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


  1. I think that all vets should give out dog treats.... Perhaps if ours did, my "Food Lovin'" girl, Rose would actually enjoy his professional, gentle touch. Perhaps!! ;-}
    Oh, Bridget is so cute!! I love her blue eyes!! And that "Australian Cattle Dog" color!! She is definitely a BEAUTIFULLY UNIQUE mixed breed!! You did an amazing deed of "rescuing" Bridget, and never quitting on her!! Other people would have given Bridget away, due to obvious behavioral issues!! But not you!! ;op
    Yeah.... I would never walk a dog off-leash either. Ever. Way too risky!! ;)

  2. Thanks! I'll tell Bridget she's gotten a lovely compliment ;-)
    (amazed your vet doesn't give out treats! it makes Sassy most happy!)