Friday, December 11, 2009

Marion Winik & Beau

Who is in the photo at right?

Marion Winik, writer and advice columnist, and her miniature dachshund and personal savior, Beau, a 5-yr-old male.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We had a beautiful Indian summer day here in Baltimore in mid-November and I just had to walk around the corner to Roland Park Bagel and sit outside for a while.

What's brewing?

When I go out, I like a double Americano, very short, with half-and-half. At home I drink some really strong Puerto Rican stuff black.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not edible ones, but I did get my bff Ken to come down and meet me. We talked about what we did last night and how crazy our other friends are.

Any treat for Beau on this occasion?

I always share my treats with Beau. I have none of these "people food" boundaries.

How did Beau come to be united with you?

Five years ago at Christmas time, I decided to give my then-16-year-old son Hayes a miniature dachshund for Christmas. I had grown up with an amazing black-and-tan dachshund named Schnapps and had been wanting another one ever since. But it seemed like there was always a reason not to get a dog. Having babies, moving across the country, stuff like that. When I finally started scheming to find a puppy, people STILL said I was nuts. How could I take on more responsibility, what with my pre-existing group of teenagers, toddlers, cats, and husband, all having to be fed and cared for? Well, it’s not even going to be my dog! I explained, I was giving HAYES the dog.

I searched on the Internet until I found a likely vendor of miniature dachshunds in the rural town of Dillsburg, PA, and I sneaked off with Hayes's younger brother Vince to see a litter of puppies when they were just six weeks old. They were all male, and the smallest one had a large scar across the top of his head. This is the one Vince selected immediately, to the breeder’s surprise. She assured us the vet had said it would eventually disappear. Actually, it has gotten much, much more pronounced and now I have to answer the question, "what is that lump hanging off Beau's head?" many times every day. Oh well. He doesn't even know it's there.

How did he get his name?

So ... I drove back to Discount Dachshunds of Dillsburg, as I had come to think of it, with Hayes on Christmas Eve. He was moved by the gift (there was a slight adjustment period because he thought the "life-changing" present I’d teased him about was a car) and immediately suggested naming his tiny new pet after his father, who died when he was six. Oh, my. I could just picture his grandmother, my late husband's mom, coming for a visit: "And this our new dog, Tony." Honestly, I couldn’t handle it either. So we went with Beau Tali, which was one of his dad's nicknames. He is more often called just Beau ... and, mostly by me, Beau Heinie Beau.

So is Beau Hayes's dog?

Well, I guess not. Hayes left home for college 4 years ago and Beau did not go with him. Instead Beau went into the mental health service supporting me through my divorce from my second husband, my mother's death and other horrible, yet simultaneous life transitions that befell me in 2006 - 2008. I want to nominate him for a Purple Heart. Meanwhile, Hayes thinks I should go ahead and send him $500 since I have apparently repo'ed the dog.

What is Beau's theme song?

Think back to that 1980 gay-nightclub hit, I'm Comin' Out, by Diana Ross. (I'm coming out, I want the world to know, I've got to let it show...). Now, sing these words: "Beau Heinie Beau, he wants the world to know, he is the baby Beau." This song has given us endless hours of pleasure -- perhaps I could better convince you if I could actually sing it for you, but perhaps not.

What's an ordinary day like for Beau?

I try to take him almost everywhere I go, and have a leopard dog bag for sneaking him into my work so he can attend MFA writing classes. He loves other people and other dogs and they mostly love him too.

When he is left home alone, he sits in the front room, watching the door and waiting.

When I am working at my desk, he sits on the lucite and leather couch I inherited from my mother, right behind me, trying to make sure I don't escape without him.

His passion for life and for everyone and everything in it is amazing. No wonder he has to sleep so much.

Who is Beau's best pet-pal?

The little guy in the sweater beside him is Keith Richards, of Pittsburgh, a close pal, and the beautiful English cream longhaired mini in the other photo is his girlfriend Greta, of New Freedom, PA. Greta stole him from her big sister, an Irish terrier named Ellie. He is two-timing Greta since we moved to Baltimore with an Australian setter named Adelaide. At 13, she's a bit of a cougar.

Marion Winik is the author of eight books of creative nonfiction and poetry, most recently The Glen Rock Book of the Dead (Counterpoint, 2008.) Her other works include Telling (Random House, 1994), a best-selling collection of personal essays; First Comes Love (Random House, 1996), a memoir now in development for motion-picture release; The Lunch-Box Chronicles (Random House, 1998); Rules for the Unruly (Simon and Schuster, 2001) and Above Us Only Sky (Seal Press, 2005.) She is also the author of two books of poetry.

Winik's essays and articles have been published in
The New York Times Magazine, O, Salon, Real Simple, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. Her commentaries have been heard on All Things Considered since 1991, and are collected on the website. She was the 2008 "My Life As A Mom" columnist for Ladies Home Journal, and continues in 2009 as that publication's "Advice Lady."

Visit Marion Winik's website.

--Marshal Zeringue