Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wendy Whittingham & Winnie Favaro

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Wendy Whittingham. I am an artist, writer, animal lover, mom, sister, daughter, friend, who much like the Wendy in the Peter Pan tale, has no intention of growing up!

My dog's name is Winnie Favaro. She is a female Cairn terrier, 2-years-old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Not coffee this time. We stopped for a cold drink after a long uphill hike.

What's brewing?

Tim Horton's iced cappuccino.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not usually.

Any treat for Winnie on this occasion?

A plain Timbit as always, and a drink of water. After all, we use the drive thru!

How were you and Winnie united?

I came home one day and there she was - a cute fluff ball surprise!

Does Winnie have any influence on your art and writing?

Yes! Without Winnie under my feet I'd be lacking a foot rest and writing would be a tad uncomfortable. She is also a pretty good listener as long as I ma rubbing her belly. When her ears go back, it means she really likes what I've written! It's nice to have such a keen fan base. Winnie also has her own Facebook profile and lots of four-footed friends that she keeps in touch with regularly.

How did Winnie get her name?

I didn't name her, but apparently Winnie is sort of named after me and that round tubby bear-like character. Um, I really don't see the connection....

Where is Winnie's favorite place for an outing?

The beach.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

She will chase anything that moves quickly, from a leaf or dustball, to a skateboarder or city bus.

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

A stuffed hedgehog is her favorite squeaky toy, but she also loves playing catch with a tennis ball.

Who is Winnie's best pet-pal?

Pangu, her Korean step-brother. When they dog-wrestle it sounds like a major showdown but it's all good fun and no one gets hurt.

What is Winnie's best quality?

Her dynamic personality. I know people often say this about their dogs but I swear she is part human. Winnie just sparkles with life, at the same time she's very sweet and affectionate.

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

Winnie would make me have super powers so I could keep up with her as she explores the world.

What is Winnie's proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

Proudest moment: hiked up to Rattlesnake Point, a cliff which is one of the highest spots along the Niagara escarpment.

Most embarrassing: rolled around on a fish carcass at the beach. I don't know what came over her bus she had a good scrubbing once back home!

Visit Wendy Whittingham's website and Winnie Favaro's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 28, 2010

Caryn Casey & Legacy and Impulse

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Caryn Casey. I am co-owner of a company called Much More Than Me and a writer specializing the past several years in dog rescue issues and stories. My book, UNDERDOGS: Valuable Information and Stories of Transformation is a culmination of this work; part storytelling, part resource. This photo represents what I refer to as a “mommy sandwich;” both dogs on either side: Legacy our Border Collie mix, 12, to my left and Impulse, our toy Poodle (just shy of 11) to the right.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I rise early in the morning to feed both Legacy and Impulse their breakfast. Organic coffee from charming local café, San Marco, is brewed in the kitchen, and my girls follow me back to my bedroom where we cuddle on the bed and I begin work on the computer. Some days we disperse and it is just me with a cup of vanilla infused coffee and my work, but I love it when they are near me.

What's brewing?

It can sometimes be Green Tea but usually a mild organic decaf blend prepared by Nahir at San Marco Café in Burbank, CA. and brewed at home.
Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Since I drink it in the morning, there are no treats. Those would need to come later!

Any treat for Impulse and Legacy on this occasion?

Their bellies are usually full from their breakfast, so they are content.

How were you and your dogs united?

Fate brought us to both dogs in opposing ways and distinct ways. After deeply mourning the loss of our first beloved dog, Rafferty, I felt if there was to be another dog in my life, it would need to be one with special needs. We adopted Legacy through Homeward Bound Dog Rescue in Minnesota; she has deformed front paws and a background that included mistreatment. I have often said, Impulse came to us in a way that would never happen again. Ten years ago, we purchased her from a pet store after I felt an almost indescribable and immediate attachment to her. I had never purchased a dog before that in any other way than through a rescue. I didn’t know then what I have come to learn about puppy mills and what I was supporting at the time by buying her, but she has had some health issues, including becoming blind and I feel in my heart she was destined to be ours.

How did Impulse and Legacy get their names? Do they have any aliases?

Legacy’s name was predetermined even before we saw her. I knew that in order to honor Rafferty for all that she had meant in our lives and for that desire to keep on loving future dogs, our next pup would be named Legacy. And so it was. Impulse, well, as I described, we did want a play mate for Legacy, but the circumstances of her coming home to us were rather impulsive (another thing I do not advocate!)and she was so tiny and imp-like. Legs, Legaloo, and Leggy, which has nothing to do with her paws, are the usually nicknames for Legacy and Impulse has too many to mention, most of them ridiculous and random and often contain some kind of vegetable or soft cuddly animal. (Sweet-pea, pumpkin, lambkin just to name a few.) I do refer to both of them as “Bups,” which is embarrassingly short for “Bunny Pups.” It’s a kind of sickness, I think.
Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

My dogs have everything to do with my writing. As I have specialized the last several years in writing about issues related to dog rescue as well as the celebration of life-altering stories when adoption is done well, my dogs fuel my passion to not only want to help others make better choices for dogs, but my gratitude for them helps keep me emotionally anchored when I am faced with so many sad scenarios or seemingly hopeless situations in my work and writing.

Where is their favorite place for an outing?

They love our lake home in Minnesota; riding on the boat with their fur blowing back in the wind is always memorable, but generally they still get visibly excited daily when it is time to go for a walk; at the park or in the neighborhood are equally wonderful.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Impulse would ask them in for a cookie, Legacy would scare them away with her bark alone.

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

Marrow bones are heaven, Kongs filled with peanut butter are crowd pleasers but neither chase anything, and if they did, they might run to it but we would have to go and get it and throw it again.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

I’m going to have to say in all honesty, our dogs are very bonded with my husband Jim, and love our daughters, Siera and Carlie, however, I am their best pal; we have loving, excitable reunions when I just come in from getting the mail.

What is each dog's best quality?

Legacy’s best quality has been in showing us that when trust is earned, positive, fulfilling change can come. When she first came home with us, she hid frequently and did not welcome a lot of attention, and now she relishes it. She shows us what she can do before we offer her help; she is beautiful, and watching her walls come down has been profound. Impulse is love. She embodies it with every cell of her body and gives it to everyone she meets; she has a body you just need to hold and a face you want to kiss during times of joy, but particularly in times of stress and sadness. My dog’s are my Achilles Heels.

If Impulse and Legacy could change one things about you, what would it be?

Live in the moment, life is good, all will be okay, and treats should be welcomed and encouraged.

What is each dog's proudest moment?

Truthfully, both dogs inspire pride often particularly due to their individual needs. Legacy has had a few surgeries on her paws/leg over the years designed to improve the quality of her life- nothing too invasive. She has never developed hard pads on the bottom of her paws so we have created special socks for her to wear sometimes. Watching her maneuver; her overall attitude of “can” not “can’t” makes us very proud. Legacy making her way down twenty somewhat crooked concrete steps to our dock, and her then jumping into a waiting boat is nothing less than amazing every time. (Of course we are right there to help if necessary, and both dogs wear life jackets.) When Impulse’s blindness first snuck up on her, she navigated her world in a way that defied her diagnosis of Progressive Retinal Atrophy. When she got cataracts on top of that in very short order, the veil sort of went down and we could see her learning to adapt. At first it wrenched my heart to see her bump into things, but then I realized she was still as happy as ever. Her ability to be the same joyful spirit despite daily challenges makes us very proud.

The most embarrassing?

I’ve probably embarrassed them far more than they have ever embarrassed me.

The dogs couldn’t be more different physically, but daily wear matching colorful bandanas to show their sisterly connection. Legacy’s gait is somewhat like Charlie Chaplin when she really gets moving, but a limp is also present depending on how she switches her weight. While on their walks, Impulse has always waited for Legacy if she gets ahead of her and that hasn’t changed one bit even with her blindness. She just stops, and turns back to look for her sister and to wait. People often come out of their houses to greet the dogs if they are walking in the neighborhood; newcomers are concerned Legacy has something caught in her foot, not realizing she is just fine, and those who know them smile and share a bit of wonderment at our “furs,” and how they navigate the world around them.

Visit the
Much More Than Me website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jeffrey Marks & Scooter and Penny

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Jeffrey Marks, and I’m the author of a number of literary biographies of some of the mystery writers of the 1940s and 1950s (Who Was That Lady?, Atomic Renaissance, and Anthony Boucher). I’m currently working on a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, the man who wrote the Perry Mason series.

I have two dogs, Scooter the West Highland terrier (white) and Tuppence (aka Penny), the Scottish terrier. Scooter is a 2 year old male, and Penny is a 5 month old female.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Saturdays tend to be pet days around here. Penny is taking an obedience class at the local petstore and so we sometimes stop and shop when we can. This week we’re working on the “leave it” command. Penny has very good taste in literature. She ripped off the covers of two of my Josephine Tey paperbacks. So today’s command is a very welcome one.

What's brewing?

Dunkin Donuts coffee, black and steaming hot. I won’t go as far as to say that we bought a house near there on purpose, but it is definitely one of the perks of our house. It’s also what’s in our cupboard at home.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

On a good day, no. I try to watch what I eat. On a bad day, it’s a marble-frosted donut. They are my Achilles’ Heel of healthy eating.

Any treat for Scooter and Penny on this occasion?

Another nice thing about the neighborhood is that the local petstore is in the same mall as the Dunkin Donuts. No treats today because Penny will be getting treats as rewards for her training, but normally they don’t want for much in the way of treats.

How were you and your dogs united?

We got Scooter after our first Scottie passed away. We were very sad about it, and suddenly I won the NCAA basketball pool and more than enough money to buy a new pet.

Both of the dogs came from reputable breeders near my family’s hometown in eastern Ohio. When I went to pick up Scooter, he jumped from the breeder’s arms right inside my coat and stayed there all the way home. He’s always been a cuddler. We picked up Penny in the midst of a nasty thunderstorm; she’s one who likes to make an entrance.

How did Scooter and Penny get their names? Do they have any aliases?

Scooter was named Scooter when we got him, and the name has stuck. It definitely fits. He is always on the go and scooting from place to place. I only wish I had a fraction of his energy.

Penny is short for Tuppence. My Scotties are named for famous mystery detectives. My first was Ellery (for Ellery Queen) and currently for Tuppence Beresford, an Agatha Christie character.

I like the unusual names. Any reason for them?

Well, my grandmother had 6 rat terriers and named every one of them Buster. It was very easy to remember their names, but I didn’t think that they were very original. So I like picking a name that tells you something about the dog and about the owner. For me, it’s my love of mystery. My friends made a game of coming up with mystery names for Penny.

Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

Not the actual writing, but the process of writing and my love of mystery are tied to my love of dogs.

My first two mystery anthologies involved dogs. Canine Crimes and Canine Christmas came out about 12 years ago. I bought my first Scottie with the royalties from the first book. As I mentioned, he was named Ellery, after Ellery Queen who had written a book called The Black Dog Mystery, which was about Scotties. I also have a copy of The Kennel Murder Case, which is a S.S. Van Dine book that also involves Scotties. So he was a very literary dog, and he actually did some television interviews with me, which was great fun.

In terms of my actual writing, I get up early to write. In the very early hours, the dogs are still asleep and the house is quiet. So I get a lot more done than if I try to write later in the day. Then one of them always wants to go out or play. I’m finding that Erle Stanley Gardner was a dog lover, so it’s been fun to research and write about another author’s love of my favorite animal.

Where is their favorite place for an outing?

Currently it’s our backyard. We just moved into a house with over half an acre from a condo, and they can’t get enough of their own space. They just got a nice little wading pool for the sunny days, and they just chill out in the pool and have fun. Penny with her all black coat gets hot fast and so she’s always the first one in the pool.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Birds. Scooter is fascinated by birds and always wants to run up into the middle of any flock he sees. It frustrates him when they don’t want to stick around and play with him.

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

Scooter is obsessed with squeaky toys. He gets into the coat closet and tries to find one buried in a pocket. Penny has figured this out and torments him with squeaky sounds whenever she can. Last night, she decided to find a squeaky toy after we’d all gone to bed. So there was a bit of chaos last night.

Penny is enamored of sticks. Nothing suits her more than to proudly carry a stick around in her mouth in the backyard.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Scooter and Penny are like an old married couple. They bicker, but they can’t stand to be away from each other for very long. They love to play together and chase each other around the house. Carrying a cup of coffee can be a challenge if they’re at top speed down the hall.

What is each dog's best quality?

Scooter is the loyal one. He’s always at your side, checking things out and being your best friend. He’s the one who curls up at the foot of the bed at night and you know he’ll be there in the morning. He’s a great cuddler and likes to curl up and watch TV with you.

Penny is the comedian. When we play, she gets this cute little smile on her face. It’s so funny to see her try to be a big dog, even though she’s not at all. Penny will never want for self-confidence.

If Scooter and Penny could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Probably that I get rid of this pesky little thing called a job and stay home to entertain them all day. I am going to Austin in two weeks on a research fellowship, and I’m going to miss them terribly. I’ve been known to stop strangers on the street and pet their dogs when I’m touring for a book, so I do miss them when I have to go away.

What is each dog's proudest moment? The most embarrassing?

Well, right now, Penny is being potty-trained, so every day that we go without an accident is a proud moment at our house. It’s rather like the old 12-step mantra, “One day at a time.” I’ve been told that female Scotties are among the hardest dogs to housebreak, and I can believe it.

Scooter definitely holds the record for most embarrassing moment. We lived in a condo building prior to this house with four units meeting in a common area. One day when Scooter went out in the common area, he ducked into one of the neighbor’s homes without warning. There’s nothing more embarrassing than to knock on a door and say “Hello. I believe my dog just came in here.” Fortunately, the neighbors were very kind about it. Over the two years we were there, he managed to do that to all 3 other condos in the building.

Visit Jeffrey Marks' website and check out his posts on the Little Blog of Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stefanie Pintoff & Ginger

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Stefanie Pintoff and I write crime fiction – usually in the company of Ginger, my six-year-old goldendoodle.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s morning. I actually like mornings – but before we face the day ahead, I require coffee, and she requires a walk. Today, that means Central Park, which is our favorite place to go together. I think about what I’m going to write that day. She thinks about the interesting smells, whether she’ll find a stray tennis ball, and all the people she’ll meet!

What's brewing?

Now that the weather’s warm: iced coffee with sugar and milk.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not today, though sometimes there’s a muffin or part of a bagel. And yes, I always share with Ginger. I can’t resist the look in her big brown eyes!

Any treat for Ginger on this occasion?

Ginger gets two or three peanut-butter/oatmeal flavored dog biscuits.

How were you and Ginger united?

We brought Ginger into our home when our previous dog, a west highland terrier named Bailey, was well into her golden years. We’d always loved golden retrievers, and we hoped that the “poodle” combo would alleviate shedding as well as allergy concerns.

Some people can’t imagine life without a dog, and I’m one of them. When Bailey inevitably left us, Ginger was a tremendous comfort. She allowed our family to grieve for Bailey specifically, not for the loss of everything associated with having a dog.

Does Ginger have any influence on your writing?

Ginger is my faithful writing companion. When I work everyday, she curls up under my desk and naps until it’s time for our next break.

I understand Ginger's first book came out before yours. What's the story of her book?

Ginger’s breeder, Kathryn Lee of Rhode Island’s Make Way for Doodles, was writing (what I believe) was the first book published about Goldendoodles. Her editor hoped one of her dogs would be the “cover dog” – and something about one of Ginger’s pictures caught her eye.

Professional animal photographer Mary Bloom came to take some shots of Ginger – it was actually the first time anyone in our family had been professionally photographed! A couple months later, we got the official word: Ginger had been chosen for the cover.

We were thrilled when the book came out – family and friends bought copies, watched the Amazon numbers, and recommended it to everyone we knew.

Not unlike when a certain mystery novel came out a few years later…

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

Ginger is named for the color of her fur – which especially as a puppy, resembled the spice.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Occasionally a squirrel … but Ginger’s pretty exclusively focused on tennis balls.

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

Ginger is a retriever through-and-through, so it’s always about the tennis ball.

Who is Ginger's best pet-pal?

Ginger’s first best pal was her big sister Bailey the westie. Now, Ginger loves any westie she meets; recent neighboring westie Chloe was a particular favorite!

What's Ginger's best quality?

Ginger is 52 lbs of love, devotion, and happiness; she never seems to have a mean thought or a bad mood.

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

The most amusing: her slavish devotion to her tennis ball.

The most frustrating: the same dog who doesn’t budge from the foot of the bed on weekday mornings is an early riser on weekends, pushing a tennis ball in our faces til we wake up!

What is Ginger’s proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

Ginger’s proudest moment came when she had to be interviewed with us before we bought our NYC coop apartment. Much to our relief, she was on her best behavior and passed with flying colors!

Ginger’s most embarrassing moment comes around every winter. She is terrified of snowmen – meaning ordinary snowmen, just like kids build every snowfall. She balks at the idea of coming within ten feet of one.

Stefanie Pintoff's debut novel, In the Shadow of Gotham, won the Edgar® Award for Best First Novel and the St. Martin’s Press / Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel Award, while also earning nominations for the Agatha and RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards. Her second novel in the series, A Curtain Falls, released in May 2010.

The Page 69 Test: In the Shadow of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: A Curtain Falls.

Learn more about her books at
Stefanie Pintoff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 21, 2010

Linda M. Faulkner & Delaney and Charlotte

Who is in the photo at right?

The human is me, Linda M. Faulkner, and the dogs are Delaney (pound-puppy lab mix, green collar, cute butt), the late Tyson (handsome Rottie on the right), and Patience (headless Rottie on the left). When I’m not hugging my puppies on Christmas morning, I work in the insurance business, write insurance classes for myself and a number of clients, or write mystery/suspense novels.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

To express my request for you to rename your blog: Coffee or Tea with a Canine. Some of us do not drink coffee—we drink tea. (Although we do absolutely ADORE coffee ice cream and coffee icing on donuts.)

What's brewing?

My preferred brew is Irish Breakfast tea, which I do literally brew in either a teapot or in a Mr. Coffee coffeepot. We have two different Mr. Coffees both at home and at the office – and God help the person who mistakenly brews coffee in the tea-maker.

Any goodies to go with the tea?

That depends. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but enjoy a good shortbread cookie or piece of butter pound cake.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

The dogs in my house don’t get fed people food. Dog biscuits (and kitty biscuits) are distributed each evening about 8pm. One of my dogs, Charlotte, suffers from allergies and we have “special” treats for her. Sometimes it’s a juggling act keeping her from scooping up the other critters’ snacks.

How did you and your dogs come together?

I adopted Delaney (lab/pointer mix) from the pound when he was 8 weeks old. He’s 10 years old now, and you’ll see that his chin has whitened considerably from the time he was a puppy. The two Rotties were my husband’s dogs before we were married and, when we blended our families, Tyson, Patience, and Delaney got along famously. (Tyson was also a pound puppy, Patience was obtained from a breeder in PA.) After we moved from Massachusetts to Montana, Charlotte (the German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix) was adopted from the local shelter and joined the pack. We lost Tyson and Patience within a year of each other between 2008 and 2009; Delaney and Charlotte are the only puppies left in the household. (They get along famously with the kitties, Grace and Max.)

Do your dogs have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely. In fact, Tyson and Delaney were assigned aliases and actually appeared in my first mystery novel, Second Time Around. (Charlotte appeared as herself.) Unlike humans, the puppies absolutely adore the attention and don’t mind the world knowing their secrets. They also share some pretty good plot ideas, as well.

How did your dogs get their names?

Tyson came with his name; my husband figured that he’d need lots of Patience when he obtained her as a 10-week old; Delaney is a Celtic name that means “black;” and Charlotte just seemed to fit.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Try bears, deer, and turkeys. None of the dogs ever barked at the wildlife until we adopted Charlotte. Her protective streak is highly developed and she barks like crazy at the wildlife—especially the wild turkeys. It’s funny…we can tell what kind of critter is outside by her bark. Since we see the deer more often, she only gets marginally distressed when they appear. She really hates the turkeys and goes ballistic when the occasional bear strolls by the sliding door in the dining room.

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

Delaney used to love those stuffed toys with the squeaky things inside. They’d last for days. Until my husband and the Rotties moved in. End of stuffed toys, beginning of Nylabones.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

All the dogs get along terrific with the cats. Right now, however, the funniest dog/cat relationship is between Charlotte and Max, our black cat. Max will walk up to Charlotte and rub against her legs, just like he does to my husband and me. Then she leans down and licks him all over the face and head—and he lets her! During the winter, when the woodstove is going, Max, Delaney, and Charlotte lie in front of the stove, lined up like sardines. Unfortunately, they’re camera-shy and we’ve been unable to record that on film.

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

That I go to work every day. They LOVE weekends and says off and constantly beg me to stay home. They especially love when my husband works on the occasional Saturday morning. No sooner does Stephen leave than they all jump up on the bed with me. I usually wind up with a sore back because I become surrounded by animals and can’t move – but I sure do get warm.

What is each dog's most endearing quality?

Delaney tilts his head to the side when I talk to him. Charlotte can be extremely irritating but she’s so needy and affectionate I can never stay irritated for long. She also has those really great German Shepherd ears and face.

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

The funniest thing they do is sit in front of my husband every night at 9pm. That’s pee-time and, no matter how long ago he took them out—whether it was three hours or three minutes—they still do the sit down and ask-to-go-out-thing at 9pm. Charlotte’s existence can be frustrating sometimes. She’s demanding and aggressive, poking her nose into everything. She thinks she’s the Alpha and has to be reminded, constantly, that she’s NOT the pack leader.

Why do you think so many writers have dogs?

Writers tend to be solitary people, spending a lot of time alone. Humans have a difficult time accepting that someone they love wants to bury her nose in a computer screen for hours at a time or enjoys living with (and talking to ) imaginary people on a regular basis. Dogs don’t find this type of behavior intolerable or weird. They don’t mind sitting beneath a writer’s feet and occasionally receiving an absent rub; neither do they mind when the lights are blazing at 2am. Dogs rock and writers know this.

Visit Linda M. Faulkner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lynn Kiele Bonasia & Kiele

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Kiele (pronounced Kee-lee), an 8-year-old mixed breed who we think is part lab (obvious), part border collie (she herds) and part chow (black tongue). And this is her mother, Lynn Kiele Bonasia, author of novels set on Cape Cod, the latest of which, Summer Shift, came out on June 1st from Touchstone/Simon & Schuster.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Today was the inaugural launch of our little boat in the Town Cove and, seeing as it was before 10 AM, naturally there was coffee involved.

What's brewing?

Trader Joe's fair trade Joe's Blend. Not so glamorous, I know. But it's cheap and it tastes good.

Any goodies to go with the coffee? Any treat for Kiele on this occasion?

No goodies or treats. Didn't want either of us to get seasick.

How were you and Kiele united?

Kiele came from an animal shelter in Broward County. We were living in Florida at the time. After our beloved golden retriever died, I swore I'd never want another dog. But then after a year, I found myself looking at pets up for adoption on their website. One day I saw Kiele. I took my son there and we just fell in love with her on the spot. She was very affectionate but also a bit shy.

Does Kiele have any influence on your writing?

Kiele is a great companion. I live alone and she fills the house with doggy goodness which, in turn, makes me happy which, in turn, creates a warm environment for me explore my creativity. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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

As you see, Kiele is my middle name, which was my maiden name. It was shortened from Lithuanian "Kieslauskis" but probably that's a good thing. "Here, Kieslauskis!! Good Kieslauskis" When we got her from the shelter, her name was "Blanchi." So we believe she's bilingual.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

UPS guy. And the raccoons who've taken up residence in the attic. (Don't ask.)

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

Kiele is like me. If you throw a ball to us, it hits us and falls to the ground. Then we look at it, shrug and walk away. Her favorite toy is a ratty old piece of rope that we play tug of war with.

Where is Kiele's favorite outdoor destination?

Nauset Harbor is at the end of our street. There's a little sandy, dog-friendly beach that Kiele gets to visit just about every day.

Who is Kiele's best pet-pal?

She gets along with most dogs but has no pet she plays with regularly.

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

I don't eat red meat, which means she doesn't either. Not until my kid comes home from college.

What is Kiele's best quality?

Unlike my golden, who loved to just take off, Kiele stays with me. When she's off the leash, she runs ahead but always checks back to make sure I'm in sight. And if I sit down on the beach, rather than roam off, she sits by my side. She's also just a friendly, affectionate, smart dog.

What is the most amusing thing Kiele does? The most frustrating?

Love when she tries to shake herself off while she's still in the water. And when she chases her own tail. Love watching her from the back, how her ears flap when I take her on walks. Cracks me up. The most frustrating thing, hands down, is how she sheds. For about 3 months every spring, you can just pull out tufts of hair. No matter how often I brush her, it just keeps coming. And it's white. And I love to wear black. Ugh.

Lynn Kiele Bonasia has been a freelance advertising copywriter for more than twenty years. She has published short fiction in The Seattle Review and The Miami Herald, among others. Her debut novel, Some Assembly Required, was published in 2008 by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster.

Among the early praise for
Summer Shift:
"Warm, intelligent and charming. A moving read with characters that stay with you long after you have turned the last page."
--Santa Montefiore, author of The French Gardener and The Perfect Happiness
Read an excerpt from Summer Shift, and learn more about the book and author at Lynn Kiele Bonasia's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Joanna Bourne & Brittany

Who is in the photo at right?

Here we are, me and Brittany. She's a ... can I call her All American Dog? We think she's collie and husky. But ... maybe more than that. Well, who knows?

And with Britt is me, Joanna Bourne. I write Historical fiction, Historical Romance, to be exact.

I guess most authors have some favorite form of stimulation. I drink coffee in the morning and make up a pot of tea for the late afternoon.

When I'm working at home, Brittany is right there keeping me company while I type away. Here, you see us having the day's first cuppa. That's Brittany just checking it out for me. Note the 'walking ware' -- those are classic cups.

Tell me about your brew.

My coffee comes to me from Northampton, Massachusetts, from CooksShopHere. I'm drinking his 'Northampton Blend', this morning, a mid-to-mild, low-acid arabica roast with a smooth afterglow to it. I make it up a cup or two at a time so it's fresh and I drink it with fresh skim milk, heated. I don't do anything arcane with my brew. I don't need any high technology. A regular old Mr. Coffee machine works fine for me or a little French press. I don't even grind my own beans. Heat the coffee, pour it through the ground bean, and drink.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I like a little something in the morning. I guess the word I'm looking for is 'pastry'. A muffin. A roll. A biscuit. This morning it's pumpkin muffins with raisins.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

Brittany gets a little taste of a muffin, too. I give her a bite of one of the muffins I make up without raisins, since I imagine raisins are not good for the canines.

I don't know what she makes of all this. I have a feeling she may just eat the muffin to please me.

How did you and your dog come together?

Brittany is what you might call a 'previously-owned pet'. There are so many animals in need that I absolutely always get my pets at the humane shelter. Britt was found wandering the park, either abandoned or lost. I had been to the shelter every week for a month or so, looking for the right dog. That day I walked through ... and she had just been brought in. I knew instantly that we were meant for each other.

She came to me with a beautiful, sweet, undaunted spirit.

Does your dog have any influence on your writing?

I try to have some animal in every book. It's only been a dog, once. This was in Spymaster's Lady and the dog is named 'Tiny'.

What can I say about Tiny? He's not ... tiny. This is what my character Annique says --
She looked at Grey through her eyelashes. "I am glad you were not devoured by that animal which has draped itself across the doorway. What is it, that thing?"

"We think it's part wolfhound. Doyle found it down by the docks, likely off some ship or other."

"I would say it is rather wolf and possibly also part elephant. It does not like me."
In the last book, Forbidden Rose, it's donkeys.

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

The folks at the shelter gave her the name Brittany, so we stuck with that. We call her Britt, sometimes. Or Brittarinko. But mostly we call her, "Ye! Come, Britt. Come. Yes. You! Now! I mean it."

Who is Brittany's best pet-pal?

She and the cat are real tight. That's my cat Singe. We brought Singe home as a kitten -- another pound special -- and I think she decided Brittany was her Mama. Singe goes racing around like a drop of water on a griddle and suddenly leaps out from behind a sofa, ambushing Brittany.

Britt kinda dances out of the way so she won't get stepped on by this maniac attacking her.

Brittany must be fifty times the size of little Singe, but she's so careful of her.

What is your dog's most endearing quality?

When I've been away for a while and come back, there she is, relieved and happy to see me. And it's more than that. You can see her saying, "Everything's all right now. Good. The Natural Order has been re-established. Okay."

How important does it make you feel when you re-establish the Natural Order of Things, just walking into the house.

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

Walks. We have this little ongoing disagreement over how much of the day should be devoted to walking around through the fields.

I think Brittany would have me out from morning till night if she could convince me.

Is Brittany jealous of your work?

Oh, my yes. I don't think she quite understands that me typing on the typewriter is anything important. She'll come creeping along the carpet on her belly, her eyes begging, inching up to me. Then she'll sit there. Waiting. Hoping.

Eventually I'll decide it's time for a break and a little tromp around the woods.

It probably does us both good.

If you took a look at the front of Forbidden Rose, you'd see a whole list of dedications and acknowledgements in the front. There should be something in there that says -- "To my dog, Brittany, without whom I would have finished the manuscript a week earlier."

One funny thing -- my hero in Forbidden Rose is a British spy, William Doyle. When he's travelling to France during the French Revolution, he takes a French name. He calls himself, Guillaume LeBreton. What that means in French is 'William from Brittany'. I didn't even realize that till I was sitting down here writing.

Joanna Bourne lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her family, a faux Himalayan cat, a fish named Bait, and Brittany.

Joanna Bourne's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lucy Balch & Rudy

Who’s in the photo to the right?

I’m Lucy Balch, author of Love Trumps Logic, a Regency romance. I’m giving my dog, Rudy, one of the many kisses he gets during the day—from me, my daughter or my husband.

What’s the occasion for coffee?

For me, it’s actually my neighbor’s authentic chai tea. Whenever I stop by her house with Rudy, mid-walk, she brews me a cup. It’s way better than Starbuck’s chai latte. I keep trying to get her recipe, but—so far—it’s a tightly held secret.

Any snacks with that chai?

If she’s in the middle of cooking, she always offers some delicious Indian tidbit to go with the tea.

Does Rudy get a treat too?

Rudy’s funny about treats. He won’t take them unless he’s home, and able to take the treat to another room to eat. You know how the PetSmart cashiers offer mini biscuits to visiting dogs? Rudy never takes them. There’s a man in our neighborhood, who walks with his Corgi. He offered Rudy a cat treat one day, and Rudy gobbled it right down and begged for more. I guess cat treats are tastier than dog treats.

How was Rudy united with the Balch family?

I found Rudy one rainy day on my way home from work—on a grassy median in the middle of a highway. He was sitting, tongue lolling to one side, watching the cars go by as if what he was doing made perfect sense. Fearful that this silly dog would get hit, I pulled over. Another lady stopped to help, and we managed to get Rudy onto my backseat—he was a bit hesitant at first.

I took him straight to a vet, who told me he was about a year old and in good health. Part Chow, part Shepherd, part Golden, and the vet pronounced him to have a wonderful personality too.

We later found his owners through the county pound. Rudy had a prior record, since his wanderlust had caused him to jump their fence on two other occasions. Initially, we gave him back, but through an occurrence of pure serendipity, I ran into one of the owners again. She told me that he wouldn’t stop crying, that he missed us, and that—if we wanted—we could have him back. We took him back. That was 8 ½ years ago.

What about Rudy’s influence on your writing?

I grew up with cats and Rudy is my first experience with a dog. He’s helped me to write a believable dog for my work in progress.

Where did Rudy get his name?

I found Rudy right after 9/11, right after seeing Rudy Guiliani help New York City during one of the worst days in history.

Does Rudy have aliases?

Ru, RuRu, Puppy, Puppy wuppy, Fluff ball, Fuzz butt, or Goober (if he’s being particularly goofy).

What sets Rudy in motion?

Another dog, more than anything else, although he’d also chase the neighborhood deer if I’d let him. And he never wants to chase to hurt; his goal is to play.

What about toys?

Rudy loves squeaky toys, and he’ll nibble one until he gets the squeaker out. He’s not good at sharing his toys. We’ve also noticed that he tends to get his toys out when he’s feeling impatient or excited.

Where does Rudy like to go?

Rudy’s favorite destination is probably the dog park, although any place where his family is going is good enough for him. He does not like to see the suitcases come out.

The dog park is a twenty-minute drive; when he realizes where he’s going, his ears perk up and he starts singing (that’s the best way to describe the pitch shifts and vocal inflections that come out of him).

Does Rudy have a pet-pal?

Rudy’s best pet-pal is our cat, Cutsie, who was already part of our family when Rudy joined it. At first, she was so scared of him that she wet the floor (or us, if we were holding her) whenever he was around. That quickly changed. They’re best buddies now.

What is Rudy’s best quality?

So many qualities come to mind, but I’d say it’s his sweet spirit. He might have the face of a Chow and a Shepherd, but he has the heart of a Golden. He’ll offer his paw in greeting to anyone he meets.

What’s amusing about Rudy?

With age, came farts. They used to scare him out of a good sleep, but now he’s used to them and sleeps undisturbed. On the strange-funny side, he veers away from all drains on the street, terrified of them. Maybe, in his first year of life before we knew him, a cat popped out of one and attacked him. Whatever the reason, it’s a hardwired phobia. He’d rather walk in front of oncoming traffic than go anywhere near a drain.

How does Rudy frustrate you?

Rudy has very strong ideas about where he does and does not want to walk. If we try to lead him down an undesirable pathway, he stiffens his front legs and refuses to walk. A battle of wills ensues, and Rudy is often the victor. A human win requires much pulling and firm admonitions, with Rudy grumbling loud enough to let you know he’s not pleased.

Lucy Balch's Love Trumps Logic is available on or through Second Wind Publishing.

Visit Lucy Balch's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 11, 2010

Justine van der Leun & Marcus

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Justine van der Leun, seated there. I’m the author of Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl About Love. And the spotted creature perched atop me is, of course, Marcus, my five-year-old Italian-born English Pointer. Marcus is a girl, but she doesn’t suffer from any gender confusion. She doesn’t buy into stereotypes.

A girl named Marcus? How did that happen?

She’s a foundling—her puppyhood was pretty dickensian. Just substitute the dank London streets for the wild Italian countryside. I came upon her while I was living in a 200-person town in Umbria, and I assumed she was a boy. She didn’t have a name, so I picked Marcus. It seemed fitting until I saw her ladyparts. I called her Lola for a couple of days, but Marcus had already stuck.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We take a morning run around the park—or more accurately, I jog laboriously as Marcus walks effortlessly at a brisk pace—and then she drinks a large amount of water and I get my morning tea and we spend an hour sitting on the couch before I get to work. I read; she sleeps. It’s our ritual.

What's brewing?

A very large cup of chai tea with honey and soymilk. For Marcus, only the finest Brooklyn tap water.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I’m enjoying a bowl of oatmeal with some fruit on top. But I’m not always so virtuous — yesterday, I had leftover lo mein for breakfast.

Any treat for Marcus on this occasion?

Today, in celebration of our appearance on Coffee with a Canine, Marcus gets a Greenie. If she were a human, though, she’d be eating a scone with a pressed napkin spread across her lap. She’s weirdly proper.

How were you and Marcus united?

It’s a classic story with a canine twist: Girl meets boy, girl loves boy, girl moves to backwoods Italy to be with boy, girl meets dog, girl leaves boy and keeps dog. Basically, I fell in love with an Italian gardener named Emanuele and moved to his village to be with him. While our romance was falling apart — a real shocker, right? — I stumbled upon a starving, neglected birddog in a cage in the back of his family farm. I took one look at that dusty little face behind the wire and I knew she was mine. Her owners didn’t want her. We spent a year exploring the brutal, beautiful countryside together, and then hopped a flight back to the U.S. — me in coach, Marcus in cargo.

Obviously Marcus is an inspiration for your writing, but is she more of a help or hindrance when you sit down at the keyboard?

Marcus is the ultimate writer’s dog: Energetic enough to get me out of the house once in a while, but calm enough to lounge in a sunspot when I’m working. She’s very polite, really: No barking, no whining. Her main mode of communication is to fix me with a laser-like stare. If I turn slightly, I see this black and white dog sitting in an extremely upright position attempting telepathy. I guess it works because I immediately take her out.

Does Marcus have any aliases?

I often call her “Monkey,” probably because with her shiny little head and big ears she resembles one. I sometimes inexplicably call her “Pumpkin.” In moments of true weakness, I call her “Monkey Pumpkin,” but don’t tell anyone about that. Someone else refers to her as “Markie-Poo, The Best Dog in the World,” and sings one of two original songs he has composed in her honor. I will not reveal the name of this grown man so that he can maintain some semblance of public dignity.

Where is Marcus' favorite place for an outing?

Marcus is truly a country dog, so she loves running free in the woods, pointing and flushing. She also adores the wide-open ocean beach, where she can stalk seagulls and plovers.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Marcus used to be a bit of a chickenaholic, back when we lived in Italy. She was also a diehard fan of wild quail and sparrows. When we lived by the beach in New York state, she was obsessed with birds. These days, she is fixated on Brooklyn squirrels. The squirrels out here are smug, though—they know Marcus is leashed so they just stand there, staring at her, taunting her, while eating a nut. It’s outrageous.

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky toy...?

She’ll begrudgingly play fetch with a tennis ball when there is no wildlife around. She’s also willing to halfheartedly chew a stick. Once in a while, she’ll mutilate a squeaky toy, ripping out its squeaky center. But she’s only truly passionate about things that have a heartbeat. She likes her toys to fly and run. But she’s not a moron, so she doesn’t mess with cats.

Who is Marcus' best pet-pal?

Marcus is your classic type-A, so focused on birds that she often lets her relationships fall by the wayside. She does enjoy the company of two labs named Lucie and Miele. They live by the sea, and Marcus stays with them when I have to leave town. Marcus is also a reluctant friend of Beau the dachshund, who has been featured on this very blog, sharing a coffee with his owner, the author Marion Winik.

What is Marcus’ best quality?

Her dedication. When Marcus becomes devoted to a person or a task, she is unwavering.

What is Marcus's proudest moment?

From her point of view, Marcus’ proudest moment was when she murdered six chickens and two defenseless bunnies at the neighbor’s farm back in Italy. She had been planning the massacre for a year, I think. From my point of view, her entire rehabilitation has been one long, proud moment. With years of training, trust, and focus, she has managed to go from a terrified, under-socialized animal that didn’t fully comprehend affection to a loving, capable, and confident pet. She’s still nervous and cautious, and we have a ways to go, but it’s been amazing to see her blossom.

Her most embarrassing?

Have you ever met a sheep? They’re the wimpiest animals ever. And once, an old ewe managed to stare her down. As she went slinking off, I was mumbling, “Yeah, some hunting dog you are.” We don’t talk about that incident, though. We like to focus on her many victories.

Visit Justine van der Leun's website and read more about Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl about Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Susan Coll & Zoe

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Zoe. Or Zoey. Sometimes even Zooey. We are embarrassingly inconsistent in the spelling of her name. She’s a chocolate lab, about to celebrate her 12th birthday. And that’s me, Susan Coll, leaning into her in Riverside Park, in New York. The picture below was taken this winter during the snowpocalypse in Washington DC.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee and read the newspapers every morning with Zoe in what doubles as our kitchen/dining room area. She’s getting pretty old and creaky, and although we take two good walks each day, Starbucks, or any of the other local coffee shops, is a bit of a hike for her.

What's brewing?

I need coffee each morning, but I’m not much of a connoisseur. I usually brew the already ground Pleasant Morning Buzz blend from Whole Foods.

Any goodies to go with the coffee? Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

A piece of fruit and/or a slice of toast for me. Unfortunately for Zoe, nothing too exciting. If she’s well, just a scoop of Purina One with Lamb. If she’s having stomach issues (which is a lot of the time with a 12-year-old dog) she gets chicken and rice.

How were you and Zoe united?

There’s no great romantic story behind Zoe’s arrival in my life, apart from having three young kids at the time who were taping pictures of puppies to the mirrors and windows and doors of the house in a not very subtle ploy to wear down their parents. We finally drove out to the Maryland countryside and found Zoe on a farm. She was the only puppy left from a recent litter, and neither her mother nor father was around. She seemed a bit forlorn, and was also a complete mess, really mangy and smelly. We fell in love with her on the spot!

Does your dog have any influence on your writing?

Zoe is my constant companion. Novel-writing is about as solitary an occupation as they come, so she’s pretty much my office-mate and only colleague.

You have dogs in your novels: what's a dog signify about his or her human's character?

In my new novel, Beach Week, there’s one heavy symbolic dog reference, and then later, a Labrador retriever cameo. First, the dog that belongs to the family at the center of the book has recently died, and their only child is about to go off to college. The fact that the family is paralyzed over the issue of getting a new dog is meant to show that they are in transition, weary of locking into the future. In a later scene, a very happy dog wanders somewhat randomly through a dark, chaotic scene, meant to add a bit of levity, like an exclamation point or a smile emoticon.

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

Zoe is not a very meaningful name. While my kids might have a different answer, I suppose I gravitated toward a cute, girly name as part of an attempt to satisfy my desire to have another baby.

Where is your dog's favorite place for an outing?

Zoe absolutely loves New York. Nothing makes her happier than Riverside Park. I think it has to do with the brilliant trash can design: they are made of metal with a lattice pattern, which is to say you can stick your dog nose in and get a great whiff, but you can’t actually eat the trash.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Squirrel!!!! Her one great desire in life is to catch a squirrel.

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

There’s a chocolate lab puppy stuffed animal that she likes to carry around. I guess she has baby issues, too.

Who is Zoe's best pet-pal?

Sadly, since we moved houses about three years ago, she no longer has any best-pals. She used to play with our neighbor, a Wheaton terrier, but they haven’t seen each other for ages.

What is your dog's best quality?

Zoe is extremely gentle and sweet. Everyone loves her and she loves everyone back, except when she’s being overly affectionate--which happens.

What is your dog's proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

Zoe did have a humiliating and scarring moment as a puppy. She went into a swimming pool, and while she had a blast paddling around, she couldn’t find her way back to the steps, and she panicked. After that, she wouldn’t go back in the water, even if we stood in the middle of the pool with a hunk of meat. Seriously. So it’s always embarrassing to take her for a walk where there’s a creek or any body of water and other dogs are having a swim, and I have this big, sturdy-looking retriever who will only get her ankles wet.

Susan Coll is the author of the novels Acceptance,, Rockville Pike, and the newly released Beach Week. A film adaptation of Acceptance, starring Joan Cusack, aired on Lifetime Television in 2009.

Visit Susan Coll's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue