Wednesday, November 25, 2009

C.M. Mayo & Picadou

Who is in the photo at right?

That's Picadou, aka "Minky Chica," Princess of the Universe, a pug (of course!) who is 9 1/2 years old, and Yours Truly, C.M. Mayo. I'm a writer, author of several books on Mexico, most recently a novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), which is based on the true story. Yes, of course, Picadou assists me with my writing (and not writing). She's been helping me with The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire ever since her earliest days of puppyhood--- yep, that's how long it took me to write it.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We're in on the secret: that today is International Alliteration Day! I actually drink more tea than coffee, but "tea with a canine" rings flat, no? Tea with a terrapin? Nope, neither.

What's brewing?

Maya Magic Gourmet Organic Coffee from Chiapas. We're in Mexico City so we always drink Mexican coffee, which is excellent. By "we" I mean my husband and I -- Picadou drinks water (and sometimes chicken broth).

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Almonds in honey.

Any treat for Picadou on this occasion?

A cube of cheese. (Oh, many are the occasions...)

How did she come to be united with you?

It was written in the stars. We took her home with us when she was 10 weeks old, silkier than silk and tiny as a baby bunny. As a friend of mine once said about her cat, "she has since trained us to her purposes."

How did she get her name? Does she have aliases?

She's black so my husband wanted to name her Zapote, after the sapodilla, that squishy black fruit, which I thought sounded very butch. I happened to have a reference book on cheese, so I opened that and found a goat cheese called "picadou." I assumed it had a black ash crust, like chevre. It turns it out that it doesn't (it's a white cheese wrapped in herbs), but never mind, Picadou likes her name just fine.

Does Picadou prefer English or Spanish?

You could speak to her Russian or Urdu, it doesn't matter; she picks things up (feelings and images) telepathically. I prattle on to her mostly in Spanish and she figures most of it out, at least to her satisfaction.

What is Picadou's influence on your writing?

She's good in the siesta department, which always helps a writer. She's a noticer -- and we writers need to notice what other people miss. So I take a lesson from her almost every day. Here's one of her poems:

"People Who Pat Me" by Picadou

People who pat me
I sometimes like

But not
The little girl with crumbs on her face
She aimed her fingers at me, she patted me too hard
Her food smells stayed on my head

And not
That man in the blue pants and blue hat
He landed his hand on my head thunk like a package
and he moved my fur the wrong way
His shoes stank of sidewalk and hot rubber
"How much did you pay for that dog?" he said to my person
and a lot of other rude nonsense
When he could see we were on our way to the grass!

I like the lady with her hair tucked under an orange scarf
She bent down and I let her hold my chin and stroke my ears
Her hands were gentle like Grandma's
they smelled of mail and cheese sandwich
She had a wavery voice
"Oh," she said, "I wish you were my neighbor!"

I also wrote an essay about walking with her, from her point view -- which sounds a bit treacly but I don't think it was. Anyway, "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City" came out in Creative Nonfiction and later, after it won a couple of awards, as an audio CD. Bark magazine also published an excerpt.

What's an ordinary day like for Picadou?

It starts with a tummy rub and wow, it just gets better!

Do you and Picadou have a favorite place to go for a walk?

There are many places we go for walks, but her favorite is to amble out onto the patio, plop down and take a siesta in the sunshine.

Stick, tennis ball, frisbee...?

Fetch is not Picadou's thing. The concept eludes her. She has a large stuffed cat, Funky Kitty, [photo, right] which she hugs and chews a little (a particular spot, just above the eyebrow). Funky Kitty is her same age and has been washed twice, I believe.

Squirrel, cat, postman?

According to Picadou, cats, other than Funky Kitty, have no right to live. Neither do squrirrels. Postmen are OK if they pet her.

What's Picadou's best quality?

Her joy; she truly enjoys things, whether it's her lunch or the warm sun on her fur or a visit with friends...

Does Picadou have a favorite buddy?

When we visit my sister, Picadou hangs out with Pabu, [photo, left] her 10 year old Tibetan spaniel. Pabu is very zen. He shares his observations on his blog.

What's her proudest moment so far?

I think she would say it was when she came to a party the other day wearing her party collar and everyone admired her (which happens everytime there's a party, actually). But I think she has the most reason to be proud that she got through a tough operation to repair her deformed knees (luxated patellas) and several weeks of hydrotherapy which involved wearing a lifejacket and swimming laps in a special pool, as we towed her (frantically splashing) along with a leash (this was necessary to help her build the muscle support her knees). Never mind the surgery, pugs loathe swimming, so this was no picnic for Picadou. That was eight years ago and I will never forget how happy she was, once she had healed, to take off running after a labrador retriever!

Her most embarrassing?

Picadou is never embarrassed. She's Picadou!

C.M. Mayo is the author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), a novel based on the true story. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire made Library Journal's Top Books 2009 list.

Mayo is also author of
Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions, 2007) and Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press, 1995) which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and editor of Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, a portrait of Mexico in the works of 24 Mexican writers. She lives in Washington DC and Mexico City.

Learn more about the author and her work -- and Picadou -- at

--Marshal Zeringue