Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Elizabeth C. Main & Patsy

Who is in the photo at right?

That's Patsy, my constant companion and reigning local authority on dog behavior for the past 12-1/2 years. She came from the Deschutes County Humane Society as a 12-week-old puppy listed as a “golden retriever mix.” (You can see from the picture the reason she was listed as a “mix.”) I’m Elizabeth C. Main, Patsy’s personal maid. When she allows me time off, I’m also a writer. My four novels have spanned three genres: mystery, romance, and middle grade fiction. You can find more about me at my website.

Who can contemplate life without a dog? Not I. I can’t even write fiction without including a canine. They have figured prominently in all my novels, as well as several short stories. A one-eyed dog named Wendell plays a pivotal role in my Jane Serrano Mystery series. In #1, Murder of the Month, Wendell saved the heroine. In #2, No Rest for the Wicked, Wendell took up a new career in the wedding consultant business. (Caveat: don’t leave the reception canap├ęs on a low table.) Wendell’s character was based on my beloved Labrador retriever mix, Tar, whose eye was removed for medical reasons when he was about eight. The loss didn’t cause Tar any trouble at all, and he lived out the rest of his long life happily. Once it was time to welcome another dog, along came Patsy.

What is your morning coffee routine with Patsy? Does it include treats?

Patsy immediately proved herself well suited for life in a writer’s household by fetching the newspaper while the coffee was brewing the very first morning after she joined us. That pattern has continued ever since. First, I start the coffee by grinding the beans, usually either Kirkland Colombian Supremo or San Francisco Bay French Roast. Next, I fill the Cuisinart coffee maker—set to its strongest setting—to process the coffee with our pure Bend water. While the brewing proceeds, Patsy and I walk out to get the paper, I hand her a section, and she trots inside with it. Once she relinquishes it at the kitchen counter, she gets her favorite treat, a Synovial Soft Chew.

After that, she goes outside to eat breakfast and prepare herself for a hard morning’s work of lying at my feet while I write. I sip hot black coffee from one of several special handcrafted ceramic mugs as I settle in for yet another writing session. Some mornings the words come easily; some mornings they’re just not there, but the hot coffee and Patsy at my feet are constants.

It amazes that all of your books have dogs in them...

As I’ve stated, dogs always find their way into my writing. Our first dog, Slinger, was a Malamute/collie mix who was famous for repeatedly coming out on the losing end of fights with porcupines. His encounters provided inspiration for scenes in two separate novels.

Patsy has participated several times in the local Fourth of July Pet Parade. This picture [photo right] shows her being led by one of our grandsons. I incorporated the Pet Parade (and a fictional dog) into my romance novel, Richer by Far.

How did Patsy get her name? Any nicknames?

Patsy was named for a close childhood friend of mine. We distinguish the two by calling my human friend “Pawless Patsy” and my furry companion “PatsyPerfect.” My four-legged friend really does live up to her name. She gets along with people, other dogs, cats, and—best of all—she doesn’t bark. My husband and I love to travel and so does she. Patsy folds her 65-pound self agreeably into a bundle to ride at my feet in the truck or car with us for hours. Her idea of perfection is to be with us at all times, especially when we go camping. Here’s a picture [photo left] of her helping me write during a fall camping trip in Eastern Oregon.

Our camp coffee is a bit different from our coffee at home. We grind the beans before we set out and we take a French press along with us to make the coffee. Though I leave my special mugs at home to protect them from harm, I do take other ceramic cups along. No plastic cups or instant coffee in our camp!

What is Patsy's best quality?

Though she’s a calm dog, Patsy’s up for any activity. When we’re out camping, she’s eager for me to complete the morning writing session –and drain my coffee cup--so we can go hiking. She is totally free to explore a whole wilderness whenever she wants, but she waits patiently for me to go with her.

We lead a simple life, with lots of plain, black coffee and peaceful hours. Coffee and my canine definitely go together, every day, wherever we are.

Visit Elizabeth C. Main's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Thanks for letting me post on your site, Marshal. It's a 31-degree morning in Bend. Patsy and I have just comleted the daily newspaper-and-coffee ritual, and now I am sitting at my computer with Patsy at my feet. Life is good. Liz

  2. Thank you for the sweet story about your morning routine with Patsy. Coffee and canines are a great combination - I can't imagine my life without either one. I enjoyed reading about how you've incorporated your dogs into your writing. It sounds very natural.

  3. Hi, Unknown,
    Clearly, you're a dog owner. What kind do you have? I really don't have any choice about whether to incorporate dogs into my writing. They just magically appear whenever I envision a new ficional situation. The odd thing is that we didn't have dogs when I was growing up (though we did have a cat), so I don't know how I developed such a love for having dogs around.

  4. Hey! That was too quick of a mention of cats. Patsy may think you're her personal maid, but cats don't think it, they know it. I love dogs, too, and always had one for the first 40+ years of my life, but for ease of care and flexibility in being gone, I'll now take my cat any day. However, he'd rather stay home and sleep on the bed instead of accompany me on a walk. Guess there are pros and cons. Good job of writing your opinion.

  5. Hi, Elizabeth,

    I think it's great to have a dog, always wanted one as a child, but have never had one. Dogs fit into writing so well.

  6. I have an Australian shepherd, who also happens to be blind in one eye like your other dog. I used to have a malamute, so of course I had to check out the blog posts that were tagged with that breed as well. It makes sense that dogs find their way into your writing since they are such a big part of your life. Thank you again for the fun post!

  7. I love the way you distinguish between 2 legged Patsy and 4 legged Patsy!

  8. Hi, Unknown: First, sorry for the typo in my response. Oops! I meant to write "fictional" situation. I've never had an Australian shepherd. They sound smarter than I am, and much more energetic. As for malamutes, they are gorgeous, but a bit too independent for my taste. Our malamute mix was a beautiful dog, but he could pull me like a sled whenever he wanted.

  9. Hi, Anonymous: I shouldn't have zipped by cats so fast. I love cats, too, and you're perfectly right that they're easier to take care of than dogs, though not as eager to go on walks. I chose to concentrate on dogs because of the title of this site, but I could tell you plenty about the cats who have wormed their furry way into my life over the years. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Hi, Jacquie: You've never had a dog? I know some people choose not to wrestle the mess and the inconvenience, but if you wanted a dog as a child, I'm curious about what stopped you from getting one as an adult. I can think of plenty of legitimate reasons, so if you aren't going to acquire one, I hope you get to enjoy them vicariously, maybe even through reading about them. Dogs just make me feel good. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Hi there Patsy nice to meet you
    Benny & Lily

  12. Hi, Bonnie: I think it was the two-legged Patsy who came up with the distinction, so she really can't complain about being called Pawless Patsy. However, she has always thought it a bit unfair that she's been my close friend for 60+ years and hasn't ever managed to earn the "perfect" designation. What can I tell you? I call 'em the way I see 'em. :-)

  13. Hi Benny and Lily,

    Patsy doesn't type too well, but she says she loves to run on the beach when she gets a chance, which is not often enough, as we live in the middle of Oregon. She loves the water, so living by the beach would be perfect! She has to make do with rivers and lakes.

  14. Hi Elizabeth-
    Anyone who has loved dogs like you have has dealt with the grief of losing one. I notice most of your published work seems to be fun and light, so I'm wondering: does writing play a part for you in dealing with loss/sadness in life? Or do you tend to avoid writing about such things in your personal life?

  15. Hi, Julie,
    Interesting question. My published work has almost without exception focused on positive things, so maybe writing does help me deal with the tougher aspects of life by diverting my attention to happy situations. I've felt such great pain when I've lost pets that I've always felt compelled to write about that grief, but I've never offered those words for public viewing. Maybe I will at some point, but only in essay or memoir form. I won't ever ambush my fiction readers into thinking they'll be reading a happy story by writing about the death of a pet. I couldn't intentionally kill off a beloved pet, even a fictional one.

  16. [this message sent to the webmaster from Pam Bodie:]
    Yea, Liz! You are decidedly dog-trained. Glad to know you share all your adventures with her by your side. I couldn't imagine life without my Golden, Zoey. Keep up the good writing and see you at the next Writer's group I can make it to.

  17. Patsy is a beautiful (and lucky) dog to have you as maid and mom. But really, she has you as dog lover's companion--and what could be better than that?

  18. Hi, Jenny,

    Good dogs make great companions. We really lucked out with Patsy and she seems pretty happy with the arrangement, too. She accompanied me to my writers' group this afternoon, but she didn't have much to say for herself about her turn as the featured companion. In addition to her other fine qualities, she's modest.

  19. Thanks, Marshal, for facilitating the post for Pam. Somehow, the link didn't work for her.

    And my thanks to you for letting me share Patsy's story with so many nice people. Liz

  20. Enjoyed meeting Patsy and hearing her story. I am a dog lover as well. Have always had one for as long as I can remember. We just recently lost our little dog who was 17. Now we only have one, an Aussie/Border Collie mix. She is a great farm dog. The little dog used to always be in my office with me, and I still find myself watching for her so I don't hit her with my office chair when I get up.

  21. Maryann: I'm sorry about the loss of your little dog. Even 17 years together isn't enough, is it? Enjoy your Aussie/Border Collie. She'd be a little harder to hit with an office chair. I know what you mean though. We had one wonderful dog who used to like to sleep on the dark step going into the garage. It was months after she died before I walked there without looking carefully.