Friday, March 30, 2012

Jenny Gardiner & Bridget and Sassy

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, the writer Jenny Gardiner, and Bridget, an Australian cattle dog/Alaskan Husky mix, and Sassy, a Labrador.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Me and the girls are going to have decaf: me because I developed an intolerance for caffeine, Bridget because she needs no more stimulants since she's so hyper to begin with, and Sassy, well, if I get her hepped up on caffeine she'll likely just try to scavenge even more aggressively for food (she lives for food).

We have gone out for a coffee after Sassy's mani/pedi at the vet (i.e. trimming of her claws) and Bridget's doggy dental day. Bridget has bad genes, which means her teeth like to rot and her breath is unbearable. So once a year when canine teeth cleaning goes on sale during Doggy Dental Month we suck it up and pay the big bucks because otherwise when she barks a pall of dense malodorous foul aroma hangs over the air and she barks all day long. Plus she starts to not be able to eat, which tells us yet another tooth has rotted away, poor girl.

So celebrating the end of surgery (Bridget hates the vet because nothing good happens there, Sassy loves it because they give her unlimited doggy treats). Bridget and Sassy are polar opposites in most all aspects of their lives.

What's brewing?

In following the addiction of their mom, it's definitely a decaf cappuccino, whole milk and bone dry (the dogs do love anything to do with bones!).

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

But yes! Cookies go along with everything around here. Today it's peanut butter flavored doggy cookies. Yummm. We love us our peanut butter doggy treats!

How were you and your dogs united?

Our first dog had passed away right after we moved into our new home. It was traumatic and we weren't going to get another dog for a long time. The kids were still young and dealing with dog maintenance was not high on the agenda as we had enough other critter maintenance (both pets and kids!) we were dealing with. Back then we still had two cats plus my parrot Graycie. On Friday afternoon, 3 months after Beau had died, we sat on our back deck and the in-laws asked when we were getting another dog and we said in unison: not for a long time!

The next day our son had a soccer match. He was about 9 years old. We had company coming from out of town, but we needed to find a fireplace screen, so we headed north about an hour to this home store that had a huge outlet and a big once-a-year sale going on, hoping we'd find a nice screen for a reasonable price.

So we diverted up there quickly (had to get home for our company!) and as we pulled into the field in which we were directed to park, there was an animal rescue league with a handful of puppies they were trying to pawn off on unsuspecting patrons. But my husband had nothing if not steely determination, and had no intention of kowtowing to peer pressure (or offspring pressure, for that matter). The kids, of course, raced over to the puppies, while my husband and I went to check out fireplace screens. While we did that the kids took turns running back to us to beg for the cutest little puppy in the group: a teeny baby with sapphire blue eyes, a sleepy, peaceful little pup who just slept in your arms like a newborn. No! We told them. We can't deal with the responsibility of a dog right now! Soon my husband started to cave, telling me it was an awfully sweet pup. Funny since he's not usually the one who would flock toward having another pet. I stood strong, refusing all petitions from the children. But then en route to the car (no screen, mind you) I was hoodwinked into holding this cute puppy. She was cute. And sweet, and so demure! Now, the kids and I had agreed already that when we got our next puppy, we'd name it Bridget. We'd often discussed this. So when I set the puppy down and some woman came over with her little girl and said "Bridget!" I did a double take. What???!!! Bridget? That was our dog, thank you. I wasn't going to let some interloper move in on the puppy we'd been loving on. Even though I swore I wasn't ready for a puppy, darn it. But the next thing I knew, we'd been suckered into a puppy. Sweet, quiet, placid pup with the stunning eyes.

That peaceful demeanor? It only took a deworming to get rid of a bad case of parasites and we discovered that our dog was high-strung, extremely dominant, and had no intention not being a shy wallflower. We ultimately had to devote a good couple of months to dominating her or else we were going to have to give her back to the shelter, who'd have then euthanized her. Our vet told us our dog was going to be a dangerous pet to have with children because she was so snappy and dominant. Oy. We bit off more than we could chew! But in the end Bridget ended up being a great dog, albeit on her own terms. She's old now so not quite so doggedly determined as before (although she's more than happy to break through our electric fence on any given moment). I have a story about her in the humorous dog anthology I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (50% of royalties goes to Humane Society of the US).

Sassy came a couple of years later. I'd agreed to Bridget with the proviso that I'd get my yellow labrador retriever, which I'd wanted for a long time. My husband surprised me with her for my 40th birthday, after telling me in no uncertain terms we would not get another dog. It was a lovely surprise and she's been a pretty easy dog but for her persistent quest for food, 24/7. Often she mistakes hard plastic for food, which is a problem. And she's such a beta dog she obliges Bridget when Bridget decides to stray on her walkabouts, which are fine for a dog with a full tank of gas like Bridget who can run for hours, but for Sassy she once did so in 100 degree heat and ended up with a borderline case of heat stroke. She's a lab, and can't behave like a dingo/husky mix, which is what Bridget is...

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

For some reason unbeknownst to me the kids and I'd set our minds on calling a dog Bridget. (A friend in childhood had a dog with this name; I guess it stuck).

We called Sassy Sasquatch because she had huge paws.

What role have your dogs played in your writing?

Bridget got a story in a dog anthology (see above) I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship because she is such a character.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?

They love to go out hiking off-leash. My husband bravely takes them out in the woods--I don't trust them to come back when called so rarely take them off-leash. But they love to run and play and splash in the creek (Sassy in the water, Bridget in the mud)

Squirrel, postman, cat…?

Bridget barks at anything in the world. It took Sassy maybe a year to know whether she even had a barker! Now every blue moon she barks at the deer in the back yard when Bridget starts the bark. An occasional twilight bark for her. Bridget, it's a 24/7 thing. She also wants to eat Graycie when she's flapping her wings. And barks and chases our cat whenever she comes in from being outside.

Who are dogs' best pet-pals?

Nitro, a black lab down the street, and Sophie and Gracie, a black and yellow lab in the neighborhood.

What is each dog's best quality?

Bridget is our protector. As part cattle dog, she loops around us when we go out hiking as if we are a flock she's herding and protecting. She's so smart. I wish we'd had the time to train her on those dog agility courses--she'd have been a champion I think. Sassy is just very sweet-hearted. Just wants the world to get along (and to feed her all day long)

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

I think Bridget would corral all the nutcase extremist politicians who are running the place and send them packing to another state (or preferably another country altogether).

What is each dog's proudest moment?

I guess Sassy's would be when she had a litter of puppies. She was such a good protective mom. It was so sad when we had to let the puppies go to new homes.

Bridget I think just that she's taken care of her family.

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

Maybe Bridget would be James Earl Jones.

I think Sassy would be Meryl Streep.

Visit Jenny Gardiner's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Sleeping with Ward Cleaver.

Writers Read: Jenny Gardiner.

The Page 99 Test: Winging It.

My Book, The Movie: Winging It.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lili Chin & Boogie

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Lili Chin. I am a self-employed artist and animator who moved from Sydney to Los Angeles about 8 years ago to work at Warner Bros Animation on a show that I co-created and designed. I have since then produced an animated movie, been developing and pitching more cartoon projects, freelancing as an illustrator/character designer, and doing commissioned pet portraits and dog-related art.

My dog is Boogie. He is a blue-eyed rescue Boston Terrier and we don’t know how old he is. Boogie could be 7, 8, 9 or 10 years old. Boogie has a blog and a gazillion photos on my flickr.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s my morning coffee time. This is how I kickstart my day. Right now I am at my computer checking emails, Facebook and Twitter. Boogie is on my chair, curled up around my butt.

What's brewing?

Trader Joe’s French Roast coffee made with an Aeropress. Half and half, no sugar.

Any treats for you or Boogie on this occasion?

Sometimes he gets surprise treats for just lying calmly in his bed. I have Zuke’s Peanut Butter mini training treats in my pocket.

How were you and Boogie united?

Boogie and I have been together for four years. I adopted him from Boston Buddies Rescue.

How did Boogie get his name? Any nicknames?

Before Boogie, I fostered two Bostons - Jazzy and Rocky. I wanted another musical name, so I chose Boogie (as in “Boogie Woogie” and “Boogie Wonderland”). My other choice would’ve been Disco, but Boogie won.

His nicknames are: Boogaloo, Boogs, Boogie Monster, and Pumpkinhead (because he has such a huge head for a Boston terrier).

Does Boogie have a favorite place to go for walk?

If I let Boogie take me for walkies every morning, he will move in the direction of:

1. the last place he got away with picking up food scraps off the sidewalk

2. the last place he saw a squirrel

3. the neighborhood pet store

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Boogie is obsessed with squirrels. He wants to play with them.

Boogie hates the postman. Especially the one that hates him back.

Boogie is a little nervous around cats because he has been attacked by them. But he will snuggle up with friendly cats.

How does Boogie contribute to your art?

I draw Boogie all the time! He is my model and my muse. Not only is Boogie featured in the Mid-Century Boogie, Boogie On Scooters and Boogie Music calendar series, a book project and a Boston Terrier cartoon/comic strip, he is also in several dog-training-related poster illustrations and Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration & Aggression in Dogs, a book by Grisha Stewart.

[at left, click "Doggie Language" poster to enlarge]

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

As cliched as this sounds, Boogie has changed my life, has changed me and will continue to change me. Boogie has taught me so much about dogs in general and I feel that I am still learning new things all the time. I have become a better pet parent and a more knowledgeable and kinder human being thanks to this complicated little dog.

What is Boogie's proudest moment?

Gee I don’t know. Every moment that he catches the tennis ball? That would be about 100 proudest moments per day.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Boogie could speak, who should do his voice?

Ha! I never thought about this before so I checked with some friends. So far I’m getting Christopher Walken, Charles Bronson, Danny Trejo and Bob Hoskins.

If Boogie could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

Would you like a girlfriend, Boogie?

Visit Lili Chin's website and check out her doggie drawings; also see Boogie's blog, and view many more photos of him.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2012

Judy & Bailey

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Judy and I am owner of, an online dog-themed boutique (named after our 1st rescue dog, Kibbles). My little 4# Chihuahua is Bailey, our 2nd rescue. We live in SoCal with my hubby of 30+ years.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Are you kidding? We have coffee with a canine every single day. No special occasion, we just love coffee, and our doggie.

What's brewing?

Today I brewed a French press of Marley Coffee's One Love.

Any treats for you or Bailey on this occasion?

I usually don't have anything with my coffee but Bailey always gets a couple of Zuke's Mini Naturals. She knows that coffee time = snack time. She doesn't get them for free though; she has to sit up and beg for them.

How did Bailey get her name? Any aliases?

I've always liked the name Bailey, so I knew the next dog we rescued, boy or girl, would get that name. I also call her Doggie, just because she is so tiny and hubby calls her BaileyBoo.

How were you and Bailey united?

Purely by accident. Hubby and I had been contemplating adopting a senior dog because we know that fewer people want the older dogs.

Cancer had taken our Kibbles 10 months prior and our home was beginning to ache for another dog. One day after coffee, we found Bailey and we knew she was the one for us.

Does Bailey have a favorite place to go for an outing?

She will happily go anywhere we go. She's even been on a road trip to San Francisco!

She knows the ritual I go through before leaving the house and she starts getting excited, hoping she's going too. If she sees me getting her harness, she knows she's invited and she starts spinning circles with excitement. If I tell her "I'll be right back", she actually hangs her head and starts moping. It's so sad...

Who is Bailey's best pet-pal?

Her best pet-pal is my daughter's Chihuahua, Aoife.

With Aoife being more than twice her size, playtime can get a little rough but Bailey isn't afraid to speak up when she's had enough. And when Bailey speaks, Aoife listens.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Bailey's never encountered a squirrel or cat but we have lots of lizards on our property and she doesn't mind them at all. She'll just sit and watch them scurry around.

She is a people person, so the postman doesn't bother her either.

Squeaky-top, ball, Frisbee...?

She loves her squeaky teddy bear. There aren't too many toys made for tiny dogs, so I was really excited when I found this tiny teddy bear for her.

She also has a tiny ducky & froggie, but teddy is her favorite.

What is Bailey's best quality?

Bailey's best quality is her ability to bring a smile to our faces. She is so loving & sweet, it's hard not to smile when we look at her.

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

I think she would want to change the perception that, people in general, not just Californians, have about shelter dogs. They are just as good, if not better than the puppy mill dogs you are likely to find in the pet shops.

We try to spread the word as much as possible that adoption should be the only option.

What is Bailey's proudest moment?

Bailey's proudest moment is when she learned to sit up and beg. When I was first teaching her she had such trouble keeping her balance. She would wobble and her arms would be spread out trying to keep balance. It was so funny to watch but now she sits up like a pro.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Bailey could speak, which actor should do her voice?

I wanted to pick Billie Burke but since she's "unavailable," then maybe Kristen Chenoweth or Carol Kane.

Visit the Kibbles Place website, Bailey's blog, the Coffeemeister blog, and the Kibbles Place Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2012

Valerie Easton & Bridget

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Valerie Easton, a garden columnist for the Seattle Times, blogger at "Plant Talk" and author of five books on design and gardening (the latest is Petal & Twig). I live in Seattle, and on Whidbey Island where I teach yoga in the seaside village of Langley. Bridget is a four year old, female, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Bridget and I walk for coffee every morning; I’ve never made coffee in my life. We roll out of bed and in Seattle, walk up Queen Anne hill to Café Fiore where Bridget jumps up onto an Adirondack chair outside the window so she can keep an eye on me while I order.

When we’re in Langley, we walk the few blocks into town to Useless Bay Coffee Company, and Bridget waits outside where she’s petted and made over by all the regulars…. Her special friend is Billy, who is a great dog-worshipper.

What's brewing?

Always a short double soy cappuccino.

Any treats for you or Bridget on this occasion?

Just coffee for me, and Bridget never seems to like the biscuits at the coffee shop, so I reward her with a treat for not barking when she’s left outside (I always have a supply of her favorite liver treats in my jacket pocket).

How were you and Bridget united?

Bridget is my third Wheaten; I got her from a local breeder when she was five months old.

How did Bridget get her name? Any aliases?

Bridget seemed like a good name for an Irish dog, and she is the smallest and most feminine of any of the terriers we’ve owned…so Bridget just seemed to fit. I usually call her just Bridge….

What role has Bridget played in your writing?

Writing a weekly column can be a slog, and I’d get lonesome if I didn’t have Bridget’s company. When I say “Time to go to work” she runs into my study and puts her paws up on the desk, asking for a hoist up. She always wants to lie right on the desk where I work [photo right]; my laptop and I get a little squeezed, but she’s content to lie there and keep me company for hours, looking out the window at passersby.

Does Bridget have a favorite place to go for an outing?

In Seattle, Bridget is always up for a city walk, especially to the bank where they make over her and give her a big biscuit that she loves.

In Langley, she loves to run down the alley behind our house and visit Winston, a Weimaraner that she adores (he’s old and tries to be patient with her). [photo left: Bridget hanging out in the garden at Langley]

What is your dog's best quality?

Bridget’s best quality is her faithful, loving heart.

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

She would never let me out of her sight if it was up to her….

What is Bridget's proudest moment?

Her proudest moment is when she jumps up in the front seat of the car and rides shotgun, checking out every dog we pass. [right: Bridget's photo for the "I Ride Inside" campaign for Dogs Against Romney]

If Bridget could speak in the movie about your life, who should do her voice?

Bette Midler has the spunk of a terrier – she’d be a perfect voice over for Bridge.

If Bridget could answer on one question in English, what would you ask her?

I’d ask Bridget what she’d most like to do today and let her make our plans for a change…

Visit Valerie Easton's "Plant Talk" blog.

Writers Read: Valerie Easton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Meganne Fabrega & Skylar

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Meganne Fabrega, and my dog, Skylar. I am a freelance writer and book reviewer. I've written for Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor, Brain, Child and American Craft among other publications. I also write fiction. Skylar is a 10-year-old female Boston terrier. She is my reading companion, if I am on the sofa reading she is plastered to my side.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Skylar absolutely hates walks and refuses to be tied up outside of a cafe, but she'll jump in the car anytime. If I'm running Saturday errands she'll tag along and we'll hit the local Dunkin' Donuts drive thru on the way to the hardware store.

What's brewing?

My brew of choice there is a "medium hot regular." In New England Dunkin Donuts-speak that means a medium size hot original blend with sugar and cream added to it. Skylar usually gets a plain munchkin.

Any treats for you or Skylar on this occasion?

I try to resist, but sometimes I can't help getting a Vanilla Kreme donut...that's a rare treat but oh-so good.

How did Skylar get her name? Any aliases?

That's a funny story. Originally we were supposed to get a different Boston terrier named...Skylar. But that BT got stung by a bee, and the owner was superstitious and saw it as a sign that we should be adopting the other older female she had available who had a very un-doglike name like Susan or something. Since we had already had tags made up and we had told our two-year-old daughter that we were adopting "Skylar" we just decided to name the new dog Skylar. She rarely gets called Skylar though, she has a number of aliases including Ty-Ty, Sky-Sky, Chubs, the Grey Lady, Mrs. Tubbins, and most recently, the Dowager Countess Tubbins.

How were you and Skylar united?

I was looking for an older female Boston terrier, so I contacted the woman who I had adopted my previous BT from. She put me in touch with a woman in South Carolina who had a couple of older females that needed homes. Skylar had to be flown up on an airplane, but for a while it was too hot to send her, so every day I would wait for the call to see if she was coming that day or not. It was quite a nail-biting experience. When I picked her up at the cargo area she almost escaped, but I did what I liked to call a "Flying Wallenda" and managed to catch her. That was so scary.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

She likes to run away from other animals, not towards them. She loves our postmen/women, who usually have a treat or two in their bag. That has cultivated in her a love of anyone in a uniform.

Squeaky-top, ball, Frisbee...?

Her favorite toys are made by a company called Fat Cat. She's got very sharp teeth, so these toys last the longest. Her current favorites are Skunky, Kitty, and Raccoon. We had John McCain for a while, but she ripped off his arm and de-stuffed him [photo right].

Does Skylar have a favorite place to go for an outing?

In the summer she loves to go to my mom's house, which is about 10 minutes away. She has a routine where she will leap out of the car, run into the house, do a circuit or two, then run back outside and do a few laps around her large backyard area. It's the most exercise she'll do in a month. She is absolutely exhausted afterwards. In the summer my mom's pool is open, and she'll run around the edge, wanting to jump in but not wanting to jump in at the same time. On occasion she'll leap in and be so freaked out that when she gets out she'll run laps around the pool because she is utterly shocked by her own actions. In the winter she prefers the spot in front of my Dad's fireplace, where she roasts like a little suckling pig.

Who is Skylar's best pet-pal?

She doesn't really care for other animals, but she tolerates our friend's beagle named Beetle. They will walk side by side on occasion, but they don't really play.

What is Skylar's best quality?

I think it is her calm demeanor. She doesn't bark, she doesn't steal food, she loves to cuddle and I don't have to worry about her around kids. When she is comfortable at home she loves to play and be a part of the pack. She is my canine soulmate.

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

I would be sitting on the sofa cuddling with her 24/7, getting up only to fetch her treats. And I would let her sleep in my bed. (No matter how many times I try to let her sleep with us, I always have to kick her out because of her snoring.)

What is Skylar's proudest moment?

I have to say after her daily constitutional. You'd think she left me a pile of gold. (She didn't.)

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Skylar could speak, which actor should do her voice?

Maggie Smith.

Visit Meganne Fabrega's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2012

Alexandria Maillot & Tobias

Please introduce yourself and your dog.

Hey! I'm Alexandria Maillot, a 19-year-old singer/songwriter/actor from Vancouver, BC. I have many passions, whether it be writing, playing music, watching films, drawing, going on hikes or daydreaming. However, one of my biggest passions comes in the size of a 4-pound Yorkshire Terrier- my dog Tobias.

Tobias is a bundle of joy, and I couldn't imagine my life without him. I have only ever owned two animals in my life before him: our Rottweiler, Ruby, whom we only had for a couple of months until we had to give her away to another loving family due to my horrendous allergies; and my cat, Bandit, whom we got when I was six and had until he passed away when I was in Grade 11. I am not much of a cat person, but Bandit meant the world to me. He was a massive, black and white cat that would enjoy listening to me play piano, and lived five years longer than expected once diagnosed with diabetes (meaning 2 insulin shots daily, equalling over 3,650 shots in his lifetime). He passed around the same time my parents were going through a rather nasty divorce. So, to say the least, it was a hard time on my entire family. But, shortly after, Tobias came in to the picture. He is the cutest, most devious little creature you will ever meet, and I love him to death.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Tobias and I decided to go out for a little walk then lounge indoors for the rest of the day as it is quite ugly outside.

What's brewing?

A skinny Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte from Starbucks.

Any treats for you or Tobias on this occasion?

Tobias devoured a heart shape treat and I stuck to my latte. Got to watch the calories.

How were you and Tobias united?

We got him from a private breeder. Most of our animals had come from the SPCA, but we were all adamant on owning a Yorkshire Terrier, especially since they are hypo-allergenic. When we met him the first time, he was a chubby little creature that fit right into the breeder's hands. He just squinted at us and sat there with without moving a muscle or making a sound. The breeder was holding another dog whom was even smaller than Tobias, and was a little more vocal. There was just something about Tobias that really stood out to me, so I convinced my mom to get him.

How did Tobias get his name? Any aliases?

We named him after our favourite character from Arrested Development, Tobias Funké. When we met him, the name wholly fit his personality. There was no argument.

Does Tobias have a role in your songwriting?

If you mean something to me, you are going to inevitably inspire me when I write. When my cat, Bandit, was diagnosed with diabetes, I wrote this 10 minute song about how if there is a heaven, then there would most definitely be a special place there for him, filled with gourmet fish dishes, little mice and elaborate scratching posts.

Does Tobias have a favorite place to go for an outing?

He does not necessarily have a favourite place to go. There are a few, though, that you can tell get him really excited. Mainly places that involve treats. He's like a miniature elephant when it comes to remembering places that hand out indulgences. For instance, when he goes on to the BC Ferries, he knows that they have dog treats on the opposite side of the counter. He has only been on the ferry about a dozen times, but ever since his first experience, he makes a face at the teller giving us our boarding pass that basically reads, "I know you've got the goods."

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Door bell. Nothing else to it. He is fine when he is on a walk or is looking outside and sees another animal. He will just let out a little sigh and move on. But, if someone rings the door bell, he just goes off like a broken squeaky toy. He is always so curious for what lies on the other side of the door. It's almost like a game of Hide and Go Seek to him. Or, rather, Hide and Go Seek...and Attack (in a non-vicious manner).

What is Tobias's best quality?

He loves everything and everyone. And, more specifically, he is incredibly caring and patient towards animals and people. My 3-year-old step sister and him have this really special bond. She is very gentle when she is around him, not like the usual terror younger children can be towards animals. And, Tobias is always incredibly gentle and cautious when she visits. He knows she is young and isn't too careful when it comes to throwing toys around, so he will stay out of her way. But, if she is sitting on the stairs or just laying around, he will go up to her and put one paw on her shoulder and just sit there. It's pretty amazing.

If Tobias could change one thing about Vancouverites, what would it be?

Perhaps a level of respect for all things nature. I know Vancouver is known for its initiative to stay Green, but there are still a lot of people that litter and don't necessarily care about nature's values. I mean, we certainly have many people in the community constantly volunteering to clean up the streets and plant flowers, and it's wonderful. But, we need more people out there wanting to invest their extra hours in to bettering our city, and leaving less of a carbon footprint in the world. I know if Tobias had a voice, he'd be an advocate for a cause like that. He just loves nature, like most animals, and it just inspires you to want to be a better person.

What is Tobias's proudest moment?

When Tobias was only a pup, around 7 months, my mom and him were playing on our elevated leather couch. Everything was fine until a loud noise freaked him out, and he jumped back off of the couch, and ended up landing on his head. He was unresponsive and not breathing, so my mom started CPR on him. It took a while, but he came back to consciousness. We rushed him to the vet and were completely heartbroken from what had happened, and were mortified for any bad news that might come our way. But, Tobias is a trooper, and he pulled through. He's our little hero.

If Tobias could speak in the movie about your life, who should do his voice?

I own Encanto by Sérgio Mendes, and the song "Lugar Comum" (the US version, not the Japanese version) always makes me think that if Tobias were to sound like anyone, it would be the Spanish vocalist on the track. I have no idea why, but every time I listen to the song, I always envision Tobias as this suave Spanish lover with a rose between his teeth. I know it makes no sense, considering Yorkies originated in England, however, if a voice actor were to play him in a movie, it would have to be someone along the lines of Demián Birchir or a young Antonio Banderas.

Visit Alexandria Maillot's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cat Urbigkit & Rena

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Cat Urbigkit. I’m an author and photographer based on a western Wyoming sheep ranch, but I’m the lesser character in the photo. My canine companion is Rena, star of my most recent nonfiction children’s book, The Guardian Team: On the Job with Rena and Roo. Rena is about to have her fifth birthday. She is female Turkish Akbash, a livestock protection dog.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with Rena most days, but it varies according to the time of year. Sometimes it’s a mug to go, while we’re checking the sheep herd during lambing season. At this time of year, Rena comes to the front door at dawn for her breakfast, while I drink coffee. Then she’s ready for a nap on the couch.

What's brewing?

Rich, dark Colombian coffee, perked in a stainless steel coffee pot.

Any treats for you or Rena on this occasion?

Husband Jim has just baked bread, so we all enjoy warm, freshly baked bread from the oven, without even a drop of butter on it.

How were you and Rena united?

Luv’s Girl is Rena’s mother, a full-time sheep herd guardian who also lives here on the ranch with us. She had a litter of seven puppies, and I wanted one pup that I would specially train and socialize to people – to make her an ambassador dog, representing all livestock guardian dogs, so people could actually meet a guardian dog. Rena was the runt of the litter, and one with a tendency to constantly get in fights with her siblings. I begin taking her to schools, libraries, and book festivals as a pup, and she seems to think that when there is a group of people gathered, they have congregated for her benefit. She’s done programs for more than 2,000 students, and even a few state and national policy-makers.

How did Rena get her name? Any aliases?

I try to go with short names for our dogs, and the name Rena just came to me on the day I picked her from the litter and brought her to the house. I also call her “Stinker Butt,” and often receive nips on my butt for doing so. When Rena isn’t happy about something, she communicates her feelings very clearly.

At your blog I read about the problem you're having with wolves preying on your sheep. Is that problem getting better or worse?

One of the problems associated with wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies is expansion of the wolf population into areas where there is livestock production (we’re 200 miles south of Yellowstone National Park). Guardian dogs like Rena do a great job at protecting our sheep herds from most predators, but the number of livestock guardian dogs killed by wolves has been increasing as the wolf population expands. We’ve started using spiked collars on our dogs to help them have a better chance of surviving wolf attacks, and have even tried a few breeds that are more suited to challenging wolves, such as Central Asian Ovcharkas. We constantly seek a balance here on this working landscape, between wild and domestic animals, and our human influence.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?

We live on a ranch, so Rena and the other dogs spend most of their time out and about, with freedom of movement. Rena does like going to Wyoming’s capital city, Cheyenne, and staying at the historic Plains Hotel, where she is very popular.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Prairie dogs! We have a large prairie dog colony on the ranch, and all the chattering from atop their mounds drives Rena crazy. Some of the prairie dogs do not survive their encounters with Rena.

Squeaky-toy, ball, Frisbee...?

Rena looks at dog toys with contempt. They are so unworthy of her attention. However, she does love rolling around on top of fresh burro manure, so what does that say about her judgment?

What is Rena's best quality?

She is kind to baby lambs and other young animals.

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

They would own more sheep.

What is Rena's proudest moment?

She has those every spring during lambing, as she lays next to a ewe that has just given birth to tiny white lambs. Rena is as proud as the new mother each time she witnesses the births, and stays with the sheep family until those wobbly-legged lambs can move around with their mothers.

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

Lady Gaga. Rena is such a performer, and thrives from the crowds that gather to see her. She is both extremely brave and loving.

What role have your dogs played in your writing?

I was a journalist before becoming a book author. My husband suggested that since so few people knew about the special relationship that forms between a guardian animal and its charges, I should write a book about it. I did – in 2005, my publisher released my first book Brave Dogs, Gentle Dogs: How They Guard Sheep. The book has done very well, but everywhere I went, kids wanted to know more. That’s why I wrote The Guardian Team: On the Job with Rena and Roo. Our livestock guardian dogs are also featured in my new adult title scheduled for release this fall: Shepherds of Coyote Rocks.

Since the dogs play such a huge role in everyday life on the ranch, it’s no surprise they’ve had such an important role in my books. Our dogs have been included in most of my other books, including The Shepherd’s Trail; Puppies, Puppies Everywhere!; and A Young Shepherd.

Visit Cat Urbigkit’s Paradise Sheep website and look for her posts on Stephen Bodio's Querencia blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jessica & Liberty and Reveille

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello all! That's me, Jessica, in the photo at the right! I work in the Information Technology industry, and I also write a fashion and lifestyle blog called The Jessica L Blog.

My female Jack is named Liberty and my male Jack is named Reveille. Liberty is 7 years old and Reveille is 2 years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I will take Libby and Rev with me as much as possible, and having coffee outside on a nice day is just another excuse to take them with me! I also stopped by the pet store to get them treats and I like to take them there with me too.

What's brewing?

I'm enjoying a vanilla latte with non-fat milk and light on the whip at Katy's Cafe in Imperial Beach.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

You bet! I bought a whole bag full at the pet store today!- Biscuits wrapped in chicken, sweet potato biscuits, and chicken chews!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Liberty was born on July 4th, so the breeder named her "Lady Liberty," and I just kept the name; her nickname is Libby. We got Reveille from a different breeder a year and a half ago, and both the darling husband\DH and I have military backgrounds, so we decided to name him Reveille to go along with Liberty. His nickname is Rev or Revy. In short, "liberty" means "off-duty time" or any time after work is complete and "reveille" is the announcement that is made on a ship when it is time to "wake up". No joke!

How were you and your dogs united?

I did a lot of research and found the breeders I got them from.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?

Yes, the beach and the doggy park, or any place that has furry things or humans they can meet and play with!

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Our friends' dogs, Rexy (a Chihuahua mix), Junior (a pit-bull mix), and Rocco (a pit bull mix).

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Little furry things tend to get scared because Libby and Rev will chase them around!

Squeaky-toy, ball, Frisbee...?

They both love balls, but Liberty's favorites are tennis balls and racquet balls. Reveille's favorite are squeaky balls.

What is each dog's best quality?

Liberty loves everyone and has such a personality. Reveille is a momma's boy and is always by my side.

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

It would be that they would all like to throw balls for hours and hours! Oh, and give lots of treats!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Yeardly Smith (voice of Lisa Simpson) would do Libby's voice and John Heder (Napoleon Dynamite).

Visit The Jessica L Blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 12, 2012

Katrin & Tom, Niche, and Monty

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi. I’m Katrin and dog trainer in Massachusetts. I own and operate Maplewood Dog Training, where I teach private and group classes in agility, obedience and pet manner, give behavior consults, run a boarding and training service and train the occasional assistance dog.

I currently share my life with 3 dogs: Tom, who is in the photo with me, Niche and Monty. Tom is my 2 year old guide/service dog from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind; he’s a Labrador x Golden retriever cross and a complete mushy sweet heart. Niche is my nearly 8 year old flat coated retriever and go-to performance, decoy and demo dog. And Monty is my 7 year old cardigan welsh corgi who is a bit of a control freak.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I needed to run some errands so Tom and I took a trek up town.

What's brewing?

No coffee for me or the boys -- Bit of water or cranberry juice will suffice.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Tom got some salmon Zuke mini’s for a job well done.

How were you and your dogs united? How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Niche is the nephew of my 1st flat coat, Regal, and is from the same breeder on the west coast that I have gotten other flat coats from. I wanted my next competition dog, so he was named with that in mind--he filled the niche as my performance dog.

Monty came from a breeder friend who I had been on the wait list to get a puppy. Monty was returned to her for a food aggression problem when he was 2.5yrs old and he came to live with me for a “short while” and never left. He knew he was staying after about 2 minutes from coming home, it took me an entire week to admit it! Monty’s name in his previous home was “Spike,” which I really did not appreciate, so I renamed him Monty, short for Vermont, my favorite state.

Tom I got last May, after my 1st guide/service dog retired and passed away from bone cancer. I had wanted to owner train my next assistance dog again, but had an impossible time finding a suitable prospect. I applied to the Guide Dog Foundation on Long Island as my back up plan, and am so glad that I did. Tom is an awesome dog and the perfect dog for this time in my life. Tom was a puppy sponsored by a Long Island Lions Club and they named him Tommy, I’m assuming after a Lion’s member.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?

Niche loves going anywhere with a pond. Monty likes going anywhere that has something dead and smelly he can roll in and Tom likes going anywhere that is not the grocery store! He thinks shopping is the most boring exercise on the face of the planet and I’m inclined to agree with him!

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Monty caught a squirrel once. Squirrels don’t hang around in my yard anymore…

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Niche will fetch anything you throw. Monty loves his Planet Dog Earth Ball on a rope and Tom’s not really the retrieving type though he will play a bit if Monty isn’t around.

What is each dog's best quality?

Niche and Tom’s work ethic. Niche will do anything I ever ask of him and never question it. Tom, I love how much he enjoys his job as my guide dog and I also love how much of an old soul he is around the house. Tom never has a bad word to say about anyone. Monty’s best quality is that when he is in a good mood he is in a very good mood and is a great dog to be around.

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

Their driving. Tom would very much appreciate it if people got off their cell phones, quit texting and paid attention to pedestrians (and dogs!) when driving. Traffic checks are stressful!

What is each dog's proudest moment?

Niche loves it when I tell him he’s done a good job and is “The Best Dog on the Face of the Planet! Good Boy!” Monty is pretty proud when he’s being a snot rocket and steals a toy or bone from one of the other dogs. And Tom is too much of a humble guy to really get proud, though he does get pretty happy when he masters a new route.

Visit the Maplewood Dog Training website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lana & Liyla, Belle, and Howdy

Who is in the photo at right?

The photo is of me, Lana, along with my lounging Liyla, Belle the Yorkie, and Howdy the Australian Shepherd. I am a retired Real Estate Broker turned Writer dedicated toward bringing awareness and support to those, like me, who have a rare disease called Addison's disease. I write candidly on my blog about this disease at my Finding Lana blog. Overall, it has been very rewarding to tackle this difficult subject and to reach out. Also, I write on my other "lighter" blog about our long time efforts to move from the Greater Houston area to the wooded country, it's fianlly happening. This blog signifies all that I "do" in life these days. Our house in the city went up for sale this week! So, we are living with all the craziness that goes with revamping our life-style from metropolitan to rural residents tucked in the middle of a forest in The Big Thicket of Texas. I'm very nervous, but thrilled about all the new things I'm doing in life! It's wonderful to have my doggie companions...Liyla is about eight years old, and she's part Boxer-part Collie mix; Belle the Yorkie is approximately two years old; and Howdy is a full-blooded Black-Tri Australian Shepherd, and he is about three and a half years old. I know all of our doggies will love moving to the country!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Being Texan, we are addicted to our tea. However, I'm an odd Texan, having lived over five years of my younger life in Europe, I'm a bit different. Unlike most Texans, our household does not like iced tea, we like it room temperature. My husband, "Deputy Dave," makes us a fresh pot of tea, and brings me a mug of it every morning for over 25 years of marriage. My dogs are happy to have such a loving set of owners who enjoy their morning tea. Coffee is for special occasions, such as when the daughters are in town. During their visits, we love to sit and enjoy a delicious cup of Coffee con Leche as a night-time ritual. My grown gals think I can make a "designer" cup of coffee that beats Starbucks any day. We sit at the breakfast table, sipping our coffee as all five dogs lay calmly at our feet. I love those occasions the most. It's a beautiful thing.

What's brewing?

Lipton Green Tea or Folgers Breakfast Blend Coffee with different twists of flavor added, per daughter, such as hazelnut, french vanilla, or peppermint and always topped with freshly whipped cream made at home.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Since I am from Texas, my personal favorite morning treats are stuffed jalapenos --- forget the bowl of cereal! The doggies sometimes get a special treat of scrambled eggs, freshly gathered from the laying hens in the backyard.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Liyla is our rescue dog. If a dog could be described as "beautiful," she's fits the description. Stefie, my youngest daughter, named her Liyla. However, this had initially been a slight problem because Heather, my oldest daughter, had wanted to name her "Lola." Since Heather was leaving for college and that meant leaving her little sissy behind at home, Stefie got to claim naming rights. Just so you know, the name "Lola" would never have worked as a name for this dog, especially because my beloved great-grandmother's name was Lola. I expect to have a grand-child one day named Lola, so our dogs cannot have the name. I certainly wouldn't want to be calling "Lola" and have both the three year old little grand-daughter of my future imaginings and old dog come running together at hearing their names! Since it sounded similar to "Lola," Stefie stuck with Liyla. And there you go for Liyla, our red-haired beauty who is growing older and wiser by the day.

The little Yorkie was also named by Stefie who wanted this sweet dog to have a Disney Princess name. She tried for "Rapunzel," but I refused to call a dog by a name that is a mouthful. Simple and sweet please! So, Stefie settled upon Belle as the name for our Yorkie. I do believe that Belle has the mind-set of a princess, so the name fits her perfectly. Even so, I must admit that Belle has days where she can be testy and I lovingly refer to her as "Bellatrix."

Then, Howdy, the full-blooded Australian Shepherd earned his name as our oldest daughter was graduating from Texas A&M with her Biology degree and our youngest daughter was enjoying her freshman year at Texas A&M as a Marine Biology major. A&M has a long-standing tradition of not letting another person pass them on campus without saying a robust, "HOWDY!" This dog lives up to his name in every respect. Never has a dog given us such enthusiastic greetings after we walk through the front door. Howdy Howdy!!

How were you and your dogs united?

About eight years ago, we found out about a person in our neighborhood who had a neglected litter of puppies in their backyard. I couldn't believe it was true until we went for "walks" and passed back and forth in front of this particular house as we tried to peer into the backyard through the chain-link fence...yes, we were stalking the house to find out whether or not the tale could be true. Indeed, there were several little starving pups in the backyard that were drinking water from a baby pool that was blackened by algae, their little ribs showed easily and it had gone round the neighborhood that if the people of the house could not find homes for the pups that week, they were to be dumped at an unknown location. Word spread and everyone began to adopt the dogs until there were none left at the house. The runt of the litter, the only female of the bunch and the only puppy to not have a Brindle coat was a reddish dog with a white chest. My daughters brought her home in their arms. Liyla was literally caked in mud, from head to toe and thirsty beyond measure. My husband, a police officer, was sleeping, so us three girls took the dog into the backyard and gave her a good scrubbing. Then, we woke the man up to meet the puppy, and he instantly fell in love.

After losing an apple-head Chihuahua we'd had for 16 years that had belonged to my oldest daughter, Heather, we could see that Liyla was very sad to be without her companion of six years. Two weeks after Cinnamon died from old age, at home, Liyla continued to wander around the house and sniffing around the backyard, trying to find her sweet Mama-Friend. Liyla would sit and literally moan with each exhale, it was pitiful. So, we began to look for another companion, but this time we'd get a dog that was larger than four pounds so play-time would not find the scales balanced too far either way. Knowing we would be moving from the city to acreage in the country, we also decided to get a dog suitable for a farm. After much research, we decided upon an Aussie. After further research, we found Howdy as a four month old puppy living on a ranch here in Texas with his stud-father as the lead working dog. Howdy had been born and raised on the ranch, from the moment he could run around; he grew up around cattle and other livestock. With several dogs to choose from, the lady of the ranch kept strongly suggesting that we take one of the other Aussies, but I had fallen head over heels with Howdy as he made his way to plop down in my lap, as if he'd known me forever. Our house goes up for sale this coming week and Howdy will finally be able to live on several acres of land here in Texas again. Our place in the country is a place he loves to visit, frequently. I'll be so happy for him to live out there full-time and to have all that running space...soon.

Belle the Yorkie showed up at our house after she'd been running around the neighborhood, desperate and filthy. My husband was outside washing his truck and the dog scared him half to death as it leapt into truck with him. She had been clearly neglected, had so many fleas with eggs attached to her fur that she'd become anemic. After doing our part to find an owner, we realized that someone must not have wanted the dog back...they obviously had not cared for the dog in any respect. The vet said she was too thin and, of course, anemic. We had her checked for a chip...nothing, so she became a member of our house where she gets to eat at her leisure and not worry about fleas. However, on the night that she found our family, she let us take her inside for a thorough washing, gentle dipping and lots of picking, without complaint. It was as if she were so thankful to be getting attention that she didn't even mind the soapy suds coating her body. She kept giving me kisses as we bathed her. Afterward, she was a brand new dog, but needed some behavior modification. She kept attacking the other two dogs who were about 40-50 pounds larger than her small frame. Thankfully, Liyla and Howdy are well mannered and patient, they seemed to pick up on her need for loving guidance. After a couple of months and heavy supervision, she quit going for an attack upon the other dogs and the chickens in the backyard. These days, she lives in peace with both the chickens and the dogs. She still has a feisty character, but with a lot of love, she's been assured that everything is really okay! Now, she fits right in and is one happy little gal.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?

For years, our dogs have always loved going to our acreage in The Big Thicket of Texas. As we are hitching up the utility trailer with the tractor and tools, they are running to fetch their leashes because they know where we're going. We can hardly keep them from running to the truck and jumping into the backseat prematurely because they are so thrilled to be going to their favorite place. Once we turn onto the private road on our acreage, the dogs stand up in the backseat and start giving us the excited whimper to be released. They jump out of the truck and run and leap and make us laugh until we are holding our sides. And if anyone thinks a dog doesn't smile, then they need to see our dogs' facial expressions as they get to play in unlimited space. Their obvious happiness brings me great joy.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Heather, my oldest daughter, has two Aussies as well. Once we get her dogs and our dogs together, all five of them are rambunctious and obsessed with each other. Howdy is in heaven because he constantly wants to herd the other dogs. Seeing several Aussies together is amusing. They love to play tug of rope together. They are quite competitive with each other. We all love our dogs and do whatever is necessary to accommodate them in our lives. They are part of our family.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Cats are animals that our three dogs would love to "meet." We have a couple of roaming cats in our neighborhood that seem to enjoy prancing back and forth in front of the formal dining room windows. The dogs are usually standing at the windowsill growling and thoroughly irritated by the cats' arrogance and confidence that they are safe from the dogs. However, even if the dogs do enjoy a good chase after a cat, they never go hard enough at it to catch one...and Howdy absolutely could, if he wanted. I think the chase is the part they love. To my dogs, a cat = sporting event and the cat probably wishes it would have never trespassed into our yard. Then again, the cat might be having the most fun out of all of them.

Squeaky-top, ball, stick...?

Liyla, the old gal, is happy to have a rawhide bone tucked beneath her chin. Howdy is happy with any toy and consistently greets us at the front door after he obeys his obsession to find a toy, any dog toy, and bring it to us as a welcoming gift. It is very sweet. Belle loves her little pink pig squeaky toy that Stefie bought for her. She squeaks it with a ferociousness that lets us know she's trying to kill the little toy. A ball is a must have for both Howdy and Belle, both dogs love playing catch. However, Howdy will take the ball and lay on his back while using his paws to throw the ball in the air for himself to catch. I've never seen anything like it.

What is each dog's best quality?

Liyla has this uncanny quality to be the quiet observer. Her big brown eyes seem to absorb everything around her. Her vocabulary understanding is broad, so I can say something to her and she obeys, without fail. This dog is the epitome of gentle obedience. If a dog could be seen as "wise" then I would have to say that Liyla displays a regal sort of character. She is not into silliness. She watches everything going on around her and steps in to intercede whenever she feels her authority is needed. She is an awesome guard dog who does not bark unless it's something truly worth barking at, and she is a dog who automatically wants to walk side by side with us, never going ahead, never falling behind, but always by our side.

Howdy has so many good qualities that it's difficult to pick a "best" one to discuss. I would have to say that he is the dog who wants to do everything we do. He learned to open the exterior doors within a short time, simply by observing our actions. I had no idea that he had picked it up until he let himself in through the backdoor. When I take a nap and wake up, he is at my side with the covers gently in his mouth, pulling them back off of me because he knows that's what I do and he wants to be the one to do it. If he could make dinner with me, I think he'd be stirring the pot. He's very inquisitive, the Curious George of dogs, but not just to be curious, but to watch and learn. I never knew Aussies were so determined to be useful until we owned a few. They never cease to amaze me. They will not only herd your livestock, but they will also nurture them. Most herding dogs want to keep their emotional distance from the herd, but not an Aussie...he is loving, needing to literally press himself against you for a big hug. This dog has truly been my hero, even probably saving me from a terrifying intruder at one time...Howdy made him have second thoughts about fulfilling his plan to get into our house. My little niece can wrap her arms around him, tug on his ears, squeeze his paws and he is happy to oblige her because it means he has loving contact. I guess I would have to summarize his best quality as wanting to be an actual part of the family in affection and in deeds.

Belle the Yorkie has taught me about the intelligence of this breed. These dogs have an awesome quality of having keen senses. Her eyesight is Wonder Woman quality, her ears seem to be bionic...she is fully aware of surroundings that are a block away. She can hear my husband's truck approaching from around the corner, before the other dogs know he's coming. I've learned to be aware of her sensitivity to her surroundings. I think it must often be difficult to be a Yorkie with their heightened senses, they can't turn it off. However, it is great to have a Yorkie; she's the only dog who will truly fit in our lap. She is a high-strung sweetie.

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

If my dogs could change anything about me that they'd like, it'd be to let them pee wherever they'd like inside the house, whenever they want and for me to never say a cross word about it. Just pee, pee, pee as they please, in peace as I stand nearby with a smile. No yellow puddles allowed!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Belle the Yorkie --- Taylor Swift.
Liyla ---- Meryl Streep.
Howdy the Aussie ---- if we could turn back time, John Wayne, otherwise it would have to be Tim Allen.

Visit the Finding Lana and Farm Life Lessons blogs.

--Marshal Zeringue