Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chevy Stevens & Annie

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Chevy Stevens, the author of Still Missing. The gorgeous girl I’m kissing is Annie, who is nine and a half now, and I found her at the SPCA when she was five months old. They thought she was probably lab crossed with pit bull, but only her momma really knows and she’s not talking!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Annie and I are enjoying our morning tea before we head out for our first walk of the day. We have a few favorite spots but we usually go to a big open field near our house. Annie loves searching for sticks, checking out the new sniffs, and completely misses the bunnies and cats fleeing through the long grass.

What's brewing?

I’m a Tetley tea girl, with plenty of sugar and milk. Back in my smoking days I liked coffee, but it didn’t like me much. I was usually pretty wired up and I don’t need help with that!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

After Annie and I come back from our walk, I have my daily dose of peanut butter slathered on a Wasa cracker and my second cup of tea. This is also when I catch up on my emails and check out my favorite blogs. I’m a creature of habit! But my keyboard hates me. Peanut butter and crumbs are not a good combination.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

While I’m having my breakfast, Annie is having hers. She developed allergies in the last couple of years, so she’s on a strict diet. She only eats hypoallergenic canned food with fish and potato. She decided recently that she wouldn’t take any of her medications, or eat her food, unless it has sweet potatoes in it, so I’ve been peeling A LOT of potatoes! Her favorite snack now is little carrot sticks, which is odd because for most of her life she didn’t want anything to do with carrots.

How were you and Annie united?

Almost ten years ago two of my friends, a married couple, were involved in a very bad car accident. One of them was in the hospital for over a month and I looked after their golden retriever. When I gave him back, my house was unbearably empty, so I started looking around for a dog. I was travelling on the road at the time, so I didn’t want a puppy, but I wanted a dog young enough that we would have many years together. I found Annie at the SPCA. As soon as I looked into her eyes, I knew. She was living at a foster home and was only brought into the SPCA on the weekends. Her foster mom had final approval over who adopted her. So I visited Annie there, which happened to be a tattoo parlor, and she crawled onto my lap, shoved her head under my arm and sighed. Her foster mom said Annie had ignored everyone else. She was mine!

Does your dog have any influence on your writing?

I named my first character after Annie and there’s a dog in my second book as well, so I’d have to say yes! Because I’m home alone so much during the day, she helps keep me company. She’s also a welcome break and we have play sessions and cuddle time throughout the day. A lot of my brainstorming happens when we are out on our walks. We go for at least two a day, sometimes more.

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

I tried on a few, but Annie just fit. Her full Russian name is Princess Anastasia Puppaluv. For our wedding last year, which she attended wearing her special collar, my husband made wine labels with her photo and her Russian name. She has a few nicknames. Annie evolved to Annie McGee, then McGoose, and now it’s pretty much just Goose, Gooseberry, Booseberry, and Boose.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

None of the above. If we are out on a walk and come across a cat, a bunny, or a deer she just pauses for a moment, then carries on. She has issues with other dogs, though. She loves little ones, but if they are her size and up she turns into a raving lunatic. Before I got her she’d been abandoned in an apartment with an older German Shepherd for a few days with no food or water (they’d drank the toilets dry) and he was beating her up. So now she has fear aggression. She’s pretty much of the fight-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality. It’s gotten better as she’s aged, but I’m still very careful with her. She was also jumped a couple of times by dogs out on our walks, so that didn’t help. The thing is, as soon as she gets her initial spazz out of the way she wants to be friends, but sometimes the other dog isn’t so keen!

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

Outdoors it’s sticks all the way. Nothing else will do! But inside she has a few favorite toys and they all squeak. She’s especially fond of her hedgehog and her bunny. Her favorite thing is to whip them back and forth, while making them squeak repeatedly, then trying to bury it in her dog bed, which she drags across the floor as she pretends to dig it up.

Where is your dog's favorite outdoor destination?

She loves the field we walk in and going to my Mom’s ranch, but her favorite place is the beach.

Who is Annie's best pet-pal?

Her best friend is Eddie, a little brindle-colored French bulldog who was also at our wedding, sporting a bowtie!

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

She gets bored when I spend too much time at my keyboard. She’ll come into my office and sit behind me, grunting. Or sometimes she just sits out in the hallway staring at the back of my head, while sighing heavily. She would love it if we went for more walks!

What is your dog's best quality?

Annie is so sweet—the most affectionate dog I know. She loves to cuddle and will give me a kiss when I ask for one.

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

She goes crazy anywhere near water. She starts vibrating and her eyes glaze over. We can’t throw sticks her for her as much now that she’s older because she has a bad hip, but she loves digging for rocks in the shallow water and makes this high-pitched yelp, even with her head under water, which is pretty hysterical. But taking her swimming can also be frustrating. She drags you down to the shore, loses any shred of common sense, hurls herself over rocks and logs, and basically forgets all her manners.

Annie was very sick this fall and winter. I spent a small fortune trying to find out why and went through a few vets. I was just about ready to air-lift her to the States in desperation when we discovered she had a mast cell tumor on her hind leg. We operated, but then discovered she had another one in her armpit. Because of its location, and because she’d already been through so much, we decided to leave that one alone and just give her palliative care. Since then she’s gained all her weight back and has been doing great! I’m just so happy to see her feeling well again that I don’t mind a little frustration at the beach!

Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. At open houses, waiting between potential buyers, she spent hours scaring herself with thoughts of horrible things that could happen to her. Her most terrifying scenario, which began with being abducted, was the inspiration for Still Missing. After six months Stevens sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book.

Stevens enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s hiking with her husband and dog in the local mountains.

the official Chevy Stevens website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue