Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Martin Kihn & Hola

Who is in the photo at right?

The tall one is me -- Martin Kihn. I work for an ad agency in Minneapolis. The shorter, better-looking one is Hola, a Bernese mountain dog. She's eight years old now, and still a bundle of unstoppable energy. In this picture, Hola had just graduated from a week-long training retreat in the woods of Virginia to prepare for her Canine Good Citizen certification.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Hola and I like to have a routine. While I was writing my book about her, she'd get me up at six in the morning, and I'd toss on a pot of coffee. Then I'd sit on her doggie bed drinking my coffee and writing her book while she snored happily next to me.

What's brewing?

Hola and I recently moved to Minneapolis with my wife Julia after twenty years in Manhattan. When I was writing Bad Dog, we lived in a Hispanic neighborhood in Washington Heights. I got hooked on a strong espresso-like drip coffee called Bustelo -- rocket fuel for the writer. By coincidence, it's the same brand consumed by my favorite fictional character: Holly Winter, star of the fabulous Dog Lovers Mysteries series by Susan Conant.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Just whole cream. Milk doesn't have enough body for my taste. Cream takes the edge off the Bustelo. I don't eat while I write because my hands are busy typing. Hola doesn't eat because she's sleeping. But as soon as she's up, after her walk, she gets the ultimate canine goody of all: raw organic black angus beef. Yum.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

Hola was my wife Julia's idea -- one I was totally against in the beginning. I'd never had a dog before, just cats. They seemed too big and high-maintenance, which of course they are. But I was traveling all the time for my job and my wife wanted a companion at home, so I couldn't say no. It wasn't easy finding a good breeder to let us have a Berner because we lived in an apartment and were first-time owners. They're surprisingly strict. Eventually we found one up in Rochester and drove eight hours each way to pick her up. The rest is history.

How did she get her name?

All the dog books we read suggested a simple name, so we wanted to go for one syllable. On the other hand Spot or Joe seemed too ordinary for such a beautiful dog. She turned out to be so friendly, my wife decided to call her Hola for "hello."

What is your dog's proudest moment so far?

Our book Bad Dog tells the story of how Hola starts as a kind of good-looking Marley -- just a badly-behaved, badly-trained dog. At a certain point, my life was falling apart and I decided we were going to train and get our Canine Good Citizen award from the American Kennel Club. This is a ten-point test of good manners and basic training, but it was totally impossible for us at first. Literally impossible. But after a lot of hard work, Hola earned her CGC in 2010. It was an amazing day -- really incredible.

Learn more about Bad Dog: A Love Story at Martin Kihn's website and the Bad Dog Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue