Friday, April 22, 2011

Ellie Allen Cook & Cedar, Moss and Scully

Who is in the photo at right?

That would be me and one of my dogs, Cedar, hiking in L.L. Stub Stewart State Park in Oregon. Cedar looks annoyed that we've stopped for yet another picture, which she is, and I look just a little bit awkward, which I am. My name is Ellie Allen Cook, and I'm currently a graduate student in English, and am also teaching basic composition classes (English 101 and 102) at the university where I'm getting my degree. I'm set to finish up this year, which I'm greatly looking forward to because that means I can get back to writing! I'm currently working on a Harlequin-style romance novel for fun, and hope to finish it this year. Who knew playing with cliches could be so much fun?

Anyways, I currently have three dogs, two Border Collies, Cedar and Moss, and one rather sullen Boston Terrier, Scully. Cedar is three years old, Moss is two, and Scully is five. They are the main focus of my blog, Cedes of Change.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee and my canines are the only way that I've managed to stay somewhat sane throughout the craziness of grad school!

What's brewing?

Starbucks double-shot, iced skinny vanilla latte!

Any treat for you and your dogs on this occasion?

For me? Warm pita bread, kalamata olives and roasted garlic hummus. For the dogs? String cheese. Lots and lots of string cheese. But they also really like carrots, red bell peppers and broccoli stems for treats.

How were you and your dogs united?

I've always had dogs, and have been training and competing with them for over half my life. Although my background is in conformation showing (In the past, I've gone as far as to compete at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City and the AKC/Eukanuba Invitational in Tampa, FL), in recent years I've gotten more into performance events like agility, herding, and rally obedience. Agility is my favorite, though!

Scully was a gift from my boyfriend (now husband) shortly after we started dating.

Cedar [photo right--the day we met] was the end result of years of research and searching for the "perfect" Border Collie to do agility and other fun stuff with. She flew halfway across the country, from Indiana to Idaho, to get to me! It was love at first sight. (one of the pictures I attached is of the first day Cedar and I met)

Moss came into my life after I started herding and decided that I wanted a dog specifically for that purpose. He was bred by my herding instructor and I picked him out of the litter at two days old. He's very talented on sheep, but he's also a great buddy and a wonderful pet.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

The X-Files is one of my favorite television shows, and Scully is named after one of the main characters, Special Agent Dana Scully. She has a few nicknames, but Monkey and Monkey-face are probably the two used most often. Oh, and we started calling her Scaly after my iPhone kept autocorrecting "Scully" to "scaly." Haha!

With Cedar, I knew I wanted a nature-themed name for my next puppy. I'd always liked the name Cedar, and luckily it fit her personality when I finally met her in person. One of her nicknames-- "Cedes"-- was part of the inspiration for my blog, Cedes of Change. Her other nickname is Beat/Beats, short for Beatcakes, which was originally short for Cede-Beats. Not sure what that one is short for, though.

Moss just looked like a "Moss" to me, plus that name fit into the "nature" theme I started with Cedar. I started calling him Moss at two days old, and it just stuck. His most common nicknames are Butters (because he reminds me of the South Park character) and Mossimo (like the fashion designer).

You're writing your thesis on the works of Francis Burney. I know she mentions her dogs in her diary; do dogs figure in the novels you're writing about?

Animals appear quite often in Burney's work, from monkeys dressed up as miniature "gentlemen" to, yes, dogs. One of the novels I'm studying (Cecilia, Burney's second novel) does contain a dog quite prominently in part of the plot. Unfortunately, he doesn't really fit into what I'm writing about. But yes, there are dogs in her novels, and she writes them like she's known a dog or two in her life.

Cat, rabbit, postman...?

Squirrel. We have one that lives in our back yard and will come up onto the deck to taunt Moss while he's in the house. They stare at each other from both sides of the sliding glass door.

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

Tennis ball, especially if it's attached to a Chuck-it, and we're at the park. Moss is the most toy-obsessed dog I've ever met. He doesn't see anything else when I've got a toy in my hand, and constantly tries to get me or the other dogs to play with him. Even though he's two years old, he still has the impulse control of a puppy.

Where are your dogs' favorite places for outings?

Scully-- the park. Cedar-- agility, or hiking in the foothills near my house. Moss-- the park, or herding.

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

Hmm... right now, they would all probably wish that I would take them more places and do more fun things!

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

Hmm... hard question! Let's see....

Scully-- proudest: holding her down stay in an obedience trial while the dog next to her, a giant Newfoundland, stood up and loomed over her, drooling on her head. We ended up qualifying that day in spite of that! Most embarrassing: when she forgets that it's considered rude to lick people inside their mouths!

Cedar-- proudest: aside from the mad success we've had in our first three agility trials, I'd say our biggest victory has been conquering her fear of the teeter, or see-saw agility obstacle. That took months of hard work, and during that time, we really learned how to trust each other and become a team. Most embarrassing: how about our first herding trial, in which we never even got the sheep out of the pen to move them through the course?

Moss-- proudest: completing the course and placing third at our first herding trial, when Moss was just barely a year old and I was the most nervous I've ever been at a dog event. He was such a good boy and totally saved my butt! Most embarrassing: any time that his toy obsession causes him to run into really obvious obstacles in his way (trees, doors, fences, stairs, the other dogs... tall tufts of grass...)

Visit the Cedes of Change blog.

--Marshal Zeringue