Friday, August 3, 2012

Deborah Niemann & Porter and Joy

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Deborah Niemann. I'm a writer and homesteader. I've written Homegrown & Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living (2011) and EcoThrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life (2012), and I blog at Antiquity Oaks, The Thrifty Homesteader, and my home site.

Joy (in my lap) is an almost-15-year-old bichon frise, and Porter is a 5-year-old English shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee and homemade yogurt (made with goat milk, of course) and granola every morning with Joy barking at me the whole time because she wants the yogurt. Porter sits quietly giving me puppy eyes, hoping I'll get the hint that he'd like some yogurt too!

What's brewing?

First thing in the morning is Equal Exchange organic Mind, Body & Soul blend, which is a medium roast. I have it with goat milk and sugar or cajeta, which is a caramel that is made from goat milk.

Any treats for you or Porter and Joy on this occasion?

Joy gets to lick the yogurt bowl. Porter is overweight, so no treats for him.

How were you and your dogs united?

Porter was supposed to be a working dog. Every year it was taking us longer and longer to bring in the sheep for shearing, and I said that we either needed to get a dog or get rid of the sheep, so I got Porter, who is an English shepherd. He is five now and has only been to one herding workshop. He has amazing instincts and really, really wants to be a working dog, but I haven't had time to devote to his training.

About eight months after my standard poodle died in 2008, I finally decided I wanted another dog, and I decided I wanted a bichon. I was looking on, and apparently middle-aged bichons are a hot commodity. After about a month of looking I was excited to see that a bichon was at a shelter only half an hour away from me, but then I saw that the dog was 11 years old and in the early stages of kidney failure and I thought, "Oh, how sad! Who is going to adopt an old sick dog like that?" Well, every time I went back on Petfinder, she would pop up at the top of the search list, so finally I decided to call the shelter and get more information about her before writing her off. And within two days, she was part of our family.

How did Porter and Joy get their names? Any aliases?

Porter was named after the beer because he was in a litter of six, which the breeders referred to as a six pack! And Joy came with the completely inappropriate name of BJ, which didn't fit her at all! After a few days I realized she was "Joy" because everyone who saw her would smile and say how cute she was!

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

If I'm going, they want to go! It's pretty simple.

What role do Porter and Joy play in your writing?

They sleep behind my desk chair. When it's especially cold in the winter, I put Joy in my lap to help keep me warm.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Joy loves everyone. Porter, however, is convinced that most men are absolutely evil, so he must eat them! He gets especially upset when the garbage man comes, barking non-stop at the window. I'm sure he's yelling, "He's taking our stuff! Let me out of here! I'll get him! Loooook!!! He's taking our stuff!" Of course, he gets equally upset with FedEx and UPS, and they are actually bringing us stuff, so I don't understand everything he says.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Joy doesn't play with anything, and Porter prefers anything that is dead and decaying -- the stinkier, the better!

Who are your Porter and Joy's best pet-pals?

Baby animals! Whenever I have to bring a newborn goat in the house because it has hypothermia or is having some kind of problem getting started in this world, Joy and Porter act like two toddlers fighting over the new baby in the house! They both want to fawn over it and clean it, and Joy barks at Porter if she doesn't like what he's doing, and Porter snarls at Joy if he doesn't like what she's doing. I can just hear them arguing, "It's my baby!" "No, you get away! It's my baby!"

What is each dog's best quality?

Porter wants to please me every minute of the day. He often looks me in the eye as if he is just waiting for me to tell him what I want him to do -- and then he does it! He is also really smart. Joy makes everyone smile. She just loves everyone and makes them feel welcome.

If Porter and Joy could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They both think that they are terribly underfed! So, they would want me to give them lots more food than I do!

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

Porter needs to be voiced by someone who is a real lady's man, but also *thinks* he is a real tough guy, so Eddie Murphy would probably be just about right. Joy is a sweet little old lady, and someone told me she immediately thought of Betty White when she met Joy, which I think would work perfectly for her voice. If Eddie and Betty are not available though, I think Robin Williams could probably do both of them very well!

Visit Deborah Niemann's blog as well as Antiquity Oaks and The Thrifty Homesteader.

--Marshal Zeringue

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