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