Friday, July 29, 2011

Jacqueline West & Brom Bones

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Jacqueline West, and I am a writer. I’ve published a lot of poetry and several short stories, but these days, I’m mostly occupied by my dark fantasy/mystery/comedy series for young readers, The Books of Elsewhere.

Leaning photogenically against my knees is Brom Bones, our not-quite-three-year-old dog. We got him from a shelter, so his pedigree was uncertain; he was obviously part Springer Spaniel with something even larger and bouncier thrown in, so for a long time, we simply called him a Springer Surprise. Then my husband’s parents gave us a doggie DNA test kit for Christmas. It turns out that Brom Bones is a Springer-Shepherd-Beagle mix. I know. I don’t see it, either.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee is part of our daily routine. I brew a pot, we all have breakfast, and then I settle down to work at the computer with a second, third, and fourth cup while Brom enjoys his second, third, and fourth nap of the day nearby.

What's brewing?

CityKid Java, half French Roast, half Colombian decaf, with a sploosh of skim milk. CityKid Java is based in the Twin Cities, just an hour to the north of me, and 100% of its profits provide programs and services for at-risk inner-city kids in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Plus, the coffee is tasty.

Any treats for you or Brom Bones on this occasion?

For me: Sourdough toast from Hanisch’s Bakery right here in Red Wing, Minnesota. For Brom: Hanisch’s dog treats, which smell so good even to a human nose that I’ve been tempted to dip them in coffee and nibble them like biscotti. Maybe if I run out of sourdough...

How were you and Brom Bones united?

In the fall of 2009, a couple of months after having to have our wonderful sixteen-year-old Border Collie put to sleep, we decided we were ready for another pet. We used to look at the dogs in our area, and Brom’s photo appeared among the listings at the Faribault humane society: tongue lolling, doggishly smiling, completely unaware of the word URGENT looming in red capitals above him. He was only a year old, but he had already been abandoned twice and had lived briefly as a stray before being returned to the shelter. Now he’d been back at the Humane Society for two months, and his time was running out.

When we first set eyes on him, he was trotting in tiny, frenzied loops around his cage, a bony streak of nervous energy. Once we got him into the play room, he opened a plastic bin with his nose and swiftly tore two stuffed toys to pieces before throwing himself across our laps. We fell in love.

Is your dog named after Ichabod Crane's nemesis on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?" Any nicknames?

He is indeed! My husband and I had gone to the shelter with a list of potential names in mind, but once we met our boy in person, none of them seemed just right. He was brown and lanky and bony, which made me think of the name Abraham – because of Abraham Lincoln, I suppose – and then I remembered that ‘Brom’ was a nickname for Abraham, and with Halloween just a week away, Brom Bones sprang immediately to mind. Washington Irving describes Brom’s namesake as having ‘more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and, with all his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of waggish good humor at the bottom,’ which also describes the four-legged Brom to a T. We generally just call him Brom—although we do occasionally call him Abraham Van Brunt, which is the literary Brom Bones’s full name, but only if he’s been seriously naughty.

Has Brom Bones played any role in your writing?

Not exactly, although I love his companionship during long workdays when I’m alone at home. It’s funny: three of the main characters in The Books of Elsewhere are talking cats, but I would never—could never—have created them as talking dogs. Dogs don’t really have an interior life, as far as I can tell. They have no hidden motive, no mystery—they’re just these open conduits of love and curiosity. Brom would give up all of his secrets for a piece of cheese. If he had any secrets to begin with. Which he doesn’t.

Does Brom Bones have a favorite place to go for walk?

Anywhere. Everywhere. Anytime.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Sightings of all three have resulted in toppled furniture, tangled leashes, and screaming delivery men.

What is Brom Bones's best quality?

Pure enthusiasm. Everything he loves, he loves with an almost overwhelming intensity: walks, toys, food, the car, visitors, looking out of the windows, lying between us on the couch. He is the cuddliest dog I have ever known. He weighs about 62 pounds, but there is no place he would rather be than in someone’s lap (at least, as much of him as can fit). He also has an excellent memory. He’ll bark to alert us about a spider on the ceiling, and even after the spider has been removed, he’ll check the same spot for days afterward, just in case it has magically returned.

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

Brom wishes that I loved throwing his ball as much as he loves chasing it. But I’m not sure that this kind of love exists in the human world.

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

When we play fetch with his flying ring, Brom makes these amazing, six-foot, salmon-style leaps into the air, and every time he catches the ring, he absolutely glows. If he misses the ring (or if he overcorrects in midair and lands on his backside instead of his paws), he hides his embarrassment by shaking the ring extra hard, growling vociferously all the while.

Visit Jacqueline West's website and the The Books of Elsewhere website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Marilyn Victor & Maxx

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Marilyn Victor, co-author of the Snake Jones mystery series. The second book in the series, Killer Instinct, just came out this year. The handsome little guy with me is Maxx. He’s a four-year old, five-pound, Maltese.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Although I love anything flavored with coffee (ice cream, chocolate, and chocolate covered coffee beans), I don’t drink the stuff. I prefer tea. When my favorite coffee shop closed, I started brewing my own chai lattes. Now Maxx and I sit on the back porch for a cup of tea and a cuddle before I leave for work in the morning.

What's brewing?

Chai Latte brewed with Good Earth’s original tea. I also enjoy Mrs. Kelly’s Cinnamon Ceylon.

Any treats for you or Maxx on this occasion?

Everything is a treat to Maxx. Unfortunately, his favorite delicacy these days is bird seed. I’ve had to put a fence beneath the bird feeder to keep him from eating the seed the birds toss out of the feeder. Personally, I prefer apple turn-overs – providing plenty of flaking crumbs for Maxx to lap up.

How were you and Maxx united?

For the past 6 years, I have been volunteering as a foster mom for a local animal rescue group. I have had the pleasure of caring for some wonderful dogs and have watched them go to equally wonderful new families. When I was asked to take Maxx I was told he would melt my heart. And he absolutely did. He had me wrapped around his paw from day one. Even though I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready for a full time dog, I just couldn’t bear the thought of giving him up. He’s such a sweetie.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

Maxx is the name he came with, but I sometimes call him Charlie because of the way he walks. He suffers from immune mediated polyarthritis (IMPA), which inflames the joints and has caused him some joint deformity. So he’s a extremely bull-legged and when he walks his whole body wiggles, reminding me of Charlie Chaplin. All he needs is a cane to twirl.

Why the extra X?

The first time I took him to the vet, the receptionist decided to spell his name with two xx’s as my last foster dog, an adorable Shih Tzu, had also been named Max. She wanted to be able to tell the two of them apart.

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

Maxx insists on sitting in my lap whenever I’m at the computer. He’s very quiet and has become a soothing presence when I write. He does have a tendency to want to rest his head on my keyboard, though. I’m not sure if he’s trying to edit or is just bored with what I’m writing.

Does Maxx have a favorite place to go for walk?

Because of his IMPA, he’s only able to walk about a half a block before tiring out. When he’s had enough, he simply stops, looks up at me and waits to be picked up. So I have an Outward Hound pet sling that looks like a big purse that I cart him around in. He loves car rides, and doesn’t seem to care where I’m going, just as long as he’s coming, too.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

All of the above. He’s very protective and thinks he’s a Doberman.

What is Maxx's best quality?

He’s a cuddler. As long as he can sit in someone’s lap, he doesn’t care where he is.

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

He’d probably wish I could be a full time writer and stay home with him all day.

What is Maxx's proudest moment so far?

His proudest moments are when he’s chased off another dog. Size doesn’t matter, he’ll go after them. He doesn’t tolerate any other animals in his yard.

His most embarrassing?

Because of his love for bird seed, he spends a lot of time scavenging beneath my cockatiel’s cage. In the winter I have a plush bird warmer I put in the cage. It looks like a small yellow hand muff and the bird can crawl into it to keep warm. In the summer, I keep it on a shelf under the cage. One day I found Maxx walking in circles with his entire head stuck inside the warmer. I really wish I had had my camera handy.

Have your dogs appeared in your books and stories?

My first dog, Lacey, was a sweet, laid back Bichon. I gave her a part in the first Snake Jones mystery, Death Roll. Her sister Dixie starred in one of my short stories and Maxx will probably get a part in the next book. Actually, my love of animals in general has influenced my writing. I can’t imagine not giving my characters pets, or have at least one character interested in animal welfare. I even wrote a short story about a diving mule once. My series character, Snake Jones, is a zookeeper, which is my dream job. I know it’s a tough profession, but I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than working around animals all day.

Visit the Snake Jones Zoo Mysteries website and Marilyn Victor's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tracey Alley & Angel and Pippa

Who is in the photo at right?

The white one is Angel, my first Tibetan Spaniel and she’s now 10 months old, the black one is Pippa [short for Pipsqueak – she was the runt of her litter] and she’s 4 months old and another Tibetan Spaniel. They’re a wonderful breed, very affectionate and although small will act as a watch dog up to a point – i.e. they’ll let me know if there’s someone around – but mostly they’re just very playful.

I’m Tracey Alley and I'm fortunate enough to be able to work at my writing full time; prior to that I cared for my mother for seven years and worked part time in various administration or teaching jobs and got two degrees at Uni at the same time. A bad back injury stopped me from being able to sit or stand for long periods so I can no longer work full time in admin or teaching.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The dogs and I have coffee together every morning before I start my day and every night after dinner I sit and have a coffee with the dogs while I give them a brush and we play together for a while. It’s my way of unwinding from the day. Actually any excuse to sit and play with the dogs I’ll take ... and any excuse for a coffee.

What's brewing?

I use a blend I buy from Gloria Jean’s Coffee, a cappuccino with a hint of chocolate – a little on the decadent side but I limit myself to only two of these a day, the rest of the time it’s instant.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Usually not, the chocolate in the blend is enough. Sometimes a chocolate chip cookie if I’m feeling naughty or want the extra sugar rush.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

In the mornings they have their Denta sticks, which clean their teeth, at night they get a liver strip each.

How were you and your dogs united?

I bought both dogs off local breeders. I bought Angel from a lady in Toowoomba who’s been breeding Tibbies [their nickname] for years and Pippa from another lady for whom this was her first breeding experience. I always tend to buy my dogs from breeders if I’m getting a puppy – there are puppy farms out there where the animals are treated very badly which is why I stick with registered breeders so I know they’ve come from a good home.

Have your dogs had any influence on your writing?

Only in the form of being a distraction – Tibbies like to play a lot. When I only had Angel she was constantly vying for my attention which is why I decided to get her a playmate. Now the two of them play happily together and I get more work done but they still like lots of attention from me.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Angel has two goldish coloured marks on her back that look a little like wings so that’s where her name came from and Pippa is so tiny that Pipsqueak came immediately to mind, shortened to Pippa. Angel’s nickname is ‘Miss Nibbles’ and Pipppa’s is ‘Houdini’ -- Angel’s a nibbler and Pippa will escape any chance she gets and from the tiniest breaks in the fence.

Cat, rabbit, postman...?

The postman’s OK and they love the family cat but I wouldn’t put them anywhere near a rabbit – they would definitely go for that and they both have very sharp teeth. They were originally bred as ratting dogs and they do that very well and leave the evidence for me to clean up.

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

In the back yard they like their tennis balls and squeaky toys but inside they prefer to mangle their stuffed toys – they each have stuffed animals of their own but they will play fight over each other’s toys.

Where are your dogs' favorite places for outings?

They both love the beach and their other favourite is probably the park near my house – it’s fully enclosed so they can both run around to their heart’s desire and wear themselves out.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other although they love my Siamese cat, Caesar, but he’s not quite as fond of them as they are of him and gets bored with playing with them very, very quickly.

What is each dog's best quality?

Angel has a real mothering temperament, she really looks after Pippa and she’s incredibly gentle with children and I tend to have a lot of children come through my house with all my nieces and nephews. Pippa is just a bowl full of fun, she’s mischievous and cheeky and very tiny. She has the heart of a lion though despite her small size and shakes the life out of her toys.

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

I think Angel’s proudest moment was the first time she met my nieces – she marched up and down in front of them all while they were all sitting on my couch as if she was on display. As for embarrassing she certainly looked embarrassed one afternoon as she tripped over her feet coming in through the doggie door.

Pippa has an endless supply of proud moments but the first time she actually caught the tennis ball she looked so pleased with herself that I began laughing so hard and she looked so hurt that I was laughing so that was probably her most embarrassing as well, although that was my fault.

Visit Tracey Alley's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 22, 2011

Crystal & Pinch

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Crystal, a 29 year-old Canadian ex-pat in France who teaches business English at a French insurance company near Paris. My dog Pinch is a miniature pinscher/dachshund mix and he's 4 years old. In that photo, we are on a paddle boat in the middle of a lake in the French Alps on holiday.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have a coffee every morning around 7:30 before getting ready for work and after coming in from Pinch's walk (we live in an apartment). He'll sit on my lap as I sip my coffee and check blogs, emails, and likely Facebook.

What's brewing?

I have a Senseo coffee maker that makes one cup of coffee at a time. I love flavoured coffees and right now, I'm having vanilla.

Any treats for you or Pinch on this occasion?

I try to only give him doggie treats, but he usually gets a tiny taste of whatever I'm eating. I'd love for him to chew on those tartar reducing dog treats to help keep his teeth clean, but he won't touch them.

How were you and Pinch united?

I found him online in the North of France and actually ended up saving him from a backyard breeder who had no business taking care of puppies. I took him at 4 1/2 weeks when the woman told me to come get him because 'the mother dog isn't feeding him anymore so I'm just giving him cow's milk'. I figured he was better off with me, so I took him to the vet to get checked out and to buy some special puppy formula. He didn't even have teeth yet when he came home with me, but I nursed him back to health and paid for life-saving hernia surgery when he was just 5 1/2 weeks old.

How did Pinch get his name? Any nicknames?

My French husband actually came up with the name Pinch because it's short for 'pinscher' and easy for French and English people to pronounce! We have a variety of nicknames for him including: Mr. Silly, Bean, Nibble(s), and Mini Cujo (because he isn't the most social dog with other people and animals...)

Dogs generally love cheese; France is great at making cheese. Is Pinch a fromager?

He loves hard, salty cheeses but rarely ever gets any because I don't often have cheese at home. He has problems with tartar build up on his teeth, so I try not to give him things that could make it worse. But if I have some cheese, he'll run over and sit up on his hind legs like a bunny til I give him (a very tiny) piece.

If your household suddenly re-located to Canada, what would Pinch miss most about France? What would be the most difficult adjustment?

I don't think he'd miss anything. There are very few dog parks in France - near Paris, anyway - and a lot of traffic and people everywhere, all the time. In Canada, he'd have more places to run free and the possibility to make some doggie friends. The most difficult adjustment would be taking the plane I think. If he got through that, I'm sure he'd love his new life in Canada.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

He's never actually seen a squirrel I think and he's lived peacefully with his feline brother, Noé, since I got them both around the same time. If the postman rings the doorbell, I have to put him in another room so that he doesn't bark too much or jump at the poor guy. He barks at just about anything and everything.

What is an ordinary day like for Pinch?

I don't often work 9-5, so I'm home a lot with him. He gets walked once in the morning before I go to work, once at lunch time, then 2 more times before bed. He's a homebody and likes to just be near me if I'm reading or washing dishes. He also sleeps on the bed next to my pillow every night (my husband works nights). We are moving to the Alps at the end of August though, so his routine will be shaken up and I'm worried he'll need some time to get used to all the changes.

What is Pinch's best quality?

He is a very loyal dog to the people he tolerates. The exhaustive list includes me, my husband, and my French parents-in-law. He loves to snuggle with me at all times and is great at keeping me company when my husband is away for work. He's my baby and I couldn't imagine life without him.

If Pinch could change one thing about France, what would it be?

He'd be happy if other people and dogs didn't exist. Living in the city is hard for him because he's got some anxiety issues ever since a vicious attack from a much bigger dog.

He'd probably also like that other dog owners in France keep their dogs on leashes so that he doesn't feel the need to get into fights with them to protect his Mama.

What is Pinch's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

His proudest moment was probably when, as a tiny puppy, he was published in the Cute Overload 2009 calendar in a photo snuggled up to my cat Noé [photo left].

Most embarrassing? He's scared of many inanimate objects and I've seen him growl and tuck his tail between his legs when we walk past a plastic bag blowing around in the street.

Visit the Crystal Goes to Europe blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Barbara Barth & Bray, Chloe, Annabelle, Rascal, and Miss April In Paris

Who is in the photo at right?

That is me, Barbara Barth, with Miss April In Paris, in our professional portrait for my website, Writer With Dogs. I am a writer, a shopkeeper and an events planner. I wrote a book on my first year as a widow, The Unfaithful Widow, doing all those things I never thought I’d do again. It has been called “naughty and cheeky” by an Australian reviewer. Rescue dogs rescued me I like to say. My dogs are a large part of my story and healing process.

In January this year, I opened a small antique/gift shop in Old Town, Lilburn, Georgia, about twenty minutes from my house. It is a shop with a twist. Every weekend I hold book signings and art openings. It is a writers’ guild and an art center. Writing and art classes start this month. The shop is a non-traditional venue for artists to share their work with the community. The historic hub is trying to rebuild. In six months I have expanded from one vintage building to three since my events are growing larger every month. I am president of the Merchants Association and work with the other shops to breathe life into the small hub. Many of the events are fundraisers for my favorite animal shelters.

I am usually on the computer until all hours of the early morning, either writing promotional material for my shop or my own personal writing. Little Chloe [photo left, with Rascal] likes to crawl behind my back and wedge herself between me and back of the chair. It works wonders for my posture.

I write a weekly post for Lifetime Television’s online site for their morning TV show, The Balancing Act. I promote my artists with my blog on the Lilburn and like to talk girl talk on In addition I seem to have as many personal blogs as I have dogs, but who is counting?

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’ve been keeping longer hours at the shop and decided the pack and I needed some quality time together. My dogs prefer the indoors to the 98 degree weather we’ve been having in the metro Atlanta area, so our date was in the air conditioned sun room!

What's brewing?

I am an old fashioned girl and drink plain, caffeinated, black coffee. Folgers breakfast blend is my favorite. I add a few extra scoops to make it strong. Most people refuse to drink my coffee!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

A nice cucumber or tomato sandwich with mayo on white bread makes me feel like I am at high tea, although I never drink tea.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Milk bones minis. They are small and not as fattening. Last year, when I had rotator cuff surgery, and was in a sling for four months, the dogs and I ate comfort food, and we all put on the pounds.

How were you and your dogs united?

When my husband died three years ago I had two German Shepherds. When the male died a year later, my old gal Foxy seemed bored. Her job as caregiver was over. I adopted Bray [photo left], my Afghan mix and the rest is history. In nine months I added five dogs to the pack. In addition to Bray, there is Annabelle [photo above right], a portly hound dog mix, my seven pound Chi named Chloe, Rascal, a roly poly bull dog, pit mix, and lastly, Miss April In Paris, a spotted hunting dog. Two months ago Foxy left me as age and health caught up with her. It seems quiet with only five! I am used to counting when they come in after a romp in the yard…1,2,3,4,5…and then I remember there is no number 6. I am working on that now. I like a six-pack at home.

Have your dogs had any influence on your writing?

I write under the name Writer With Dogs and have a web under that name. I launched a one-time online dog magazine with the same name, in December 2010, dedicated to rescue dogs and vintage dog art. I write about dogs, my rescue groups, living with a house full of fur. I have a dog book in the works. When friends say I am crazy being single with five dogs, I say I’d be crazy without them. They are my writing muses. They make every day a riot of fun!

How did your dogs get their names?

Each dog kept the name it came with. Only April had hers extended. She was the sixth dog when she came in the house, and like the last child, she was somewhat taken for granted. One day she came up to me while I was on the computer, nudged my arm, and took out part of Outlook. I held her face and realized she needed to feel special. “I shall call you Miss April In Paris!” I started a small blog for her, where she is dreaming of visiting the city of lights. She is in my PR photos and, while she has not made it to Paris, she has been on a blog in England.

Where are your dogs' favorite places for outings?

They love to run my fenced yard, which is very private for being close in the city. The occasional trip to the vet, one at a time, is exciting as they enjoy car rides. Mostly they like to stay indoors. My dogs are couch potatoes. Their idea of exercise is to move from the bed, to the couch, to the food bowl. They don’t really care if they go out, but they do like for me to stay in.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

The dogs are all BFFs. They love to lick each other and play well together. They are a united front.

What is each dog's best quality?

Chloe, the Chi, tries to run the household. She sees that as her job since Foxy is gone. Bray is still skittish and when he comes up to bestow a tiny kiss on your hand, you feel like you’ve won the lottery. If Annabelle could talk, her favorite word would be “whatever”. Nothing bothers her, unless you disturb her sleep. She is the oldest at ten. My other dogs are between three and four years old. Rascal is that chubby girl that sits in the curl of your arm with her head on your chest and stares at you with one blue eye and one brown one. Miss April in Paris looks serious with her dark eyes and dark face, but she is a kisser, which differs from a dog who licks your face. She actually plants a big kiss on your mouth. If only there were a man as good with his kisses.

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

My dogs don’t embarrass, however they have been known to embarrass me! They are happy, well-adjusted, rescue dogs that have found confidence and security at my home. Their proudest moment is when we all run to the bed to sleep at night! They have me sleeping with dogs and I sleep better snuggling with them.

Visit the websites for Barbara Barth, the Writer With Dogs, and The Little Shop Of Arts And Antiques.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 18, 2011

Megan & Booker

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi, I’m Megan! I have a blog called Greetings from Texas. And with me is Booker, a 4 year old Viszla/Beagle mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Work. Booker often sits with me while I work, write, and drink coffee. Sometimes he even gets on the computer himself.

What's brewing?

Dunkin Donuts. It’s unfortunately Dunkin Donuts from the grocery store. Houston doesn’t have any Dunkin Donut stores which is upsetting. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage your many followers to open up a Dunkin Donuts store in Houston. I’ll commit to daily patronage right here, right now.

Any goodies to go with the coffee.

Not today, though a donut would totally hit the spot.

Any treat for Booker on this occasion?

A bone of course.

How were you and Booker united?

My husband and I spotted him at the Anti Cruelty Society in Chicago and took him home that day. Hands down, best decision of our lives!

What does Booker contribute to your blog?

Constant inspiration. The time he attacked the cable guy comes to mind. As does his Thundershirt.

How did you come up with Booker's name? Any aliases?

We adopted him with the name and liked it. It fits him. It’s unique and so is Booker.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?


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

Duck. Booker’s favorite toy is a duck. He usually goes through one a week as he chews them up into little pieces.

Where is Booker's favorite place for outings?

The dog park near our house.

Who are Booker's best pet-pals?

His cousins that live in Chicago; Henry, Macks, and Gus.

What is Booker's best quality?

He’s very sensitive. He takes it very hard when we have to leave the house without him.

Veterinarians and other animal experts would call this separation anxiety... I just say he’s sensitive. No need to label everything, right?

What is Booker's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

This winter, on a particularly bitter day in Milwaukee, Booker peed in the parking garage of my parents’ high rise building. Apparently he couldn’t wait until we got outside. I was proud because it was freezing outside and had no desire to confront the cold.

Ironically, this was my mom’s most embarrassing moment with Booker - apparently dogs aren’t supposed to pee in the parking garage.

Visit the Greetings from Texas blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lavanya Sunkara & Indu

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi, I am Lavanya. I am an Indian American freelance writer based in New York. In the picture to the right is my two-year-old adopted puppy Indu hiking with me at Copake Falls in upstate NY. I have no idea what breed she is, but I think she has husky in her because of her striking sky blue eyes. She probably also has beagle/shepherd parentage as well. Either way, she has done a fine job adapting to her new family’s Indian customs. My mom taught her to wash her feet before entering the house after her walks to keep the house clean, and Indu does it so religiously that we are amazed each time. She is my first furry baby, and I am incredibly lucky to share my life with her. I have a day job, but I am addicted to writing just as much as I love my dog. I contribute to both online and print magazines regularly, and Indu made appearances in a few articles as well.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

During the week, I stick to tea, but on weekends I like sitting on the backyard swing sipping a hot coffee with Indu by my side. Today, it’s even more special because it’s July 4th and we are headed to Sands Point Preserve in Port Washington in the North Shore of Long Island for a hike and a dip in the bay. We recently celebrated Indu’s 2nd birthday at the preserve with family and friends because she just loves open spaces and cooling off in the summer heat.

What's brewing?

Even after leaving India 16 years ago, I can’t let go of certain habits. Drinking Bru coffee is one of them. Today, I made it with light soy milk (since I am trying to be vegan), and it was heavenly.

Any treats for you or Indu on this occasion?

Indu is on a diet, but I sneak in a few treats every now and then. I gave her Muttos green apple all natural biscuits this morning.

How were you and Indu united?

After years of wanting a dog, I decided the time was right a few years ago and went to North Shore Animal League to adopt. It was Mother’s day and I almost didn’t get Indu because someone else already started paperwork to adopt her. Luckily, the mother whom Indu was intended as a Mother’s day gift didn’t want a pet and I was more than happy to scoop her up and give her a forever home. I was told she was rescued from a puppy mill down south. She was tiny, sick and her ribs showing, but I knew she was going to be my best friend when I saw her blue eyes, sweet innocent face and curious glances.

How did she get her name? Any nicknames?

I was reading a book written by someone with that name. When I looked up what “Indu” meant, I found out it means moon in Sanskrit. Since I am a nature lover, and one of her eyes shines like the full moon, I decided to give that name to her. When she was young, all my family members called her “potti” which means shorty in my native Telugu language. We joke that she didn’t grow tall because of all that teasing. The name stuck, even though she refuses to answer to it.

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

Indu is my first pet, and having an animal as a companion has made me more passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless. Seeing how intelligent and caring Indu is, I have no doubt that other animals are feeling and smart beings that deserve to live good lives. Indu’s presence inspired me to write about domestic, farm and wild animal issues. I contribute as a blogger to wildlife conservationist/TV host Jeff Corwin’s new website.

Does Indu have a favorite place to go for walk?

Indu enjoys hiking a lot, and loves taking in the sights and smells of different areas. But she loves walking around the neighborhood and meeting her friends.

Does she like to get out of the city?

Indu actually has never set her paws in the city.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Squirrel, cat, postman and birds (in that order). I’ve started developing arm muscles from having to control her enthusiasm each time we encounter a squirrel or a cat. But I doubt she’d be able to do any harm to any of the above because she is too kind. She’d probably give them kisses.

What's Indu's best quality?

I am not saying this because Indu is my baby, but she is the best dog ever. People have scared me about getting a dog- messy house, torn shoes, excessive barking or begging, etc. But I am proud to say Indu is the most well behaved pet anyone could have. She obeys orders (other than when chasing squirrels). She waits for her food (there was a time my father placed a treat in front of her and said “no” and she waited a half hour for it). She even barks on command too! And the best of all- she has the finest softest fur, perfect for snuggling (and of course showing off).

If Indu could change one thing about New Yorkers, what would it be?

She’d change their attitudes about the great outdoors. She’ll let them know that there is wilderness out there to explore other than Central Park. Instead of putting nose to the grind all the time, why not breathe in some fresh air and smell a few flowers?

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

Her proudest would be when she learned how to shake “hands” with people. Most embarrassing would be when she sprinkles on the carpet out of excitement when meeting visitors. She just loves everyone!

Visit Lavanya Sunkara's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Megan Wargula & Finlay and Riley

Who is in the photo at right?

Megan Wargula, owner of Hound and Thistle, stationery and gifts for pet and design lovers. Finlay (right), Border Terrier, 7 years old. Riley (left), Border Terrier, 4 years old.

The three photos on the left below are by photographer Christopher T Martin.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Today's excuse was the Buckhead Spring Arts & Crafts Festival at Chastain Park in Atlanta, GA. Normally, I have booths at these events, but today was a day off! My husband, the dogs, and I enjoyed strolling through the many tents and enjoying all the great work. It was also a chance to further socialize the dogs as they can be wary of other dogs (long story--former neighbor had really aggressive dogs). Since it was an unusually cool day along a shaded path, there were lots of dogs and plenty of opportunities for us to work with them. As long as they stayed calm, didn't bark, and kept walking, we were happy! They did really well, too. Riley didn't bark once, but Finlay did have a close-encounter which made him nervous and bark-y. Since is was only one instance, we were really happy with the result!

What's brewing?

Twinings English Breakfast Tea - Home brewed with milk and sugar (sorry, I can't drink coffee, but it's one of my favorite smells!). I admit, the economy has hit us hard, so it's DIY over here, including the morning brew!

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Absolutely! Whenever we are working with the dogs on their socialization, I have my trusty treat pouch on my hip. Yes, it's dorky-looking and might be just one step away from a "fanny pack", but it's necessary! If the dogs do well, they must get a treat right away, so digging in your pocket just takes too long. We treated them with Charlee Bear liver treats, they love 'em!

How were you and your dogs united?

We got both dogs from a reputable breeder. I almost feel bad saying that because I have been looked down upon for not rescuing my dogs. I will say that we researched breeds before we settled on border terriers and we researched breeders to make sure we found a great one. I can't underscore how important it is to research the breed! Border terriers are cute and lovable, but aren't for everyone. They do shed, contrary to some sources, and they are working dogs who still have a very strong hunting instinct.

How did they get their names? Any aliases?

Since the breed comes from the border between England and Scotland, and I happened to be reading a book that took place in Scotland, I researched Scottish names and came up with Finlay. When we got Riley, there was less research (after all, she was the second dog) and we were going to call her Sadie until we met her. She just didn't seem like a Sadie. In the car on the way home, we discussed the name Riley. It was St. Patrick's Day and it was settled that she would get an Irish-sounding name, Riley.

Both dogs have a million nicknames and I often wonder if they really know their real names! Finlay [photo left] is often called Fin, Mr. Fin, and Finzers. Riley is called Roo which came from Riley-Roo as she is quite agile and can jump with the lightest feet!

Your dogs have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine--has the fame gone to their heads?

Ha-ha! Nope, they are the same ol' scruffy brown pups who love to chase after critters and dig in the dirt!

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for walk?

Honestly, they like to walk anywhere, but there is one park that is completely shaded, has lots of hills, and even has a creek running through it. I think they really enjoy this particular walk/hike and if we are there when it's warm, they get to wade in the creek which they love! Of course they get quite dirty and have to have a bath when they get home which they don't love, but I think it's worth it to them!

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Lizards, bunnies, squirrels, and birds. Yes, birds. Finlay caught a bird when he was young, then one a couple years ago, so they chase after birds. It gets a little old because there are always birds in the yard; but like I said, border terriers have a strong hunting instinct! Riley has shown prowess at catching lizards, which I totally don't like ... I don't like seeing any creature hurt and I know that they are just doing what comes naturally, I just wish they weren't so good at it!

What is each dog's best quality?

Finlay is a sweetheart and really loves people, including children, they just don't phase him. One even popped him on the head and he just sat there grinning. Riley [photo right] is hilarious! I swear I was given this dog to lighten my mood. She's like a little comedienne. For instance, we'll be walking through the neighborhood and she'll just start rolling in the grass, like a crocodile in a death roll. If it's winter and the grass is dormant, she'll get up and have all these little pieces of grass all over her and she's got a huge smile on her face. Meanwhile, I'm just laughing with her, wondering if my neighbors have dubbed me the "crazy dog-lady who laughs while walking her dogs."

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

They would want me to slow down. I have my business, Hound and Thistle, but I still have a full-time job to pay the bills. It seems I work morning, noon, and night, including weekends and they would probably ask me to work less. I still make time for them, of course, but gone are the days of all 3 of us laying on the sofa watching Law and Order re-runs all day!

What is each dog's proudest moment? Their most embarrassing?

Finlay's proudest moment was probably his most recent Earthdog ribbon. He has his second leg in Senior Earthdog and after one more, he will get the title, "Senior Earthdog". Riley's proudest moment was probably mastering the teeter-totter in agility class. Riley [photo left] loves agility, but the teeter was a little nerve-wracking for her. One time, she forgot to wait for it to go back down and launched herself off the end of it, that's probably her most embarrassing moment! She is definitely not afraid of heights! Finlay's most embarrassing moment was probably one of the scariest instances for us. A rawhide got lodged in his throat and he couldn't breathe. It was so very scary and we thought we were going to lose him. No more rawhides, ever, ever, ever again in our home!

What was it like to work with Victoria Stilwell for O - The Oprah Magazine?

Amazing! Victoria is the real deal, I can't say enough good things about her. She is a great teacher, patient, and kind. She does not judge you for how your dogs act, she just wants to help. Probably the most profound yet simple thing she told me is that our dogs don't know how to act in the human world, that they look to us to be taught that. It seems so simple, yet so hard for us humans to grasp! I also learned how positive reinforcement is the only way to go. I've tried other, more punitive methods and they simply don't work. With positive reinforcement, I saw results very quickly, then again, I have smart dogs who are very food motivated!

Your business focuses on pet-related items. What is your favorite item?

Of course to pick just one item is very hard. I've always been a paper-loving girl so I love my stationery. It seems weird in this digital age to even consider designing stationery, but I think a hand-written note goes a long way, especially since they are so rare now! I just read an interview with actor Ryan Reynolds, and he mentioned that he likes sending hand-written notes because they are so special. He mentioned that he just sent one to a director he had just worked with. How cool is that?! Aside from my stationery, I love my newest design which is a t-shirt featuring a smiling pit bull and the slogan, "I'm a lover, not a fighter." While I've never owned a pit bull, they get a bad rap and I've met many sweet pit bulls. Being a native Atlantan, I was also really affected by the Michael Vick dog fighting story and really educated myself on dog fighting. It's a horrible, awful, atrocious thing (I could not refer to it as a sport) and I hope to help educate people on animal welfare.

Visit the Hound & Thistle website, and Twitter and Facebook pages.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 11, 2011

Barbara Edwards & Dixie

Who is in the photo at right?

Dixie, a Belgiun Malinois, female eight years old and author Barbara Edwards, a published writer. We’re visiting Chimney Rock, North Carolina during a conference for The Wild Rose Press authors.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with Dixie every morning. She uses her cold, wet nose to poke any exposed skin until I awake to make my coffee and take her outside. She does her business while I sit on the porch and enjoy the morning.

What's brewing?

I drink my coffee black with ½ a spoon of sugar. I like strong coffee, usually Colombian Roast, never the flavored stuff.

Any goodies for you or Dixie to go with the coffee?

I love éclairs and there is a French bakery downtown. Theirs are wonderful with fresh cream. I try not to indulge more than once a week. Dixie gets the last bite. She has begging down to a science.

How were you and your dog united?

Dixie is adopted. This is a long story. My husband loves German Shepherds, but I’m sad to say that every time I’ve been bitten it’s been by one. I was watching the Westminster Kennel show, not really shopping, but they showed the three varieties of Belgians. They are all beautiful, but the Malinois’ description said: smart, family friendly, loyal. And I said ‘Aha!”

I went online to search for breeders and found they are very careful with their dogs, only breeding the females every other year. Sorry, none available. I checked with adoption sites and their dogs were several years old, not what my husband wanted.

We were sitting in a coffee shop (isn’t that appropriate?), having coffee, when he found an ad in the Step Saver about a Belgian Malinois up for adoption. I called and the rest is history. She was six months old.

How did Dixie get her name? Any aliases?

When we adopted Dixie, she wouldn’t respond to any name we called her until my son visited. He said, “Since you’re going south for the winter, why not call her Dixie?” She ran over and nuzzled his hand. So she actually picked her name. No aliases although there are a few things muttered when we clean the yard.

Does she have any role in your books and writing life?

Dixie keeps me from becoming a desk potato. She will nudge my arm until I surface and take her for a walk. This keeps me from gaining weight, too. I would love to make her a character, but she is so small people would think it fiction.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Don’t make me laugh. Dixie has staked out her territory: our yard and the road in front, the air overhead. She barks at squirrels, cats, rabbits, fox, an occasional coyote, the pair of hawks hunting mice and even an airplane landing at the airport. The postman and the garbage man both carry dog treats and she will bark until they hand over the goodies.

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

I had to eliminate chew toys. She destroys them and eats the pieces. Not good. I found an ostrich leg bone at the butcher’s shop and she took a year to wear it down to a hand-length. She will find a branch in the yard and play tug of war with me.

Where are Dixie's favorite places for outings?

With me. She wants to be with me twenty-four seven. She goes camping, hiking, visiting, wherever I go. She is well-behaved, a sweetheart despite her eighty pounds of muscle.

Who are her best pet-pals?

Dixie likes Bea, a sort of black retriever mix with a sloppy smile who belongs to my son and they play in the yard. Also, Cherokee who we visit in Virginia.

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

She’d make me pet her continuously all day, every day.

What is Dixie's best quality?

She is loving, a snuggler with a big heart. Dixie wants to be a lapdog, but will settled for laying her head on my lap and smiling at me.

What is Dixie's proudest moment?

She caught a squirrel’s tail and pulled out a tuft of hair when it fell off the porch banister. She is convinced she can do it again.

Her most embarrassing?

When she ate a piece of carpet and couldn’t cough it up or pass it. She was totally miserable, hanging her head and tail. That did entail a trip to the vet.

Thank you for allowing me to brag about the smartest, best, most wonderful dog in the world, Dixie.

Visit Barbara Edwards's website and blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 8, 2011

Amy Plum & Ella

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Amy Plum, writer of Die For Me, the first in a YA trilogy published by HarperCollins. And with me is Ella (full name: Ella Oh La La de la Falaise Plum). She is around 11 1/2 and the vet guesses she’s half-Ridgeback, half-Lab/Pit.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m a four-coffee-per-day kind of girl, and Ella’s joining me before we go out and take our afternoon walk through the vineyards.

What's brewing?

Nespresso’s “Roma”, topped with steamed soy milk made on my home machine (the Nespresso Citiz that has the separate milk-warmer).

Any treats for you or Ella on this occasion?

A square of Lindt’s Sea Salt Dark Chocolate for me. And Ella’s very favorite treat is cheese, so I might just give her a little slice of Emmental.

How were you and Ella united?

My husband and I adopted Ella from Manhattan’s 110th street pound. She was around 3 months old at that point, and had been wandering the streets, so was very dirty and had a bad case of kennel cough. I fell in love with her immediately, but we had decided to visit two animal rescue locations before making our decision. But by the time we got through with the second place, I was having a panic attack thinking someone might have adopted her in the meantime, so we raced back to the pound. (Upon adopting her, we learned that she would have been put down after another week.)

How did she get her name?

Both my husband and I love Ella Fitzgerald. So it was a homage name. The Oh La La came because she was such a handful as a puppy, and my French husband was always yelling, “Oh la la, Ella!” The “de la Falaise” is just being silly. It’s after “Loulou de la Falaise”, and means “of the cliffs”.

Did Ella have any trouble making the transition from the big city to the French countryside?

None at all. I was very apprehensive about the flight from New York to Paris, however, having heard that some dogs go insane from fright. And we had really bad turbulence for the first half-hour of the flight. When the steward brought her crate out in Charles de Gaulle airport, I couldn’t even look – I had my husband let her out. When I saw she was fine, I almost fainted from relief. She was wagging her tail and totally happy, like she had spent the last six hours in a doggy day spa instead of underneath a noisy jet.

A friend once told me about a dog he met in Australia who didn't recognize commands spoken in my friend's American accent. Is Ella equally responsive to French and English?

Ella and I went to training classes in New York when she was a puppy. So she knows all of her commands in English. I actually taught my father in law how to say “wait”, “come”, “sit”, and other commands since he dog-sits when we’re away. Those words are the only words he knows in English!

Has Ella played any role in your writing?

Only in lying beside me while I type. She’ll come out and sit with me in my office for a while, but gets bored quickly and goes out to look for the neighborhood cats.

Does Ella have a favorite place to go for walk?

We have a 3km loop through the vineyards that she enjoys. Lots to smell and chase along the way.

Rabbit, postman, cat...?

All three. But we have a ton of tiny lizards in our yard, and they are her very favorite. (Luckily she’s not fast enough to catch anything!)

What is Ella's best quality?

Loyalty. She tries to protect us against everything, barking and looking ferocious with anyone who pulls into our driveway, anyone who knocks on our door, and even thunder.

And worst?

She doesn’t like our kids. (She was the first “child” and has been jealous since they arrived.)

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

She would change my motherhood, make my children disappear and go back to the days where she got all of the attention.

Visit Amy Plum's website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue