Monday, August 2, 2010

Nakisha VanderHoeven & Theo, Turtle, Meimei, and Laika

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Nakisha VanderHoeven. I am a full time artist (illustration and sculpture) and stay at home dog mom. I have four mutts. An old black lab boy mix named Theo, a mostly beagle boy named Turtle, a Shih tzu - Amstaff mix girl named Meimei and a little girl mutt that looks like a mini German Shepherd named Laika.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Just a typical morning stroll out in the rare Seattle sunshine! Then home for coffee on the front porch.

What's brewing?

A pot of strong organic Honduran roast, black and hot.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Some of my favorite Dutch cookies, stroopwafels.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

No people food while people are eating. Unfortunately, some of us (Meimei) have food issues. They do get treats with their dinner though, pizza crusts are their favorite!

How were you and your dogs united?

Theo was abandoned in the woods with his siblings as a puppy. Malnourished, mangy and with swollen back legs we adopted him from a friend of a friend who rescued them. We fixed him up and he has been the best dog ever, for 13 years.

Turtlebean we got as a puppy through beagle rescue. He’s been with us over 11 years.

Meimei was an “oops” mix, found through craigslist as a puppy. I really don’t recommend combining such different and difficult breeds, but since she has been with us the last 5 years, we think it was a pretty happy accident.

Laika was a rehome, also found through craigslist. Her owner could not keep her for various reasons, and we opened our hearts to one more. She’s been with us a couple years now. She's the only one we didn't adopt as a puppy, and she was originally adopted from the pound, so we don't know much of her history.

Do your dogs have any influence on your painting and writing?

Absolutely. Not only do their very different personalities and antics show up in what I paint (albeit in the new form of rabbits or other animals) but they keep me from working too hard by demanding I PLAY at least 3 or 4 times a day. Otherwise I would probably never leave my studio.

How did your dogs get their names? Do they have any aliases?

Theo (Theodore, Theolonious, Thee) was named after the Roosevelt Hotel in Seattle.

Turtle (Smeagol, Beast, Beagle, Bean) was named after turtle cookies.

Meimei (Maisy-boo, Boo-boo, Maybe) is named after the little girl in the animated movie My Friend Totoro, and Laika (Li-li, Laikanut, Liza) came to us as “Linka” and we changed it slightly. After awhile I call them all “Boo” as an endearment, because it’s easier.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

None of the above are allowed in the yard without strict doggie surveillance and approval. Squirrels can just forget about it, we cannot even say “squirrel” in our house!

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

Tennis balls, though a favorite, tend to disappear and come back with perfectly round holes cut out of them (Meimei…). The average squeaky toy doesn’t last more than .25 seconds in our house, so we rarely get them, and a general survey of the dogs’ opinions is that Frisbees are boring.

Where are your dogs' favorite outdoor destinations?

We have several great parks here in Seattle, but Seward park is the best, because after a long walk in the woods they can go play in the lake, except Laika, who rather not.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

They are good friends with a couple Klee Kais (the pretty white dogs in the photo with us) and some friends' Corgis, but generally they aren’t too keen on other dogs. (Meimei again, you gotta watch it when you mix a dominant bully breed with a spoiled lap dog!). They are actually good buddies with our two ancient kitties, but any other cats better watch out!

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

More walkies, less worky.

What are your dogs' best qualities?

Goodness me, I’d be the loneliest person around if it weren’t for them. Most days the literally get me out of bed in the morning, and that is a good thing!

What is the most amusing thing your dogs do? The most frustrating?

Of all the pack, Meimei is the most entertaining and the most difficult at times. She loves to help me pull weeds in the garden, I throw them to her and she does back flips to catch them, then tears them to pieces! She does have issues with other dogs at times, and we have to always be sure she knows who is in charge (ideally, me).

Theo is the biggest sweetheart, he always knows when I don’t feel well and tries to fix it by being a 55 pound lap dog. Laika is always ready to do just about anything, she is a pure bundle of energy. Turtle, though almost completely useless, has a wonderful singing voice. We always know when a fire truck is coming down the street.

The most common thing I am asked when I walk all four (which I do almost every day) is if I am a professional dog walker. I guess in another life, I would be.

Nakisha VanderHoeven's website and blog.

Her art work may be purchased at

--Marshal Zeringue