Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sherrie Madia & Polly

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me—Sherrie Madia—but everybody calls me “Sher.” I’m an author, educator, and trainer—not of dogs, but of people—and only when it comes to how they present themselves professionally.

With me is Polly. She is between two and three years old according to everybody’s best guess. She is a “mixed Lab” is how the shelter had her labeled. Given that I don’t know dog breeds from dog biscuits, I chose her “breed blind” because she was lovable and a dog in need. Only after a series of funny stares and “What kind of a dog is that?” did it dawn on me that she looks more pit than lab. So, we get some people who cross the street—they obviously don’t know that this is the sweetest dog they’ll never meet.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We choose “challenge destinations” where we walk a bit longer. Today, it’s Bagel Bin, about a mile from our house, and a nice morning walk. Any reason at all is a good one for Bagel Bin, but you have to arrive early to avoid standing in a line that spills out the door of this small shop. The bagels are handmade and if you go at a time when their machines are on, be prepared to shout your order.

What's brewing?

I’m a simple girl, so plain, fresh coffee with half and half does the trick. Delish.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

It’s all about the goodies! Sundried tomato bagel hot out of the oven and smothered in cream cheese (tastes like pizza—heavenly!)

Any treat for Polly on this occasion?

A bite of the Peanut Butter bagel, then we wash it down with a filet-mignon-flavored dental bone. Her all-time favorite!

How were you and Polly united?

My daughters and I have volunteered at the Animal Orphanage in our town for a number of years. We stopped by one day “just to look” and in less than five minutes knew that Polly would be coming home with us.

How did Polly get her name? Any aliases?

Polly had gone from shelter to shelter, all the way from Lynchburg, VA to the shelter in southern New Jersey—so she’s probably had a number of names along the way. But at the Animal Orphanage, they called her Polly. We had the chance to rename her ourselves, but somehow that felt wrong. So Polly it was.

Since we do enjoy words in my house, our nicknames include Polly Esther, Polly Urethane … you get the picture. Indeed, she is the victim of our corny word play.

Did Polly have any influence on your new children's book?

Actually, it’s a bit of reverse engineering. We found Polly after the book had been published. We knew we loved her the moment we saw her, but couldn’t figure out why. Then it hit us—Polly was the spitting image of Moxy, the dog in our children’s book who learned he could talk. We’re waiting for Polly to say her first word.

In the meantime, we’re excited about promoting this book, and we sponsor a number of pet-festival events. We donate $1 from the sale of each book to the SPCA International.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Joggers, actually. She loves to run over and say hello. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we are not always well-received. We are working on this.

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

Stuffed toys—particularly those that squeak. Polly’s favorite is a duck straight out of hunting season. When Polly grabs it in her mouth, this toy makes the most pathetic, dragging drone—as if it’s been attacked one too many times. Such is the life of a stuffed duck.

Where is Polly's favorite place for an outing?

A beautiful, little lake by our house. It’s scenic and serene, and great for thinking through our days. Me: “How will I get those 57 tasks completed today?” Polly: “Perhaps I’ll gnaw on the wood of the staircase some more. Or better yet, I’ll just take a nice nap.”

Who is Polly's best pet-pal?

Oh, Rusty, without question. Rusty is a Rhodesian Ridgeback from across the street, who has already learned the art of being reasonable, unlike Polly, who finds it necessary to barrel over to him at top speed. Bad enough I’ve been dragged outside with my hair still wet from the shower, or my makeup half on—why not charge the neighbors as well? Fortunately, my tolerance for humiliation is high. A sense of humor helps.

What is Polly's best quality?

She is always eager to do the right thing. Of course, she rarely does – but her eagerness is certainly endearing!

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

They are actually one and the same. Polly loves retrieving toys. But she hasn’t quite mastered it yet. So, when we toss a ball or stick, she races eagerly toward it, misses it completely in her haste, races to our feet and proudly drops her invisible catch and wags her tail proudly. She is quite convincing. Perhaps she has a career in acting?

the Alphabet Woof! website and Facebook fan page.

--Marshal Zeringue