Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Deb Caletti & Tucker

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Deb Caletti, author of eight novels, most recently, Stay (Simon & Schuster), and Tucker, who has never written anything. We think he’s a German Shepherd mix, but we’re not sure, and we think he’s about five and a half, although we’re not sure about that, either. When someone asks me what kind of dog he is, I usually say, “big and tan.” I like this photo, because we sort of look like business partners. He’s the serious one on the left.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Since I’m a writer and work at home, Tucker and I have coffee every morning together as I start my writing day. Before Tucker came into my life (through my husband, John), my coffee-and-everything-else companion was Jupiter, my sweet, beloved beagle. For a short while, both of them were my coworkers (although Jupiter was definitely upper management). Since she died about a year ago, it’s been me and Tuck for coffee every day.

What's brewing?

Starbuck’s French Roast. Nice and strong. A little milk and sugar.

Any treats for you or Tucker on this occasion?

I love a nice shortbread cookie with my morning coffee. A brownie does nicely, too. Tucker sits nicely for his own dog cookie. Jupiter would have snitched the treats and the paper towels they sat on. A master at the snitch-and-run.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

Tucker is actually my step-dog; he came into my life when I met John. Now Tucker has a stay-at-home writer mom, which I think he likes very much. He thinks it’s his job to guard me, which is something we disagree about. The way my kids and I became united with Jupiter, though – that story (which involves a road trip, a broken down car, a snowstorm, and a new beginning for us all) is told in my newest book, The Story of Us, which will come out next year.

How did he get his name?

John rescued Tucker from the pound. With his folded down ears and funny, friendly face (Tucker’s, not John’s), John thought the name suited him. Every now and then, when Tuck’s being a pile of trouble, I think it would have been more fitting if he swapped out that first letter (yeah, you know, to an “F”). Most of the time, though, I agree that the name fits him perfectly. He really is a sweet, funny soul.

Jupiter’s name came from the dog in John Cheever’s short story, “The Country Husband.” It’s one of my favorite stories, and I couldn’t have imagined calling her anything else.

Please tell us a bit about Tucker and Jupiter's roles in your writing?

I think dogs make great characters, and Jupiter has appeared often in my books over the years. She was the model for the beagle Milo (a guy dog – sorry dear Jupiter) in The Nature of Jade.

Tucker's manners have been cleaned up a bit for his appearance as Rocket in The Six Rules of Maybe.

My latest book, though, The Story of Us (Simon & Schuster 2012), is really my Dog Book, featuring Jupiter as herself. A major theme of the book is dogs and our relationship with them – the ways that unique partnership enriches our lives. As well, it’s a book about life, loss and change within a family. It's a book for dog lovers, definitely.

Does Tucker have a favorite place to go for walk?

I think he most enjoys his regular loop around our neighborhood of Ravenna, especially the corner by the park, where all the dogs stop, and where he can catch up with all the canine news. He likes to see his regulars out there – Joey, Winston, Black Dog, and The Crazy, Small, White Twins. He’s friendly to everyone, no matter how big or small or ominous they are.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

All of the above, with enthusiasm. I swear, Tuck can hear a Fed Ex truck starting up from the next town over.

What's your dog's best quality?

His good-willed enthusiasm. Whatever Tucker does, he does one hundred percent. Jupiter’s best quality was her steadfast devotion. She stayed nearby, whenever you needed nearby.

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

He would ask that I be more patient with the whole barking-during-writing hours conflict we have. Actually, the barking-at-all-hours conflict we have. He doesn’t see this as I do. After all, I could be in mortal danger from delivery trucks, the neighbor’s cat, and every dropping pine cone.

What's your dog's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

I taught Tucker this super-cool trick, where, after his dinner, he scoots his bowl in a straight shot across the kitchen floor, to land right at the cupboard where we keep his food. When the bowl hits the cupboard, I put a bit of dessert in. He’s as proud as a little soccer player making a goal whenever he does it. Now, though, he’s begun to up the ante, scooting the bowl for round two to land at my feet. Who says dogs can’t talk?

His most embarrassing? Running exuberantly back into the house when the glass doors were still shut. Banged right into them, and looked a little dazed. Oh, dear.

Jupiter once opened the refrigerator door at my mother’s house, exposing the riches like a triumphant treasure hunter. I feel bad to mention that she sometimes barked when the doorbell rang on TV. She was a good dog.

Learn more about the author and her books at Deb Caletti's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue