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