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