Friday, February 19, 2010

Susan Breen & Tino and Spencer

Who is in the photo at right?

The human looking one is me, Susan Breen. I’m the author of the novel The Fiction Class. Tino, my Golden Retriever, is twelve years old though in disposition he’s more like a puppy. Spencer, nine year old, is the alpha dog in this relationship. He’s a somewhat fat Maltese who everyone mistakes for a Bichon.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We were tired and cold.

What's brewing?

I like to heat up a cup of milk and then add coffee to it.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Chocolate chip cookies. Always.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

You can, quite literally, eat off our floor. They find treats all the time. Alas.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

I had a Golden Retriever growing up and knew I wanted one for my family. We got Tino from a breeder. Spencer, I have to confess, I saw in a pet store window. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him.

How did they get their names?

Tino is named for Tino Martinez, who was a first baseman for the Yankees at the time. Spencer is named for Shane Spencer, who was a Yankee outfielder.

Do the dogs have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely. For one thing, they give me a subject. My first novel (unpublished so far) was about a woman whose Golden Retriever bit the weatherman. Trouble ensued. My second novel (also unpublished) was about a little white dog who kept getting his owner into trouble. Come to think of it, the only novel I’ve had published so far was my third one, which did not have a dog in it. I’ll have to think over what that means.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

On a good day, I’ll sit and write for a few hours and my dogs will sit at my feet. The thing I do that drives them crazy is pace around when I’m writing. I stand up, they stand up. I roam from room to room. They follow me. Then I sit down, they sit down. Then we all pant and then it starts all over again.

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

Our house is set next to a plot of woods and Tino loves to run there. Poor Spencer prefers the road because he has a more difficult time navigating the paths in the woods. He doesn’t like leaves and he sinks in the snow. So when it’s time to go for a walk we all go tearing out the front door: Spencer running for the road, Tino running for the woods, me trying to corral them. We’ve been doing this for years and we can’t seem to agree.

Stick, tennis ball, frisbee...?

Frisbee. They’re great on catching. Not so good about returning.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Deer, which has got me into a lot of trouble. Tino loves to chase deer but he doesn’t know what to do when he’s caught one. It turns out that deer get quite hostile when cornered and they make a huffing sort of noise. I’ve spent some anxious moments trying to blend in with the bark of a tree.

What's each dog's best quality?

Tino’s very protective and, except for certain incidents involving deer, he makes me feel very safe. Spencer is devoted. He makes a cozy snuffling sound that is more inspiring than music.

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

Most of our embarrassing moments have involved roast chicken and Italian subs. The proud moments are too many too be listed!

Susan Breen's novel, The Fiction Class, is the story of a woman's relationship with her ailing mother and the offbeat members of the creative writing workshop she leads.

Breen's short stories have been published by a number of literary magazines, among them
American Literary Review and anderbo (which lists her story “Triplet” as an anderbo classic).

Susan Breen's website and blog.

Writers Read: Susan Breen.

--Marshal Zeringue