Monday, May 31, 2010

Paul Tremblay & Rascal

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Paul Tremblay and I'm a writer, editor, and all around naysayer. My two novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland were both published by Henry Holt and my short fiction collection In the Mean Time (October 15, 2010) is forthcoming from Chizine Publications. Rascal is an eleven year old male who thinks he's five. I know because he's told me. He's a loveable mutt, with our best guess at breed being a Spitz mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Rascal and I take winding neighborhood and woodsy walks in the afternoons, and when we're in our fenced yard we both like to chase after and bark at passing cars. Particularly those cars with drivers who are drinking the vile coffee beverage of which you speak.

Word is you loathe coffee; what are you drinking?

It's true. Rascal and I both loathe coffee. We are happier for it. I'm trying to cut down on my soda intake, so I'm working to replace my caffeine free Cokes with iced green tea.

Any goodies to go with the beverage?

Only if they're available. I'm a sucker for a plain old chocolate chip cookie. Rascal approves of my sweet tooth.

Any treat for Rascal on this occasion?

Sure, why not? Today I'll give him a small chunk of leftover chicken breast. Generally, he gets a treat post-dinner, and he gets a treat from my son at 9pm. My son is afraid of the dark and won't go to sleep without Rascal. Rascal dutifully marches upstairs (Rascal is to the point now where he knows, without us telling him, that it's 9pm, and he'll go upstairs before any of us) to my son's room to eat his treat and protect the house from boogeymen. At least until my son is asleep, then Rascal comes back downstairs.

How did you and Rascal come together?

I met Rascal at a local shelter in early 2000. He came to live with us on February 14th. Aw.

Does Rascal have any influence on your writing?

I once wrote a horror short story based on a time when I was shoveling show and Rascal was outside with me. I wasn't paying full attention to him and he chased the big, honkin' plow, and almost got plowed. Makes sense, right?

How did Rascal get his name? Does he have any aliases?

Rascal came named, and his name is perfect for him. Everyone in the household still refers to him as "the puppy."

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

All. And probably in that order. Our yard is fenced. Rascal patrols the yard like a champ, and his running-rut along the fence's perimeter is impressive.

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

He doesn't like toys that squeak. If it squeaks he drops it instantly. He's clearly concerned for the well-being of the squeaking toy. In his younger days he was quite athletic and loved to chase and catch the Frisbee. He's getting older but he still has a lot of energy. Now he's retried from Frisbee chase but is satisfied with a good tennis ball chase instead.

Who is Rascal's best pet-pal?

His best pet-pal used to be my mother's Bernese mountain dog Owen, but Owen died a few years ago. There's no regular play dates in Rascal's schedule, but he never misses an opportunity to say hi to another dog when we're out and about.

What is Rascal's most endearing quality?

He's a sweet, friendly, loveable dog; the kind of dog that dog-phobes would even like. I know, because my mother-in-law is one.

If Rascal could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I'm sure he'd have a list, but let's go with this: Rascal would like me to allow him to sit under my computer/writing desk with my feet and all the plugs and wires.

What’s the most amusing thing Rascal does? The most frustrating?

When Rascal eats, he carries the first bite out into another room, spits it out, then eats it off the floor, before going back to polish off the rest of the meal.

Frustrating? He licks the rug all the time. Usually where he spits out the food.

Paul Tremblay is the author of The Little Sleep and No Sleep till Wonderland. He has won acclaim for his short fiction and received two nominations for the Bram Stoker Award.

an excerpt from No Sleep till Wonderland and watch the video, and visit Paul Tremblay's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Little Sleep.

The Page 69 Test: No Sleep till Wonderland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lila Dare & Marco

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Lila Dare and I write mystery novels. The latest, out in May, is Tressed to Kill, the first in the Southern Beauty Shop series. My pal is Marco. He's a five-year-old Wire-haired Pointing Griffon. He'll be six on the 4th of July.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have to confess that my caffeine of choice is really tea. Does that disqualify me from the site? Since I work from home, I have tea with Marco every morning after walking the kids to school. Marco's very helpful about letting us know when it's time to leave for school since walks are his favorite activity in the whole world. After I brew my tea, he knows to head straight upstairs to my office looking out at Pikes Peak.

What's brewing?

My favorite tea is Yorkshire Gold which I got addicted to when I lived in Harrogate, England at the turn of the millennium.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

No goodies. Sitting on my fanny at the computer all day does not allow for a lot of brownies, scones, or muffins.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

My dog's favorite treat is having me home with him all day. Really.

How were you and your dog united?

When we lost our last dog at thirteen, a chocolate Labrador named Hawk, we waited a year and a half and did a fair amount of research before choosing Marco. We wanted a somewhat smaller dog that shed less than a Lab, and we wanted one who was smart and good with kids. We looked at Portuguese water dogs, Soft-coated wheaten terriers, and a couple of others before deciding Marco was meant to be our next family member. We got him from a breeder in Alabama. I flew out there to pick him up and he came back in a carrier that fit under the seat in front of me. The lady seated beside me was surprised and relieved to see the puppy when we de-planed; she'd been wondering why I was talking to my luggage throughout the flight!

Does your dog have any influence on your writing?

I like writing about animals and about the way they interact with humans. There's a lot of humor in my novels, so I borrow some of Marco's more amusing traits to use in my stories.

How did Marco get his name? Does he have any aliases?

My husband is very into science and scientists so we considered Tesla, Fermi and several other before settling on Marco (which is short for Marconi). He just struck us as a Marco.

Where is Marco's favorite place for an outing?

We live in Colorado and hike a lot. Marco loves any place with trees. Or grass. Or bushes. Wildlife smells are a bonus. Wildlife sightings (deer, foxes, bunnies) take the walk to "this is the happiest day of my life" levels.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Squirrels! Squirrels are the enemy. The yard must be kept squirrel-free at all times. It is Marco's self-appointed job to rid the world of squirrels (not that he's ever caught one).

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

My daughter has a stuffed bluebird that makes realistic bluebird sounds that Marco has decided is his. He doesn't chew it, but when he's feeling insecure (he thinks we're leaving the house without him), he gets the bluebird from wherever my daughter has put it (on a bookshelf, atop the piano, on her bed) and takes it to his favorite spot on the landing and just mouths it to make it chirp.

Who is Marco's best pet-pal?

His best pet pal was my brother's Collie-mix named Max who unfortunately got whacked by a car. Marco doesn't really have a pet pal now. My mother is considering getting a dog and Marco has approval authority over her choice.

What is Marco's best quality?

He's a very loving dog. If one of us sits on the floor, he'll come over and curl up in our lap, despite the fact that he's a 55-lb animal. Nothing makes him happier than to be with his "pack," whether we're making a run to the post office or going on a 10-mile hike.

What is Marco's proudest moment? His most embarrassing?

I really can't think of anything particularly proud or embarrassing, but the scariest moment was when we (Marco and I) were on a walk early on a Sunday morning and a coyote popped out of the brush immediately ahead of us. It surprised me so that when Marco lunged at him, I lost the leash. They both took off like antelope outrunning a cheetah. I lost sight of them almost immediately and was terrified that I'd come upon Marco's eviscerated corpse (since lone coyotes are notorious for luring domestic dogs into an ambush by the whole pack). However, the coyote must have been on his own that day because I came upon Marco about half a mile up the path, sniffing around, obviously having lost the coyote. Thanks goodness! Even now, several years later, he still looks around when we get to that spot on the path, hopeful of spotting his coyote buddy.

Author of the Southern Beauty Shop mysteries, Lila Dare was born in Georgia and has lived in Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia. Although she has never worked in a beauty shop, she frequents salons and likes to tell her stylist: “Surprise me.” She currently lives west of the Mississippi with her husband, two daughters and Marco, and misses Southern cooking and friendliness, but not the humidity.

Read an excerpt from
Tressed to Kill, and learn more about the book and author at Lila Dare's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Scott and Kristy Pratt & their pack

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Scott Pratt, writer of legal thriller/mysteries. The other human in the photo is my wife, Kristy. The German shepherd to my right is Rio, 6 years old, the teacup poodle to my left is Chico, one year old, the Bichon frisé next to him is Nacho, three years old, and the Yorkie on the stool is Pedro, five years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We do this every day, just sit down an have a conversation about how everybody's doing, listen to complaints about pecking order, that kind of thing.

What's brewing?

I'm an old school Folger's guy, so is Rio. Kristy likes green tea and the small dogs stick to milk.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Danish for me and Kristy, biscuits for the dogs.

How did you and your dogs come together?

I "rescued" Rio from a bad situation when he was four months old. He and I have been tight ever since. Pedro came along a year later as a Mother's Day gift from my kids to Kristy. Two years after that, Nacho was an impulse buy by my mother-in-law. She got him home and discovered her standard poodles didn't like him. So she asked if we'd take him. We did. Chico, the teacup, appeared last year after my mother visited from Michigan. She had a teacup, and Kristy fell in love. Next thing I knew, we had one, too.

Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

Rio is a featured character in all four of my Joe Dillard novels. (The fourth one is finished but not yet published.) The other three are extremely jealous about that and voice their opinions on a regular basis.

I walk with all of them for about an hour each morning and listen to their suggestions on plot and characters.

How did your dogs get their names?

I met a blue healer several years ago named Rio and just liked the name. When Pedro came along, Napoleon Dynamite had just been released and we loved the Pedro character in the movie. It seemed to fit with Rio. Then when we got Nacho, Kristy wanted to keep the Mexican theme going. Same with Chico.

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

All of the dogs have toys, and they're quite territorial about them. Rio is partial to rubber baseballs and tennis balls. He loves to chase them, and he loves to chew on them until they're dead. Pedro loves sticks, small sticks. Nacho loves chew bones and Chico loves anything he can get his undersized mouth around.

What is each dog's most endearing quality?

Rio's most endearing quality is his loyalty. Pedro's is his grumpiness. Nacho's is his gentleness, and Chico's is his independence.

What’s the most amusing thing your dogs do? The most frustrating?

The most frustrating thing about them is that they bark like mad dogs every time we get out of the car at the park. We've done it every day for four years now, and each day, it's the same. They bark like crazy, chase each other around, and make a general nuisance of themselves. And Rio sheds enough each year to stuff a mattress.

Scott Pratt is the author of An Innocent Client, In Good Faith, and the newly released Injustice for All.

The Page 69 Test: An Innocent Client.

The Page 69 Test: Injustice For All.

Learn more about the books and author at
Scott Pratt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kris Neri & Annabelle

Who is in the photo at right?

This is my dog, Annabelle, and me, Kris Neri. I'm the Arizona-based author of Revenge for Old Times' Sake and High Crimes on the Magical Plane, and other mysteries, as well as a bookstore owner and writing instructor. Annabelle is a five-year-old, female, cocker spaniel.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I mainline coffee, and I like it to be as black as tar. On this occasion, we'd stopped for coffee before my first signing at the Los Angeles Festival of Books. This picture was taken in the Festival food court, but we often have coffee together at our favorite local brew place, Jerona's Cafe, in Cottonwood, Arizona, and everyday at home.

What's brewing?

Strong French Roast. I've started mixing a bit of decaf into it lately, since I can't keep peeling myself off the ceiling at night. But caffeine does keep me going. I might not need it if I could take dog naps throughout the day.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I had a banana nut muffin on that day, but I usually just have coffee. Normally, I don't like eating too early in the morning.

Any treat for Annabelle on this occasion?

Annabelle gobbled up her dog biscuits as soon as we arrived there. At home, it's kibble and noni juice for her breakfast.

How did you and Annabelle come together?

My husband and I had lost two old dogs within six months of each other, and we were devastated. But we had also recently opened a new business -- The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona -- and we weren't sure whether we would have enough time to devote to a new pet. But we were dog-lonely, and our cat, Philly, who has only lived with dogs, not cats, was, too. But we also had no employees at the time, and we worked every day, so we couldn't even take time off together to go to the shelter to look for a dog, only separately. We'd been visiting the shelter separately for a few days, but neither of us really felt we connected with any of the dogs, and choosing a companion was something we felt we should do together. There was just a short window of time after the Sedona Humane Society shelter opened, before our store did. One day, before the store opened, we went back together for a quick look. They've built quite an elaborate animal shelter there now, but when we went in search of a new friend, it was a more humble affair, with runs visible from the parking lot. When we pulled into the lot, a sweet little face that we hadn't seen on any of our other visits, just connected with us. Apparently, someone had abandoned a six-month-old cocker spaniel outside of the shelter during the night. Unfortunately, several other people also wanted to adopt her, including a shelter employee. The woman in charge told us to call back later, and she'd let us know her decision. Somehow she chose us, though we never knew why. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have this sweet little dog in our lives.

Does Annabelle have any influence on your writing?

She's convinced me that, when I get stuck during my writing, I can overcome the block if I hold her on my lap, while sitting in our backyard, staring at the view. I have worked out some writing problems like that, and it always makes us both feel better, so maybe she's onto something.

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

I named her for a character I was developing for a novel I planned at the time. The Annabelle I was writing -- who now appears in my published, Lefty Award-nominated urban fantasy, High Crimes on the Magical Plane -- is a genuine Celtic goddess who works as an FBI agent. Since I didn't know either the dog or the character too well when I named them, I didn't know if the name would fit. But it fits them both, and I'm surprised by the many common traits they share. My pooch also has some aliases, including Bits and Pizza Louie. I've frequently named pets for my characters, or named characters after my pets, or put descriptions of my pets in my books and stories. My cat is named for Uncle Philly in my Tracy Eaton mysteries.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

None of the above. Other dogs passing in the street are what make her crazy. How dare they walk past her house! We don't have many squirrels here in Arizona, but she came nose-to-nose with one on the UCLA campus at the Festival of Books. Only the leash prevented her from chasing it up a tree.

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

She prefers doggy stuffed animals with squeakies in them. She has dozens of them and they all have names, and she can make them squeak for ages. Sometimes I think that endless squeaking is how she talks. She also likes rawhide chips and sticks.

What's a typical day like for Annabelle?

After we go for a good walk, Annabelle spends the morning sleeping in splashes of sunshine that stream in through windows around the house. While she dozes, I write. Then, we go together to work in our bookstore, The Well Red Coyote, in the afternoon. Evenings are usually devoted to long naps and some rawhide chewing, along with chasing our cat, until we all snuggle together in bed.

Where do you walk?

We live in a rural area, so we prefer to take long walks on unpaved hillside roads. We both have our favorite streets, and we alternate those. I pick mine for great views; I guess she goes for the good smells.

Who is Annabelle's best pet-pal?

Our cat, Philly, is her best pet-pal. They're absolutely devoted to each other. He grooms her head and ears and makes her fur stick out, so maybe he's also having a little fun with her. But she also likes another cocker spaniel named Mickey, who lives a couple of blocks away from us. Mickey isn't the brightest bulb in the marquee, and I keep telling her she can do better, but she's still rather taken with him.

What is Annabelle's most endearing quality?

Since she's frequently at our bookstore, she meets lots more strangers than many dogs do. And she has an uncanny ability to pick out people who are hurting, or who might be feeling lonely, and who would benefit from a little one-on-one time with a gentle dog. She also seems to know the people who are traveling and who really miss their dogs. She has some amazingly positive energy and people really connect with it.

If Annabelle could change one thing about you, what would it be?

She'd probably like me to work less and take longer walks with her.

What’s the most amusing thing Annabelle does? The most frustrating?

The most amusing...? We host a monthly book club meeting at our store, at which we serve wine and pizza. She certainly doesn't get any wine, but I know quite a number of the book club folks give her little bits of pizza. My husband sets up the folding table for the group, then leaves to pick up the pizzas. Annabelle used to wait at the front door of the store for him and the pizza, while he was gone. But she only started waiting when he left, naturally. Now, when she sees him setting up the table, she runs to the front door to begin waiting, even though he hasn't left yet to pick up the pizza. That she drools on the floor while she's waiting is pretty funny. During the book club meeting, she scoots back and forth under the table grubbing for pieces of crust. There is a reason why we call her Pizza Louie.

As for frustrating, I find it frustrating that she insists on barking at a small minority of customers who come into our store. They usually seem like nice people, though some are offended by it. But given how nice she is to most people, I suppose she has her reasons. Maybe she has a better take on their character than I do. But it's not the ideal way to greet customers in retail.

Is there anything else you and Annabelle do together?

Once when I presented a writing workshop in my bookstore, she sat next to me as if we were delivering the material together. She was with me when I organized the workshop, so maybe she wanted to be involved at every stage of the operation.

Kris Neri's latest book, Revenge for Old Times' Sake, is the third book in her Agatha, Anthony, Macavity Award-nominated Tracy Eaton mystery series. She's also recently published High Crimes on the Magical Plane, a Lefty Award nominee and the first book in a new paranormal series.

Visit Kris Neri's website and The Well Red Coyote bookstore website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 21, 2010

Laura Grace Weldon & Jedi, Cocoa Bean and Winston

Who is in the photo at right?

The furry brown-eyed beasts are Jedi the German Shepherd, Cocoa Bean the Toy Poodle and Winston the Pomeranian.

The other creature with brown eyes is me. I’m Laura Grace Weldon, a writer, farm wench and relentless optimist.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The hounds are gentlemen of habit. They expect a daily walk down the street plus a stroll around the farm. They associate the smells of coffee with a newspaper-enhanced snuggle in the morning and relaxation time outdoors in the afternoon. If I attempt to alter any of these routines they go into Trinity of Despondency mode.

Today we’re having coffee out back here at Bit of Earth Farm. For the dogs that means visiting livestock, sitting by the pond (or in the pond) and rolling in whatever smells.

What's brewing?

We drink whatever brand of Fair Trade coffee is on sale at the co-op. Lately we’re enjoying Green Mountain Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. I like to make it strong, dosed up with raw organic cream from our cow Isabelle.

How were you and your dogs united?

Jedi, the 10 year old German Shepherd, was given to us as a puppy already named and housebroken. He’s a gentle soul and tolerates the little guys with the patience of an elder statesman.

Cocoa Bean, the 3 year old Toy Poodle, was bought by my son for his girlfriend. Soon after, she and her family were deported due to a tragic legal snafu and little Cocoa Bean came to live here. He is clever, affectionate and a bit neurotic. When Winston joined us Cocoa plotted against him for weeks, secretly depositing dog poo in the spot where Winston had been having some house training problems. Only when we caught him in the act did he stop.

Winston, the 1 year old Pomeranian, was abandoned at a work site when he was a few months old. He had fleas, worms and deep bite wounds. His coat was sparse and he was achingly thin. You can see now with his summer cut that he’s rather on the chubby side. He’s a bit of a rajah, preferring comfy chairs and short rather than long walks.

Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

They sleep nearby as I work. Their dreams surely filter into everything I do.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

They do the requisite barking at all who dare come to the door, per the universal dog contract. Mainly they keep the menace of invisible badgers at bay. Of course I can’t sense these badgers but the dogs do, and I’m grateful.

What’s the most amusing thing your dogs do? The most frustrating?

This may qualify for both. My dogs communicate with me in ways none of us actually understands. For example without a sound, without anyone in our family of six noticing, the dogs somehow tell me (yes, with their minds) that they have to go out. Because of this habit, “butt psychic” is one of my many unfortunate family nicknames.

If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?

A hermit at heart, I’m still lured into the larger world pretty often. I’m told the dogs howl and sit facing the front windows when I’m gone. The dogs would like me to hobbit about here and never leave again.

If your dogs could change one thing about humans, what would it be?

They are not fans of cars. People leave them in cars. People make them go places they don’t want to go in cars. When we walk along our rural road people pass by at speeds that make their shoulders shrunkle down in fear (shrunkle is an invented word). My dogs would rather humanity never bothered to invent cars. Perhaps the quiet peace of personal zeppelins floating just off the ground would please my canine friends more.

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything.

Her new book advocates for the child’s right to learn naturally and demonstrates how to enfold this approach into daily life. It incorporates ancient wisdom, current research and the educational insights shared by over 100 homeschooling families from around the world.

Learn more about
Free Range Learning, check out Laura Weldon’s blog, and find out what’s up on the farm.

Writers Read: Laura Grace Weldon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Barbara Levenson & Mr. Magruder

The following is the first interview with German Shepherd Mr. Magruder, Mac for short.

He is being interviewed by his owner and author of the Mary Magruder Katz Mysteries, Barbara Levenson.

Barbara: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for Coffee With A Canine. Let’s get right to the nitty-gritty. I notice that you have assumed the last name of the protagonist in both of the books I have written, Fatal February and Justice In June. How did that happen?

Mac: I guess it was the best way for me to become a real part of my new family, you and the Alpha guy, Bob Levenson. Mac has a nice ring to it, and I can easily recognize it when you call me. My new sibling, Millie, who is over ten years old can tell the difference from her name. She doesn’t hear too well. You know ten makes her an old broad.

Barbara: Tell us about your background. I understand it is quite a sad story. But first , do you care for coffee while we talk?

Mac: No, I prefer herbal treats, preferably bone flavored, and a side of water would be good. About my background, I have had more than one owner. I lived with one family as a puppy. I can’t remember much about them except that the place was crowded with dogs. Then I was sold to a man with a big truck. I rode around on the truck all day with him and I learned to protect his tools. I never let anyone near that truck. At night we went to his house but I wasn’t allowed inside. His wife hated me. One day the man with the truck took me to a strange neighborhood and let me out of the truck and drove away.

Barbara: How awful. What did you do?

Mac: What any smart German Shepherd would do. First, I chased after the truck, but to no avail. Then I learned to fend for myself. I was always hungry and wet when it rained, which it does a lot in Miami. I met other dogs on the streets and we helped each other. One day a policeman saw me and took me in his car. He dropped me off at a dog rescue center. It wasn’t much, but at least I was out of the rain and occasionally I got fed.

Barbara: And that’s where we found you. We saw your picture in the newspaper ad and I couldn’t believe a beautiful dog like you could have been abandoned.

Mac: What can I tell you. People are stranger than canines.

Barbara: We took you to the vet and nursed you back to health and now you are the gorgeous dog in the picture. (You’re the one with the pointed ears.)

Mac: Please, tell our readers what you told me about fate having a hand in our meeting.

Barbara: Yes, it was fate. Readers of Fatal February will remember that the dog in the book, Sam, was based on Ned, who was our male German Shepherd. His picture is on the book jacket. But sadly, Ned passed away last September after fighting a fatal disease. It was a bad time in our house. Millie refused to eat or play. Then we saw you and took you home. You made our world whole again and helped me to finish my new book Justice In June, which will be released June 1st, just in time for the six month anniversary of your adoption. Tell us what you enjoy in your new home.

Mac: The food is great. I’ve gained twelve pounds. I love the backyard. There are squirrels, birds, lizards. I love my collection of balls. There’s nothing more fun than getting up in the morning and dropping the big yellow ball at your feet ready
to chase some tosses. There are rides in a van, and walks around our neighborhood. I even love my collar and leash. And in the yard there is the biggest water dish I’ve ever seen.

Barbara: I keep telling you, that’s a swimming pool. Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Mac: Just that I hope everyone will read Justice In June. I like it better than the last book. It’s got a great plot. Of course, I like the parts about the dog best, but the mysteries and court cases really held my interest. Just remember, the more books you buy, the more bones my people can afford.

Barbara: Where did you learn to read?

Mac: When I was on the street I hung out at a library. At night, I read everything I could get my paws on.

Barbara: You are an amazing canine. Thanks for telling your story. This has been Coffee with a Canine, featuring Barbara Levenson and Mac.

Barbara Levenson has lived in Miami for the past 33 years.

A cum laude graduate of the University of Miami Law School, Levenson has served as a prosecutor and run her own law practice where she focused on criminal defense and civil rights litigation. She was elected to a judgeship in the circuit court of Miami-Dade County, where she still serves as a senior judge.

Born in Mt. Vernon, Ohio,
Levenson was raised in Columbus, Ohio. She was the first woman elected to the Columbus Board of Education, and later served as the Board’s first female president. She was also the first woman to be named the Ohio Newspaper’s “Man of the Year.”

Levenson and her husband, a retired financial consultant, bred and showed German Shepherd Dogs for 20 years and finished 11 champions in the show ring. They have two sons.

Visit Barbara Levenson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gerrie Ferris Finger & Bogey

Who is in the photo at right?

That's Bogey and me, Gerrie Ferris Finger. I write crimes novels and Bogey sits for photographs so he can be on the jacket of my book. Bogey is a male standard poodle, Westminster pedigreed, but who's bragging since he refuses to be trained to trot to my rhythm. He's eight going on two.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

They closed our dog park, a real bummer for Bogey because he can't bully the big dogs. He's scared to death of little pooches. So he's found a favorite place behind our house, with a pond full of ducks and geese. He chases deer and armadillos while I sip coffee at 7 in the morning.

What's brewing?

Starbucks French roast, black and strong.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Biscuits and honey.

Any treat for Bogey on this occasion?

Buttered biscuits and a dog chew.

How did you and Bogey come together?

My husband and I were recommended to a breeder in Atlanta. We made an "appointment" to view two black "standies." When they brought the "babies" out, I thought they were the parents. At three months, the pups were huge. Our breeder explained they were bred for height, at least 30 at the withers. Bogey, who was unnamed then, ran straight to my husband. Bogey had selected him, before his litter mate had a chance to get a nod in. Then we were interviewed like we were adopting a human baby. We were accepted with the caveat that if anything went wrong, we were to bring the poodle back to the breeder - no rescue outfits or humane societies, please.

Does Bogey have any influence on your writing?

Barking at geckos drives me up the wall. In my next novel, I'm using a poodle named Jolene as a cadaver dog.

How did Bogey get his name? Does he have any aliases?

I play golf. I'm a Bogey golfer. Many aliases, depending on his mood and mine.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Hates the first two.

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

Has basketfuls of toys. No need to put them away, he takes them all out. When I have a book contest, he chooses the winner from tennis balls numbered and thrown in his toy box. [see photos]. They correlate to a list of names. We have fun.

Who is Bogey's best pet-pal?

Teddy, a labradoodle.

What's Bogey's best quality?

His humanity.

What’s the most amusing thing Bogey does? The most frustrating?

He runs away so my husband comes to "find" him on the golf cart.

Gerrie Ferris Finger won The Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Minotaur Best First Traditional Novel Competition for The End Game, which was released by St. Martin's Minotaur in April 2010.

Among the early praise for
The End Game:
A well-research plot and snappy dialogue - plus some fine rail-yard K-9 detecting by Buddy, a German shepherd, and Jed, a Labrador retriever - keep the action moving.
--Publishers Weekly
Read an excerpt from The End Game, and learn more about the book and author at Gerrie Ferris Finger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 14, 2010

Diane Hammond & Petey and Haagen

Who is in the photo at right?

The woman in the photo is me, Diane Hammond, novelist and pushover. The puppy is boychik Haagen MacDoggin, then four months old and the best Pembroke corgi puppy ever. Don’t take my word for it—ask anyone. Really. The second photo is of Petey, the best adult Pembroke corgi ever. Period.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We often go to Starbucks to break up a long afternoon. The dogs think it’s very genteel.

What’s brewing?

Cappuccino (me) and water (them).

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A molasses cookie for me if the cafe has them, which they usually don’t, and madelaines for them, which they usually do. Then why am I the one with a weight problem?

How did you and Petey and Haagen come together?

You know how this one goes. Your daughter wants, no, needs a dog. She’s thirteen, and a social underachiever, and it’s breaking your heart. She chooses the breed, finds the breeder, makes the pitch, is offered the dog--himself less than successful in his six scant months, having bilged out of the stud pool and sent back on account of an irregularity in one eye. So you say yes, you’ll take the dog, knowing your life will change forever but believing—I repeat, believing, which tells you something about our household habit of baseless optimism—that this will be your daughter’s responsibility and salvation. Ah, but no—he, Petey, becomes yours, instead, in three weeks flat.

And it is a further mark of your goodness—or pushoverability—that you believe Petey is suffering in his life as an only dog belonging to a writer. What is his life, after all, but lying beneath your desk all day? So you buy him a puppy of his own. Enter Haagen MacDoggin. For whom you fly from Oregon to southern California. And who falls instantly, deeply and hopelessly in love with your husband. Which is perfectly fine, since Petey is yours.

Do Petey and Haagen have any influence on your writing?

I tell them they’re my muse and muse-in-training, but we all know that the only effect they have on my writing is to interrupt it at regular intervals so they can go potty. Which is their right.

How did Petey and Haagen get their names? Do they have any aliases?

All our animals (six cats as well as the dogs) have multiple aliases. Petey’s name came from the breeder as Peeping Tom—or PT for short. We changed it to Petey, feeling we owed him that much. He is also known as Mr. Dog, a designation used at least half the time. Haagen got his name before we’d ever laid eyes on him, so-named by my husband when we thought we’d move to Scotland. His full name is Haagen MacDoggin. We let people think we named him after the ice cream, though, because that’s easier.

What are their chase-objects of choice?

As a herding dog, Petey lives for the mornings when he can run off-leash and flat-out into the heart of a flock of Canada geese. They take off with a great noise and beating of wings and he couldn’t be happier. He is currently teaching Haagen, now five months old, this important skill.

What are dogs' favorite toys?

Ponderosa pine cones are the hands-down favorite, though a pig’s ear is a close second. In fact, being very food-motivated, anything that can be eaten is just fine. Otherwise, a soft plush toy is beloved, as are empty plastic beverage bottles, which crackle in a satisfying way when flattened and chewed.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Petey’s best pet-pal is Haagen. Haagen’s best pet-pal is Petey. Neat, huh?

What is each dog's best quality?

Petey’s best quality is his gentleness with Haagen—who can be, let’s face it, pretty irritating in that puppy way. Haagen’s best quality is his indiscriminate delight in everything around him. Both dogs’ mutual best quality is their ability to love us without reservation.

What is the most amusing thing each dog does?

Both sleep on their backs, as corgis are wont to do [photo, above right].

What is the most frustrating thing each dog does?

Both herd our six cats, rounding them up for breakfast and again for dinner. This is endlessly irritating (at least to the cats), and the cacophony of barking and hissing can fray the nerves (ours).

Diane Hammond, the author of Going to Bend and Homesick Creek, is the recipient of an Oregon Arts Commission literary fellowship and served as a spokesperson for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

In 2008
she applied the Page 69 Test to her novel Hannah’s Dream.

Earlier this month
she applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Seeing Stars.

an excerpt from Seeing Stars, and learn more about the book and author at Diane Hammond's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sharon Castellanos & Cleo

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Sharon Castellanos, a writer and photographer in San Francisco. Cleo found my husband and I five years while we were visiting our SPCA. They said she was between two-five years but every since then, because we adore her so much, we have agreed she must have been two. She was surrendered to a shelter up north so no one really knows her history. We think she is about seven now. She is likely part Husky, part German Shepherd but some folks and even local children she meets on her walks wonder if she is part wolf.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning she wakes me up like a clock at 8:00 AM for her morning routine, which includes my making her breakfast then lots of cuddles and petting while I have my coffee.

What's brewing?

In the morning I love a double espresso, sometimes with a shot of cream! We have a great Krups machine that does it all including the occasional coffee or cappuccino.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

For breakfast it is usually a piece of fruit and some yogurt, though the weekends will often include eggs and bacon.

Any treat for Cleo on this occasion?

Cleo gets fed twice daily salmon and sweet potato kibble, with a scoop of low fat cottage cheese, a scoop of flax meal and a protein like cooked ground beef. She eats well and is already a big girl. Her treats are the occasional lamb jerky or a tiny piece of bacon or tiny corner of peanut butter toast on the weekends.

How were you and Cleo united?

In 2005 we were ready for a dog. We knew we wanted a big dog and the SF/SPCA has a great facility so we started visiting every week or so. One afternoon we saw Cleo inside a room with another dog. Cleo remained on the little bed just staring at us serenely while the other dog jumped and barked at the window. Something about her stuck with us. My husband went on his own the next week and when the staff member let him inside the room, Cleo came over and put her head in his lap. He was hooked. Since the SPCA doesn’t “hold” a dog for you he rushed to get me so we could bring her home that night. We’ve been a tight knit pack ever since.

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

Cleo came with her name. I don’t know who gave it to her but in the beginning I accidentally called her Chloe a few times. Since she never responded to that, it was up to me to learn her name. Also as we have gotten to know her personality, Cleo fits. Not only does she have certain feline aspects like her tiny feet, her love of rubbing her body along the sides of the bed and couch, she has the regal bearing of Cleopatra. She has many aliases with the most popular being Kitten Feet, Trotsky, Kitty Kaboom and of course Grouchy Puppy.

Why “of course Grouchy Puppy”?

Cleo is the muse behind Grouchy Puppy™ a dog character and a website that I’m in the process of creating. She inspired the name because she is so often misunderstood, besides how can you be afraid of or mad at a grouchy puppy? Last year I started her blog, Cleo’s Day because we are impressed by her ability to demonstrate simple principles like unconditional love and tolerance. I’m in the middle now of writing a series of children’s books starring Cleo, the Grouchy Puppy. We hope to use the character to teach children and really people of all ages.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Squirrel, postman and man in brown! Her tolerance unfortunately doesn’t yet include these three. She will sit and stare up into a tree for hours at a squirrel, if we let her. I feel so bad for any postman because she turns into Cujo whenever she sees or hears one. If we are out on our walk, I make sure to cross the street so the postman isn’t afraid. The same goes for the man in brown. Seriously any package delivered, gets a more thorough going over by her nose than any TSA inspection at the airport.

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

Squeaky toy wins every time! She doesn’t care much for fetch unless she thinks it will make us happy but even that motivation doesn’t last longer than two tosses. Her idea of heaven is a plush squeaky toy every time. It is only after the squeaker dies that she starts to lose a little interest and even then she will give the toy a few bites out of love.

Where is Cleo's favorite place for an outing?

Cleo absolutely loves Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco with its wide open grassy meadow. It’s perfect for lots of running, sniffing and chasing the low flying swallows. She also loves Fort Funston because of its many smells, occasional stinky carcass to drop down onto and rub her body all over, the wide beach area to run fast over while chasing shore birds and the chance to dip into and bite ocean water! These two public areas are off leash so a favorite with many local dog owners and dog walkers.

Who is Cleo's best pet-pal?

Cleo adores any little dog she meets. She will make this soft grunting-whine sound when we encounter a wee pup on the street or at the beach. She’ll make herself small to play with them then suddenly pop her butt high into the hair and pounce like a reindeer. She loves that they will often let her slobber all over their neck while play fighting.

What's Cleo's most endearing quality?

Her most endearing quality is how loving and grateful she is. She seems to know how lucky she is. She loves to sidle up to people and lean in real close and hard (leaving lots of her fur/hair on your clothes!) for long moments. She will walk up to you and put her head deep into your lap and leave it there so that you can pet her. Her fur is really soft and being so tall, it is easy for you to cuddle with her and rub her tummy while she is standing. It is also unusual for a dog how long she will look you in the eye and hold your gaze, conveying to you how much she adores you in return.

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

Proudest moment – digging around in her basket and finding just the right toy that she wants to use to show you in the moment how happy she is that you’re home. She is picky and wants the right toy that allows her to put her head down, with the toy in her mouth, squeak the toy madly while her neck fur is fluffed fully. It’s a sight to see. The most embarrassing is when she chooses the wrong toy, like her crab because the claws are long enough that she has stepped on one and almost tripped head first in front of you.

Visit Cleo's blog, become her fan on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gwyn Cready & Socks

Who is in the photo at right?

This is me, romance novelist Gwyn Cready, and my four-year-old silkie terrier, Socks. He is my writing partner, keeping my feet warm and house safe while I type.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I needed the java jolt. I've got a copyedited manuscript due in a week and I have barely made a dent in it. I'll need to be up for three days straight to get it done ("Yes, another shot of espresso, please.")

What's brewing?

I'm having the house blend at my favorite independent coffee shop, Uptown Coffee, here in Mt. Lebanon, Pa, a suburb of Pittsburgh. I've had many a productive day here. I'm loath to admit it, but at home I'm an instant coffee drinker. (ignoring sounds of hisses and boos). I just love Nescafe Hazelnut Instant. What can I say? And I like my coffee the way I like my heroes: straight, dark and hot.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

You know I love a good biscotti--dark chocolate with almonds if my fav.

Any treat for Socks on this occasion?

Well, chocolate is no good for dogs, so he's waiting for the meal portion of the day, where in our house at least, you can always count on some messy eater (or subversive dog lover) to drop some meaty morsels on the floor.

How did you and your dog come together?

Socks is our very first dog. My husband and I grew up in cat families and have always been cat people. However, from the time my daughter could speak, she said she wanted a dog. I'd say there was an accidental baby switch at the hospital, but she looks so much like me, I don't think I'd have a leg to stand on. We finally bowed to the pressure for Christmas, when she was eleven. We picked a Yorkshire terrier puppy, since we thought it would be best to dip our toe in the canine world with a dog who was cat-sized. Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately), while we adopted a black Yorkshire terrier from the breeder we expected to be about seven pounds, he grew up to be a white silkie terrier who tips the scales at 13 pounds. So much for expectations. We couldn't imagine a better dog, though. He's a little dog who thinks he's a big dog, so he's a great watch dog. He's also a great litter mate to our daughter, who shares her bed with him each night. Suffice to say, we are totally in love with him and can't imagine how we lived without a dog before. My daughter wears a ridiculously self-satisfied smile whenever we talk about it.

How did your dog get his name? Does he have any aliases?

Socks is a nickname. His whole name is Socrates. And since he doesn't have markings that make him look like he's wearing socks, I'm sure a lot of people are confused. Actually, we wish we would have waited to name him. We think he'd make a better Barkley or Hoover. However, I think my son would have made a better Jamie, and we're not getting anywhere on that, either.

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

He loves his plush ivory-billed woodpecker that makes bird noises.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

It took Socks and the cats (we have three) two years to come to an uneasy peace. I'm sure they got pretty darned tired being chased around the house, but when he finally grew out of his puppy phase, they were happy to ignore him. He loves the mail carrier, so that's not a problem, and he has actually killed a mole once on his walk. The poor little guy made the mistake of running in Socks's path. Terriers have generally been bred to clear mines of rodents, so Socks connected to the instinctual part of his brain, picked the mole up, shook him hard once and tossed the dead body away, all in a matter of a split second.

Does Socks have any influence on your writing?

Yes. He brings to heart to all my stories. I try to imbue the hero with the same loyalty and courage. As usual in the human world, though, he falls a tad short.

Who is Socks' best pet-pal?

His litter mate, my daughter.

What is Socks' best quality?

Eternal good cheer.

If Socks could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I'd eat all-meat meals and be required to use ill-designed chopsticks to get the food to my mouth.

What’s the most amusing thing Socks does? The most frustrating?

He goes bonkers if anyone pulls out a suitcase. I guess he doesn't want the pack leaving without him. And if we leave him alone with a view of the outside, he'll bark at every creature, great and small, that dares to walk by his house.

Gwyn Cready has a BA in English literature and an MBA in marketing from the University of Chicago. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

Her books include the RITA® Award-winning Seducing Mr. Darcy and the recently released Flirting with Forever.

Read an excerpt from Flirting with Forever.

Visit Gwyn Cready's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dawn Kairns & Maddie

Who is in the photo at right?

That would be Maddie and me cuddling in our camper just after waking up -- right about coffee/tea time! I’m Dawn Kairns, author of Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life, and a former nurse practitioner and psychotherapist. Maddie, our 5 year old female lab, and I are a therapy dog team and visit with high risk kids.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every day is an occasion of play for Maddie, either in our yard, or on a hiking trail. She is a very high-energy girl! On a spring or summer day the occasion for “coffee” may be in a warm spot in our yard. Or we may stop at the Brewing Market after a hike or after our visit to the juvenile center as a therapy dog team.

What's brewing?

For me it's tea -- a nice cup of British breakfast and green tea combined, with honey and cream. Yum!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Occasionally a piece of zucchini bread or pumpkin bread -- but most often it's just the tea.

Any treat for Maddie on this occasion?

If we’re home I'll often give her a raw bone, which she just loves. At the Brewing Market I will often grab a pigs ear from McGuckin's, the hardware store right next door.

How were you and Maddie united?

My husband and I were looking for a female yellow lab to adopt, preferably one year old or younger (Maggie had been a black lab and I wanted to make sure I didn't make comparisons by getting another black lab). We had just lost Chloe (the 11-year-old Golden retriever we adopted a year after Maggie died) a couple of months earlier. We plugged our criteria into The Denver Dumb Friends League website, and it linked to the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter and, lo and behold, there was Maddie’s precious black face, and it really called to me. She was estimated to be 10 months old. I was unable to get through to the shelter. After a little magic and what I have always felt was some nudging from "the other side," I contacted the shelter the next day and got through. I called my husband who was visiting his elderly father and the three of us met at The Denver Municipal Animal Shelter. When my husband and I went back to Maddie's kennel, her response was like, "well, there you are finally! I've been waiting for you -- what took you so long?" Her name was not Maddie at the time, but a very weird name, Pita Cruz, which she didn't even respond to. The connection was immediate for the three of us. When we left the meeting room, she looked for us. I believe she knew we were her new people. It was her joyful spirit that grabbed us. We figured if she could be this happy in a shelter, and sniff curiously under the kennels we passed, wagging her tail while dogs barked or growled aggressively at her, that she was one happy girl! She'd been picked up by animal control roaming the streets of Denver. We had to wait a week to bring her home (for her to be spayed). It is funny, from the moment we began calling her “Maddie,” she responded. She clearly liked her new name.

You wrote a book about a dog named "Maggie" and your present dog is called "Maddie"--has the similarity of the names confused anyone?

Sometimes, but it's no big deal. You'd be surprised how many people I meet who call me "Maggie" after reading or learning about my book!

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

Her actual name is "Magdalene." I always thought Mary Magdalene got a raw deal as far as how she was portrayed, and something inside told me to name our next dog after her. Plus it gave me a connection to the name "Maggie," although Maggie's actual name was “Magic.” Sure, Maddie has a few aliases: Maddie the Pooh, Girly, Pups, and Baby Soul are the most common.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Oh sure, she'd go after a squirrel or cat (other than ours) simply because it's moving. I don't know what she would actually do if she were face-to-face with it, though.

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

All of the above! She is obsessed, especially with a ball. She would do this all day.

Who is Maddie's best pet-pal?

Our 17-year-old cat, Cinnamon, is definitely her best pal. They sleep together on the same bed at night, and Maddie nudges her to play and makes puppy sounds around Cinnamon like I've never heard her do anywhere else. When we go on a trip and take both of them, they share the backseat, with Cinnamon often curled up right against Maddie's tummy.

What's Maddie's most endearing quality?

She has many. Her ever present joy and happiness reflects in her constantly wagging tail. And if I'm upset, particularly if I'm crying, Maddie comes and licks my face, and lays right up against me.

What's Maddie's proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

I think her proudest moment is how she really gets it that her job with the kids when we are doing therapy dog work is to bring them out, to engage them. If some kids are hanging back for whatever reason, she goes over and tries to involve them. As far as her most embarrassing moment, that was this winter when she was playing ball on the beach in South Padre Island, Texas. She was running backwards (which she is rather adept at doing) so she could keep her eye on where I was going to throw the ball -- and clips this poor, unsuspecting woman sideways, and knocked her flat on her face. I was mortified! Thank heavens the woman was okay and was very kind about the whole incident.

Your book is titled Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life. How did Maggie change your life?

Oh, in so many ways. Maggie taught me who dogs are, and so much about who I am. Primarily Maggie brought me into my heart and showed me how to trust myself, my intuition; and from there my life changed. Through my relationship with Maggie I became more genuine, more self expressive.

Learn more about Maddie, Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life, and the author at Dawn Kairns' website and blog.

a Facebook fan of Maggie: the Dog Who Changed My Life.

--Marshal Zeringue