Friday, April 16, 2010

Lisa Peet & Dorrie

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Lisa Peet, writer, editor, artist, specialty baker, proprietor of the literary blog Like Fire. Dorrie is a female Beagle/Treeing Walker Coonhound mix, almost 5 years old. And Mr. Bonkers is our #1 cat and boss of the household. We live in the North Bronx, at the end of the #1 line.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The photo looks like more of a leisurely weekend affair. Weekdays we’re up and dressed and ready to go by 6. I have a cup of coffee with Dorrie and check my email, then if it’s over 25˚ and not raining we take a 2-mile walk around the Jerome Park Reservoir. Sometimes it’s just the two of us, sometimes we go with other dog friends, but either way it’s one of the nicest parts of my day. When we get back I have another cup or two and then head off to work, and Dorrie commences her all-day beauty sleep.

What's brewing?

Fairway Blend brewed in a Cuisinart automatic drip coffeemaker (set for 5:45, thank you); milk and one sugar.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Brown Cow maple yogurt or a banana, sometimes nothing if I’m running late.

Any treat for Dorrie on this occasion?

She gets her breakfast after our walk, same thing as her dinner: half a can of Merrick dog food and half a cup of Science Diet Light kibble. No treats, because she’s on a diet.

How were you and Dorrie united?

In October, 2005 I was still deep in mourning over my beloved Jack Russell Milo, who had died suddenly in July. I was in no emotional shape to adopt a new dog, but for some reason I found myself on one day and I saw that face—it was like she spoke to me. She was advertised as a local dog and we were all set to go meet her, but it turned out she was in Little Rock, Arkansas. If we were willing to adopt her sight unseen they would truck her up.

What can I say? As far as I was concerned, her sweet puppy face told me everything I needed to know. And likewise, although we were supposed to have a home visit to verify our suitability as dog owners, that month it poured nonstop and the rescue organization woman kept having to cancel. Eventually I ended up meeting her in a midtown bar after work, where I showed her photos of the late Milo—everyone always called him the happiest dog they’d ever met, and it showed—and we had a few drinks, cried over him, and ended up tipsy at PetSmart, buying a dog bed. I passed my inspection.

A couple of weeks later Jeff and I drove over the Tappan Zee Bridge at the crack of dawn to meet a guy with a horse trailer full of dog crates in a Park’n’Ride parking lot. Like some kind of weird drug deal, we handed him a check for $100 and he handed us a very stunned puppy. Turns out we were right that everything was indeed there in her photo—she’s been nothing but nonstop sweetness. Bless the good folks at Last Chance Arkansas and All About Labs. They do good work.

You are a writer, artist, baker and blogger: what kind of influence, if any, does Dorrie have on those spheres of activity?

She’s good company, and she makes sure I get up and out twice a day. Between the 9-5 job and working on my own projects, that’s more than enough time with my ass in a chair. I do a lot of writing in my head on our walks—they’re very meditative. And she’s always good for a smile and a kiss and a zap of unconditional love, which never hurts either. She’s not much help when it comes to baking, but then again she’s never stolen anything, so she gets props for that. And she’s introduced me to some of my best friends in the neighborhood. We have a fabulous huge dog run, and summer evenings hanging out there are like happy hour without booze.

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

She’s named after the Charlotte Rampling character in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. No particular reason, other than the name seemed to fit her, but it turned out to be a kind of kinehora—the character is beautiful, high-maintenance, and crazy. Our Dorrie is beautiful, but easy to get along with and super mellow.

Aliases: Dordy, Dorky, Dorotee (in Auntie Em voice), Dorrie Snorey, Dorrie Doodle, Miss Pretty, Stinky.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Raccoons! We have ’em, and that Coonhound blood of hers runs deep. She’ll go after cats in our yard she doesn’t know, but she’s very gentle with our three.

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy...?

Stuffed toys, but only as long as it takes her to eviscerate them and get the squeaky out. Mostly she likes rawhide chewies and bones. Balls don’t interest her at all unless she can get another dog to chase her for one.

Who is Dorrie's best pet-pal?

Chester (beagle), Hershey (chocolate lab), Cocoa (pit/greyhound mix), Callahan (husky). She has a special bond with our big ginger tabby, Mr. Bonkers, who was here before she was—they patrol the yard together and play if he’s in the mood. And she’s on gentle, if cordial, terms with Alvy and Francis, our other two cats.

What's Dorrie's most endearing quality?

Her overall sweet nature and excellent manners. Dorrie wants to be a good dog, she wants approval, she wants love—she has just enough of a mischievous streak to keep her interesting, but mostly she’s extremely obedient, great on and off leash, a good hiker, gentle with kids, and dependable. Plus she has the most wonderfully soft speckled ears and a great smile.

What's Dorrie's proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

Her most embarrassing moment was a couple of years ago when we were visiting a friend in Connecticut, who had a pond with a family of ducks living on it. We had been hiking, and when we came out of the woods Dorrie saw the ducklings paddling and just forgot everything she knew about the wet qualities of water, which she very much dislikes. She shot out after them and it was, I swear, like Wile E. Coyote going off a cliff—she made it about six feet out onto the water before sinking like a stone, with only the tip of her tail showing. At which point she POPPED up, spun around, and tore back onto dry land. She was not amused, but oh my goodness we were.

Her proudest moments are when we stop at the curb and she sits at my heel without being asked, and someone leans out of their car window in passing and says, “Now that’s a good dog!” I suppose that’s really more my proud moment than hers, but I like to think she picks up on it. Another instance she might not have fully appreciated was when she came face to face with a huge skunk in our back yard. She was fascinated, but just as it was starting to do its little skunk dance Jeff called her in his most I-mean-business voice, and she turned around and trotted back inside.

What are Dorrie's favorite things?

Hearing the text message ring on my phone, because that invariably means we’re meeting someone for a walk or the park. The phrases “Do you want to go for a walk?” “Do you want to go to the park?” and “Do you want to see Cocoa?” Hanging out with me while I work in the yard. Sleeping outside in a patch of sunlight. Rolling in stuff. Breakfast. Dinner. When Jeff gives her a bite of what he’s eating. Big male pit bulls. Yorkies. Butt rubs. A knuckle in her ear. Bedtime (not only does she sleep in the bed, but we bought an expensive set of carpeted stairs so she can get up and down by herself). A pillow for her head. Company (as long as they don’t sit in her spot on the couch). Snuggling. Steak bones. Feet.

Visit Like Fire, Lisa Peet's literary blog.

--Marshal Zeringue