Monday, November 23, 2009

Barbara O'Connor & Ruby and Matty

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me and Ruby. My name is Barbara O'Connor and I write books for children. Ruby is a 7-month old Golden Retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My favorite coffee time with Ruby is right after lunch, when I take a break from writing. On sunny days, I sit in the yard with Ruby and her older brother, Matty (a ten-year-old English Cocker Spaniel), sip coffee, and do the crossword puzzle.

What's brewing?

My family has been teasing me about my coffee preference for years. While I love cafe au lait, brewed strong with a heaping helping of steamed cream, at home I drink instant coffee. Yeah, yeah, I know ... but I like it! My favorite is General Foods International Coffee - but only Cafe Francais. I once mistakenly thought it was being discontinued so I stockpiled a gazillion cans.

The good news is that it was not discontinued. But the bad news is that now it is "new and improved" and really terrible. So I'm going to have to switch to real coffee. I have a great little cream foamer/steamer so I can make cafe au lait at home.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Nope, just the crossword puzzle or the morning paper.

Any treat for the dogs on this occasion?

Matty has chronic pancreatitis so I have to be careful with treats. I have to sneak Ruby something when Matty isn't looking. Poor Matty's treat is unsalted rice cakes. Yeah, I know....

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Matty is my son's dog, but my son is off at college now. I recently got Ruby after the loss of my five-year-old Golden Retriever, Phoebe. I love goldens and wanted another one.

Do they have any influence on your writing?

Both the dogs love to nestle at my feet while I write. Sometimes we're in my office and sometimes at the kitchen counter, on the screen porch or in the yard. I love having them there with me. I love being at home, where I am most inspired to write, and home and dogs just go together for me.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

They have a great life! Matty sleeps right in the bed with me. Ruby is still in the crate, which is in the bedroom. Ruby wakes up early (5 or 6), goes out for a break, then comes into bed with me and Matty and snuggles. Ruby is a real snuggler.

In the summer, I take Ruby for a romp on the beach before beachgoers arrive. She loves the beach but doesn't care much about swimming in the ocean. Matty doesn't care much for the beach.

I can set my clock by Matty, who lets me know when it's time for breakfast and dinner.

Then I write while they sleep. We take breaks to play and then to go for walks.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for walk?

Ruby loves the beach. They both love some of the great walking trails nearby.

Stick, tennis ball, frisbee...?

Matty doesn't care much about toys (except to keep them away from Ruby). But Ruby loves her toys, especially ones that make noise, like fleece toys with squeakers.

What is each dog's best quality?

Matty is a full of personality. We call him Eeyore because he has this hilarious droopy look. He acts grumpy but I think he's adorable.

Ruby is just a big bundle of love. She would sit in my lap all day.

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

Ruby's knows quite a few tricks already, spinning in circles and high-fiving. She's probably proud of that. Matty is probably most proud when he manages to take toys away from Ruby.

As for embarrassing, Matty's moment would definitely be the time he got a marrow bone stuck on his lower jaw. The vet has to anesthesize him and cut it off with a cast cutter.

Ruby recently got a stick stuck on the roof of her mouth. Luckily, that was a lot easier to remove than that marrow bone.

Barbara O'Connor's latest book, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, was named a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and Kirkus Best Book of the Year for 2009. Watch the video trailer.

Other books include
Greetings from Nowhere, How to Steal a Dog, Moonpie and Ivy, and Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia.

In addition to being a five-time winner of the Parents Choice Award, O'Connor's awards include the Massachusetts Book Award, the South Carolina Children's Book Award, School Library Journal Best Books, Bank Street College Best Books, and ALA Notables.

Visit Barbara O'Connor's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue
Top photo credit: Getty Images.