Monday, January 31, 2011

Pam Townsend & Tango and Ceiligh

Who is in the photo at right?

Me, Pam Townsend, writer, photographer, and vice president of the SPCA/Humane Society of Prince George’s County, MD, hanging out in the backyard with our two dogs, Tango, an 11-year-old collie/sheltie/Akita/chow chow mix (according to a DNA test), and Ceiligh (pronounced KAY-lee) an 8-year-old pointer/JRT.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Who needs an “occasion” for a good cup of coffee, and what better way to enjoy it than in the company of my favorite canines? I can usually be found sipping mine while sitting at my computer as Tango and Ceiligh snooze at my feet, or if the weather is warm, I sprawl in an Adirondack chair on the patio while they protect the yard from squirrels.

What's brewing?

Starbucks mocha…I’m addicted! I usually go for decaf. (And don’t say, “Why bother?” I get plenty of caffeine from the English Breakfast tea I brew at home.) Today it’s hot mocha, but when I’m sitting outside in the spring or summer, it’s definitely iced.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not today. Once I realized how many calories are in a mocha, I try to think of it as a major treat to be savored without the “distraction” of other textures and flavors.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Tango and Ceiligh are enjoying a freeze-dried chicken breast strip today…although they’ll have consumed every morsel long before my mocha is gone.

How were you and Tango and Ceiligh united?

My husband, Mark, and I adopted Tango and his littermate Samba (who sadly died last February from hemangiosarcoma) when they were almost 14 weeks old. We saw them at an SPCA adoption show and they looked so much like Boris, our beautiful black Lab/golden retriever who had just passed away, that they made us cry. And that was that.

Ceiligh joined our family 3 years later. Mark and I went into a pet supply store to get goldfish for our pond, and a local rescue group was there with a litter of black-and-white puppies. After holding Ceiligh for a few minutes—just to help socialize her, you understand—I was smitten. So instead of goldfish, we went home with an 8-week-old, 5-pound puppy.

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

Tango and Samba joined our family when Mark and I were taking ballroom dance lessons, so dance-related names just seemed natural. I came up with Fred and Ginger, but Mark thought they were too “obvious.” Of all the dances we’d been learning, tango and samba made the best names. When we adopted Ceiligh, we wanted to stick to the dance theme. A ceiligh or ceilidh is an Irish or Scottish dance or dance party. It’s turned out to be really appropriate since she doesn’t so much walk as prance around. When talking to them, we sometimes call them things like Tango Booshmoo, TangoBoo, and Ceilighwicious; disgusting, isn’t it?

You are a professional photographer. What's the trickiest thing about getting a dog to stay in the frame for a photo?

I absolutely love photographing dogs but it can definitely be a challenge sometimes. If a dog knows basic commands, like “sit,” “down,” and “stay,” it’s obviously much easier to do a portrait-type shot. But if it’s not trained or it’s a puppy, it’s a whole different story. I’m always prepared with lots of yummy treats for rewards—or bribes—and usually bring a variety of props—everything from dog toys and old riding boots to baskets and feather boas—for them to interact with. If they’re really high energy, I’ll usually play with them a while to wear them out before trying to photograph them. And I’ve gotten really good at making “interesting” noises to get their attention.

Please tell us about your dog photo books.

Because Tango and Samba—like their two predecessors—were black dogs, I became aware of the difficulty black shelter dogs face finding homes, a situation sometimes referred to as “Black Dog Syndrome.” In an effort to increase awareness of this issue and to expose people to the beauty and diversity of black dogs, I self-published a photo book called Black is Beautiful: A Celebration of Dark Dogs.

More recently I produced A is for Angel: A Dog Lover’s Guide to the Alphabet, which features the photos of dogs whose names begin with each letter of the alphabet. Profits from the distribution of both books, which are available on my blog, support selected animal welfare organizations.

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

Tango likes rubber ball-type toys and kongs. Currently, his prized possession is a thick, somewhat squishy rubber ball that looks like a white-and-orange globe. He loves for us to throw it for him, inside or out; Mark once tossed it to him for 135 times in a row. Often when we’re eating dinner, Tango will drop his ball near Mark’s legs, then back up and stare at Mark for several minutes before giving up. He also likes to drop the ball in the tub—and then retrieve it—while I’m taking a bath.

Ceiligh, although also very fond of playing fetch, is most enamored with her collection of “babies,” stuffed toys of all shapes and sizes. She can—and does—spend hours carrying around the baby of the moment or curling up and mouthing it till it’s rather damp.

Who are Tango and Ceiligh's best pet-pals?

Tango isn’t what you’d call a dog’s dog, having a rather prickly personality when it comes to most canines, but he absolutely adores my parents’ 14-year-old yellow Lab, Abby, perhaps because he met her when he was only 5 months old. He only sees her a few times a year but each time he does, he acts like an infatuated school boy with a canine cougar, play bowing, pouncing, and nuzzling her ears.

Ceiligh likes Abby almost as much as Tango does, but being of a more social nature, she also has other casual doggy pals, including those she attends agility class with and the parade of foster puppies that have used our house as a way station between the county shelter and their forever homes. Still, when it comes down to it, I think Ceiligh thinks she’s the same species that I am and would rather spend time with me—and some of my friends—than other canines.

Where is Tango and Ceiligh's favorite place for an outing?

Both dogs enjoy hiking in the woods of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains or spending a week on Hilton Head Island, SC, where they can walk the beach and run in the waves. Ceiligh is a particularly strong swimmer and adores aquatic retrieving.

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

They’d probably prefer it if I had fur coat like theirs so that I wouldn’t be so negatively affected by the cold. That way, I’d walk them more in the winter.

What is each dog's proudest moment?

I’d say both dogs are proudest of being included in my books,…although Tango still hasn’t gotten over the fact that I chose Samba to be the Black is Beautiful cover girl.

Most embarrassing?

I’m guessing that the most embarrassing moments for both Ceiligh and Tango have involved being dressed up for Halloween or Christmas photos, although they tolerate the humiliation pretty well.

Visit the Digital Doggy Photography website and the Dancing with the Digital Doggy blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jan Price & Merci, Sam, and Buddy

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Jan Price and I'm the one holding the leashes in the photo at right. Merci is a small red mixed breed, Sam is a liver and white English Pointer mix, and Buddy is pure hound. I'm a pet blogger who enjoys writing and taking photographs.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is our usual morning walk. I try to take them on two a day since walking is good for all of us.

What's brewing?

I don't like strong coffee so I always prefer to brew my own. It's just regular Maxwell House without any additives – no milk substitute or sugar.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I only have two hands, one for the leashes and one for the coffee, so there are no goodies with the coffee.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

No, no treats for the dogs on this walk. They don't get treats before breakfast.

How were you and your dogs united?

All the dogs were throwaways. Merci was adopted from the local animal shelter. Buddy was dumped in mid December – at only 3 or 4 weeks of age. And Sam was abandoned when he was 4 months old.

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

I really wanted a dog that would get along with my cats and not hurt them. Merci has definitely lived up to her name. Buddy – well, he's my buddy. He can't stand for me to even take out the trash without him. He howls. And he's taught the others to join him. I'm not big on nicknames for animals, so Sam is the only dog with one. His name is actually Samaritan but Sam is easier to type.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

If you are asking which they would like to chase, no squirrel is safe on our walks, but they would chase a cat too. Sam was very disappointed when I brought him home because he would jump at one of the cats and bark, trying to make it run so he could chase it. But they were used to Merci and Buddy and just ignored him. On our walks, they will argue over which one gets to chase the squirrel, even though they're each restrained by a leash.

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

None of them like a Frisbee. Buddy likes a tennis ball. Sam prefers a soccer ball. And they all like a squeaky-toy.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

They love our walks. They will refuse to go out the back door into a pen when it's raining, snowing, the wind is blowing, or it's sweltering. But they will run directly from the back door to the front door to get hooked up to go for a walk. They did this during a recent sleet/snow storm. The weather was too bad to go out the back door but not too bad to go out the front door so I could get pelted with ice while they peed. Had I been daft and tried to walk them in that storm, they would have enjoyed it.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

They don't get to socialize much any more. But when Merci first came, she loved the cats and was a cat magnet on our walks. She rescued Percy when he was very young and Cameron, a neighbor's kitten, loved Merci so much he came in one day and wouldn't leave. He was the last kitten from a litter so the neighbors were glad he found himself a home.

What is each dog's most endearing quality?

Merci is a gentle dog. Buddy was the inspiration for Jan's Funny Farm blog. He was always into something and you could almost see the wheels spinning in his mind as he plotted. Sam has no fear of the camera. When it comes out, the other animals stop what they are doing or leave the room. But not Sam. When the camera appears, Sam is front and center, all excited he's going to get attention.

What is each dog's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Merci's proudest moment had to be coming home with Percy. She didn't give up telling me the “bird” was a cat. And finally he crawled out from under a bush. I notified the office we were walking by since he was inside locked gates and rushed home to grab a carrier. We got back just as maintenance appeared. Merci was so happy she appeared to be prancing on air all the way home.

When Buddy was small, he liked his toys and bedding spread out and messy. Merci would pick up all the toys – cat and dog – and put them in a neat pile in “her den.” Buddy would spread out their bedding, rumple it up, stomp it good, and spread everything around again. And then he would pose as proud as a peacock with the end result.

Sam's proudest moment has to be when he finally mastered “roll over.” He's a big dog and he had a real problem getting the momentum to roll over all the way. He was terribly frustrated. And then one day he did it. He was so excited he kept running around knocking things over with his wagging tail.

I can't think of any embarrassing moments for them, though I'm sure there have been some.

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

I think they would most like for me to spend less time on the computer and more time on walking adventures with them.

Visit Jan's Funny Farm blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jenny Glen & Lad, Hemp, Bob, Jed and Skid

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Jenny Glen - my husband and I train border collies to herd sheep at our farm in Southern Alberta, Canada. The dog in the picture is my Lad dog. He's my main trial (competition) dog and is a 5-year-old male tri color border collie. I also have one other trial dog named Hemp (5 yrs), two retired border collies named Bob (12 yrs) and Jed (9yrs) and a small mutt named Skid (3 yrs) who pretty much runs the place. My husband has a few dogs of his own too and then we have multiple kennel dogs but they are usually sold by the time they are 2 yrs old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I'm not much of a coffee drinker but my husband takes it intravenously so the dogs and I figured we'd pick up some supplies.

What's brewing?

What ever is on sale! He's not picky.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A plain scone for me with clotted cream and strawberry jam and a hot chocolate.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

They like their scones without cream or jam but with a bowl of water on the side. Skid wants a blueberry muffin. He likes to be different.

How were you and your dogs united?

I bought all the border collies from breeders who had working dogs. Skid we got when he jumped out of the back of a pickup going 90 mph in South Dakota right in front of our truck. He bounced into the ditch. His truck never came back to pick him up and he was only stunned so we brought him home. He was about 8 months old at the time.

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

Hmmm - Laddie was named after Albert Payson Terhune's, Lad a Dog stories- we often call him Princess. Hemp was named after the father of the modern border collie, Telfer's Old Hemp- I often call him Pempers no good reason for that. Jed was named after the real name of the wolf hybrid who played the wolf in the Ethan Hawke version of White Fang- he often comes to the name Mr. Jed Jed. Bob - well, he had alot of names before I bought him and that was the last one anyone had called him so I left it, and Skid was named after what he and we were doing when we met. His full name is Skid Mark so on formal occasions he is known as Mr. Mark.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

No squirrels on the prairie. Cats are off limits and a postman couldn't find us so our mail is delivered to a PO box. What can I say? My dogs are deprived.

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

Everyone loves a squeaky toy! The ultimate goal is to see how fast they can be disembowled and the squeeky removed.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

I have to say a sheep dog trial is number one. They are border collies after all (Skid enjoys spectating). Their second choice would be swimming at a lake.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

They see enough dogs at the kennel so their favorite pals are my human friends Louanne and Lisa. If they are around there is sure to be fun coming. Recently Louanne got a little Chihuahua named Joe and Skid thinks he's pretty cool.

What is each dog's most endearing quality?

Nothing in particular. Maybe good bed warmers when my husband is out of town. We all just enjoy each other's company.

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

They'd like me to feed them more. They'll never be happy until they are all so fat they can't waddle out the door to pee. They would like more treats.

What is each dog's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Both Lad and Hemp have been voted most promising dogs at very important trials. Jed once did well at one trial (he wasn't very good very often) Bob won 4 trials and Skid, well, Skid keeps dangerous people at bay. He does this job so well, I never even see the bad people.

I'm sure they've all done something stupid at one point or another but we don't like to dwell on their mistakes.

Visit the Alta-Pete Stockdogs website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rachel Spiker & Winston

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me in the glasses with the crazy hair. I'm Rachel. In real life, I'm a lawyer, but I also have a little blog called The Rachel Chronicles: The True & (Un)Amazing Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog, where I write about whatever strikes my fancy. I'm also a dog-mom. That handsome guy with me is The Winston. He's an American Bulldog, and he'll be celebrating his 5th birthday next month. He's all puppy though ... a 98 lb. puppy, that is.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

They're calling for a big snow here in the next couple of days, so I thought Winston would enjoy a playdate with his besties. We headed over to my neighbor's (Becky) for some quality dog time in her huge backyard. Winston galloped through the yard like Secretariat in the last lap of the Kentucky Derby with his friend Dimitri trying to keep up (not so easy for a little teacup Yorkie!), while Becky & I froze our butts off. Now we're snuggled up on the couch, Winston pouting because he had to come home, me trying to regain some feeling in my fingers.

What's brewing?

We're not coffee people here, so I'm warming up with a cup of Peach Cran Tango black tea from Teavana. With the just the perfect amount of Splenda for sweetness.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Sadly, no. I toyed with the idea of making cookies, but it's pretty close to dinner time here, so I'm trying to be good ... chocolate chip cookies sound pretty good though ...

Any treat for Winston on this occasion?

As soon as I get back feeling in my fingers, I'm going to get his dinner ready. Not that he lacks for treats. He had a Busy Bone not long before we headed over to Becky's.

How were you and your dog united?

When I bought my house in the summer of 2006, I knew I wanted a dog. While the house was being built, I started my search on Initially, I was looking for a Boston Terrier. I applied and applied and applied some more, but it never worked out for some reason or another. Someone else had already applied and been approved, the dog would be better with someone who worked from home, etc, etc. So then I decided to expand my search. My boyfriend at the time had a Boxer, and he was just the best dog, so I started looking for Boxers. I found a listing for a Boxer/American Bulldog mix, and I loved him as soon as I saw his picture. I applied, was approved, passed the home visit, made arrangements to pick him up a week late, and waited for my dog ... and waited. I don't know what happened. The rescue just never returned my calls. I was worried that something happened, so I waited for a while, but then finally concluded that I was never going to hear from them and started my search again. By then, I had done lots of research on American Bulldogs, and I liked everything I had learned, so I searched for American Bulldogs on Petfinder. And I found a listing for Winston and his brother. I filled out the 19 page application, the woman who ran the rescue called me immediately to set up a time to meet the dogs. She was meeting with another couple the same day, and as they had applied first, the would have the first pick of the puppies. Well, everyone fell in love with Winston's brother. He was the most playful of the two, whereas Winston was more reserved. But they were both great puppies, and I told myself I'd be happy with either. I rushed home to make sure everything was golden for the home visit. The owner of the rescue showed up shortly thereafter with Winston, and left shortly thereafter without him. He was home. And now I know that it was divine intervention that made the other couple choose the dog I thought I wanted. Because Winston and I were destined for each other.

How did Winston get his name? Any aliases?

At the rescue Winston's name was Monster (which I didn't understand until much later because he seemed like such a sweet puppy). I wasn't supposed to give him a new name until after the 2 week trial period, but his name so obviously didn't fit him that I just couldn't help myself. I tried out several different names, checking with Winston after each one to gauge his reaction. Nothing seemed to fit this serious little puppy. And then I just said Winston, and that was it. He looked at me like that was his name, and he'd just been waiting for me to say it. He is, of course, named for Winston Churchill. He has acquired several nicknames over the years: The Winston, The Super Duper, FrankenWinston, BabyDog, and The Million Dollar Dog (that one came from the vet).

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Winston loves everyone and everything. He also loves a good game of chase, so during our walks, I always have to keep on the lookout for bunnies and squirrels, so he doesn't take me along for the ride. He'd never hurt them though. When he was a puppy, he was playing in the yard with a grasshopper. Even as a puppy, he had paws the size of dinner plates. Well, when the grasshopper jumped up, Winston whacked it with his paw. Then he lifted his paw up reaaallllly slowly, so excited for the grasshopper to jump again. I'll never forget the look on his face when he realized he'd smashed his new friend. Ever since then, he's always been very careful with creatures who are smaller than he is. His orthopedic vet calls him the Gentle Giant.

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

Balls. Any kind of balls. He loves them. And he will fetch and return as many times as you'll throw it. Our backyard is filled with tennis balls, soccer balls, teaser balls.... He'll fetch other things like frisbees, but he prefers a good ball. Squeaky toys last a total of 20.3 seconds in our house. That's about how long it takes him to disable a squeaker. After he kills the squeaker, he's done.

Where is Winston's favorite place for an outing?

He loves going to Grammy and Poppy's because Grammy keeps treats in her pantry, and she's very liberal with them. And Poppy gives him table food even though he knows he's not supposed to. He also likes going to the C&O Canal to walk the towpath. There are always new friends to make there.

Who are your dog's best pet-pals?

Winston's besties are Bella and Dimitri. They live down the street. Bella is a mini-dachsund, and Dimitri is a teacup Yorkie. Dimitri loves to run along behind Winston and pretend he's a big dog. Bella doesn't actually like Winston too much, but that doesn't mean he'll stop trying. He's determined to win her over. As far as Winston is concerned, everyone he meets is a new friend in the making.

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

He would be really happy if I was a stay at home dog mom, but I've explained to him that someone has to buy the kibble. Oh, and he'd be really happy if I'd get over this whole cleanliness thing. I gave him a bath Saturday morning, and he decided mid-rinse that he wasn't really down with it and jumped ship. Needless to say, that was a disaster. The bathroom looked like a tsunami hit it.

What is Winston's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

At the end of my grandmother's life, she was at home under hospice care. One day when we came over, she was at the dining room table. An already tiny woman, made even smaller by sickness. My mom was trying to get her to eat something, but she was really just playing with her food. By that point, it was a struggle for her just to eat. I explained to Winston before we went in that Grandma was very sick, and he needed to be very gentle with her (he's incredibly loving, but also clumsy in his size). When we went in, he trotted over to the table and sat on the floor next to Grandma's chair. When he sat down, she reached over and settled her hand on his head. He just sat there while she slowly stroked his head, feeding him little bits of sandwich. It was ... peaceful. Calming. The same thing happened when my grandfather died. Grandpap loved dogs, but never had one. At the end, he was in a hospital bed, barely conscious. Again I explained to Winston that Grandpap was very sick, and he needed to be very careful. Winston sat by his bed and rested his chin on the bed in between the bed rails. I took Grandpap's hand and put it on Winston's nose, and you could feel the quiet sense of peace that settled over him, almost like a sigh. It seems odd that I would count these as Winston's proudest moments, but Winston has an amazingly beautiful spirit, and I'm glad that he could bring comfort to my grandparents in the end.

And now his most embarrassing moment. Eeek. For some reason, Winston has developed an extreme dislike of pet stores like PetSmart and PetCo. I think he associates them with the vet's office because of the smells?? Anyway, one day, I took him to PetSmart convinced that when he saw the other dogs, he'd get over this irrational dislike. Plus, new toys! Every dog's dream right? Wrong. As soon as I turned my back, he lifted his leg and peed on a display of Christmas toys. In front of a sales person. And another customer. I was completely and totally appalled at my normally well behaved dog. It's not even like he had to go. He peed before we went in. He was just trying to make a point. Yeah, well point taken.

Visit The Rachel Chronicles blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 21, 2011

Leona Wisoker & Leo and Shadow

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Leona; I write. A lot. Novels, short stories, blog posts, FaceBook updates, emails, and so on. These are my two "boys", Leo and Shadow. They sleep. A lot. And snore. Leo is an Irish Wolfhound mix, and Shadow is (my husband and I were told) a Lab-Beagle-Shepherd mix. (We didn't ask about details. Too scared of the answer.) Leo is around nine years old now, and apart from some trouble with his hips during cold weather or after too much exercise, is wearing his age extremely well. Shadow is around five years old, just coming out of the ultra-bouncy stage and settling in to a more adult bounciness.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Writing this profile, actually. Normally I drink my coffee at my desk, with my dogs at my feet (usually snoring). This profile inspired me to take a day and just have coffee with the dogs out on the back deck (and yes, it's cold outside today!).

What's brewing?

At the moment, I'm drinking "La Llave", a Cuban coffee I picked up during a recent trip to Florida. It's an espresso grind, but I don't have an espresso machine; so preparing it takes a little longer than usual. I always run a simple pot of hot water (because hot water is so useful throughout the day, while old coffee has to be thrown out), then pour through a single-cup filter for my coffee. With an espresso grind I tamp the grounds down really well and pour hot water very slowly, warm a half-cup of milk and (if I'm feeling fancy) whip it to a froth with a small mini-whisk, adding sugar as I go. A dash of nutmeg across the top, and I'm back in Florida listening to the seagulls at a dockside gourmet cafe!

Although I do love the result, the preparation is a little bit of a bother. I'm probably going to switch back to my usual fare of locally roasted beans soon, so that I don't have to be quite as awake while making my morning elixir.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

No. I don't usually eat until sometime in the early afternoon unless someone is around to remind me. I have the best of intentions, but once I start working, everything else kind of disappears until Shadow shoves his nose up under my arm, knocks my hand off the keyboard, and whines at me to go out or come play or just scratch his ears ... he's incredibly persistent. Sometimes I have to type one-handed to get a sentence finished before I get up to deal with him.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Yes. They are getting pieces of cheese, which they will both practically do backflips to get. You know that commercial, "Ahh...the power of cheese?" These two are the poster boys for that ad.

How were you and your dogs united?
Both are shelter rescues. Leo came from a no-kill shelter in Hampton called Animal Aid; he had been brought there as a very young puppy. He was adopted out once, and the couple returned him because he was "too rambunctious"--which is stupid, because of course a large-breed puppy is going to be destructively obnoxious for the first two years of his life. He was about a year and a half old when I found him, and he adopted me more than anything else. He was so thoroughly wired and excitable when I adopted him, and he is such a big dog, that the shelter was a little concerned whether I (at 5'1") could handle him; but the first thing he did when he got to his new home was to climb on the couch and go to sleep. And once we sorted out what food he did best on, about eighty percent of the
wildness just disappeared. Shadow was adopted from the SPCA as a very young puppy. We picked him out around Christmas, and the shelter staff wouldn't let us take him home until after the holiday; they didn't want "puppy under the tree" syndrome, which I can understand. So we took a towel, laid it in Leo's bed, brought it with us every day to go cuddle the puppy in, then put it back in Leo's bed. So they knew each other before they ever met, and Shadow's name has proven very apt: he is, literally, "Leo's Shadow". He gets very anxious if Leo's not around. We're working on sorting that out, because Leo is getting older, and we don't want Shadow's heart irretrievably broken when we have to let Leo go. 

How did your dogs get their names?
Leo was given his name by Animal Aid, and we saw no reason to change it--he was old enough to make that a hassle. Although it was amusing for a while: most people, at the time, were shortening my name (Leona) to "Leo"--so there was definitely an interesting adjustment period while that habit changed. Shadow chose his name; every time we went to cuddle him at the SPCA during that week before we were allowed to adopt him, we recited lists of names (this sounds so dorky, but it's the truth)--the first time he put his head up in response and licked my face, that was his chosen name.

Do your dogs have any impact on your writing?

They are probably the only reason I get up and take a break some days. They also lay up along the legs of my chair and make it dangerous for me to shift around too much.

Frisbee, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Leo very rarely plays. He does have a secret fondness for pink fluffy squeaky toys, but is terribly embarrassed to be caught with them; he'll drop it and walk away as soon as he realizes he's being watched. Shadow loves going after tennis balls, squeaky toys, and sticks. Oddly, he refuses to bring sticks back, but will prance around the yard carrying a branch bigger than he is, and chew on it until it's practically sawdust. We do play "hide and seek", where I make them stay in one room while I hide treats all around another room, then free them to seek them out; Shadow, being a scent rather than a sight breed, usually wins that one. Sometimes, just to get them some real exercise, we will stand at opposite ends of the yard with a supply of treats and call them back and forth. Leo's astoundingly fast and spins on a dime to rocket back the other direction; his back legs are really powerful.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

Anywhere. They probably don't get out enough. Leo loves to come with me for car rides, so if the weather's good and I have some quick pop-in-and-out type errands to run, I'll take him along. Shadow detests car rides, but loves walks. They both love nature trails.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other. Leo is very protective of Shadow, and Shadow, as noted above, is totally bonded to Leo.

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

They'd get me up from my desk for more walks.

What's each dog's best quality?

Leo is very protective; Shadow is a clown.

What's each dog's proudest moment?

Probably the day they each caught a squirrel (different days). Shadow actually snuck up and killed his, then carried it in the house like a trophy (picture me shrieking and turning him right around to get the hell out of the house) ... Leo wasn't so smart, and wound up with his nose nipped and clawed open. His squirrel got away, but it was a valiant battle.

His most embarrassing?

Leo is dreadfully embarrassed whenever we catch him squeaking his pink fluffy toys or laugh at him for sleeping in ridiculous positions. He's getting very dignified in his old age. Shadow's too much a clown to be embarrassed over anything.

Leona Wisoker's short stories have appeared in Futures: Fire to Fly Magazine,,, and more. She is a regular reviewer for Green Man Review and its spinoff, The Sleeping Hedgehog.

Her latest novel is Secrets of the Sands.

Visit Leona Wisoker's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Secrets of the Sands.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Caroline Plaisted & Cecil and Sidney

Who is in the photo at right?

Well, the more interesting faces in the photo are Cecil and Sidney my two rather delicious Border Terriers. I’ve lived with dogs virtually all my life with only a couple of years dogless (which was horrible!). When I was a child, my parents kept Poodles but, when I was eight, I was given a Yorkshire Terrier for my birthday. He was quite big for his breed and came from an American service family who were based in London. As a puppy in the litter, they’d named him Sherman after the tank (I told you he was stocky!) and the name suited him so well it stuck. Sherman died not long after my 21st birthday and that left me in mourning for a few years. And then I discovered Border Terriers – and I have been lucky enough to live with this breed ever since. Cecil is the oldest and he is now seven. Sidney is an adolescent at 17 months. Then there is me: I am Caroline Plaisted and I write books – mostly for children and teens; mostly fiction but there is some non-fiction. We live in the UK.

What is it about Border Terriers that you love?

Where should I start? I just adore this breed. I love all terriers because I love their feisty personality and their toughness. I always think of Borders as big dogs in small clothing: their characters are big and they are happy to be lap dogs – but only as long as they’ve had a really long and interesting walk. Life is never boring with a Border and they are very intelligent dogs – but you have to make sure they understand the ground rules otherwise they will soon make idiots of the humans and be quite difficult to live with. Mine have always had
Cecil, sun worshipping
quite good manners but we do joke that Border Terriers should really be called Border Terrier-ists because of their tendency towards turning adventures into mid-adventures owing to their daredevil personalities. There was a recent survey into the breed’s health in the UK and it turned out that the biggest cause of fatalities in the breed isn’t illness but accidents ‘owing to their inherent disregard for their formal training’! Like I said, Borders need firm boundaries. (Which they might well ignore at times.)

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Actually, in our lives, it is tea with canines – sorry! Cecil, Sidney and I are all tea drinkers with attitude. It doesn’t take much excuse for us to need a cuppa.

What's brewing?

To be honest, it depends on the time of day. First thing in the morning it is Redbush tea, drunk without milk – and a second one if I can manage to squeeze one in before we go out for our morning walk. Cecil and Sidney quite like this but really prefer to wait for about 10am when it’s time for a small mug of Kenyan tea with milk and very definitely no sugar. Not too milky and certainly not too strong – there’s no Builder’s Tea (in other words so strong the teaspoon stands up in it and it is the colour of American Tan tights – eeuch!) drinkers in this house. I confess there might be a second mug of Kenyan an hour later…

In the afternoon, it’s Earl Grey time – in a large Emma Bridgewater cup and saucer. I’m probably terribly common because I don’t have my Earl Grey with lemon – I confess to putting some milk in mine. Cecil and Sidney pester me non-stop, desperate to have my tea. I’m afraid I make them wait until I have finished most of the cup and then they are allowed to have a little tea each in saucers of their own. Cecil will slurp the tea whatever the temperature but Sidney prefers his to be a little cooler before he sips!

Other times we might go for some Lhapsang Souchon for a change. Ceylon or Darjeeling are also a pleasant change. But Cecil and Sidney do not like Russian Caravan.

Sidney, chilling out
Any goodies to go with the tea, for you or your dogs?

The occasional dark chocolate digestive biscuit slips down quite nicely with the mug of Kenyan in the morning… But Cecil and Sidney definitely don’t get one of those – I have to look after their figures! Mid-morning snacks for them are a small raw-hide chew which keeps Sidney busy for about two minutes and Cecil for a more sedate twenty minutes or so.

How were you and your dogs united?

Ah – I mentioned before that I’ve had Borders for a long time now. My first was George and he was fantastic. When he was about six, he lived for a short while with an English Pointer called Henry. Sadly, Henry died of a heart attack when he was two. So George was back as a singleton for a while and then I heard that his sister had given birth to a litter – that’s when his nephew Percy came to live with us. Uncle George and Percy were great companions but then, after a tragic time during which George was bitten by an adder on the farm where we lived and nearly died, he then slipped a disk and life had to become more sedate for him. We then found he had an inoperable tumour and lost him. It’s that awful experience that only other pet owners can understand. So when Percy was about 14 months old, he was on his own. Percy was gorgeous and so handsome. When I told my breeder about losing George she announced that Percy’s mother had been mated with his father again and that, only the week before we lost George, another litter had been born. So, of course, I had to have Percy’s brother whom we named Arthur. Arthur and Percy were entirely devoted to each other – and to me! They adored each other and shared everything: a bed, a lead with coupled collars, bones (chewing opposite ends of the same one together), toys, adventures, cuddles, racing games, the space in front of the hearth, a love of life. Arthur and Percy never fell out. And then, I can feel a lump in my throat as I write this, Arthur suddenly fell ill with kidney failure. We managed to make his life better with medication and a special diet and I thought, hoped, all was OK for a few months. Then, one beautiful spring day, Arthur and Percy were racing around a field sniffing the scent of some boxing Hares that we’d seen in the field earlier. They had a great time running around being busy for about half an hour, coming back to me now and again to tell me how great it all was. And then Arthur came staggering back exhausted as if the last breath had been taken out of him. Sadly, it almost had, as we lost him three days later. It was the cruelest blow for Percy who simply didn’t know what to do without his baby brother. He sat and howled at Arthur’s grave and was violently sick all that night. We tried to comfort each other but we weren’t much of a replacement to each other for Arthur. I spoke with my breeder again wondering if she had any advice to offer as, at that time, I was not in a position to take on a puppy again and give him the time and attention he needed. And, anyway, Percy was ten and far too old to cope with a puppy pestering him. That was when my breeder suggested that I consider taking on a ‘rescue’ Border: an older dog that had fallen on harder times and needed some TLC. I
Cecil sunbathing
rang Border Terrier Welfare and set the ball rolling but, would you believe it, there were no dogs available at the time. Then it was suggested that I contact some of the reputable breeders in my region to see if they had any older dogs rather than puppies. And that was how I found Cecil. He’d been successful in the show ring but was now older and didn’t like showing any more. He was three at the time and he came home with me to see if he and Percy could get on. Two weeks later, there was no way that Cecil was going to leave us. He’d settled in very nicely to our house and, although his friendship with Percy couldn’t ever possibly match the devotion that he shared with Arthur, Cecil and Percy became contented companions. Percy still missed his brother but seemed more peaceful knowing there was another dog in the house. Amazingly, Cecil’s grandfather was George, my first Border’s father! So I still had relatives together.

Nearly three years later, Percy lost his sight, almost entirely, in the space of twenty-four hours (my suspicion is that he suffered a stroke during his sleep). We made adjustments to our life style but a few weeks later, Percy’s health deteriorated very rapidly and we lost him. So here Cecil and I were with another canine hole in our lives. By now, my circumstances were such that I could take on a puppy again. After a few months of mourning, I began to search for a pup. My much-respected breeder and Border mentor had now retired from breeding. So I felt like I was leaping in the dark. I called everyone I thought could help me, looking for another boy. But, would you believe it, the only puppies being born in a hundred mile plus radius were girls. And then, when I’d almost given up hope, I got a phone call from someone at the Southern Border Terrier Society who told me of a litter that had been born, many miles from me, and of the seven puppies, five were boys! I made a phone call the next morning and two weeks later I went to see a delicious litter of puppies – all of whom had a grandfather who was Percy and Arthur’s father! Another perfect connection. I fell in love with Sidney instantly and he came to live with us when he was eight weeks old.

Do Cecil and Sidney have any influence on your books?

I was going to say no and then I realize that I quite often put animals in my novels. A lot of my characters build up strong relationships with cats and dogs. And, of course, those pets become the one solid, reliable element of my characters life. I’ve recently written one novel where the pet becomes an accidental companion: not actually wanted at first and, in fact, a hindrance, but as the story develops, so does the devotion to the pet.

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

I always like to choose very strong, very traditional men’s names for my dogs (my cats, who share beds with the dogs are called Mabel and Ruby). I usually have a couple of names in mind when I choose a puppy but the final selection is often because the name seems to suit a particular personality. George was originally going to be Henry but then, because he was one of four boys, the breeder had nicknamed them all after The Beatles – hence, George Harrison. George suited the name perfectly. Percy I chose because I had an uncle with that name and, also, Border Terriers come from the border country between the most northern part of England, Northumberland, and Scotland. The Duke of Northumberland is Lord Percy – ta da! Arthur I chose because he had a gorgeous, smiley face and there used to be a British comedian called Arthur Askey. Cecil was a happy settlement as his original name was Thistle when he came to us at three. My children weren’t keen on his name because a friend had a female dog of the same name. Thistle and Cecil are fairly similar in name and over a period of a couple of weeks, we gradually changed the name over. Cecil seemed more than happy to accept it and never thought twice about the change. And then we had Sidney. I had a few names in mind for him and was fairly set on one of them but Sidney’s personality just didn’t match it – Sidney (also the name of another uncle of mine), however, seemed perfect for him and he has lived up to it beautifully.

As far as aliases are concerned, all my Borders have had terribly posh Kennel Club names but we don’t ever use them.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Without any doubt it will always be a squirrel. Cecil and Sidney live with feline companions whom they adore but I can’t say they have quite the same relationship with other cats that live in the neighbourhood. That said, they haven’t chased any of them. Squirrels, however, provide interesting sport – and great puzzlement when they disappear up trees… where do they go?

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

Tennis balls are destroyed in minutes: after the ball is penetrated with the teeth, the rubber is then ripped into smaller pieces before the felt coating is shredded in a satisfying manner. Much to my sons annoyance – although he shouldn’t leave the balls lying around in the garden… Frisbees might be caught but certainly will never be returned – what’s the point in that? I have given up buying squeaky toys because they are given a frantic attack for however many seconds they last before sharp terrier teeth destroy them and swallow the squeak. Cecil’s great passion in life are Kongs. They are supposedly indestructible – but Cecil hasn’t read that bit on the package. The red ones last very little time, the black ones a little longer. But I always have to buy the ones supposedly for bigger breeds because they last longer. Sidney isn’t very fussed with Kongs though. But he is very suspicious of the padded Liberty-print covered coat hangers in my wardrobe. He keeps telling me that there’s something not right with them – in fact, I think he wonders if they are snakes. I’ve shown him that they are nothing to be scared of, but he’s not convinced.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Cecil working hard
Sidney is Cecil’s and Cecil is Sidney’s. And they both adore Mabel my sixteen year old black cat. Sadly, Mabel’s daughter Ruby died earlier this year. Ruby found Sidney a rather tiresome puppy and liked to sleep in his bed, twitching her tail, and scaring Sidney…

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

We rise at about 6am, to get my son and daughter ready for school. Cecil is hysterical with excitement to see me. Sidney is pleased but would rather stay in bed – he hates early mornings! Cecil runs around frantically with one of his Kongs; Sidney races upstairs and hops on to my bed to go back to sleep there. We go out for a walk at 7.20am. I can be really specific about the time because we are on our way to meet the school bus which leaves at 7.30am (and there is no plan B!). Sidney loves the school bus and quite likes the idea of hopping aboard but I persuade him otherwise and we set off for our walk proper. By now, Sidney is very awake and he and Cecil make me smile every morning at how pleased they are to be going out with me. I sometimes think we could take exactly the same trip every day of our lives and they’d still think it was an adventure. We are very lucky because we live in a glorious piece of the Garden of England. We have a canal and lots of farm land around us – fantastic walking country filled with swans, ducks, lambs, rams, hares, rabbits, frogs, herons, foxes, squirrels, sparrow hawks, owls – the works. There is always something to look at and it all provides great fascination and adventure for Cecil and Sidney. Which makes me love it all the more. Plus, for me, it’s great to see that changing seasons up close.

We walk for over an hour – sometimes 90 minutes. Then it’s back home for writing (me) or a recovery nap (Cecil and Sidney). Cecil and Sidney are great sun worshippers and, if there is any in the garden, they will lie in its heat. Otherwise, they move around the house in the morning to catch the sun’s rays through the windows upstairs and down. After a while, they join me where I am working. A favourite spot is on an armchair by the window: here a chap can do a little snoozing but also keep half an eye out on what is going on in the village. After all, they like to make a pretence of earning their living. As I mentioned before, they join me when it’s time to brew the tea… Then it’s back to work at the Mac.

Sidney working hard
After lunch in the kitchen, for which they join me hopefully, I go back to the keyboard. Cecil and Sidney resume their napping, either on the armchair or in the next room where the afternoon sun often comes through the window. Other times, they might join Mabel for a snooze in their own bed. Late afternoon, we go for a second walk and this is usually is one when we walk through a flock of sheep – so no going off lead. Two thirds of the way round, we stop and wait for the school bus. Sidney, as ever, is extremely excited when he hears the bus coming along the lane before he can see it around the corner: he does a meerkat impression waiting for it. Then we walk along the village to home – where Cecil and Sidney inspect the contents of the school bags which are, inevitably, dumped on the kitchen floor. The occasional left-over lunch sandwich meets it’s end this way. Then it’s a question of sniffing my children to see where they’ve been or if they’ve met anyone interesting during the day before snuggling up for cuddles with them. In the winter, evenings are spent in front of the fire or on a lap. In the summer, evenings are spent on laps with the occasional exploration of the garden. Gosh, life is tough for a Border.

Where are Cecil and Sidney's favorite outdoor destinations?

Anywhere outside really but there is a local wood which is great for exploring. We are 15 minutes drive to the coast which is also loved. And anywhere that Cecil and Sidney haven’t been before. They both quite enjoy traveling on the train too.

What is each dog's best quality?

Cecil is loving and quiet and incredibly placid with humans. I often wonder if it’s his past career as a show dog that makes him so patient with people. I also have to admit that, unlike all my other Borders, Cecil is not blessed with a big brain – which makes his personality quite endearing.

Sidney is quite a clown and very dramatic – his enthusiasm for life (except early mornings, obviously) is infectious. He is very bright and has picked up an understanding of quite a lot of different English phrases. He can also count!

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

Everything Sidney does makes me laugh! But the thing that is perhaps the silliest and most frustrating at the same time is his pretence that he can’t get up on to the sofa without help when you are sitting on it. Note: he only does this in the evening with big, pathetic eyes; he’s quite capable of getting up there on his own during the day…

Cecil snores – loudly! And sometimes he is so deeply asleep that he rolls over and falls out of his bed (you see, I told you he wasn’t especially bright). Then he looks terribly embarrassed. Which means he needs a reassuring cuddle, of course.

Most frustrating thing for both of them at the moment is that they have become a bit too territorial about the garden fence since a Rottweiler moved in next door. We have barking-torture at the fence which has to be stopped. It is getting better. But not quickly enough for my ears…

Visit Caroline Plaisted's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 17, 2011

Annah Rondon & Beba, Bruno, and Mikey

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Annah Rondon, and my dog, Beba. She's turning ten now in March and I rescued her when she was about nine months old. She's a poodle.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee at my mom's house with Beba.

What's brewing?

Cafe con leche. Which is made with organic milk, Folgers instant coffee, vanilla flavored powder, sugar (lots of it) and a pinch of salt.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Cookies (because I'm a fattie).

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

She just had a cheeseburger so no more treats for now.

How were you and your dogs united?

All my dogs are rescues (from the street) except for Beba. Beba was given to me by someone to take care of her and they never came back to get her.

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

Beba means baby in spanish for a girl. She's very cuddly and sweet so it seemed appropriate at the time. Bruno and Mikey just sort of happened (my dad named Bruno and my ex boyfriend named Mikey). It stuck. Bruno's nickname is Botchi and Mikey's is Bear. They understand their nicknames which I think is the cutest thing ever. Or maybe I'm just a proud momma.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Cat. Definitely cats.

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

Squeaky toys. Which drive me absolutely crazy but they all love.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

There's a place on South Beach called Lincoln Road. There's lot of bars and restaurants and everyone takes their dogs. It's like a doggie fashion show.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other. They're a bunch of A**holes so really they have no friends.

What is each dog's most endearing quality?

They all love to cuddle and I'm a big time cuddler. My dogs disarm me with the amount of love they shower me with every day. Each night I thank God for blessing me with them (I know that sounded corny but I truly love them).

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

That I'd be timely when it's time for them to eat.

What is each dog's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Most embarrassing was when I took Mikey to the vet and pooped on someone's shoe. It was horrible. Proudest? All the time. I'm a proud mommy.

Visit Annah Rondon's blog, Red Means Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 14, 2011

Peggy Frezon & Kelly

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi! This is me, Peggy Frezon, and my little rescue dog, Kelly. I am a pet columnist, blogger, writer for Guideposts magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and author. Kelly is 9 years old, and my best guess is that she is a cocker spaniel-long haired dachshund mix, although recently I've noticed this breed called Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and she looks like she may have some of that too.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Since I write full time from home every day, Kelly is my office-mate. She always reminds me to take a break, mostly so I can give her some attention! But by following her lead and taking a break, the rest of my day is usually more productive.

Diet Coke instead of coffee? Any goodies to go with the beverage?

I don't know why but I've never drank a cup of coffee. But I do love Diet Coke, even for breakfast! My favorite snack to go with my Diet Coke is a banana.

Any treat for Kelly on this occasion?

Kelly enjoys some banana too.

How were you and Kelly united?

We found Kelly on the Petfinders website. At the time, our two kids were growing up and leaving for college, and I thought another dog would help fill the rapidly emptying nest. We had a 12-year-old yellow lab then, and I hoped a little sister might help perk him up. It turned out that she bossed him around quite a bit, but I think he kind of liked it.

How did Kelly get her name? Any aliases?

Kelly is the name she was given at her rescue home. We considered changing it, but since she was about a year old when we got her, we decided to stick with the name she was accustomed to. She's a real girly girl, with long reddish hair, and I think the name fits.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

All of the above. Kelly barks incessantly at the mail carrier, goes crazy whenever she sees a cat, and chases off squirrels in the yard. (The squirrels always tempt her and then confuse her by scampering up a tree and leaping from limb to limb. She can never figure out where they've gone.)

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

Tennis ball. She follows the same routine:Chase tennis ball for two minutes, stop and peel off felt, then crack it open like an egg. For squeaky toys she immediately de-squeaks, unstuffs, then decapitates and dismembers.

Where is Kelly's favorite place for an outing?

Her Grandma and Grandpa's camp up in the mountains. Oh, the smells! There's a lake too, and she loves to swim.

Who are Kelly's best pet-pals?

Kelly does not play well with others. I fill in as her favorite pet pal.

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

That I would share all my meals with her.

What is Kelly's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Proudest moment would be our new book coming out this August, Dieting with My Dog. She inspired me to do whatever it takes to keep her healthy and fit... and motivated me to lose weight along with her. Now we are working hard to maintain our weight loss.

Most embarrassing is probably when she was a puppy and got stuck under this fence. Doesn't she look embarrassed?

Visit Peggy Frezon's website and the Peggy's Pet Place blog, and read Frezon's Pawsitively Pets column.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Carrie Noar & Bunny, Lilac, Blueberry and Morgan

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Carrie Noar. In real life I teach Pre K at a year round school. That would be me with Bunny, our youngest Greyhound in the picture.

We have four dogs here, Lilac, a fifteen-year-old Greyhound, Blueberry, a nine-year-old Greyhound, Bunny, a four-year-old Greyhound and Morgan, a two-year-old German Shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We went out for a hike and then came home to warm up.

What's brewing?

I'm not a coffee drinker, so I'm having Starbucks' hot chocolate.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Chocolate biscotti! You may as well go chocolate all the way!

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

They're finishing dinner, and then I imagine a nap will commence.

How were you and your dogs united?

We fostered Lilac back when we had our first two Greyhounds. She was already a senior because she'd been a brood mama. I guess that made her less attractive to other adopters. Anyway, we'd had her for several months and there hadn't even been a single inquiry about her. My birthday is in May, which happens to be Adopt A Senior Month. My husband graciously allowed me to pay her discounted adoption fee for my birthday that year. Eight years later, that sweet, old little dog is still with us!

Blueberry [photo left, with Morgan] is Lilac's daughter. We were asked if we would dogsit her while her first adopter had surgery. We thought it would be fun to have mother and daughter together for a month. Well, the lady started getting wishy washy about whether she wanted her back. Then we started hearing that she wanted Blue to stay with her mother and us. After several months we were finally told one day that Blueberry was ours. She was already deeply attached to my husband, so we were more than happy to keep her here.

My first grey, Treat, was a therapy dog, ambassadog, READ dog and just general extension of who I was. When she passed away suddenly, I was bereft, even with three other hounds in the house. Two of them were seniors and Blueberry was my husband's girl. I realized that if I wanted to keep doing all those activities that I'd really enjoyed, I was going to have to find myself another Greyhound. We went back to the Quad Cities Greyhound Adoption kennel, where we'd gotten our first two Greyhounds, and met about a dozen dogs. Finally, they told me they had one new dog in who hadn't been tested or anything, but I could meet her if I wanted to. I hadn't clicked with any of the others, so I agreed. In walked the tiniest, prettiest little Greyhound that I'd ever seen, and she calmly leaned right up against me. I was smitten with Bunny from the very beginning!

We knew Morgan's previous owner online. She was actually one of Bunny's racing owners. When she learned that a German Shepherd was my husband's dream dog, she offered us hers. She couldn't give Morgan the time that she needed. We went up and met her and she was a great fit! She's been here with us since the end of June and we really love her. My husband would probably take a bullet for that dog, and she'd probably take one for me!

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

All of them had their names when we got them except Lilac. Her name was Line, and that's just not easy to say or work with. We wanted something that was a little feminine, two syllables and we had a friend who had loved purple and had just lost her beloved Greyhound. So, we came up with Lilac, partly in tribute to her and because we didn't think we'd meet too many other Lilacs out there. She also goes by mama dog.

Blueberry goes by Blue, Berry Girl, Booger Berry and Your Highness.

Bunny goes by Little Bit, Pupcake, Bunny Girl, and Princess.

Morgan goes by Mo, Wolfy Girl, Shepherd and Fuzzy Butt.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Hmmm... Bunny and Blueberry would take out a squirrel any day. They stalk them at the dog park when they aren't too busy sniffing the grass or taunting other dogs. They'd expect the postman to tell them how beautiful they are and pet them.

Lilac would go for a cat, even at her old age! She's surprisingly spry when she wants something.

Morgan would take out all three, choosing which one posed the highest threat to homeland security at the moment. She's also take out any lurking rabbits while she was on her search and destroy mission.

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

Bunny, Blue and Lilac would all prefer their stuffed rabbits. Morgan will chew any squeaky toy, tennis ball or frisbee into submission in a matter of minutes.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

Bunny and Morgan go out hiking with us almost every weekend. If it's not too strenuous a hike and the weather is decent, Blueberry goes, too. They also love the Oakwood Park dog park. Lilac does not like to go anywhere in the car. She's happiest lounging at home.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Morgan adores Bunny [photo, right]. She thinks of herself as Bunny's personal body guard around other dogs. Bunny is happy to play with Morgan on hikes and at the dog park, but treats her with a certain amount of disdain at home. Blueberry is a bit aloof. She'll play with Bunny or Morgan on occasion, but prefers to stay to herself. Lilac is so elderly, she just expects everyone to stay out of her way!

What is each dog's most endearing quality?

Lilac is a love sponge. She will come to you and wrap her head around your neck, or more often now, bury her head in your chest and stand there for petting. She's also completely shameless! Any of our others who even think they've been caught in a misdeed will hang their heads in shame, but Lilac will look you in the eye with an "I did it. You know I did it and I know that you know that I did it. Can we just move on now?" look that you just can't get angry at.

Blueberry lives to make us laugh. She knows when we get amused by her antics and will totally ham it up. There's just a certain sparkle about her. She's the one who will come to you when you're upset and just be with you.

Bunny is unbelievably sweet! She's like sunshine poured into a furry little body. She always, always, always wants to be with me and be touching in some way. She's a total heart stealer.

Morgan is so devoted and intense. She really would do anything to protect us if she thought we were in danger. She is always partially on alert, ready if she's needed by anybody in her pack. This includes pushing my husband away if he cuts Bunny's nails and she gives a little yelp.

What is each dog's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Lilac is shameless! She's never been embarrassed, ever. She once stole a bag of Easter candy that was hidden in our bedroom and hid it behind the couch. When we left for errands, she pulled it out and had a party with our first two hounds. We had pastel foil colored poop in the dog pen for a week, but fortunately no sick dogs.

Blueberry recently went through having a cancerous lump removed from her head. The fact that she made it through and has recovered nicely is her best moment. We don't talk about the time she rolled backwards off our bed.

Bunny tied for first place on graduation night when we took obedience. She also recently completed a fifteen mile hike without ever flagging while a lot of the German Shepherds we were with were ready to be carried up the last hill. She's also very proud to have been the only one to have gone with me on a big vacation to Dewey Beach for a Greyhound gathering where people actually recognized her from the blog. Having to wear a harness at eighteen months old because she hadn't learned to walk on a leash would probably be the most embarrassing.

Morgan's proudest moment is anytime she thinks she's scared intruders away from the house. Coming tail fur stuck in her teeth close to catching a rabbit while on a leash in the yard is up there, too! Being scared by a lizard about three inches long on one of our summer hikes is her most embarrassing moment by far.

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

I'm pretty sure they'd get me to quit my day job and take them on blogworthy adventures every day. They seem remarkably unimpressed when I go off to work each day for their kibble money.

Read more about the dogs at the Tales and Tails blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue