Friday, June 29, 2012

Renée E. D'Aoust & Tootsie

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Renée E. D’Aoust, the human, and this is Tootsie, our little sausage friend. We live in Switzerland and Idaho.

Tootsie is a miniature, black-and-tan, smooth-haired, rescue dachshund. She is about five years old. Tootsie blogs at Bicontinental Dachshund with help from me and my husband.

I’m a writer and teacher. My first book is a memoir, Body of a Dancer (Etruscan Press, 2011).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This morning, I’m drinking my morning coffee in bed while Tootsie burrows under the blankets.

What's brewing?

Southern Switzerland is steeped in Italian language and culture, so I’m drinking a homemade latte macchiato made with my favorite coffee: Illy Espresso. I use a stainless steel stovetop “Bialetti – Casa Italia” espresso maker. I heat “Heidi” brand milk in a separate pot.

Any treats for you or Tootsie on this occasion?

In your honor, a chocolate croissant for me and a peeled carrot for Tootsie.

How did Tootsie get her name? Any aliases?

Tootsie was blessed with her name by her special caregivers before us. For her middle name, we added Aelggi, the toponym denoting the geographic center of Switzerland. And, yes, lots of nicknames in English and in Italian.

English-language nicknames: Toots; Our Little Sausage Friend; Baby Jesus; Our Savvy Sausage; The Wagger; Mighty Hiker; Moominpup; Munchkin; Caboose; BiCo; Mighty Hunter; Furkid; Wootser; and The Sweetest Thing (preceded by “ohohoh”).

Italian-language nicknames: Balniscio (a mountain pass between Switzerland and Italy); Carina (“pretty”); Bassottina (“little dachshund girl”); and Pira Balpira (a first and last name my husband decreed for her).

How were you and Tootsie united?

Our special vet Dr. Michelle Ward, who runs her Pet Mobile clinic in the Inland Pacific Northwest, brought us together. She knew the ladies who had rescued, named, and cared for Tootsie. I had told Dr. Ward about my dream to have a minifurkid who would fly onboard airplanes in the cabin with me back and forth between Idaho and Switzerland.

Tootsie is now a naturalized Swiss citizen and carries a legal Swiss doggy passport. Unlike Eduardo Saverin, Tootsie retains her U.S. citizenship, although the U.S. does not issue an official pet passport.

I used to be a big dog person, but now I’m a little dog convert. A dachshundista.

Does Tootsie play any role in your writing?

Less than two years ago, I had a serious illness and during the same period lost my mom to cancer. My mother was—it’s still very hard to use the past tense—my best friend, my first editor, my collaborator, and my companion in labor in our Idaho stewardship forest. She was a fellow writer and dog lover. After we lost my mom, I stopped writing. Just froze. There didn’t seem any point without Mom as my first reader.

About eight months after my mom passed away, we adopted Tootsie. About three months later, my husband set up Tootsie’s blog. He had valiantly been trying to help me start writing again. He put Tootsie on my lap, and said, “Write Tootsie’s dog diaries in honor of your mom.” For years, my mom wrote “Dog Diaries” to keep me abreast of all the happenings of our family dogs: Sirius, Terra, Max, Bryce, Keisha, Daisy, and Truffle.

Bicontinental Dachshund is our dog diary for my mom. Thanks to Tootsie, I’m writing again. Dance reviews, book reviews, forestry articles, and a new book project.

Does Tootsie prefer life in Idaho or in Switzerland?

Both; she’s truly bicontinental. [photo right: Renée & Tootsie at Lake Como]

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

In northern Idaho: pocket gophers and mice.

In southern Switzerland: little lizards and ducks.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

In Idaho: Yugi gave her a “Kong” Frisbee that is just her size.

In Switzerland: squeaky toys.

What is Tootsie's best quality?

She keeps on wagging.

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

It might be the same as what my mom used to try and change: “Don’t worry so much; it’s a real downer!”

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

Anna Hardwick.

If Tootsie could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

“Do you have any pictures of yourself as a puppy?”

Visit the Bicontinental Dachshund blog, and learn more about Body of a Dancer and its author at Renée E. D’Aoust's website.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Great interview. It was so nice to learn more about Tootsie and her Momma! :)

  2. This is darling! I'm so happy Tootsie came into your life. I too used to be only a big dog person until we got a rescue Chiweenie...combo chihuahua and mini dachsund...little Zoe. Now I wonder how I did without a little dog all those years! Smiles, Lorna

  3. Mmmm, chocolate croissant. I am primarily a cat (chicken, sheep) person--much to the chagrin of our rescue dog, Hazel--but I so enjoy reading of Tootsie's (and your) adventures, Renee. Animals can be such a blessing in our lives. They help us sometimes when the people we love can't seem to. On a deeper level than words. Be well, and see you in Idaho!

  4. Oh, this is awesome. I didn't know Tootsie was a rescue dog now enjoying dual citizenship. That's one opportunity even some humans don't have. She's really lucky.

    Anyway, we just dropped by to read about this amazing post.

    Huggies and Cheese,


  5. Thanks Tootsie for bringing us over here to read your very important and informative interview! We learned so much about you and your Mama today and are very impressed. No wonder why we like you so much and are big followers of you. We're really glad your Mama started writing again.

    Lily Belle

  6. What a lovely interview. We are huge fans of Tootsie's blog, and it was great to learn more about her and Renee's background.
    Toodle pip!
    Bertie. (Who would be played by Hugh Laurie in a Hollywood movie, for sure!)

  7. Christa taking dictation from BrunoJuly 2, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    Tootsie, your life is awesome! Mine is too, tho not so well-traveled. I just enjoy hanging with Olga and Latka and the bipeds here by the lakefront. We are both black-and-tan and adorable and rescued and in love with our lives, so we have the essentials very much in common. I know how much my mom enjoys your writing, and your mom's too -- 'Body of a Dancer' is wonderful. This interview was cool. Mom likes coffee (with lot of cream) and I think carrots are excellent. Or maybe they're wotten-wavven; I've been wanting to ask -- what does wotten wavven mean...? I'm wagging too, Tootsie! Best from Chicago

  8. What a grreat interview! Tootsie leads such a fascinating life.

  9. A cheering read, for which I am grateful. The foto of Renée and Tootsie at Lake Como is bellissimo.

  10. It's wonderful to hear that Tootsie got you writing again. Idaho & Switzerland--it sounds like an enviable life!

  11. Great interview! Mom calls me Bella (Italian Beautiful. Duh) for a nickname and my registered name is (peep last name) La Bella Nola

  12. This is a great interview! Great to get to know you both better - and the hot dog/ smart ass photo made us laugh out loud *waggy tail*

  13. I hope to meet Tootsie, you sausage friend, when you return to Idaho. I think your mom is in the stars, smiling.

  14. Hey it's Jet here.

    Loved the interview, brings so much more depth to Tootsie and her blog. (and her human)...

    Thank you, we're new to your blog... look forward to getting to know you better.

  15. I would be honoured to play Tootsie's voice in her biopic, Renée! I would just need to do some thorough first-hand research and spend some quality time with the lady.

  16. Thank you, Marshal, for the wonderful interview!

    And thank you, everyone, for reading Coffee with Canine and for all your lovely comments!

    Keep on wagging,
    Renee & Tootsie