Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Melanie Sue Bowles & the Proud Spirit dogs

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Melanie Sue Bowles and four of our dogs, Penny (in the background), Tucker, Gunny and Chloe. Our canine family actually consists of a "baker's dozen" so there's nine more who aren't in this picture. And they're all in the house, all part of the family and all over the furniture.

Aside from being a doggie mom, I'm also a published author, and I'm very passionate about animal welfare. My writing reflects that passion. And together, my husband and I are the founders of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary. This is one of the most successful, longest existing facilities for horses in the United States; we're currently caring for nearly 60 horses, donkeys and mules. And that aforementioned baker's dozen of dogs.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Oh, boy... I hope this doesn't get me banned, but I don't drink coffee. I'm more of a tea kind of gal. And every day is an occasion; my pups and I always start off every single morning together. I brew my big cup of super-strong tea and then we all go outside for a stroll around the yard. They do their thing, which includes the obligatory potty, while I sip my tea, but there's also lots of high-jinks and shenanigans. So my day usually starts off with quite a bit of laughter.

What's brewing?

Celestial Seasonings green tea, double strength. And, as odd as this may seem, I like to add a splash of pomegranate juice. It's a tart, refreshing pick-me-up.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Not usually first thing in the morning... we're trying to concentrate on taking care of business, if ya know what I mean.

How were you and your dogs united?

Whenever you open your heart and your home to animals in need, it sort of becomes like a "field of dreams"... build it and they will come. All of our dogs were either strays who showed up at our gate or homeless and living in a shelter. So in addition to rescuing horses, my husband Jim and I have also rescued dozens of dogs. We adopt out as many as we can to approved homes, but these are the ones who ended up becoming part of our family.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Our dogs names are Gunny, Bessie, Tucker, Penny, Lucy, Kirby, Cricket, Daisy, Trixie, Trudi, Chloe, Winston, and Louie. Who knows how or why they ended up with the names they did! But aliases and nicknames? They each have about ten apiece. And what's so funny is, they all seem to know their nicknames. There's a terrific story about this very subject in my book, The Dogs of Proud Spirit.

Please tell us about your "Proud Spirit" books and sanctuary.

I have three nonfiction books out: The Horses of Proud Spirit... Hoof Prints: Stories from Proud Spirit and The Dogs of Proud Spirit. All three tell the inspirational, heartwarming and (sometimes) comical stories of the horses and dogs who have found their way to the peace and safety of our sanctuary. The best part? Proceeds from book sales help us continue our rescue work. So when you buy a book you're doing double duty, so to speak. You get some unforgettable stories to read, and you're directly helping the sanctuary. YAY!

You've rescued pigs as well as dogs: do they get along?

We got our pigs, Sally and Harley as babies, many years ago. They lived long, happy lives with us, but sadly both have since passed on of natural causes. Their story is in Hoof Prints... a very funny story, I might add... and they were wonderful additions to our family. And yes, all of our dogs got along great with them.

What is each dog's best quality?

Gunny is loyal to the extreme. Bessie is a most-excellent sleeper. Tucker has "cute" down to an art. Penny's just say that Penny is busy. Lucy is ultra-confident, thank you very much. Kirby plays well with others. Cricket likes alone time. Daisy loves to snuggle. Trixie is trouble, but in a good way. Trudi is the peace-keeper. Chloe is simply sweet. Winston makes us laugh. And Louie is "The Man"... aka HRH King Louie.

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

My bank account...

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? The most embarrassing?

You'll have to read the books!

Visit Melanie Sue Bowles's website and the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2011

Steve Hockensmith & Amy

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me with my dog Amy. She’s a 3-year-old (we think) Chihuahua-terrier mix (we think) we adopted from the East Bay SPCA (that we know for a fact) in January (again: fact).

My name is Steve Hockensmith and I’m a 43-year-old purebred WASP who’s been adopted by discriminating mystery and horror fans (thanks to my Holmes on the Range and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novels).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We’re toasting the release of Amy’s new book. Not that she wrote it. It’s a collection of mystery stories and humorous essays that I’ve written over the years. But Amy was the inspiration for the collection. She has a condition called luxating patella that affects her hind legs. Basically, her knee caps don’t like to stay in her knees, which (as you can imagine) doesn’t feel so great. It can also lead to debilitating arthritis. Luxating patella can be corrected surgically, but Amy doesn’t have the money for it and unfortunately neither do I. So the collection’s called My Dog Needs Surgery and it’s available as a 99 cent ebook via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. If I sell enough downloads, Amy can get her surgery sooner rather than later. Not that I’m trying to hold my dog’s health hostage to drum up sales. I’m not National Lampoon!

What's brewing?

No brewing necessary! As we’re in (appropriately enough) the dog days of summer, I’ve opted for a cool, refreshing glass of coffee milk. It’s basically chocolate milk, only with coffee-based syrup. I first encountered it years ago when I was visiting Rhode Island -- it’s the state drink! -- and I’ve raved about it for years. My brother’s moving thereabouts soon, so when he went up to scout for houses, he picked up a bottle of Eclipse coffee syrup for me. I was pleased to discover that it’s just as delicious as I remembered. Too bad about all the corn syrup in it, though. It’s probably a good thing I only drink it once every two decades.

Any treats for you or Amy on this occasion?

My treat is the coffee milk. Amy’s being treated to crackers so she’ll look happy in the picture. For some reason, she’s terrified of cameras, so it can be hard to get a shot of her where it doesn’t look like The Giant Newspaper of Bad Dog Doom is looming over her.

How were you and Amy united?

It was fate. My daughter had been begging us for a dog for quite a while, but I’d resisted out of deference to my beloved old cat Izzy. I wasn’t going to force a 17-year-old cat to deal with a dog all of a sudden. After Izzy finally passed away last summer, I gave myself a few months to grieve. Then I gave in. We knew we wanted a small-ish dog -- we have small-ish children and a small-ish house -- so we monitored the websites of various rescue societies hoping to find a candidate of the right size. We came close a few times, but nothing ever worked out. Finally, frustrated after months of web-surfing, my wife said, “Why don’t we throw the kids in the car and just go to the pound right now?” So we drove to the SPCA facility in Oakland, started to go inside...and bumped into a volunteer taking Amy out for a walk just as we arrived. Amy was the perfect size, cute as the dickens and sweet with the kids. So it was love at first sight all around.

How did she get her name? Any nicknames?

Amy was a stray picked up off the streets of Oakland with no tags, so what her original name might have been nobody knows. They called her Amy at the shelter, though, and since she responded to it we figured we ought to keep it. I tend to call her “Poopsy-Doodle” or just “Poopsy,” however. (I know -- that’s a pretty embarrassing thing for a grown man to admit.) My daughter calls her “Freak.” Much as we love Amy, she does have her quirks. Fortunately, it’s been months since she tried to hump anyone’s head.

Please tell us about your latest books.

Before My Dog Needs Surgery, I put out two other short story collections -- Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime and Dear Mr. Holmes: Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries. My latest novel is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, which wraps up the PPZ trilogy. (No one knew it was a trilogy when it got started, but now it does seem nice and tidy that way.) I’m working on various projects at the moment, so I’m not sure which new book of mine will make it into the world next. I just hope it’s not Hey, You Guys -- My Dog STILL Needs Surgery!.

Visit Steve Hockensmith's website.

Writers Read: Steve Hockensmith.

My Book, The Movie: Dreadfully Ever After.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peggy Swager & Albert

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Peggy Swager. I’m a dog trainer who has also written dog books and articles. Two of my articles won DWAA awards.

Albert is a male Chihuahua. His estimated age is around four years old. He came from a puppy mill and was probably dumped by the puppy mill because he was a fear biter. I’ve learned a lot about the differences with Chihuahuas compared to other dogs from Albert, and by reading up on the breed.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee every day. Love the stuff. Al likes to hang out in the house in the morning while I sip my brew.

What's brewing?

I am confined to decaf coffee. Sometimes I have a Columbian, but currently I’m using Community Coffee medium-dark roast. I grind it fresh every morning and love it hot.

Any treats for you or Albert on this occasion?

Albert loves pancakes. So does my husband. So Ken makes some extra pancakes to share with Albert. This morning, I even ate a few pancakes, although I don’t do that so often.

How were you and Albert united?

I went to National Mill Dog Rescue to pick up Al's cage-mate, a Poodle. The Poodle was a very severe biter, and therefore deemed unadoptable. I wanted to see if I could reform him. They asked me to also take Albert who also had biting issues. I’m happy to say that although my husband and I were both causalities in the beginning, both dogs have reformed.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

Al is my favorite nickname for him. On his paperwork, his first name at the rescue was Abigail. He was so defensive when he first arrived that the rescue people couldn’t get near enough to him to do anything but toss food in the cage. However, when it came time to spay him, they ended up neutering him and renaming him Albert.

Please tell us about your new book.

My dog training book is called Training the Hard-to-Train Dog. The book was inspired a lot of problematic Jack Russell Terriers-- think every thing from submissive peeing to stubborn and take charge attitudes-- as well as other dogs I’d reformed, including one who attacked another dog in the household.

Does Albert have a favorite place to go for walk?

He loves walks, but when I took him to the Farmer’s Market, he wasn’t so sure of the larger dogs or the small children. But then, if you think about living your life in a cage for the first three years of life, only taken out for breeding purposes, and your captors are abusive....

Albert hasn’t learned to play with regular toys yet, but he will with time. What he does do is play with a dog biscuit. If you toss him one and it doesn’t tempt his nose taste buds, he begins to play with the treat.

What is Albert's best quality?

His capacity to love and to forgive.

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

Sometimes as we grow older, we can become touched with cynicism; we lose hope that things will change for the better. Albert inspires me and reminds me never to give up that things can change.

When you think about how abusive his first three years were, and that in a few months of opportunity he has changed so much, it gives you hope about a lot of things.

What is Albert's greatest need from whomever might adopt him? What would be his greatest gift?

Albert needs his new owner to take things at his pace. He still has some changes to do to fit in and to learn that “at ease about things” attitude we take for granted in other dogs.

But this little dog bubbles over with love and he really wants his own person, or persons, to hang out with.

Read more about Training the Hard-to-Train Dog at Peggy Swager's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kelli & Buster

Who is in the photo at right?

This is our dog, Buster, a male Newfoundland, age 1 yr, 9 mo.

My name is Kelli. I am a registered nurse who worked 11 years as a cardiac RN, and am now a stay at home mom to one almost 5 yr old little boy, and this sweet big dog.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Just returned from Buster's walk around the neighborhood.

What's brewing?

I love the smell of coffee, but never developed the taste for it, so for me it's just water. What's brewing for my husband is usually just good old Folgers medium roast.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not this time.

Any treat for Buster on this occasion?

Buster just had a homemade doggie treat. Made from a mix.. just add water, mix and roll out the dough and cut the shapes with cookie cutters. My son loved this project. Tonight's treat was shaped like a dinosaur.

How were you and Buster united?

Buster came to us from a breeder, Great Basin Newfoundlands in Fallon, Nevada. We live in northern California so we drove and met them half way and picked Buster up when he was 10 weeks old.

How did Buster get his name? Any aliases?

We originally decided to name him "Tug", but our son was so opposed to that name for some reason. We had just lost our previous dog (a 13 yo Newf mix) about six months prior and he took it so hard. We wanted him to like whatever name we gave our next family member, so after vetoing "Percy" (from Thomas the Tank Engine) and "Corvette" (his favorite hot wheel), we settled on Buster (the name of the dog in Toy Story).

He has all kind of Bustery nick-names. Dust Buster, Busteroo, Bust-a-move.. you name it. My husband sometimes calls him Daggoo, the name of a character in Moby Dick.

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Definitely cat, but what drives him really crazy are things with small wheels... skateboards, rollerblades, golf carts. He wants to chase them. We are working on that right now!

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

All of the above. Lately, he is fond of a rubber duck that my son picked out for him. He also loves a giant raw-hide.

Where is Buster's favorite place for outings?

More often the dog park, but once in a while we take him to a lake and he loves it.

Who are Buster's best pet-pals?

He has a buddy down the street, a giant breed Alaskan Malamute named Sasha. They are the same size.

Other than that, he has some canine cousins in the family that he loves to be around but live further away... Skippy, a 3 legged Border Collie, and Calvin, an Australian Cattle Dog, and Chipper, a shepherd mix.

What is Buster's best quality?

His soulful eyes and sweet spirit. He is so patient and gentle with our son.

What is Buster's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

If we're talking from Buster's point of view, when he's most proud would probably be either when he gets a new rawhide and prances around with it, or when he finds the marshmallow we've hidden somewhere in the room for him.

If he's ever felt embarrassment, it would be when he got fixed and had to wear what most people call the cone of shame. We call it the satellite dish.

Visit Kelli's "Seriously..I think it needs stitches" blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dorothy Hearst & Jude

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Dorothy Hearst, the author of Promise of the Wolves and Secrets of the Wolves, the first two novels in a trilogy about how the wolf became the dog from the wolf's point of view. The trilogy is based in the science of wolf-human coevolution and born of my love of dogs. The handsome fellow in the picture with me is Dante, a wolfdog who lived at Never Cry Wolf Rescue. Dante left us a few months ago after a long and full life.

I'm getting my own dog in December/January, after Emmi the Labradorable returns to my sister after a visit. For now, I borrow other people's dogs: Emmi the beautiful, Burrito the cylindrical, Jude the dashing, Sasha the Sasquatch, and Inna the warrior princess.

So hard to choose who to talk about. I miss Jude since he's in Australia now, so let's talk Jude.

[Editor's note: a week before this posting, Jude passed on. R.I.P.]

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I usually spend a good portion of my writing day in one of the many cafés in Berkeley. But when someone is looking at me with big brown eyes, wondering how I could possibly leave him all alone for hours at a time, I tend to bring the caffeine into my home. Jude snores loudly as I work, letting me know that naps are vital to the writing process.

I call Jude "Baloo" because he reminds me of the bear from the Disney Jungle Book film in that he always seems so happy with the "bare necessities" of walks, pets, love, snacks, and a human's bed to take over as his own. One time I was walking on what I thought was a deserted trail in Tilden Park, singing "Bare Necessities" to Jude when a woman came onto my trail from a side trail. I explained to her that Jude reminded me of Baloo, and she understood perfectly.

What's brewing?

I switched to tea several years ago because coffee was making me squirrely. At first it felt like deprivation, but now I'm as discerning about my tea as I used to be about coffee. The time release caffeine of tea usually works best for me, but when I need a quick jolt, iced latte is my poison.

Any treats for you or Jude on this occasion?

Jude would be happy to take any tuna, sardines, or duck off your hands and will settle for dog treats should better snacks prove unavailable. Kibble will be spread throughout the domicile. You can feed me almonds, pistachios, biscotti, dark chocolate, and Trader Joe's five layer dip.

How are you and Jude connected?

Jude lives with my friends Johanna and Fred, who used to live about two miles away from me and now live on the other side of the world. I Skype with Jude whenever possible.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

I believe he was named after Jude the Obscure rather than Jude of Beatles fame. However, he is quite accustomed to having me sing "Hey Jude" to him off-key.

When you get a dog of your own, any idea what kind of dog you'd like?

I plan to get a rescue, and have a soft spot for mid-sized mutts. That being said, I have a feeling my dog will find me.

What's the greatest challenge--or opportunity--presented by telling the story from the wolf's point-of-view in your novels?

The biggest challenge became the biggest opportunity. I struggled, at first, to describe the world from a wolf's perspective. If I had been completely accurate about how a wolf perceives the world, it would have been difficult for my human readers to understand the world, but I didn't want to make the wolves seem like humans in wolf suits. I spent a great deal of time on this, and in the end, it was what shaped the entire world of the book and much of the action.

I had to think not just about how a wolf perceives things, but about what is most important to a wolf. What does she care most about and how is that different from what a human would care about? It also kept me from using clichés. I couldn't say there was a blanket of leaves on the ground because wolves don't have blankets, so instead I used "a pelt of newly fallen leaves." I think it made the books much richer.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Jude says yes, please.

Who is Jude's best pet pal?

His mom and dad, definitely, with the bed coming in a close third. Though he and Emmi had a marvelous time playing tug of war [photo above left] a few Christmases ago.

What is the dog's best quality?

His joie de vivre and the fact that he keeps me humble by making sure I don't forget who really owns the bed.

If Jude could change one thing about Berkeley, what would it be?

Berkeley is one of the best places to be a dog. Tilden Park and Point Isabel for long walks, and store owners who leave out treats and water bowls. Jude is most concerned with keeping the Bay Area open spaces open, and continuing to allow dogs off-leash in parks.

What's Jude's proudest moment? His most embarrassing?

His proudest moment is successfully laying claim to the four-fifths of the bed that is rightfully his.

Most embarrassing would be the time I got more of the bed than he did.

Visit Dorothy Hearst's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Promise of the Wolves.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cierra Wolfe & Keebler

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me (Cierra) and my Australian Shepherd, Keebler. Keebler is six years old and is a show dog! He competes regularly in American Kennel Club conformation shows. His registered name is TwinCreeks Best Of EL Fudge and he currently holds a Rally Novice title and has 11 points with 2 majors towards a Championship title.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We actually just got home late last night from a show and slept in this morning. We just thought coffee sounded good this morning!

What's brewing?

We’re just having a good ol’ cuppa joe with a cookie dough coffee syrup mixed in. We just borrowed some Folgers from my dad!

Any treats for you or Keebler on this occasion?

I’m just having coffee, but Keebler is munching on a giant chocolate chip cookie. He loves cookies!

How were you and Keebler united?

I actually started showing our old farm dog Luke in a local 4-H club when I was ten years old. Through 4-H I was taught all about American Kennel Club dog shows and the opportunities you can receive through those dog shows. After much convincing to my parents, they decided to get me a purebred dog to show in AKC shows. We had met an Australian Shepherd breeder named Amy through 4-H who bred the most gorgeous dogs I had ever seen, so my mom and dad decided to purchase a dog from her. A few months later, Keebler was born. I went to see his litter when they were three days old and knew that Keebler was the one for me right away.

How did Keebler get his name? Any nicknames?

I was actually watching the Westminster Dog Show on TV on year and there was a Bernese Mountain Dog named Keebler. I loved Bernese Mountain Dogs and I loved that name, so it just kind of stuck with me!

Please tell us a bit about Keebler's show dog career.

Keebler’s career as a show dog has become a lifestyle for us. We took about three years off of the sport when I started college but we decided in April to go at it again and it has gone better than I ever expected! Our weekends off this summer have been very limited. Every weekend we pack up the car and drive typically about 3 – 4 hours to reach a show. Shows are usually 2 or 3 days long, but sometimes they are 4 or 5 days long. We do things a lot differently than a lot of others because not only do I fully own Keebler, I also do all of his grooming and handling in the ring by myself. We love it, though – we wouldn’t change anything about it!

What is Keebler's best quality?

Keebler’s best quality is definitely his personality. He is the sweetest dog I have ever met in my life. Whenever someone is sitting in a chair, he loves to give them hugs! He loves children and cats and other dogs. He is the biggest “people-lover” ever!

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

He would probably want me to give him more cookies and his favorite honeycrunch chicken corndogs throughout the day. I try to give him some everyday, but I can’t give him a bunch, otherwise he’d be fat!

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

Keebler’s proudest moment actually happened just this past weekend at a show! We attended the Steel Valley Cluster in Canfield Ohio all four days and he was awarded Winners Dog on Friday and received 4 points towards his Championship! A dog receives points based on how many dogs they beat, and they have to receive two “majors” (3 or more points at once) in order to receive a Championship. Now he just needs four more points because he has both majors, and he’ll reach the total of 15 points and be labeled as a Champion! As far as his most embarrassing moment, he doesn’t really get embarrassed much. He’s a pretty happy dog. If I had to pick one for him, I think he gets embarrassed every time he is rolling around on my bed and rolls right off. He’s a good dog though – I wouldn’t trade him for the world!

Visit the Team Keebler blog and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jodi & Kolchak and Felix

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Jodi and my pups, Felix Doodle and Kolchak Puggle. We're the nutbars behind Kol's Notes, a dog blog about good food, good friends and the good life! We took around 13 bajillion shots trying to get one where all three of us were looking at the camera, before we gave up. Getting a puggle to sit still is like nailing Jell-o to a tree.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We're celebrating a few days of R&R up at the lake. We are going to lounge on the beach and enjoy a coffee, then head to the park for a little fun.

What's brewing?

I'm a bit of a coffee geek. Today, I'm savouring a cup of Operation Red Cherry Ethiopian Sidamo. I love a bold, complex cup like this because, let's face it, even my coffee needs to be full of drama.

Any treats for you or Kolchak and Felix on this occasion?

Always. Seriously, these boys are so freaking spoiled! We barbecued a salmon last night, so today, the boys are getting bits of the crisped up skin as snacks. It's like canine crack. It also has the added benefit of making me extra popular with all the neighborhood cats.

How were you and your dogs united?

Felix was our rescue. He came to us looking like a hobo with mad street cred, but he cleaned up real nice and now he is just the sweetest little fluffball around. He still had some crazy separation anxiety issues though, so we brought baby Kolchak home to help soothe him while we were at work. Kolchak was the love child of a champion beagle and a sneaky neighbor pug and we fell in love with his giant bobble head and the white spots on his chin and his chest - just like Felix. They were totally meant to be brothers.

How did Kolchak and Felix get their names? Any aliases?

Felix (known aliases: Fe, Fluff, Munchkin, Mister Dog, Feefaroni, and Potato) came with his name already, but we're told that he was named Felix because his original owner originally planned to adopt a cat. Kolchak (known aliases: Kol, Koly, Monkey, Sandwich and Sweet Potato) is named after a really cool TV show, Kolchak: The Night Stalker starring Darren McGavin. It's totally cheesy, but we love it. Both the boys have a ridiculous number nick-names. Really, it's a wonder they come when I call them at all.

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

Tweedledee and Tweedledum (more aliases) are not very discerning when it comes to walk locations. We could be going for a walk through the garbage dump or along the River Styx and they would both be smiling like it was the BEST. WALK. EVER. and peeing all over everything to claim it as their own. I however, really enjoy a walk along the Seawall in Vancouver or the Fort to Fort trail in Fort Langley.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

No! Get your sweet behind off of their lawn, away from their door and out of their life. Now! Although, the neighbor cat tends to ignore their barking and fussing and sit on the stoops taunting them for hours at a time 'cause that's just how he rolls. That Bob is one brave cat.

Stick, ball, or squeaky-toy?

Felix is a squeaky toy addict. Seriously, we're thinking about calling Intervention or Hoarders. He takes all the squeaky toys in the house and hoards them under the kitchen table. It's ridiculous and adorable. Kolchak is fussier when it comes to toys. He loves everything when it is new - but only for a few hours. The only toys that hold his attention are the ones that dispense food. He is also a huge fan of a deer antler to chew.

What is each dog's best quality?

You might think I'm totally cuckoo-bananas, but Felix's best quality is that he seems so grateful now that he is living the good life. Every time he gets a new toy, a snack or some lovin', he just seems so darn grateful, smothering you with kisses and wiggling around in pure joy. No question that Kolchak's best quality is that he is just so happy and goofy. He is one of those happy-go-lucky souls that enjoys everything life has to offer. They have both taught me so much about appreciating how lucky we really are.

If Kolchak and Felix could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I say nothing! Their Mama is pawfect just the way she is! (Kol's Note: the Mama is delusional, the list of things we would change is just way to long to list here. She's a real "fixer-upper.) OK, OK, fine. I'm sure they would change something, so I asked the Daddy. He says that if they could change one thing, that they'd want me to be less strict when it comes to the treats I will allow and the ones I won't - and definitely, they'd get more of those treats. Apparently, I'm stingy. These dogs would look like hippos if the Daddy was in charge of the snack habits. In fact, they probably snack too much now! Roly Poly Koly and I spend several hours a week trying to focus on activities that keep us both from waddling. We're actually going to be sharing our our work out routines next month on our blog. We've declared September K9 Kamp month and we'll be challenging other dog bloggers and owners to get fit and have fun with some easy exercises. We're really excited about it.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? The most embarrassing?

We took a bit of a road trip to pick Kolchak up at his breeder's. I was getting so nervous on the trip home, as Felix really wasn't taking to this little whippersnapper and he would growl quietly at him every time Kol even touched him, which sucked because Kolchak was already super in love with Felix and worshipped him and they both wanted to be right in the middle of my lap. It was a really long drive. Thank Dog for Xanax. When we were almost home, we stopped for a puppy potty break. As I walked Kolchak away from the truck, he started crying and howling. He was just devastated to be separated from Felix. The real surprise was that as soon as he heard that tiny beagle howl, Felix started crying and barking too. Neither one stopped until they were reunited - and they've been inseparable ever since.

The most embarrassing moment wasn't even a single moment, it was a string of really awful moments over the course of a super terrible day for me. The dogs were on their absolutely worst behavior and they facilitated an entire beach getting an eyeful of my ta-tas. (Get the mind bleach.) The whole day was absolutely ridiculous and you can read about it here if you are ever feeling like you have bad dogs and you need a pick me up. Go ahead and have a laugh at my expense. I'm just glad someone might get some enjoyment out of it!

Visit the Kol's Notes blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 15, 2011

Samantha Sivils & The Love Shack Pack

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Samantha Sivils. I'm a God fearing, blissfully married, therapy dog handling, proud homeschooling, Mississippi momma of four, and a freelance writer and photographer. In my spare time, I volunteer with our local animal rescue league. I serve as Education Chairman for the shelter and enjoy working in our community teaching youth about bite prevention and being a responsible dog owner.

Our family owns a total of seven dogs - five Golden Retrievers (Scarlet is seven, Cosmo and Rose Bud are two, Kudzu is six months, and Boondocks is five months) and two Morkies (Ohno is almost two and Joy is one.) Cosmo, Rose Bud, and Joy are primarily the children's dogs while my husband and I share Scarlet, Boondocks, and Kudzu. Ohno is all mine!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I begin each day with a cup of coffee. The dogs are always curled up nearby. It is a fabulous way to get my day off to a wonderful start. For this special occasion, I am brewing my coffee with an extra scoop, letting it cool a bit, and then throwing it into the blender with two cups of ice, a bit of creamer, and some Splenda. The heat index is 108 right now, so I prefer cold to hot.

What's brewing?

Folgers’s Simply Smooth.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Yep, the dogs are enjoying Bil-Jac's PB-nanas treats that we only break out for special occasions or training sessions.

How were you and your dogs united?

Scarlet was our first Golden Retriever. She was a gift for my husband. I often refer to her as 'the other woman' because she and I both like to think he belongs solely to each of us. Cosmo was my son's gift for his seventh birthday. They have been BFF's ever since. My daughter purchased Rose Bud with her allowance she had saved. Ohno was given to us to be trained as a therapy dog. Who knew the only person Ohno would actually serve as therapy for would be me! He is afraid of the rest of the world's population. Joy was given to my oldest son after he attended our rescue group's first summer camp and came home wanting a dog of his own. I saw Boondocks picture online. It was a case of love and first sight. We went to meet him the same evening and brought him back home with us that night. And then came along sweet, Kudzu. At four months old, Kudzu's former owner left him for several days only to come home and find him tangled in a hammock. Kudzu's leg was badly mangled. He took him to the veterinarian to be put to sleep. Fortunately, the vet was able to talk the man into surrendering him. They were able to amputate his leg and save his life. The shelter we volunteer with heard of his plight and referred us to them knowing we love Goldens as we do. We couldn't turn him away.

How did your dogs get their names?

Scarlet was named because of her red coloring and my love of Scarlett O'Hara's character in Gone With The Wind. We brought Ohno home the night Apolo Ohno won his 7th USA medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Boondocks was named after seeing his picture online, before ever meeting him... it just fit. Kudzu grows on everything it touches and since our pup has that same effect on people, we chose for him to share the name with the vine. Our children named Cosmo (my son loves all things about the solar system), Rose Bud (my daughter named her after The Buddies). After a difficult situation Joy joined the family. The Bible says that sorrow may last for the night but joy comes in the morning. So my son chose the name as a reminder that even when bad things happen, there are still good times waiting to be had.

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

The Morkies just want to hang close to home. The Golden Retriever's do not care where we walk as long as they get to go! They do have a preference for any place that includes any size body of water.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

The Morkies love cats. (Ohno even has a t-shirt that reads: CAT - THE OTHER WHITE MEAT.) I spend half of my day everyday trying to convince them to spit out their feline sister, Serendipity. The Goldens?? Just keep the tennis balls coming, y'all!

What is each dog's best quality?

Scarlet is a working therapy dog and all of her qualities make her the world's best at what she does. She has that unconditional acceptance of all people that puts even the most heartless person at ease. She has a heart of pure gold.

When we gifted my son Cosmo for his birthday, it was with the hope that Cosmo would make him feel more complete. Being the third born child and the second of three boys, Isaac suffered with middle child syndrome. Cosmo has perfected all that I'd hoped he would accomplish. He has been Isaac's devoted companion and buddy since the day we brought him home, and we have witnessed Isaac's personality bloom as a result of their relationship.

Rose Bud's best quality is her uncanny ability to keep us laughing at her neurotic behavior. She always leaves me with plenty of stories to write about that usually involve someone being humiliated but with wonderful, comedic twist.

Ohno is the perfect lap dog and my most constant companion. Ohno lives in my shadow and fills my heart with love.

Joy is so very protective of our children. If we ever had a home intruder, our five 50 pound plus Golden Retrievers would most likely lick them to death while Joy, and Joy alone, would take them down with all four pounds of her fierce self!

Boondocks is still so much a puppy - a huge, goofy, clumsy puppy that makes me smile a hundred times a day. For now his best quality is just being who he is - a huge, goofy, clumsy puppy.

Kudzu's best quality is in large part because of his disability. People seem drawn to him in a way I've rarely seen anyone react to an animal. Because most people feel “broken” to some degree, they relate to Kudzu on a more personal level. Folks can't seem to get enough of him. And Kudzu responds by showering them with love and affection.

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

They all make it known every single day that they wish I was a morning person. And every single day, I fail them miserably.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far?

Just before my youngest son's third birthday, he snuck out of the house one night and took Scarlet with him. Scarlet stayed close and would not allow police officers (or anyone else) near him until they made it back to our yard. Scarlet also tested for CGC and TDI with my husband, daughter, and me all in the same day and passed with all three of us. From what we've been told, that is a rare occurrence.

Cosmo's proudest moment? Every moment that Cosmo spends with Isaac is a proud moment for us. Seeing the bond they share is the reason that every boy needs a dog to call his own.

I was most proud of Rose Bud last week when she took part in our summer camp's parade of pooches through downtown Brookhaven. She completed the parade without incident - and that is a first!

Ohno and Joy do not have specific jobs like the rest of the gang. Their very presence gives me happiness and peace. And that makes me proud of both of them.

Boondocks and Kudzu won first and third place in an obedience competition with my children handling them last month. Yeah, I had a goofy smile plastered on my face for hours. It was great!

The most embarrassing?

We were walking through a street fair last fall when all of a sudden Rose Bud had a bout of diarrhea. My husband and I and our four children were walking through the main thorough-fare with five dogs when all of a sudden Rose Bud lost all control of her bowels. We must have walked for ten feet before we realized what was happening. By that time mothers were grabbing children and running, folks were hollering “don’t step in it” and “oh, it smells horrible“, and I was dry heaving. All the while my husband is frantically searching for a nearby vender with paper towels, and I’m trying to steer the traffic around the artistic display our crazy pooch has left for all to see. We ended up having to use the t-shirt Rose Bud had worn to finish cleaning. Once the road was cleared, we headed straight to the van and left. (Refer back to proudest moment of Rose Bud’s life to understand in more depth.)

Visit The Love Shack Pack blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 12, 2011

Janet Bolin & Laddie and Lacy

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Janet Bolin. I write the Threadville Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The first book, Dire Threads, came out in June. The second book comes out in June, 2012, and the third in June, 2013.

The brindle and white dog is Laddie. His sister, Lacy, is the black and white one. We’re sure they’re littermates, of mixed parentage that probably includes border collie. They’re almost five years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I usually have my coffee at my computer before the dogs wake up, but if I take it outside, they come, too.

What's brewing?

I like Costco’s home brand, which is actually from Starbucks. I grind the beans immediately before brewing the coffee, and I make it strong, very strong, and add skim milk to whiten it a little.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

The dogs will get treats when they go inside. They prefer something meaty.

How were you and Laddie and Lacy united?

They were discovered trembling together on a cold day in January and taken to a very nice rescue facility where they had plenty of outdoor exercise with other dogs. Some folks wanted to adopt one or the other of them, but they are totally devoted to each other, and the rescue facility insisted that they had to be adopted together. We we saw them on, fell in love, and adopted them when they were about a year old. And they are great dogs—easygoing, friendly, easy to please.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

The rescue facility named them Lad and Lacy, and we kept the names, but Lad immediately became Laddie. I gave the dogs in my novels names that fit Laddie’s and Lacy’s fondness for exploring.

How have Laddie and Lacy influenced your writing?

Lacy lies behind my desk chair so that I can’t roll it back and escape from my computer. I have to keep writing. Or checking email or playing Solitaire (and oh help!—I just discovered Free Cell)... And dogs are very good at helping my protagonist find things like injured people or clues to murders.

Do Laddie and Lacy have a favorite place to go for walk?

We live on several acres in the country. They love rambling about with us. When we visit folks in the city near a dog park, Laddie won’t settle until he’s been taken to the leash-free park to meet other dogs. Lacy goes along, but mostly stays close to her humans.

Rabbit, postman, cat...?

Rabbit, raccoon, cat, possum, skunks, deer, goose, ducks ... If it runs (or waddles), they chase it. Fortunately, postmen don’t have to be herded.

What is each dog's best quality?

Laddie is an athlete. He floats like a ballet dancer.

Lacy tries to look after everyone, especially young animals. Both of them are perfect pets.

If Laddie and Lacy could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They would have me outside walking with them about ten hours per day. That’d be about right.

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

Proudest moments: Laddie caught a rabbit and gave it to a visiting dog of whom he is extremely fond. Lacy learned to climb a wooden ramp with gaps between the slats.It was so steep it nearly qualified as a ladder.

I’m not sure they have ever been embarrassed, but they should have been the second time skunks sprayed them.

What are their greatest fears?

When we first got them, Laddie was afraid to ride in a car, but he has conquered that fear, mostly. Lacy is terrified of the sound of smoke detectors.

What have they learned?

Lacy has learned that chasing bird shadows is a fairly fruitless pursuit. Laddie has learned that riding in a fast, open motor boat is super fun.

Have they solved any mysteries?

They solve them every day, but even though they sniff intently, they never tell me what passed by recently.

Learn more about Dire Threads, and read an excerpt.

Visit Janet Bolin's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kathryn Miller Haines & Mr. Rizzo and Sadie

Who is in the photo at right?

Mr. Rizzo (always Mr.) is the mature gentleman on the right. He’s a boxer mix who just passed fifteen. We’re pretty sure he’s going to out live us all. The dame on the left is Sadie, a three year old German shepherd mix. This is one of the few moments when she’s been captured standing still. It will be a miracle if she makes it to four. And the two foot terror is Gryphon, our newest “puppy.” I’m Kathryn Miller Haines, the pasty broad in the middle. I write mysteries set in World War II New York. My newest book is a YA mystery called The Girl is Murder.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Typical day at the Haines’s house, where sleep is always in high demand thanks to busy work schedules, Mr. Rizzo’s nighttime bladder issues, and a very active toddler.

What's brewing?

Tea, today Tazo chai. Always drunk in the same mug.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

They’ve just enjoyed their breakfast bones, their morning reward for doing their business promptly.

How were you and your dogs united?

Both are Humane Society pups that we got when they were six months old. The day we went to get Mr. Rizzo, we actually intended to get another dog, but we were told we needed to get a copy of our deed to show that we were home owners and were allowed to have a dog. By the time we got back, the dog we were going to get was gone. My husband found Mr. Rizzo in his cage hidden by the open door to the kennel. In all our dog deliberations, we’d never even seen him. Twas fate.

We shopped for Sadie on the Humane Society’s webpage (both hubs and I caught each other scanning the dogs available page despite our best efforts to close the browser window so as not to get caught – yes, the Western PA Humane Society page is porn in our house). It was our way of healing our heartache after our dog Violet died quite suddenly from a kidney disorder. On the online photo, Sadie was a dead ringer for Violet (though as anyone who’s tried internet dating should know, she looked nothing like her in person). We brought Mr. Rizzo, who like us, was heartbroken at Violet’s loss, to meet her prior to adopting her, and he got the goofiest look on his face that seemed to ask “can we keep her?” Alas, he’s regretted it ever since.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Both of them came with their names. We have no idea if Mr. Rizzo’s moniker was an homage to the former mayor of Philadelphia, Midnight Cowboy, or Grease, though we suspect it may have been all three. We did add the “Mr.” as he just demands a little formality and respect. And a cravat.

Sadie is also known as “potato” because she’s small, brown, and loves to be in the ground. That’s why we have a fence. And a moat.

Have your dogs played any role in your writing?

They’ve warmed my side, attempted to crush my laptop, listened to me talk to myself without judgment, and given me comfort at every turn. I couldn’t write without them. They’re as integral to the process as my laptop.

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

Anywhere. Too frequently it’s endless rounds of our block since these days we’re negotiating a stroller with the canines. But they’re happy with any excuse to leave the house. Mr. Rizzo’s stamina isn’t near what Sadie’s is these days, so he’s usually content with going once around the block before retiring to his feinting couch.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Mr. Rizzo enjoys badger and rabbit. Sadie has proven to be quite lethal to birds and mice. We think she was a cat in another life.

What is each dog's best quality?

Mr. Rizzo is the most gentle dog I’ve ever known. In all of his fifteen years, there’s never been a moment when anyone needed to fear him. This has never been more evident than in his interactions with Gryphon. Patience, thy name is Rizzo.

Sadie is extremely affectionate. While Rizzo can be a bit standoffish at times, Sadie loves to cuddle.

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

My vegetarianism.

What's each dog's proudest moment so far? The most embarrassing?

Proudest moments? There are a lot, but for Sadie, I think it’s helping us all to heal after we lost Violet. The little clown cut that grief with a knife.

For Rizzo? I’ll never forget his tenderness with Violet when she was dying. You can’t tell me dogs don’t grieve.

As for the most embarrassing: our house backs up to some apartments. Rizzo escaped when he was a pup, entered one of the apartments via an open patio door, and plopped himself down on the couch. The owner was showering at the time, so my husband had to enter this stranger’s apartment and coax an obstinate Rizzo into leaving with him.

For Sadie? Um, me breastfeeding. Her curious. ‘nough said.

If your dogs were literary characters, who would they be?

Mr. Rizzo – Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited. Sadie? Something Suessian. Perhaps the Cat in the Hat?

Visit Kathryn Miller Haines's website and blog.

Writers Read: Kathryn Miller Haines.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dorri Olds & Buddy James

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi, my name is Dorri Olds. I’m a native New Yorker born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I work in my home/office in Chelsea as a freelance writer and web designer.

The photo is of me standing in my building’s large private garden holding my beloved hairy son, Buddy James, a 7-year-old purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel imported from Germany.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning is a coffee date with my canine. I open my eyes to Buddy, and my fiancé Steve, sleeping peacefully [photo left]. I sit up and Buddy’s head pops up like a periscope and he leaps from the bed to shadow me to the kitchen.

What’s brewing?

I make my eye-opening cappuccino with 2 shots of Lavazza espresso, and cinnamon and chocolate powder sprinkled on top.

Bud stares at me watching, waiting. He knows that after my first sip he gets to eat.

Any treat for Buddy on this occasion?

’Lil Bud gets plenty of daily eats, but during the morning coffee ritual he over-acts. He likes to portray starvation. It’s so adorable I toss him a pre-java treat, usually a Milk-Bone [photo right].

Once I’ve placed his food bowl on the floor, within seconds he has inhaled his Science Diet beef breakfast then runs back to bed for Steve to rub his belly. When I sit down with my cuppa joe and a banana, Buddy rushes back to my feet. I serve him stringy pieces of banana from inside the peel.

How were you and Buddy united?

Buddy came into my life on New Year’s Eve of 2003. He was 2 months old, weighed 4 pounds and looked like a Beanie Baby. Brendan, my friend, knew she would break my heart when she broke the news she was moving to the West Coast. To soften the blow she bought me Buddy.

Does Buddy have any influence on your work?

Yes. If I’m at my computer in work-trance too long, Buddy trots over, plops down and makes this weird whimpery sound that means, “Hey! What am I, chopped liver?”

How did you come up with Buddy’s name?

He was named after my Uncle Buddy, a portrait painter who died when I was 5. Growing up, I spent hours staring at his self-portrait on the wall of my parent’s home. Now the painting hangs opposite my bed where I see it every morning.

Buddy’s middle name came from my childhood fantasy. I yearned to be filthy rich, own a Rolls Royce and have a chauffeur named James. My dream was to say, “Home, James.” The chauffeur never materialized, nor did the millions, but I what I got is love. I never knew I’d treasure anyone to the depths I do little Bud-Bud. His dark brown Bambi eyes and soulful ’tude made me christen him the lovechild of Rhythm ’n Blues singers, Buddy Guy and Etta James.

Does he get along with, or get especially agitated, by cats, squirrels, postmen...or some other creatures?

The Budmeister gets along with everybody. I enjoy bringing him along for an afternoon coffee in my garden. He sticks close by hoping there will be something to lick from my cup [photo left].

He greets neighbors’ dogs cheerfully, watches birds and squirrels with mild interest, but really perks up for humans. Bud’s a people-person.

What are his favorite toys and/or games?

He’s fond of cigarette shaped rawhide treats and enjoys them even more if I try to grab them out of his mouth. He’ll growl and yank the treat away from me, but if I lose interest in this repetitive game he lets out a “humph” then nudges my hand until I resume.

Where is Buddy’s favorite place for outings?

Our typical walk covers a few city blocks during which he wags his tail, sniffs trees and hydrants, and tries to swipe food remnants—no matter how congealed and disgusting—off the street. He attempts to be sneaky by closing his eyes into beady slits, tucking his mouth down to hide the forbidden scrap of food, then hunching over like a cartoon villain. He gives himself away every time and I’m left to yank the bacteria-ridden morsel out of his mouth and toss it into the trash. Wherever we go I stuff my pockets with plastic bags and tissues.

Is he a city dog, or does the country appeal as well?

As long as we’re together, Buddy is happy anywhere. We both enjoy my Aunt Norma’s house upstate. It has a large fenced-in yard so he can run around and piddle wherever he pleases. He usually hangs around near me though, either by the pool or at my feet during Scrabble games. He can’t stand not being able to see me.

At home he prefers doors open so he can follow me around. Using the word “heel” with him would be silly and unnecessary.

Who are Buddy’s best pet-pals?

Thankfully, Buddy’s godmother Brendan moved back to NYC a few years ago. Bud’s best friend is her Cavalier, Harry Rex [photo above right]. He also loves my Aunt Norma’s golden retriever, Zack, who isn’t golden—he’s blonde [photo left].

What is Buddy’s best quality?

I can’t choose just one. He’s devoted and loyal, mischievous and entertaining, snuggly, cuddly, and beautiful to look at.

Bud makes friends everywhere. He’s enthusiastic and gleeful 99 percent of the time.

What is Buddy’s proudest moment? His most embarrassing?

Buddy feels neither pride nor shame. I’ve witnessed a number of emotions: joy, fear, disgruntledness (if that’s a word).

I once asked my cousin Charlie what he imagines Buddy is thinking.

Charlie guessed, “I love you, I love you, I love you. Got something to eat?” I think Charlie nailed it.

Keep up with Dorri Olds at her website, blog, Twitter perch, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue