Monday, February 1, 2010

Erika Rae & Aspen

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Aspen and me, Erika Rae. She's a 9.5 year-old boxer lab mix and I'm a ... actually I'm not sure of my breed. I suppose I'm a bit of a Euro-American mutt. For a while I had high hopes for some Native American blood, and even a Persian DNA fragment or two, but nothing has panned out. At any rate, I am a writer and entrepreneurial misfit. At the moment, I help run a wireless Internet service provider company from our Colorado mountain property. When I'm not chasing my 3 kids around, I edit and write creative non-fiction for and am a member of N.L. Belardes' rogue group of writers, The Irresponsibles. Belardes recently published a wacky book of facts and trivia called Random Obsessions in which he includes a few of the strange things that I've encountered, alongside crazy stories about Mothman and Thomas Jefferson's grandson being an axe murderer. I've written 7 books, including a memoir called In a Handbasket: Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical. As of now, not a single one of my books has been properly published. I keep writing, though. Basically, I am really stubborn. I'm currently working on a YA Series called "Stones."

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Routine morning coffee break. Since we live at 9000 feet above Boulder, we don't make it down to the hipster cafes down there nearly enough.

What's brewing?

A latte - whole milk, 1/2 tsp raw sugar. I buy a new 2.5 pound bag of First Colony's organic Rainforest Blend at Costco almost weekly and grind it fresh at home. We have a Saeco espresso machine, which we fire up about as often as we check email...which is pretty often. Both my husband and I put in time as baristas in a former life and I guess you could say that old habits die hard. Hey, it's only considered an addiction if you want to quit and can't. And anyway, I'm fairly tame with my latte. My husband prefers his espresso frequent and straight, often citing "There's no such thing as strong coffee - only weak people" or "Carpe Noctum" or some other computer-geeky dictum.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Chocolate - specifically 3 Ghiradelli double chocolate chips. We developed this habit after a trip to Denmark, home of the best lattes in the world. You just can't beat that milk. Anyway, they always serve their lattes with a piece of dark chocolate on the saucer. It's my one daily indulgence.

Any treat for Aspen on this occasion?

I usually slip her crusts of buttered toast from off the kids' breakfast plates. She doesn't seem to mind playing clean-up.

How did Aspen come to be united with you?

We adopted her and her sister from Colorado Puppy Rescue. She was the one climbing the fence to get at us while her sister tried to hide in the water bowl. They kept the same, basic personalities all their lives. Since we live at the edge of Roosevelt National Forest, we wanted dogs big enough to defend themselves if needed, and we wanted them to be able to keep each other company when we weren't home. We worked at a start-up software company in Boulder at the time and were gone long hours.

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

Our property is covered in aspens and lodge pole pines. The latter didn't have a very nice ring to it. Her aliases are aplenty: Aspirin (when she's being a pain); Aspina (when she's being queenly); Ass-pen (when she smells). Sometimes, when she won't let me leave a room without insisting on tagging along, I circumvent the whole cutesy name thing and just call her "Stalker".

Does Aspen have any influence on your writing?

Yes. She insists on curling up next to me on the couch and crushing one of my arms as I write. It remains to be seen whether this will make me a better writer because of the challenge or whether this will simply resolve itself into Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Where is Aspen's favorite place to go for an outing?

We have a beautiful marsh through the woods about 15 minutes by foot. When they were younger, she and her sister, Holly, [Aspen is on the left, Holly on the right, in both photos of the pair] would chase each other in circles through the tall grass for hours there. Some of my best memories of them involve this place. Unfortunately, Aspen has a degenerative nerve disease which has numbered her walking days.

Tennis Ball? Stick? Frisbee...?

None of the above. Aspen is only interested in flying treats.

Has Aspen ever encountered any large animals in the Rocky Mountains?

Oh yes. She has treed a bear and helped her step-sister (a redbone coonhound named Indie) herd elk. Once when she was walking with my husband Scott, they walked into a mountain lion feeding ground. She was busily rolling in a freshly killed elk carcass when Scott looked up to see one lion through the trees ahead of them. Almost immediately, another one flashed through the trees to his left. They got out of there as quickly as they could. There is no telling what else she has encountered while out roaming alone.

What is an ordinary day like for Aspen?

A lot of sleeping. Before her problem with her back legs, we took daily hikes into the woods. I miss those days immensely.

Who is Aspen's best pet pal?

It was her sister, Holly, who died 5 years ago from cancer. We adopted Indie (the coonhound) soon after in an attempt to fill the void and admit now that might have been a mistake. The two have never really bonded, although we did catch them cuddling once a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps there is hope yet.

What are Aspen's best qualities?

She adores me and she is a fantastic foot warmer. She can also speak several animal dialects: rabbit, coyote, deer, etc.

What's Aspen's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Proudest - When she was young, a coyote chased her onto our property from the forest. As they ran past me, I started yelling at the coyote. I guess it clicked then that she could do the same, so she turned around suddenly and started barking with all her might. Scared the living daylights out of that coyote.

Most embarrassing - She was walking on a frozen lake and fell through. We had to go in after her to get her out.

Visit Erika Rae's website.

--Marshal Zeringue