Monday, September 27, 2010

Randi Hutter Epstein & Ellie and Dexter

Who is in the photo at right?

Randi Hutter Epstein, with the red hair; Ellie, black and White hair; Dexter, reddish and black.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m in my backyard and my dogs don’t leave my side, or my lap.

What's brewing?

Black coffee from Andy’s Deli on the corner, I get my $1 cup when as the three of us walk into Central Park every morning. On this particular morning, I saved my coffee for home.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

For me, it’s usually cereal or toast. For the dogs, it’s Rega-sensabites, for dogs with sensitive bellies. (Dexter has the sensitive belly, but he was eating Ellie’s food, so I had to switch her to his food.)

Any treat for Ellie and Dexter on this occasion?

Always, I walk around with dog treats. Lately it’s some freeze-dried stuff they love.

How were you and your two companions united?

We picked up Dexter from a breeder upstate on the day that I found out I was pregnant with Eliza, my fourth child. We got him en route to our summer vacation in the Adirondacks. It was absolutely bucketing out, and we put this soggy puppy in our car, along with three other children and a four-year-old Golden Retriever. (The Golden is no longer “with us.”) I never wanted a toy dog, but for the past three years, my daughter Martha has been begging and pleading for a little dog that she could hold and cuddle. She promised she would walk the dog every morning and that she would be happy for the rest of her life. I believed every word. I thought it would be really helpful to have my teenage daughter walking the dog before school and then gliding merrily through adolescence. So I got the puppy. We’ve had Ellie for about a year and a half. Martha has yet to wake up to walk her in the morning and while she is basically a happy kid, but I wouldn’t say there haven’t been glitches along the way.

Do Dexter and Ellie influence your writing?

Dexter calmly sits by my side and probably is a soothing influence, particularly when I am forced to take breaks to walk him. Ellie has the personality of a hyper terrier (she has no terrier in her, to our knowledge). She sits by my side throwing balls and me, which I have learned to fetch. She wines and yaps when I’m not attentive. I’m not sure what that has done to my writing except make it more difficult to think a full thought.

Cat, squirrel, postman...? Tennis ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Both of the dogs absolutely love these fake bright yellow tennis balls from the Black Dog in Martha’s Vineyard. We went a few years ago, but now I get them online.

Who are their best pet-pals?

Ellie absolutely adores Dexter. She constantly jumps up and tries to bite his tail. Dexter has learned to put up with Ellie, but I think maybe he may even like her.

What are their best qualities?

Dexter is the best guard dog. He’s super gentle but bad guys don’t know that so you feel very protected walking around NYC with a big German Shepherd. Ellie is perpetually happy, actually gleeful. You just can’t be in a bad mood when she is by your side.

If Dexter and Ellie could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I’d stop writing and focus 100% of my time on them.

What are Dexter and Ellie’s proudest moments? Most embarrassing?

For Dexter, I’d have to say his most embarrassing moment must have been last week, when we sat down in the dining room to our fancy Rosh Ha Shana meal and while we were about to eat, Dexter had diarrhea all over the dining room and underneath the table. He is perfectly house trained, but was a bit (more than a bit) sick. We moved into the kitchen. I let my husband clean the floor, as he is a much better poop-cleaner than I am.

Ellie doesn’t get embarrassed. But she is probably most proud of the time that I left a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs for my husband and by the time he got into the kitchen, she somehow got her tiny little self onto the kitchen table and ate his entire meal. I think she was full and very proud of herself.

Randi Hutter Epstein, MD, is a medical journalist who has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Telegraph, and several national magazines. She is the author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

more about Get Me Out at the publisher's website, and visit Randi Hutter Epstein's Psychology Today blog, Birth, Babies, and Beyond. Read an excerpt from Get Me Out and listen to the NPR story about the book.

Writers Read: Randi Hutter Epstein.

--Marshal Zeringue