Monday, September 19, 2011

Lauren B. Davis & Bailey

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Lauren B. Davis, that’s my dog, Bailey. Bailey, about 2 years old – I’m not quite sure as he didn’t come with much history. And as for breed, I was told he’s a cockapoo, but I suspect some bichon frise, and a fair amount of terrier, as is evidenced by his desire to chase everything that moves in our garden – squirrels, ground hogs, rabbits, deer, and foxes. My husband, Ron, and I refer to him as The Rescuepoo.

As you can see, we’re both into books; in fact, I’m a novelist, essayist, and creative writing teacher. My new novel, Our Daily Bread, will be published Oct. 1, 2011. As well, I’ve published four other books: two novels, The Stubborn Season and The Radiant City; as well as two collections of short stories, An Unrehearsed Desire and Rat Medicine & Other Unlikely Curatives. You can learn more about me on my website.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Bailey and I have a fairly regular schedule. He wakes up about 6:00 a.m. and comes into bed for a cuddle until about 7:00 a.m.. He’d like it to be longer and would happily stay in bed until mid-morning, but I drag him out of bed. Then it’s out for the morning perambulation around the neighborhood, back for breakfast and coffee. I take my coffee sitting at my office desk, and Bailey takes up his post at Canine Command Central, also known as the window overlooking the garden. There’s generally a mid-morning writing-recharge repeat.

What's brewing?

I am particular about my coffee and drink a wonderful blend called “Excalibur” from the Burlap & Beans Company of Newtown PA. I grind the beans fresh and use a French Press. Best coffee I’ve ever had, and that’s after living in France for a decade!

Any treats for you or Bailey on this occasion?

Bailey is fond of – on this occasion and every other – of Cat-Man-Doo Dried Wild Salmon Treats, although he will forgo even this delectable for a bit of apple. I am easily seduced by pain-au-chocolat.

How were you and Bailey united?

After my friends Lisa Pasold and Bremner Duthie came to visit with their dog, Barclay (which should, of course, be spelled Barkly), the urge to share my home and life with a dog, which had been a long time low-level nagging, felt suddenly urgent. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s a soul thing — mysterious and hard to pin down, but no less real for all of that. I can’t explain it. It just was.

Although I’ve since heard a number of stories from people about how hard it was for them to find the right dog — months of searching, filling out applications, meeting dogs, applying for adoption, being disappointed – for me, once I’d seen Bailey’s photo on the Petfinder site, it was miraculously easy. He was being fostered with a wonderful family through an equally wonderful organization called AFEW (Animal Friends for Education and Welfare), not far from us. I contacted them and filled out an application. They wrote back a few hours later -- Did we want to meet him that Saturday at an adoption fair? You bet.

His foster mum, Mary (that’s her on the left in the photo at left) brought him. He wore a little blue sweater and flipped over on his back, tail wagging, the minute we walked in. I’d brought a toy, which he accepted with glee. He licked Ron’s hand. He’d had a hard time of it, rescued from a “kill shelter” somewhere down south, weighing only 10 lbs when he should have weighed 20 lbs — he was a little skeleton — so matted he’d been shaved a few weeks before (hence the sweater). Nobody knew where he’d come from or what had happened to him precisely. He was a bit skittish around some people, especially if they moved too fast over his head. I was told he’d probably been hit and was frightened. I asked if he could come home with us that afternoon for a home visit. He fell asleep in Ron’s arms on the ride home. He’s been with us ever since.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

Bailey came to us with his name, and I didn’t want to change it, since I suspected he’s had a great number of changes in his life.

Nicknames? You bet. The Rescuepoo, of course; but also, Little Pooters, Snuggles, Bailey Bug and Angel Pie (so good I could eat ‘im with a spoon).

Does Bailey play any role in your writing?

As a writer I spend a great deal of time alone. I like this. It’s not that I actively dislike people (well, not all people), but like most writers, my temperament leans toward the solitary. My writing sometimes takes me to rather dark and, dare I say, emotionally perilous places. (I’d stop if I could, but I’m actually saner when I’m writing than when I’m not, so it’s best for all concerned that I continue.) Also, as a recovered alcoholic, I have a ‘natural’ tendency to isolate, preferring to simmer in my own emotional stews. Then, too, like most of my family members, I have a history of depression, for which in the past I’ve been medicated. Whereas my husband is a glass-frothing-over-in-effervescent-excess-of-good-stuff kind of guy, I’m definitely an oh-look-I-think-that’s-a-dreg-at-the-bottom-of-the-glass type of gal.

In short, I’ve always thought of myself as moody, with a tendency to droop.

Or at least I did. Recently, I have found it impossible to maintain moody droopiness when faced with a little fur-ball who believes my coming back into the room after a five minute absence warrants a celebration worthy of visiting royalty. He’s my wee shadow. Sitting in a chair by the window, squirrel-spotting, as I write. Trotting after me from room to room. Lying on his blanket in the kitchen as I cook. Sitting on my lap like a little fur-covered hot water bottle as I read. If I get caught up too long in dark thoughts I am interrupted (as though he knows I’ve taken a wrong turn) by the sound of a squeaky toy and the thump of his paw on my leg. Time for a walk. Time for play. Before Bailey, I feel like I’d forgotten about play.

Even my husband remarks on how much happier I’ve been the past year. He’s surprised, and so am I, frankly. I didn’t realize how gray the world had felt.

I am, after a creatively fallow period, once again writing and I don’t feel so isolated. In fact, the as yet unnamed new novel I’m working on has – surprise! – a dog in it, a companion who follows a woman on her journey through the Underworld in search of her brother. Huh.

Does Bailey have a favorite place to go for walk?

We live on a big, mile-long horseshoe of a road, and three times a day we wander out to see what we might see. There are usually other dogs around, and at first Bailey barked and snarled and growled, but, thanks to the guidance of my wonderful dog trainer, Lynn Robinson, he now has some pals. And with all the wildlife around us – possums and raccoons and all the critters I mentioned above – there is no end of interesting smells out there.

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

Bailey has a basket containing all his toys – Snakey (a very loud green plush squeaky used to announce his desire for attention), Rabbit (a sort of road-kill thing), Puffy, Knotty, Tuffy, Foxy, Justin Beaver, and the blue plush squeaky he takes up to bed with him every night, given to him my Mary, his foster mum. He’s definitely a squeaky-toy kind of guy. He also knows the name of all his toys and will fetch whichever one you ask for. (Of course, he’s much smarter than other dogs, in my humble opinion.)

What is Bailey's best quality?

Do I have to pick just one? Loyal, funny, so smart (did I mention smart?) eager to please, a great listener and a better cuddler ... yes, maybe that’s it – his talent at cuddling.

If Bailey were a talking dog in the movie of your life, who should do his voice?

Maybe Stephen Colbert – funny, smart, often just having me on, and I sometimes suspect he knows far more than I do.

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

I suspect he’d like me to understand, once and for all, that although writing may be somewhat useful, tummy rubs really ought to take precedence.

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

Proudest – definitely his dramatic “stick-‘em-up” followed by the even more dramatic “bang!” drop dead – paw to forehead, staggering sideways and eventually falling over on his back. Absolutely the star of his Tricks Class.

He’s never embarrassed me! I wonder if I’ve ever embarrassed him? If so, he’s been too polite to mention it.

Visit Lauren B. Davis's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue