Monday, January 30, 2012

Dorris Heffron & Yukitu and Ike's Hope

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Dorris Heffron. I'm a novelist, sitting with my Alaskan Malamutes, Yukitu and the pup, Ike's Hope.

Yukitu, female, is 5 years. Ike is 3 months in the photo with totem pole -- now he is 6 months.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning I hike the trails on our 50 acre country property with my dogs then brew a mug of fresh coffee before sitting down to my desk.

What's brewing?

I make cafe au lait from freshly roasted beans bought from Ashanti Coffee Brewery in nearby Thornbury, Ontario. Ashanti imports the beans from their plantation in Kenya.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

My dogs get Ashanti dog cookies.

How were you and your dogs united?

We got Yukitu as a pup from Wolfrunner Kennels and Ike from Shelaskan Kennels.

How did they get their names? Any aliases?

Yukitu is named after my first malamute, Yukon Sally [photo left]. Ike's Hope, aka Ikey, relates to a character, Ike, in my recent novel, City Wolves. At the heart of the novel is the ancient story of how a Malamute speaking Inuit couple, Ike and Piji, steal wolf pups and eventually produce working sled dogs of the breed now known as Alaskan Malamutes.

What role have your dogs played in your writing?

I was so intrigued by the wolf-like traits of my first malamute, Yukon Sally, that I researched the history of the breed, which led to researching wolves. Then I took Yukon Sally to the Yukon, where we got interested in the Klondike gold rush. Upon return we sold our Toronto house and bought the country property (which I named Little Creek Wolf Range) and got Jake [photo right, with Yukitu], a companion malamute for Yukon Sally.

The dogs kept taking me to the local woman veterinarian, ostensively to get porcupine quills removed so they could go back and teach the porcies a lesson...until I clued in and got the real message from Yukon Sally. She wanted my novel to be about how wolves became sled dogs, their glory days in the Klondike gold rush and have the main character a woman vet, the first woman vet. So I researched veterinary history and eventually wrote my fifth novel, City Wolves. It was a ten year project. Yukon Sally had become old and ill. After I got news that the novel would be published, a few days later, on the darkest day, December 21st, Yukon Sally was laid to rest in my arms.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing...and do they get there very often during winter?

Thanks to an invisible fence system, our dogs run free on 30 acres of Little Creek Wolf Range. In winter they can pull a sled or lead me round on my snowshoes.

Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?

Malamutes prefer live toys, like chasing rabbits or running raccoons up a tree.

What is each dog's best quality?

I love the sensitivity and independent thinking of malamutes. They are not obedient but highly co-operative if respectfully treated, like very intelligent teenagers.

Though a strong male, Ikey is also a cuddle monster. Though regal and dominant, Yukitu is also very playful.

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

Nothing. Malamutes are super friendly and tolerant of most any human trait, except cruelty.

What is each dog's proudest moment?

I'm not sure. It would have to do with winning the race, cutting off at the pass, or, I'm loathe to say...actually catching a rabbit.

If your dogs could speak in the movie about your life, who should do their voices?

Paul Gross for Ike, please. And Margaret Atwood could do Yukitu.

Visit Dorris Heffron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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