when I travel out of town. Tiki is outrageously funny, not to mention acrobatic.

What's each dog's most embarrassing moment?

During a July 4th golf cart parade, Salty was dressed in his lifeguard outfit complete with sunglasses, sitting in the front seat. The kids loved it; they were cheering. But after half an hour of riding, he fell asleep and fell out of the cart. And Tiki? While I was housebreaking him (and praising him for pooping in the grass) he got so excited that he fell over into his poop. Can you say, bath time?

T. Lynn Ocean has explored various careers including commercial tread rubber sales and retail management. These days she pretends to be a photographer, enjoys cooking, and will jump at any chance to take a road trip in the name of doing research.

She is the author of the novels
Fool Me Once, Sweet Home Carolina, Southern Fatality, Southern Poison, and Southern Peril.

Learn more about the author and her work at T. Lynn Ocean's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jennifer Brown & Ursula and Aragorn

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Jennifer Brown, and I'm a humor writer for The Kansas City Star, as well as the author of the young adult novel, Hate List. In this photo, I'm sitting with my two best fur friends, Ursula the Basset Hound, and Aragorn the Boxer. When I'm feeling lazy, I just call them The Baxters (Basset + Boxer = Baxter!). Ursula is a whopping 10 days older than Aragorn, and both of them are 2 years old. We got them both as brand new puppies, so our house was mass chaos for quite some time!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Ursula and I don't need any special occasion to have a little couch, coffee, and reading time! And wherever Ursula is, Aragorn is sure to be nearby (but he's too big to share my lap, poor guy).

What's brewing?

The Roasterie's Breakfast Blend, freshly ground, with a smidge of skim milk and two packets of Splenda.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Just a book -- Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, if you're wondering.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Ursula certainly considers lap time a treat!

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Our beloved basset hound, Fiona, died unexpectedly two years ago and I was heartbroken. I wanted a new basset right away, but the family was unsure about that -- they were afraid having a basset in the house would make them too sad. But I sweetened the pot a little by offering to get two dogs to replace the one (I'd often thought about getting a fur friend for Fiona over the years), and they went for it!

I saw an ad in the newspaper about bassets for sale, and traveled waaay out to the country to a little farm, where a pair of family bassets had had pups. There were six to choose from. When I picked up Ursula, she licked my nose and I instantly new she was the one!

As for Aragorn... I let my husband take the lead on finding the boxer he wanted. He found one -- a brindle that is almost entirely black. He didn't lick anyone's nose when we met him, but tinkled on our daughter's shoe instead. It was love at first sight!

Do your dogs influence your writing?

My dogs make me calmer while I'm writing. If they're outside, I tend to feel more like I'm working than I do if they're inside and lying on my feet.

How did they get their names?

Ursula is named after the Disney sea witch (I'm sort of a Disney freak), and Aragorn is named after the Lord of the Rings character.

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

Ursula: None of the above. Rawhide and sunshine, please.

Aragorn: All of the above, please, and I can catch them all!!!

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

They spend the mornings outside, running and chasing and barking at passersby. Then they come inside, eat their breakfast, and it's time to get to work. I keep a drawer full of rawhides for them in my desk, and when I tell them it's time to "go to work," they race down to my office, grab their chewies, and "work" on those while I write. When the kids come home from school, it's play time again!

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Each other, for sure. They'd be lost without one another. Second best would definitely be George, our elderly and very patient cat. George is by far the dominant animal in the house. Both dogs are afraid of him, but curious about him and would love nothing more than for him to play with them! And Ursula just lives to clean George's face after he's been eating.

What's each dog's best quality?

Ursula is a lover. The friendliest dog on earth. There's not an aggressive bone in that dog's body, and she never met anyone -- human or animal alike -- that she didn't want to be best friends with.

Aragorn just wants to please us, and is incredibly smart. He's like having a fourth child in the house. He loves children and is always on-guard to protect them.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? His/her most embarrassing?

Aragorn's proudest moment might be when he figured out how to work the doorknobs at doggy daycare. He's sort of famous over there for orchestrating grand jail breaks.

Probably Aragorn's most embarrassing moment was when he ran screaming like a girl through the house, with an angry George the Cat in hot pursuit. Aragorn was so scared, he hid under my desk for the rest of the day.

Ursula doesn't do pride or embarrassment. She mostly just lounges around waiting for someone to scratch her belly and tell her she's beautiful.

Jennifer Brown is a two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), humor columnist for The Kansas City Star (winning the Missouri Writer's Guild 2008 Conference Award for Best Newspaper Column), and Saturday Featured Blogger for Mom2Mom KC.

Watch the Hate List video trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Brown's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dallas Rising & Max and Warren

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Dallas Rising, and our dogs, Max and Warren. Max is a beagle. He's 9 years old now, we adopted him when he was three. I am the program director for the Animal Rights Coalition in Minnesota and Max loves to march in parades and go to all of the outreach events with me for work. His little brother, Warren, likes to come, too. Warren is an Affenpinscher, he's about 7, and was posing for a photo shoot for a website called Start Seeing Black Dogs. Warren is a great help in combating Black Dog Syndrome and Max is great at educating people about animals being used in research.

I'm also president and board chair of Small Dog Rescue of Minnesota, which is an all-volunteer group committed to the rescue, rehabilitation, and placement of dogs 20 pounds and under.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My husband Brandon is the coffee drinker. I drink Pero, which is a caffeine-free drink made of roasted chicory root, and I put soy creamer in it. Papa does something with a french press and he likes light roast, only fair trade and organic. Oh, and shade grown (because that's better for birds).

What's brewing?

Pero with soy milk.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Our whole family is vegan, so if it's vegan, we like it. We especially like biscuits and gravy, Brandon makes amazing cinnamon buns, and when he makes pancakes the dogs each get their own "dog cake."

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

They love their dog cakes! Especially with fresh blueberries.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Brandon had been volunteering with a global effort to shut down a notoriously cruel animal testing facility called Huntingdon Life Sciences (the campaign is still happening, visit for more info). Brandon witnessed beagles being gassed, mutilated, and burned. He saw workers punch beagle puppies in the face. The reason that beagles are used so much is because they are relatively small and pretty timid. You can do a lot of terrible things to a beagle and they won't fight back, they're submissive. That broke Brandon's heart and he decided he wanted to adopt a beagle when he was ready. When we were ready to adopt, we already knew our dog would be a beagle. I found Max on and we adopted him a few days later. He wasn't physically abused, but he had been severely neglected and it took him a few years to bond with us. Now he'd a happy and secure guy who knows how much he's loved.

Warren was also found on His person had died and no one in the family wanted him, which I still cannot fathom to this day. He's amazing and we love him to pieces. Black dogs are usually the last to be adopted and the first dogs to be put down in shelters, so we try to educate people about Black Dog Syndrome when we can.

How did they get their names?

Both dogs came with their names. Because "Max" is such a common name, we embellished it and his full name is Maxwell Banjo. Both of them have a list of nicknames as long as my arm, though.

Could you briefly tell us about the work of the Animal Rights Coalition?

The Animal Rights Coalition is dedicated to ending the suffering, abuse, and exploitation of non-human animals through information, education, and advocacy. We believe that animals matter for their own reasons and that they should not be used by human beings for profit, pleasure, amusement, or simply because it is our habit to do so.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

Max and Warren sleep in or near our bed. Everyone morning we wake up and they get a rub down and told how wonderful and amazing they are. When they've had their fill of that we have breakfast. Sometimes we go to the dog park in the early morning, but usually it's in the evening after work. They generally have lazy mornings... and afternoons... and evenings. They're pretty lazy, actually. :) We just got Max a dog backpack because we plan to start hiking more with the boys.

Who are your dog's best pet-pals?

Max likes any dogs who like to place chase at the dog park. Warren is too serious for many friends. He prefers to stay close to mom. They pretty much ignore one another unless they're at the dog park, then they are a pack.

What's each dog's best quality?

Max is loyal beyond belief. He keeps a close eye on me and if I'm having a hard day, he does his best to comfort me. That's pretty amazing considering how long it took for him to bond to us (two years). Warren is very earnest. He is a serious guy, so when he lets himself be silly it's a big treat. He is effusive when I come home from being away (even for a few hours) and it usually lasts for about two minutes and then he's back to being serious and vigilant.

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

I honestly don't know about "proudest" or "most embarrassing" but Max was pretty darn happy when we accidentally bought some soup that had bonito (fish flakes) in it. I started to cook it and it didn't smell right. Rather than waste it, I let Max eat the whole pot of it and he was pretty darned happy about that. And round.

Warren has broken his leg twice and he limped for quite a while after getting a plate and several screws put in after the second break. Needless to say he got a LOT of pampering when he was recovering. He will walk beside me on a walk sometimes to solicit a treat ("Look, Mom, I'm heeling so perfectly!"). Brandon had him on a walk and Warren tried "heeling" for a treat - he prances next to your ankles while looking up at you with a huge smile. Brandon isn't the sucker I am and wouldn't give him a treat, so Warren picked up a leg and started limping. Clearly saying "I'm cute and pathetic, where is my treat?" He sure knows how to manipulate mom and dad.

Learn more about the Animal Rights Coalition, including its efforts to address the hunting of wolves, end pound seizure (ie, the sale of cats and dogs from a pound or shelter to research labs), and introduce humane education materials in schools.

Find out how to Start Seeing Black Dogs, and visit the website of Small Dog Rescue of Minnesota.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mary Guterson & Sparky

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Mary Guterson, and Sparky, my mini-dachshund and the love of my life. He's five years old and a total firecracker.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Sparky and I have coffee together every morning. We sit on the little love seat near the kitchen, read the newspaper, snuggle, and drink. If I have to get up for any reason, Sparky always finishes my coffee for me.

What's brewing?

I drink instant Taster's Choice with half 'n half, the coffee choice of champions. Boil, pour, stir, drink, repeat. That about sums up my mornings.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I'm a purist. Why ruin a good cup of Taster's Choice by adding food to the mix?

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

Sparky has to watch his weight. He already broke his back once and let me tell you, it cost me a pretty penny to get that back fixed. Now I'm supposed to make him a lean, mean machine so that he doesn't break it again. So, unfortunately, no treats for the Sparkster.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

Oh, I made the huge mistake of visiting a friend with puppies. Sparky weighed about two pounds at the time and was the cutest thing EVER. What could I do? I forked over six hundred bucks and here we are, a few thousand dollars (broken back) later, totally in love.

How did he get his name?

I always said that when I grew up I'd have a mini-dachshund named Sparky. So I kind of had to do it.

Does he have any influence on your writing?

Total. Sparky runs my life. And my last book is called Gone to the Dogs, which is probably a big hint at the reach of Sparky's influence over me.

What's an ordinary day like for Sparky?

Wake up. Look adorable. Go outside. Pretend to pee. Come in. Look adorable while jumping up and down, excited as all get out for the same breakfast day after day. Scarf down breakfast. Lick bowl clean, cleaner, cleanest. Go outside. Pee, most of the time. Come back in. Pee on couch if didn't pee outside. Sleep. Look so cute asleep that a person can't help but forgive the fact that he peed on the couch. Wake up. Go outside. Bark at every little thing in a very manly manner. Come back in. Prance about. Jump on couch, sleep. Go for a walk on the leash around the neighborhood. Get very excited at all trembling leaves, rocks, dogs, people, birds, cars, trucks. Go home. Sleep. Dinner .... I think you can figure out the rest.

Where is your dog's favorite place to go for walk?

Anywhere, really. Sparky is the most excitable dog EVER, so it's hard to discern that one place makes him more excited than another.

Who is your dog's best pet-pal?

Sparky used to love to hump our other dog, Olympia. But Olympia (black lab mix) died this past summer at the age of fifteen. So now Sparky likes the neighbor dog, Rizzo, the best, even though Rizzo does not allow humping the way sweet Olympia did.

What's Sparky's best quality?

His insatiable love of life. And of course, his cuteness.

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

Sparky is neither proud nor embarrassed. Sparky is just Sparky, the cutest, most adorable dog in the universe.

We Are All Fine Here, Mary Guterson's first novel, was published in 2005. Amy Tan, author of The Opposite of Fate, called it “A real winner. What a voice: laugh-aloud hilarious, full of naked truth.” And Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, wrote of it: “I love books that make me laugh. I love books that move me. Most of all, I love books that do both. Like this one. Mary Guterson is witty, wily, and wonderful.”

Her recently-released second novel, Gone to the Dogs, features a dog-napping heroine named Rena. "This book is not autobiographical," insists Guterson ... "except maybe a little bit."

Among the early praise for the novel:
"The sharp wit and keen observations of Gone to the Dogs had me compulsively turning pages. If Saul Bellow and Lucille Ball produced a love child, she would write like Mary Guterson."
--Randy Sue Coburn, author of Owl Island
Visit Mary Guterson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue