Monday, March 28, 2011

Jared Cullum & Rusty

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Jared and I'm an cartoonist and designer living with my wonderful wife (Johanna) in Virginia. We have a 6-year-old, black and silver Miniature Schnauzer. He's a male and his name is Rusty. Rusty is a very sweet boy but has a reserved mysterious darker side. He's never quick to trust but as loyal as they come once you're on his good side. I say mysterious because we don't know a lot about his past. He was a rescue and is overall a happy well-functioning dog but has the occasional button we watch for not to press. In this photo we're sitting together over a cup a coffee. Rusty is a character in a bi-weekly webcomic strip I do called Pea Green Coffee Cup.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I start every morning with coffee. I can't imagine how anyone starts their day without it. I have coffee with my dog Rusty because I enjoy relaxing with him but also he follows me everywhere I go. If I take a shower, my wife will often see him sitting outside the door if he hasn't already snuck in to scratch and contort the towel into a comfortable place to lay down.

What's brewing?

I store coffee much like my friends that collect and drink wine do. I have the brew that I currently drinking or trying out, but I also keep a load of Folgers or Maxwell for in between or if I run out of the brands I prefer. I'm currently drinking a breakfast blend from Rostov's Coffee & Tea Co. I buy a lot of coffee there. When I was in art school and when I had a studio downtown shortly after I'd go there for "Cappy Hour" where they have a large cup for $.50 at the end of the day. If I'm going to draw in a coffee shop I often go to a place here called Crossroads which uses coffee from Rostov's. It's featured in the first comic strip I drew of my current series. I also go to a place called Black Hand, but I'm sort of over-answering at this point so I'll just cut it short... Rostov's. Breakfast Blend. For me, that is. Rusty doesn't drink coffee, but I guess that goes without saying.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Whenever Rusty and I go out on a coffee or park or anything date I always try to get him a small something. There are plenty of pet stores in my neighborhood with dog cookies or a small greenie if I haven't brought something from home. Today. Nothing fancy. Bowl of cheerios. Thinking about making eggs. Probably won't. Effort. I like breakfast better at non-breakfast time.

Any treat for your dog on this occasion?

Rusty is crunching away at one of those small crunchy bones. He loves those things.

How were you and Rusty united?

He was a rescue, which seems like a over-dramatic word for the simple exchange. A young family had adopted him as a puppy when they had a little girl. The young family grew into a four kid family and the mother wanted to go back to school. That's all I know of their personal story but she was taking him to the pound and looking for a home. I met her in the parking lot of a Target and that's when I first met Rusty. He was wearing a small red harness and black sweater with a small moose pattern across it. She (the owner) was very sweet and after a sobbing and saying good bye passed the leash to my wife and I. We took him home and showered him with love and he showered our sheets, pillows, space heaters, rugs, important documents and floors in pee. Eventually he came around. After having him a while my wife began to feel left out because of the bond between Rusty and I, often coming home to find us wearing matching bandana's or tiny sombreros. We have since got my wife a little Yorkshire Terrier we call Baxter who has the same relationship with her that I have with Rusty. It's good but can be frustrating as Baxter won't listen to me and Rusty often hesitates to listen to her.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Rusty or The DogFather or Russ-Russ or Sweet-boy or Robo-Schnauz or No-Sorry-I-Can't-Pet-You-Now-I'm-Working. We thought of a thousand names to rename him on the trip to get him, but the woman that had him before us was so genuinely heartbroken at the loss of her dog going with us we decided to honor her and their bond by continuing to call him Rusty. It just felt right.

How prominently does Rusty figure in your comic, Pea Green Coffee Cup?

Rusty is a regular "cast" member of it. He pops in every now and then, usually for a joke or a thought about him. The comic strip is mainly about life and being married. Rusty's cartoon version is like him in that he's sweet but very reserved. He constantly needs love and affection but never opens up to being overly joyous. He's like a lover that has had a bad day and needs a hug but "doesn't want to talk about it." That's the feeling I get when he snuggles with me and I just do as any good friend would do. I pat him on the back and say, "I'm here and everything's going to fine."

UPS man, cat, squirrels?

UPS. Holy jeez. And squirrels.

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

Oddly enough: None. His favorite time is just cuddling or getting his back rubbed. But, for some reason at the dog park if other dogs are playing with a ball, he'll compete and chase a ball or two.

Where is Rusty's favorite place for outings?

We like to go to a particular dog park in our neighborhood. It's not a dog park, but we and the collective dog owners have decided it is ... often to the chagrin of local police. We like the dogs and the families that go there but we have to keep an eye out for cops so we can leash 'em up.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Our little yorkie loves to roam with the largest dogs he can find at the park, often rummaging around or climbing on top of a pack of Great Danes. Rusty has his reservations and often sits with me. He occupies his time by policing the park. If two dogs get in a tug match he'll dart over and bark like crazy. When they break up he'll trot back smiling at me as if to say, "D'you see that? See how I busted those guys?"

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

My need to sleep at 5 o'clock in the morning. On the same note, if I could change anything I'd change their need to pee at 5 o'clock in the morning.

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

Baxter trots around constantly in a total state of pride. I don't think he understands the concept of shame, somehow it escapes him. Rusty seems to do fine but there was this one time for Halloween we thought it would be cute to dress him in a chicken outfit. Once it was on he wouldn't move. He looked identical to the boy in the Christmas Story film with the bunny pajamas. He just sat and wouldn't even look up at us. He looked so sad and ashamed we stripped it off him as fast as possible as a little foam hot dog with a tiny dog attached to it ran circles around us and jumped in our face for attention.

Visit the Pea Green Coffee Cup webcomic.

--Marshal Zeringue