Friday, May 27, 2011

Jennifer Talbot Ross & Pax, Samantha, and Bess

Who is in the photo at right?

Is it the dog whisperer? No, that’s me, Jennifer Talbot Ross (a people mom and grandmother, a dog mom, a people manager in my fulltime job, and an aspiring writer), with my four-legged crew. My sweet dogs are Pax (the big, white, Great Pyrenees) who’s the baby of the pack at 4 years old; Samantha (the Anatolian Shepherd identified by the painted face) who will be 9 in a few short weeks; and Bess (the black Lab) who is the matriarch of the family and is 9 ½ years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s wind-down time at the end of a busy day. Pax abhors riding in the car, so our favorite relaxation time is spent in our back yard. Our home is on just over an acre and the entire back yard is fenced so they have plenty of room to enjoy. The yard boasts trees for shade and wildlife for entertainment.

What's brewing?

On this warm spring day, it’s definitely iced coffee (the only choice for me when it’s 90 degrees outside).

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Absolutely!! The dogs are enjoying roasted lamb treats. Both Pax and Samantha have allergies so we have to be very selective about treats. They love the roasted lamb and also sweet potato chews.

How were you and your dogs united?

Bess I found in a classified ad in the newspaper. I had lost my 14-year-old black Labrador just five days earlier and was furtively looking for a female black lab puppy. We visited the owners of the litter and out of two female puppies, Bess claimed me.

Samantha we found on We were searching for a playmate for Bess and that precious painted face reached out to us. She was with a foster mom, having been rescued the day before her scheduled euthanasia. We took Bess with us to meet her and the two got along beautifully. We had to leave Samantha with her foster mom for several weeks while she completed her treatment for kennel cough and was spade. Then we were able to bring her home.

Pax was a foster of ours. The rescue group, SPIN, had a litter of puppies that needed to be fostered. They were asking “foster parents” to take two puppies each. We signed up for two males who, at that time, were known as Falcor and Big Al. Big Al was adopted by a couple in Denver and became Wilson. Falcor became so special to us that we could not let him go. So, he stayed with us, we became what is known in pet rescue circles as “foster failures” and Falcor became our Pax.

How did they get their names? Any aliases?

Pet names are really important to me. They must hold special meaning, be symbolic or intrinsic. When I got Bess I had noticed the name on the website and liked it, but it didn’t hold any meaning for me. My mother suggested we name her Besame Mucho (her AKC registered name) and then call her Bess. Besame Mucho means “kiss me a lot”, basically, in Spanish. That I liked and Bess was named. We also call her “Bess the Mess” because she has over-the-top personality and attitude and likes to play tricks on her humans and her four-legged siblings.

Samantha was listed on as a Saint Bernard puppy. So, we thought we were going to have this huge dog when she grew up. We wanted a feminine name, but one that would be fitting for a great big dog. A friend’s daughter suggested we name her Samantha and we could call her “Sam”. And, so Samantha was named. However, she never grew into a “Sam” and we have never called her “Sam”. She is still, truly a “Samantha” in every way. I sometimes call her “Samantha-girl” or “Samantha-bantha”, but you see the tendency here is toward the “prissy” side. And so she is.

Pax [photo left] came to us from the rescue group as “Falcor”, the foster. He remained Falcor for the first several months of his life. But, when we made the decision to adopt him, I told my husband we had to rename him. There was no way I could see myself standing at the back door calling out, “Falcor”, at the top of my lungs. My husband told me that he had a German shepherd dog named Pax when he was a young man and he liked the name as it was Latin for peace. That seemed like a really appropriate name for a big guy who was going to be incorporated into a pack of 4 large dogs. He’d better be like “peace”. And, as I look back over the years, he has truly lived up to his name.

Please tell us about Moses, the subject of your new book.

Moses [photo right] was a truly exceptional, gentle-giant who stole my heart, along with the hearts of all whom he met. His “joie de vivre” was unmatched. He was the first Great Pyrenees dog I’d ever known, which makes him even more special to me. His loss, though heart-wrenching, gave me the inspiration to write the book. And the book, in turn, is a vehicle by which Moses’ legacy can continue to be a blessing, as 10% of my royalties are donated to pet rescue.

What role have your dogs played in your writing routine?

The dogs have, so far, been my muses. Though the only book I’ve published is about my dogs, I have some ideas in the works for some fiction endeavors. They will, no doubt, involve dogs. I’ve also been asked when the sequel to The Story of Moses will be ready. In addition to being a source of inspiration, I find the dogs help to ground me, to keep me in the moment, which is extremely helpful when trying to get those creative juices flowing.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?

Their absolute favorite place, for each one, is a walk in the neighborhood. Samantha and Bess like going for rides and enjoy visiting PetsMart and just about anywhere other than the vet’s office. But, if we’re talking “favorite”, it’s definitely walking the neighborhood. I am fairly confident (though I would not put this to the test) that they all know their way around the neighborhood as well. We have several routes that we take. Most of our walks are one-mile routes. But, when we have time we circle the entire neighborhood for a total of two miles. They know the turns we take. The dogs love walks because they experience all the smells along the way that tell them who’s been there and interesting tid-bits like that. Often, they get the added perk of visiting with neighbors and, oh, just anybody along the way, getting pets and smiles and hugs from kids and adults alike.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

My dogs are definitely more interested in the squirrel (or a rabbit). We have loads of huge red oak and live oak trees in the back yard that are prolific bearers of acorns – hence lots of squirrels. The squirrels are daring and quick and I dare say are often taunting the dogs. And, the dogs love it. Sometimes, they lie inside with their heads resting on the windowsill and a keen eye on the back yard. If a squirrel moves, they’re up and out the door after it. There are also lots of wild rabbits that live in the woods at the back of our neighbor’s property and venture into our yard at times. The dogs love chasing them too and, luckily, the rabbits are amazingly fast.

What is each dog's best quality?

Well, all three dogs are extremely intelligent. But, Pax – his best quality is his gentle, loving spirit. He truly loves every dog, every person he meets. Loyalty (a discerning nature) would be Bess’s best quality, I think. She would walk through fire for me or for her daddy. Of that, I’m sure. She doesn’t readily accept just anyone, she is cautious. She is very aware that infants are to be protected and will put herself between someone or between other dogs if she feels they are threatening to an infant. Samantha is an innate and vigilant guardian, constantly circling the yard, attentively watching, who absolutely adores children.

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

I think they’d want me to be some sort of 6-handed being that never had to go anywhere so I would always be with them and it would be really easy to pet all of them at one time. On a more serious note, I am very, very close to my dogs (some would find it rather eccentric or odd I’m sure). I talk to them a lot. And, I’m convinced that on a certain level they understand much of what I say. Because of this close bond, my dogs are very sensitive to my moods. I know they don’t like it when I’m angry or sad – it actually upsets them. So, they would surely rather that I was more balanced in mood, more able to stay in the moment, and more unconditionally loving and happy – more like them J.

What is each dog's proudest moment? His/her most embarrassing?

Bess was a young pup when our first grandchild, Emma, was born. Emma came to visit when she was about 10 months old and we were concerned about how the dogs would be with Emma, given they had never been around any small children. So, needless to say, we were very watchful of Emma around the dogs. As was our ritual, after dinner each dog received a rawhide chew. Bess was enjoying her rawhide on the floor of the living room and Emma toddled up to her, reached out and took the chew from Bess’s mouth. Bess just sat there, unmoving, patiently watching Emma. After a moment or two, Emma gave the rawhide back to Bess, who resumed her enjoyment. That exhibition of character was Bess’s proudest moment.

Bess does not have embarrassing moments – she is completely unflappable. However, MY most embarrassing moment with Bess was when she made big potty (and you know that that means) in the middle of PetsMart (and she wasn’t a cute puppy at the time – she definitely knew better).

Within the first few weeks of having Samantha in our family, I lost a pair of sunglasses out in the back yard. I had given them up for gone. Then, one day young Samantha (only about 5 months old at the time) came bounding through the dog-door into the house, ran up to me and deposited the sunglasses at my feet. She gazed up into my eyes, tail wagging enthusiastically, and looking as proud as ever that she had found my lost glasses.

Samantha had extensive knee surgery (TPLO – tibia plateau leveling osteopathy) when she was a youngster. They actually saw the leg in two with a bone saw and reattach the knee with steel plates and screws. Needless to say she had a big incision to heal and a very long, arduous recovery. For the first week of recovery, until the incision was healed and the staples removed, Samantha had to wear one of those awful, evil, plastic cone-things on her head. Now, not only do those horrible devices make it difficult for a dog to move around (they run into the walls, furniture, etc.) and even to walk or potty (try sniffing for the perfect bathroom spot outside with a plastic cone on your head that gets caught on the grass and practically throws you head over heels), I swear they know they look stupid and are so very embarrassed by it. Samantha was mortified the entire time she had to wear it.

Last autumn, our local Pyrenees rescue group (SPIN – Saving Pyrenees in Need) had their annual “Pyr Picnic in the Park” in conjunction with the local Pyrenees AKC group. At the picnic, a “fun match” was held mimicking the conformation matches typical of the AKC. The dogs were divided into groups by age and by gender and judged on how closely they matched the standards for the Great Pyrenees breed. Our sweet little Pax went “Best in Show”. He won two blue ribbons and a special chew toy. The crowd cheered when he was selected and he looked up at me and beamed. He was indeed proud.

Pax, though a giant in his own right, has a peculiar and embarrassing trait (and one that my vet whispered to Pax that he would never tell). Pax is terrified of the wind. If it’s a windy day Pax does not like going out to potty. If he’s outside in the yard and the wind picks up ferociously (like just before a storm) he comes running inside. As windy as it tends to be here in north Texas, you’d think it would be something he’d acclimate to. But, no, not Pax – I don’t think that’s in the cards.

Read more about Jennifer Talbot Ross's The Story of Moses.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pene Patterson & Daisy

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi, my name is Pene Patterson and I guess you'd call me a crafter. I am actually an accountant but took redundancy a couple of years ago when the credit crunch hit and now spend my time making lovely handcrafted items including a range for dogs inspired by Daisy.

Daisy is a West Highland white terrier or Westie and is 2 1/2 yrs old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I never need an excuse for coffee as I'm completely addicted and drink 7 or 8 cups a day.

What's brewing?

If I'm out I drink lattes but at home it's a cafetiere of Java with skimmed milk as I'm trying to diet!

Any treats for you or Daisy on this occasion?

Not for me but Daisy has a rawhide chew, mainly to keep her occupied whilst I do this.

How were you and Daisy united?

I went to a breeder to buy Daisy but it's hard to pick from a litter of identical looking white puppies. She actually chose me by coming up and just sitting by my feet quietly whilst I looked at the others. As soon as I picked her up I knew she was the one and could feel her little heart beating I thought with excitement but when we took her to the vets 2 weeks later for her jabs found out she had a level 6 PDA which is a severe heart defect. She underwent surgery at 12 weeks old weighing only 1 kilo but made a complete recovery and is fighting fit. My husband always says that Daisy chose me because she knew I'd make her better but it makes her very special to us.

How did Daisy get her name? Any nicknames?

I don't know why I called her Daisy but she also gets called dumpling.

Does Daisy have a favorite outdoor destination?

We live on the west coast of Scotland and Daisy loves our local beach. I try to take her down at least once a day although it's not much fun in winter. She doesn't swim but loves running in and out of the sea chasing a stick or her ball although I always have to wear crop trousers and crocs as I often have to wade in to recover things!

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Daisy loves cats -- we lost ours earlier this year and she still looks for him and gets very stressed if she sees a ginger cat. She also loves our postman and is always excited if he rings the bell. As for squirrels we don't have any here so I don't think she's ever seen one but if she did she would be very curious.

What is an ordinary day like for Daisy?

She is definitely not a morning person and I often have to physically get her out of bed; yes I'm afraid I'm weak and she does sleep on our bed! Then it's down the beach for our morning walk and home for her to spend the rest of the day between sitting in her favourite window watching the world go by and patrolling the fence. We'll have another walk in the afternoon either to the beach or up the hill to the castle.

What is your dog's best quality?

She has a brilliant temperament, is very loving and lots of fun.

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

I don't think she would change anything about me as she has pretty much my undivided attention 24 hrs a day.

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

Her proudest moment would be when she passed puppy training. As for embarrassing she was very farty as a puppy which luckily she has grown out of but now if she does "pass wind" she always turns and looks at her bottom wondering what's happened!!

Learn more about Daisy and Pene Patterson at their blog.

Visit the Lady Penelope Etsy shop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2011

Elizabeth J. Duncan & Dolly

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Elizabeth J Duncan with Dolly. She's a 13-year-old mix of uncertain parentage. Possibly an Australian cattle dog/lab. However, it is her beautiful blue merle coat that gives her such a distinctive look. People sometimes stop me in the street to comment on her markings.

I write the Penny Brannigan murder mystery series set in North Wales and I teach in the public relations programs at Humber College, in Toronto, at the Lakeshore campus. Sometimes Dolly comes to school with me; she loves the attention the students lavish on her.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My favourite place to drink coffee is right in my own back yard. I live in the west end of Toronto, on the shore of Lake Ontario.

You forget you are in a big city and it's like being perpetually at the cottage. I rarely go to coffee houses.

What's brewing?

I have three systems. Sometimes I grind the beans myself and use a French press. When I do this, my favourite beans are the Holiday Blend, by Second Cup. If I use my manual drip maker, I use President's Choice Great Canadian Coffee or good old Maxwell House. It's just old-fashioned, regular coffee. And then my son brought home a Tassimo, so it's still Maxwell House. It's not latte, frapachino, grande, mocha, skinny whatever or anything else.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

If we are feeling naughty, we love to have a cake from Sanremo, a beautiful bakery on Royal York Road. The quality of Sanremo products is superb and I understand everything is baked on the premises.

Any treat for Dolly on this occasion?

Dolly has a friend who bakes her peanut butter biscotti from a recipe especially for dogs. Dolly loves those! She has also discovered liver treats.

How were you and Dolly united?

Dolly came to me via my ex-husband. He got her when she was four months old from a sign he spotted on a bulletin board in the bank of the small town where he was living at that time. "Free to good home." So Dolly lived with him until she was about five and then he took a job up north that involved travel, so at that time she came to live with me in Toronto. Dolly's been loved every day since he got her and we couldn't have asked for a nicer dog.

Does Dolly have any influence on your writing?

She sure does. In both my books a dog has played a key role and I really couldn't imagine one of my books without a dog. A couple of readers have asked if my protagonist, Penny Brannigan, could have a cat, but that doesn't feel right to me. Dolly actually does me a great service by inviting me to go for walks with her. I do some of my best thinking when I am walking with her. I resolve plot issues, get inspired, and sometimes, ideas come to me when we're out walking that improve or change the nature or direction of a book. When we get home, I head straight for the computer and I know where the story needs to go.

How did Dolly get her name? Does she have any aliases?

That was her name when we got her and Dolly she remained. I would not have called her Dolly but in a funny way, it suits her. Or maybe it's just that in 12 years I've got used to it and couldn't think of her with any other name. Audrey! Camilla! Rosie! No, Dolly it is. But sometimes when we're alone I call her Pet or Treasure.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Definitely squirrel or any other small rodent, like mice. She has a high prey drive, I'm afraid, and she has been known to kill. And then she walks away as if nothing happened.

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

She is not a fetch kind of dog, although certainly fetching. She likes squeaky toys until the squeak goes out of them and then they no longer interest her.

Where is Dolly's favorite outdoor destination?

It is probably Col. Samuel Smith Park behind Humber College where I teach. We have rambled there for years. There's a lake for a dip on a hot summer day and lots of paths to wander, tall grass to hide in, hunting grounds for mice and endless smells to investigate.

Who is Dolly's best pet-pal?

Dolly has two favourite friends, Trixxi, who is also a blue merle and they certainly attract attention when they're together and little Angie, a Maltese terrier from a rescue group adopted earlier this year by a friend of mine. I would say, though, that Dolly is always more interested in the human creature than the canine one.

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

I think she would like me to walk four hours in the morning, then a nice nap, then we'll walk another four hours. However, now that she's getting older, we might be able to cut back on that a bit.

What is Dolly's best quality? Her most frustrating?

Dolly's best quality is her eagerness to please. She has a beautiful disposition and will do things for me that I know she doesn't really want to, like come in the house when she'd rather stay outside. She also has beautiful manners. When I come into the house after being away, Dolly stands up to greet me. Nothing about Dolly is frustrating.

I think dogs are wonderful, beautiful creatures. They are clever, full of fun, and embody the best attributes known to humankind. If there were one thing I could change about dogs, though, I would find a way for them to live longer. They leave us too soon.

Visit Elizabeth J. Duncan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Cold Light of Mourning.

The Page 69 Test: A Brush with Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tamira Thayne & Baxter

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Baxter and I on a spring walk, notice the sweats tucked in the socks to prevent ticks from crawling up my legs, tres chic!

I'm Tamira Thayne, founder and CEO of Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing dogs into the home and family, and the organization which is transforming Vick's Bad Newz Kennels into the Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs. Baxter is one of my foster dogs who was rescued from the end of a chain in a cruelty case in Allegany County, Maryland. He's a cute little devil, probably five years old; we're guessing some kind of Malamute mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is my favorite place in the world to bring my dogs and foster dogs. There's a gorgeous creek running through it, and we can walk for a couple of miles and usually not see anyone. It's one of the few places I feel comfortable taking them off leash and letting them really run! These pics are from an early spring trip, when the mud is just starting to dry up.

What's brewing?

I brought along some Red Clover tea, it's supposed to be good for menopause, and I need all the help I can get in that direction.

Any goodies to go with the tea?

Nope, just two dogs and my daughter.

Any treat for Baxter on this occasion?

The running free is the treat out here! Dogs get to run free in today's society all too seldom.

Please tell us about your rescue work.

I work solely for chained and penned dogs, to bring them into the home and family. In the past nine years, I've fostered about 180 dogs and gotten them into loving homes. When I take them off chains or out of pens, they are not housetrained, vetted, or bathed, so we have a lot of clean up work and socializing to do to get them ready for new families.

How were you and Baxter united?

There were four dogs in his cruelty case, and I ended up fostering three of the four. The other two have found homes, and sweet little Baxter is still waiting for his forever home. He has a cough when he runs a lot, but he is not heartworm positive nor does not have any heart or lung problems. The vet has ascertained that pressure from the chain and collar collapsed or damaged his trachea, and there is nothing we can do about it. All the more reason to love him and let him go as much as he wants to go! He can still live a normal life and get a family who loves him.

How did Baxter get his name? Does he have any nicknames?

He came in with the name Baxton, but we kept forgetting and calling him Baxter, so it just kinda stuck. We are nickname-givers around here, so he has a lot of them. When he first came in with another malamute mix female, neither one of them barked when you came home. They'd both just sit on the other side of the fence and stare at you. It was kinda creepy! So my fiance started calling them the No-Barkies. Well, as soon as she left, he started barking his head off, so now he calls him Barky. My daughter calls him Badger, because she likes to give them nicknames like the nature animal they most look like. I like to call him Poppet, because he's so cute and poppity and reminds me of a little English boy.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Probably all of the above, he's quite curious about other animals, and gets a little snarky with the other dogs over food sometimes, even though they're twice his size.

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

He likes the squeak toys, likes to rip them apart or carry them around with him, but he shows no interest in chasing a tennis ball.

Where is Baxter's favorite place for an outing?

Well, the only place we've gone other than the vet is the woods where he gets to go leash-free, so I'm sure that's his favorite place! I'd pick the woods over the vet any day of the week!

Who is Baxter's best pet-pal?

Baxter is buddy buddy with Roxy, aka, Clicky (because she prances when she walks and her nails click on the floor), as they are the same size. They play the most when we are getting breakfast ready for them, they chase and tag each other while they are waiting. It's cute.

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

That I'd spend more time with him. When there's six foster dogs and a mom who works a lot of hours (even though from home) and still tries to spend time with her fiance and her daughter, there's just not enough mom to go around. He is a very shy dog, and very afraid of kids, so I think they hurt him while he was on the chain. But he loves his foster mommy, and likes to lick my face. He's a very sweet dog; I love to cuddle him, and he loves it too.

What is Baxter's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

Baxter's proudest moment is when he succeeds in chasing another dog away from their food bowl. Between them and I, he's not often successful, but if he succeeds in getting their food, he's a happy and strutting boy. His most embarrassing moment is when the bigger dogs put him in his place. He likes to think he can hold his own with them, but then he realizes that's just not the case.

Visit the Dogs Deserve Better website.

Learn more about Tamira Ci Thayne's book, Scream Like Banshee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tena Parker & Shayne and Rio

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Tena Parker and the dog in the photo is Shayne, my 5.5 year old female Border Collie mix.

Rio, my 1.5yr old Australian Cattle Dog/Whippet, is the subject of the photo below left.

I have a Master’s in Education and was working with a non-profit when the economy crashed and I was laid off—this, to me, was a sign to take my career in a new direction so off I went. I am a dog trainer, a (mostly) dog blogger, an amateur photographer, and lastly (I think), I am the Tena behind Tugs by Tena Etsy store.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Anytime I get a chance to have a relaxing picnic lunch with my dogs I leap at the chance. Since it’s a reasonably nice day (no rain or storms) I figured it was a good day to take advantage of with a picnic.

What's brewing?

Shhh, it’s a secret (though not really), but I’m not a coffee drinker. I rarely even drink tea but, in honor of the blog, I opted to make some fresh brewed Lipton’s Iced Tea (see, I’m low maintenance) to take with me for lunch.

Any treat for you and your dogs on this occasion?

Yep, I have a nice peanut butter and banana sandwich and an apple for lunch.

How were you and your dogs united?

I’d been looking for a dog for a year since losing my previous dog to a very fast moving cancer when I found Shayne in my local shelter. She was 10 months old and an abuse neglect case who was significantly under weight, really under socialized, generally scared of the world, and a really anxious dog.

Rio was adopted from a rescue in NJ when he was 4 months old. He was probably from an unwanted litter, no trauma or sad past for him.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

My female dogs tend to have androgynous names and I heard of a female character on a T.V. show with the name Shane and I really liked it. When I got Shayne I had a list of five names and waited to see what suited her personality and Shayne won. Shayne is also known as Shayney, Shay, RED dawg, and Shayn-iac.

Rio… well he is named after the navy abbreviation R.I.O or radar intercept officer. This is the person in the backseat of older two-seater fighter planes. The RIO was crucial to the safety of the plane and the mission. They were not necessarily in charge of the flight of the plane but the input of the RIO was crucial and at times dictated the direction of the plane. That is sort of how I view my relationship with my dogs… I’m normally the one in charge of where we are going and what we are doing but the input of the dogs is crucial and will sometimes dictate the direction we take. Rio is also known as Ri or Ri-monster.

What inspired you to make and sell tug toys and leashes?

Shayne is a monster on toys. There are very few toys that survive more than a few days and it became ridiculously expensive. I like using tug-toys in my training but she destroyed commercially available fleece tug toys left and right so I wanted a much more durable product for her to play with. I made some for myself and in sharing photos and giving them as gifts I began to get orders for toys … and so Tugs by Tena was created.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Rio: Squirrel… no joke that word is considered a cuss word in our house because if it’s said, even in passing, Rio will run to every window in the house searching for squirrels (and in the process pull down curtains).

Shayne: hands down the UPS truck/person, she gets so riled up when they try to deliver anything.

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

They are toy obsessed in general… so tennis balls, squeaky toys, puzzle toys… all their favorites.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

A friend of the family has a large property where I am allowed to bring the dogs to be off-leash and play. They love this place. They can race through fields, chase squirrels in the orchard, they can scent out deer or turkey, Rio loves to roll in coyote poop, they can scent out gopher holes (and then stick their heads in them) and run through the crop fields.

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

They would probably long for me to have their same unending energy… after a 3hr hike I’m tired and they are ready to keep going.

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

Shayne’s proudest moment… well, I’d say my most proud moment of Shayne was the day I realized that she is no longer the terrified, anxious, tentative dog I adopted 4 years ago…that she’s, for the most part, a normal confident dog who can go anywhere and interact with anyone safely.

Most embarrassing for me (with regards to Shayne) was probably when we were doing a frisbee demo show in CT and she did a back vault (jump off my back) and I lost my balance and basically fell over!

Rio’s proudest moment happened recently. We were at the farm a few weeks ago and Rio was about 50 yards in front of me as we crested this hill, when I finally got to the top I saw Rio about 200yards away chasing deer into the woods. I recalled him and he turned on a dime and came flying back.

Rio … he’s so confident and sure of himself, I’m not sure he has ever done anything to embarrass himself and he, knock on wood, hasn’t really embarrassed me … yet.

Visit the Success Just Clicks blog and the Tugs by Tena Etsy store.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2011

Donna Christensen & Erin and Buck

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Donna Christensen, I am the creator of and Paws and Claws Web Design. I started out in Hair Design, had a lucrative Custom Floral Design Business and for the past 14 years Web and Graphic Design.

In the photo on the right are Erin and Buck. Erin is a 5-year-old German Shepherd and is the inspiration for my blog Freedom To Bark. Buck is an 11-year-old Mixed Breed who came to live with us with his mom when he was one year old after his owner passed away and no remaining family members wanted to take in the two of them in.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We start our day early, usually around 4 am, sometimes as early as 3 am. I only have one cup of coffee a day but can't start work without it. I'm a creature of habit so it's more routine then actually needing it to get started.

What's brewing?

Nothing special, they all work for me. I do love Iced Coffee though when I go out.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

While we wait on the coffee Erin and Buck get a morning treat, usually crackers, cheese or a dog treat. Nothing for me until 7 am when I eat before the kids get up.

How were you and Erin united?

We have always been partial to German Shepherds. Before Erin we had Irish and she was an outstanding family dog and pack leader to our four dogs. When Irish passed on the whole house went into limbo, even our other dogs were at a loss without their leader. We even searched and found the info for the people that we got Irish from hoping against hope that they still lived there and might have a litter. All that call accomplished was more tears. We learned that they only had that one litter and kept one of Irish's sisters which also passed away a week before Irish did. We finally found another breeder and chose Erin out of the litter. She was the runt of the litter and something about her called out to us. I was still upset over loosing Irish and it took me awhile to not constantly compare the two. I had a hard time accepting how different they were but now realize it was necessary to move forward.

How did Erin get her name?

My husband chose it. He's Irish and always picks an Irish Name.

Squeaky-toy, tennis ball, tick?

They have to be durable. Erin's favorites are her Kong and Tug Toy. Buck doesn't care for toys.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Erin is finally accepting the postman; He calls her Cujo. She still can't tolerate the Fed Ex or UPS people. As soon as she hears the truck she's in the window ready to warn them off even if they are down the block.

We have a possum and raccoon that visit our yard regularly. The possum lives under our deck in the summer and drives them wild. We had a real close call with the raccoon. They cornered him one night and it jumped onto Buck's back and wouldn't get off. It took three of us to control the dogs and finally get the raccoon to back off. Thankfully Buck wasn't bitten and if this is the same raccoon, he still comes around every night.

What's an ordinary day like for Erin?

Erin is non-stop energy. Her day consists of playing with her toys, harassing Buck, chasing the birds and squirrels in the yard. She doesn't settle down until night time.

What is Erin's best quality?

Her intelligence and desire to please us.

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

Definitely more play time.

What's Erin's proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?

Erin is top dog here and she knows it; she can do no wrong in my husband's eyes.

Her most embarrassing I'd say is catching a bird in our yard a few years ago. She came to the door so happy and expecting praise with the bird in her mouth and instead was reprimanded. She looked so forlorn.

Also she's afraid of our Hamster. She plays all tough until the hamster comes near her and she takes off for safety.

Visit the Freedom to Bark blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2011

Kristin & Pip

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Kristin. I live in Chicago with my husband, daughter, rabbit, three cats, and of course, Pip. I currently work as a writer and professional fundraiser for a Chicago-based nonprofit. My background is in creative writing and the arts - I would definitely prefer to be doing something more creative, but unfortunately the bills need to be paid.

Pip is a 13-year-old (mostly) Yorkshire terrier. I say mostly because he is bigger than most Yorkies and we suspect he may have a little something else in him as well.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Who needs an occasion? I tend to take on too much and am always short on sleep. Caffeine is a must-have! Drinking coffee and spending time with Pip are two of my favorite activities.

What’s brewing?

Nonfat cocoa cappuccino – I like my coffee with chocolate and of course, skim milk to make it feel less indulgent.

Any treats for you or Pip on this occasion?

Pip likes anything and everything. I usually carry goldfish crackers in my purse – they work wonders with Pip and my daughter!

How did he get his name?

Pip is named after the main character in the novel, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I love the book and the name just fits him.

How were you and Pip united?

Pip was abandoned at a pet store in 2001. He was left with another dog in a cramped and dirty carrier – they were both terrified! Witnesses say his former owner walked away laughing. Both dogs were admitted to Red Door Animal Shelter, a small no-kill shelter on the far north side of Chicago. The other dog, a Schnauzer named Teddy, was adopted almost immediately. Pip originally came to our house as a foster dog, but he was so frightened and sad, we just couldn’t send him back out into the world on his own. It took him years to transform into the confident, happy-go-lucky dog he is today.

I know from your blog that Pip lives with cats and a rabbit. How do they get along?

Pip loves cats – sometimes I think he thinks he is a cat! Our three cats occasionally boss him around, but otherwise, they all get along very well!

Our rabbit, Lulu, is the newest family member. Let’s just say, she doesn’t care for Pip much! Lulu lives in our downstairs family room and Pip lives on the main floor. He doesn’t seem interested in Lulu, but I think he definitely misses the family room! Hopefully, they will be friends some day!

Squeaky-toy, tennis ball, stick?

Pip is starting to slow down, but he still loves a good squeaky-toy – especially one he can flaunt in front of the cats!

Deer, postman, squirrel?

We have family in northern Wisconsin and there’s nothing Pip loves more than to go up there and bark at deer (from the safety of the front porch, of course)! He has never been very interested in squirrels, but the other day I caught him, for the first time in ten years, staring one down in the backyard!

What is Pip’s best quality?

Pip is one of the sweetest and most gentle creatures you will ever meet. He is wonderful with kids and if he were a little younger, we would definitely explore animal-assisted therapy.

Our daughter is a little shy, but with Pip at her side she has made many new friends. No matter where we are, children gravitate to him – which also helps her because she is the girl with “the dog”.

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

Pip gets very sad and shaky when I leave for work in the morning. I was home with my daughter (and Pip) for her first few years. When I returned to work, it was a huge adjustment for all of us, including Pip. I suspect we would probably all be happier if I worked from home!

What's your dog's most embarrassing moment?

Pip has some arthritis in his back legs and as a result has trouble with stairs. We watch him pretty carefully, but he has had a few bad falls. Thankfully, he has never been injured though he always looks quite embarrassed after a stumble.

His proudest moment?

His blog!! His blog!! His blog!! We are stunned and incredibly grateful for the warm welcome we have received from the pet blogging community! We are truly humbled by all the wonderful comments and support as well as new friends from around the world. Our goal for the blog is to celebrate the human-animal connection, help animals in need, and most importantly, make people laugh. We hope we succeed! Thank you!

Visit the official Pip Gets Back in the Game blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Michelle Day & Tom, Sadie and Buddy

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Michelle Day. I am a mother, dog lover and wife. For monetary reward, I work for a small business in my home town of Newburgh, Indiana. I pretty much do whatever is thrown my way. For rewards that you can't put a price tag on, I am a foster parent for our local greyhound adoption group, GPA Tri-State.

In this picture is myself, I am the 2-legged one. From left to right: Tom, Sadie and my foster dog Buddy.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I usually have a cup of coffee every morning. But if the weather is too warm, Diet Coke is on the agenda!

What's brewing?

Any flavored coffee. I love to add a couple spoonfuls of Peppermint Mocha liquid creamer and bunches of Splenda.

Any treat for you and your dogs on this occasion?

The hounds are usually so exhausted from trying to get me out of bed, they aren't too interested in treats. I might have a 100 calorie treat of some kind. I have been on Weight Watchers the past 18 months and lost 70 pounds, so I try to be good!

How were you and your dogs united?

I got interested in greyhounds almost 8 years ago. I had recently lost my Dobie and my daughter went to a local meet & greet. My first greyhound, Tom, [photo left] we picked him from a picture off of the internet. Which, looking back, could have totally back fired on us. But he has turned out to be such a sweet, goofy boy. We had Tom only a couple of weeks and we knew we wanted another one. So I turned to the president of our group and she found the perfect match for Tom. A happy go lucky girl, loved to give kisses and had a helicopter tail. Sadly,we lost our Dixie to Osteocarcoma last November.

My little black girl, Sadie, was a failed attempt at fostering. She had some health issues and had been in our home for 10 months and we said she was meant to be ours! I call her my million dollar baby, if anything weird is going to happen, it will happen to her!

How did your dogs get their names?

My dogs, came with their names. Their names were given to them by their breeders. Most of them stuck, but they all have silly nicknames. I think all dogs get little names that evolve as they become more acquainted with you.

Any aliases?

Lots of funny names. Tom is also know as TomTom, Tommy Boy, Tommy Two Toes (he has 2 white toes on his back foot), Thomasina (when he cries like a girl). Sadie is Little Bit, Sadie Bug and Million Dollar Baby.

Cat, rabbit, postman...?

Rabbits of course!

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

Anything soft and squeaky. My hounds don't like hard toys. I guess they want the similar feel of the bunnies!

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

My dog Sadie [photo right] loves to go anywhere! Tom is my bashful boy. While he loves to go in the car, he is a nervous nellie the entire time.

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

I'm not sure about that one, I think they might think I am pretty close to perfect!

What is each dog's proudest moment?

Tom's proudest moment was when he was crowned King of the Greytfest. Since he was our group's first adoptee, he was the first to be crowned King of the Greytfest (Greytfest if our annual picnic and our biggest fundraiser for our group).

Most embarrassing?

Sadie's would probably when I dressed her up as a bat for Halloween.

Visit the Grey Hares...On My Sofa blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2011

Elaine Pritchard & Winnie

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi, I'm Elaine Pritchard and I live in Staffordshire, England. This is Winnie the Greyhound who joined our family in August 2010 when I had a change of lifestyle and set up my own freelance writing and marketing business from home. I also run a not-for-profit pet bereavement website - and I help Winnie with her own blog when she lets me.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are having a coffee break in our own garden - and celebrating finding a patch of grass which Win has not yet dug up in her daily quest to show me the racing form that made her a star at Sheffield greyhound track. As we never saw her race Win likes to re-enact her finest moments on the far smaller circuit of our back lawn.

What's brewing?

Skinny latte.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not today. I've got lunch out later so I'm being good. Win's also helped me lose 20lbs in weight since January 2011 so I don't want to let her down. She's a strict diet and fitness coach.

Any treat for Winnie on this occasion?

She has sneaked a rawhide chew out into the garden to nibble on. I just need to make sure she doesn't try and bury it.

How did you and Winnie come together?

My friend Jane, who's a member of the same drama group as me, had adopted a number of greyhounds from Crossing Cottage - a Retired Greyhound Trust kennel in Nottinghamshire - and once I knew I was going to be finishing working long hours in an office it seemed a brilliant opportunity to adopt a greyhound. I know they love company. Also, my son's a bit nervous of dogs and I thought a gentle greyhound would be ideal to build up his confidence. We looked at the dogs available for adoption on the Crossing Cottage website and fell instantly in love with Winnie's picture and her story.

Would you tell us a bit about Lost and Fond?

My last job in the corporate world was as MD of an online obituaries website for people. We were often approached by people who wanted to add tributes for their pets but sadly it wasn't something we could let them do and the company I worked for wasn't interested in diversifying into pet memorials - so it was always something I felt I'd like to do. I also thought there was an opportunity to raise money through the website for pet charities and publicise important pet projects. People can create a free online memorial on Lost & Fond for any pet they have loved and lost either recently or years ago. If they're not confident with technology I'll do it for them.

How did Winnie get her name? Does she have any aliases?

Winnie's name comes from her old racing name - which was Heads You Win. Her many and varied nicknames include "Win", "Win-Win" and "Winnebago"

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Cats just ahead of squirrels. Win tends to do a noisy vertical take-off if she sees either of those creatures on our daily walks and if she ever got off her lead I think there'd be bloodshed. Postmen, ducks and small dogs are all safe from Win though.

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

Squeaky toys, especially if they are cuddly, are Win's toy of choice. She adores them and looks after them very gently. She's not too interested in balls.

Where is Winnie's favorite place to go for a walk?

Brook Hollows in Rolleston-on-Dove - the next village to the one where we live - is Win's favourite local walk. But she jumps (literally) at any chance to go out in the car for a walk a bit further afield. We are lucky to live in a beautiful part of England where there is some stunning countryside.

Who is Winnie's best pet-pal?

The Man Of The House would tell you it's him. I think it's me, of course. Win's not that keen on other dogs because of some past experiences in a re-homing that didn't work out (not her fault) and she needed a home where she could be the only dog. She has some wonderful virtual best pals though thanks to the great world of pet blogging.

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

I think Winnie would love it if the whole family - me, husband Bill, daughter Caitlin (who graduates from Coventry University this year) and son Tom - would stay together in one room all day leaving only to take her for a couple of walks. She loves it when we're all together.

What is Winnie's best quality?

She loves everyone. I think she's taught me some wonderful life lessons in the last nine months. I call them the three L's: loving, loyalty and living-in-the-moment. I look at Winnie revelling in a good sniff on a walk, or 'roaching' - lying on her back legs in the air - and I think "She's got it right. Live in the moment, enjoy the changing seasons and the world of nature and don't worry. Just be happy".

What is Winnie's proudest moment?

I was really proud of Win when she did her first meet-and-greet with Bill outside the Spring Fair that my friend Alyson and I organised a few weeks ago for the Retired Greyhound Trust. I knew she'd be great with people and show them what great pets greyhounds make, but I thought she might not like the other greyhounds that were coming along to help. She wasn't keen at first and grumbled a bit but after a while she decided to let them socialise with her and that was a big deal for her. She's also a great ambassador for greyhounds when we're out and about generally and a lot of people we've met are now considering a retired racing greyhound as a pet - which is fabulous.

Her most embarrassing?

That has to be her windy digestive system. When we're all gathered in the living room, and she's at her most relaxed, you can hear gentle little "parps" followed by a not so gentle waft of noxious fumes. I think many dog owners will identify with that little habit!!

Visit the Lost and Fond website and Winnie's Dog Blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sarah-Kate Lynch & Ted

Who is in the photo at right?

This is me, Sarah-Kate Lynch, writer, and my four-year-old Kerry Blue Terrier, Ted.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are having what my husband sarcastically calls "cuddle mummy time". Luckily for Ted, he doesn't recognize sarcasm, which leaves him free to simply revel in the joy of being cuddled. Me, I take the sarcasm and park it to be responded to at a later date.

What's brewing?

Ted will drink from muddy puddles but I am very particular about my coffee. I have a La Pavoni coffee machine and like a triple shot with just a splash or two of steamed soya milk. This has no name. Trust me, I've stood at more coffee counters than you can count trying to work out what anyone else would call it but I generally end up ordering a triple espresso and a separate cup of milk and mixing it myself.

Any treats for you or your dog on this occasion?

Ted, unlike me, is not motivated by food. It's a miracle we ended up together. The Kerry Blue is known for this. We free feed him and he just takes a nibble every now and then when he feels like it. The shock on his face when a greedy Labrador comes to visit and heads straight for his food bowl and devours the contents is hilarious. He just doesn't get it.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

Well, his predecessor, Kit, died without much warning and I was inconsolable so we rang the breeder we had got him from 10 years before and he just so happened to have a five-month-old puppy...

How did Ted get his name?

Actually, I wanted to call him Kit. He looks exactly the same as Kit - all Kerry Blues seem identical - and I missed Kit so much I just wanted to pretend he had never gone anywhere but my husband put his foot down about that. However, he was OK with the name Ted although I call him Teddy because he really is one: he loves nothing more than being cuddled. Apart from the food thing, we are really a match made in heaven.

Please tell us a bit about Ted's role in your writing?

Ted lies behind my chair and snoozes while my creative juices flow. In three and a half years he has not worked out that the chair is on wheels and will come towards him at speed. Adorable.

Does he accompany you on book tours?

Sadly, no, but he would very much like to.

Does Ted have a favorite place to go for walk?

Where I live most the time, in New Zealand, we have a beautiful walk from our back door through native forest to about 20 miles of west coast beach. Hard to beat. Seriously.

Rabbit, postman, cat...?

Hm, has been known to chase the odd rabbit, has been known to gently nip the postman's butt, and has been known to lose his marbles completely over a neighboring cat.

What's Ted's best quality?

He is the sweetest, most lovable creature on the planet, I swear. And I'm not the only one. He has a huge fan club.

If Ted could change one thing about your husband, what would it be?

Ha! He would make the husband far more sympathetic to his cause which is that the most important thing in life is to be adored. Not to follow rules. Or do you as you are told, when you are told.

What's Ted's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

A three-year-old boy appeared out of nowhere in a busy city park the other day and just yanked on Ted's tail. I would have bitten the kid, but Ted barely raised an eyebrow.

Most embarrassing? There are a few. The first day I got him he ran across the surface of the swimming pool because he had never seen one before. This did not turn out so well and he plunged to the bottom so I had to jump in fully clothed and rescue him. Once I had to carry him for half an hour back to the car after he got prickles in his armpits. Once he fell off the side of a cliff while scratching his ear and was only hanging on by his toenails...

Sarah-Kate Lynch lives part of the year on the wild west coast of New Zealand but travels as often as she can to the vineyards of Champagne, the streets of New York, and the hilltop towns of Tuscany.

Visit her website and blog, and read more about her latest novel, Dolci di Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gordon Aalborg & Magic

Who is in the photo at right?

That is me, Gordon Aalborg, and my chocolate Labrador, Magic. I am a novelist, editor, and occasional carver and Magic is the faerie who was put upon this earth to keep me grounded and allegedly sane.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The occasion is to celebrate Magic getting her Junior Hunter title at a recent Hunt Test, which is a simulated duck-shooting expedition in which gundogs must show that they can do what they've been bred to do. And do it well, needless to say. When I got Magic, she was four years old and - if you can believe such a thing, had never seen a duck, heard a gun or learned to swim! The swimming is the part that worries me most now, because she is still a bit wary of it, and, being female, a trifle fickle in her reactions to being asked to swim.

What's the beverage du jour?

Instant. And cheap instant, at that. But if we were out it might be a cappuccino. We're not “out” because I'm too tired to go out. It's been a trying weekend in more ways than one.

Any treats for you or your dog on this occasion?

She gets treats when we train, but I'm too tired to train today, and she might be too, if I dared ask her. Which I dare not, because she would point to the sign right above her eyebrows that says: Labrador ... will work for FOOD.

How did your dog come to be united with you?

Short version. She was a kennel dog, kept for possible breeding. Maybe. Eventually. Possibly. She had basic obedience, had learned to chase balls, but was--in my opinion--bored right out of her brain. We came across her when we were looking for a dog (maybe) to replace our old Pandora, who had taken the rainbow bridge at 14.

I'm a gundog enthusiast, was founder and first president of the Tasmanian Gundog Trial Association, and thought I might get back into the sport here in Canada, where I now live.

This lady had a litter of Chocolate Lab pups, but the bitches were all sold and I will not own a male dog (it's like having a teenage boy in the house ... challenge, challenge, challenge) so I asked if she might, by chance, have a three or four year-old dog that might need a decent home.

We looked at Magic, who was spinny as a wheel in her ecstasy at being let out for a romp, there were discussions, negotiations a few days later when she brought Magic to my place so we could see her away from all the distractions of puppies and other dogs, there were more negotiations and Magic did not leave with her former owner. Didn't even say good-bye, actually.

How did Magic get her name?

It was part of her kennel name, although her former owner had given her a different one. To us she was Magic in all possible ways, and a reminder to me of my first Magic [photo right], a chocolate bitch I bred in Tasmania. She went on to become a guide dog for a blind friend of the family and he used to run her in retrieving trials as her R&R. She featured in my suspense thriller Dining With Devils which is set in Tasmania and start off with a retrieving trial in which the judge is fatally shot.

Foothills Mocha Magic

At first, everyone thought the retrieving trial judge had been killed by a blind man shooting blanks at a dead pigeon. With typical Tasmanian logic and the blinkered focus of hardened gundog trial fanatics, they ignored the fact that the judge had been standing behind the blind man when the gun went off and the blanks in the blind man's shotgun were loaded only with primers, and therefore harmless.

Instead, they focused on the obvious, which was that blind John had the shotgun in his hands and all the motive in the world for shooting the judge, who, the evening before, had callously told John, in front of everyone, that he should give up entering his guide dog Magic in retrieving trials because, “You can't possibly win.” Insensitive and unkind words to a highly competitive individual like John, so in the eyes of most observers, the judge deserved shooting!

And then the judge had compounded the offense by growling back when John's guide dog/retrieving trial entrant sensed John's anger and curled her upper lip in the beginnings of a snarl. Foothills Mocha Magic was not known to snarl without good and sufficient reason. The chocolate Labrador bitch took her work as a guide dog seriously, and reading John's moods, not to mention protecting him, was part of her chosen role in life. A short-lived incident, but a memorable one that gained the judge no credit even in death.

When he died, nobody was actually watching the judge anyway. All attentions were focused across an arm of the South Esk River, on the place where the mechanical catapult was set up to fling dead pigeons for the trial dogs to retrieve. The trial site was on Ormley, a grazing property nestled in the Fingal Valley east of Avoca between the looming bulk of Ben Lomond and the lower Fingal Tier to the south.

It was a typical late autumn morning in which everyone had awakened to a river valley swirling in a fog that roosted in the tall blue gums and stringy-barks along the river and shrouded the gorse bushes and lower scrub. It took quite some time to burn off, but by mid-morning the day was as splendid as anyone could ask for. Except maybe the judge.

Thus, this astonishing chain of events:

* The judge raised his clipboard in a signal.
* The bird thrower was released, flinging the pigeon into the air for Magic to see and John to shoot at even though he couldn't see.
* John, who'd been a shooter before losing his sight in an accident, heard the thrower and fired at the appropriate moment the bird should have been at the zenith of its flight.
* And both the hapless pigeon and the trial judge ended up face-down and dead on the boggy ground, a hundred yards and a river between them, but equal in death.

Foothills Mocha Magic, splendid dog that she was, kept her attention focused on the pigeon--if the idiot judge wished to do his job lying face down in the dirt, that was none of her concern. John, of course, didn't see the judge fall, so he waited the requisite mental ten-count, then ordered his dog to fetch, whereupon she took off like a rocket, launched herself into the river, swam across, ran straight to the bird, picked it up, and was swimming the river on her way back almost before the judge stopped twitching. She threw him a scurrilous glance, then presented John with her trophy in a perfect, ten-point delivery, and walked back to heel, neither knowing nor caring that her best run ever wasn't going to count.

Hardly anyone even saw the delivery; most of the gallery had, by this time, realized that their trial judge had just fallen down dead.

Foothills Mocha Magic has gone to be united with her beloved John Whitton, and my Magic has yet to find a place in one of my books, but she'll manage it one day, I'm sure.

Various dogs from my life have made it into my books. The Original Magic's relatives are all in Love Thy Neighbour, my working-bred English Springer Spaniel Wrangham Ladbybird (Lady) was a wonderful character in Finding Bess. And many others for whom I don't even have pictures, sadly. More on this in

What's an ordinary day like for you and your dog?

On a good day, it's both of us up at sparrow-fart, coffee for me, then we're off to the local park to train for an hour or so. Sometimes to the nearby beach to swim in the salt-chuck. Then I work, she sleeps, wanders around the house, keeps tabs on my wife, author Denise Dietz with whom she goes back to the park in the afternoon so she can teach Deni to play tennis. Evenings she brings us her various toys for examination, just to be sure she hasn't misplaced any of them.

Does Magic have a favorite place to walk?

She likes the park, the beach, the retriever club's training grounds ... anywhere she can use her wonderful nose and instincts to their fullest. Unless it involves swimming, which she will do, but is still shy of. She'll be six this summer, but for purposes of being a Hunt Test dog, or - in my terms - a real dog, she is really less than two years old, and has much yet to learn ... and to teach me.

What's your dog's best quality?

She has the finest temperament possible in a Labrador. If only she'd get enthusiastic about swimming, (which she will, someday) she'd be perfect - which makes her a lot closer to perfection than I am or will ever be. Plus she is a World Class Chick Magnet! Never a bad thing for a man my age.

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

Her proudest might be getting her Junior Hunter title. Her most embarrassing might be having refused only the day before that to go into the water at all. I am beyond being concerned about such things, since I believe a grown man shouldn't need a dog to help him make a damned fool of himself, and I've proven that plenty of times.

Like all dogs, Magic is a realist. She helps my Muse and alter-ego Victoria Gordon to write romances, but Magic holds no illusions on the subject.

Learn more about his dogs and his books at Gordon Aalborg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue