Friday, May 31, 2013

Suzy Allman & Charlie and Wolf

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Suzy Allman, and I'm the founder of CharlieDog and Friends, a toy company that makes plush toy dogs and cats based on real-life animal shelter adoption and animal rescue success stories. I'm also a professional sports photographer for The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and other national media.

The geezers in this photo are Charlie and Wolf, both shepherd mutt mixes, both guys. Charlie's 12; Wolf (the black one) is anybody's guess, but around 12 or 13.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are big hikers -- a hike a day unless it's pouring out -- but as Chuck and Wolf are elderly now, I'll occasionally pack my laptop and French press and set up in a lean-to with a fire going, and they'll just hang in the outdoors. They live for being free. Today, we're at a lean-to in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, NY.

What's brewing?

It's gotta be French press. Not too fussy about the beans (it's Peets this week) but I do like to grind them at home.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Apple for me; freeze-dried liver for the dudes.

How did Charlie and Wolf get their names? Any aliases?

For Wolf, we gave naming rights as a gift to my son, and he nailed it. Charlie came from Elmsford Animal Shelter with the name, so that was a no-brainer.

Aliases? "Chuck", "Nuggety", "Charlie the Dog" for Charlie; "Woof-woof", "Wolfie", "Geezer", "Geez" "Mr. Snerguson" for Wolf.

How were you and your dogs united?

Charlie was our first dog, and he was the most awesome-looking dog at the Elmsford, NY shelter. First-time pet owners can be so clueless! It's funny how quickly awesome looks cease to matter.

Wolf came along seven years after we got Charlie. A friend at the dog park mentioned an 8-year-old shepherd mix who had lived his past five years at Elmsford shelter with no interest from adopters. My heart ached for him. Two days later, we brought home this big, scary-looking, frightened animal, and the world opened up to him. He has more freedom than he knows what to do with, and -- common story -- wears his gratitude on his sleeve. To use the expression I've heard so many times since, Wolf is my "heart dog", and is truly beautiful.

Charlie and Wolf do everything at the same slow pace. We would only consider adopting older dogs at this point and have had several "passing through."

Please tell us about CharlieDog and Friends.

I was going broke making chronic donations to small, local animal rescues, and transporting dogs out of city shelters. So I started CharlieDog and Friends as a way to finance my donations, and it snowballed. All our toys are based on real shelter animals that are now beloved family members: we have plush shepherds, Australian cattle dogs, pit bulls.

Our line of "Pocket Pitties" [photo right] -- little pitbull stuffed animals based on real rescues from the New York City pound -- are extremely popular.

You're a professional sports photographer--does that ever involve any gigs involving dogs?

Yep. Westminster Dog Show, agility training, and (my personal favorite) competitive dog grooming. But increasingly I have philosophical differences with certain dog sporting/show events, and so I've started to stay away. Now I greatly prefer to photograph shelter dogs heading to their new, forever homes.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Postman. Pizza guy. FedEx guy. Poor Fedex guy....

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Plush toys that are not CharlieDog toys. Squeaky toy and ball for Wolf. Charlie couldn't care less if you throw something at him, unless it's edible.

What is each dog 's best quality?

They are incredibly obedient dogs when it counts; they are great companions in the outdoors and extremely willing hikers. But their best quality is love of the big family & friend gathering ("porch time"). We're a house that's often filled with people, and they live for that.

[photo right: Suzy and Sarah outside New York Animal Care and Control, before her transport to her new home]

If Charlie and Wolf could change one thing about you , what would it be?

They would make me immortal!

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

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

If Charlie and Wolf could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

"Do you like it when I put salt and pepper on your dinner?"

Visit CharlieDog and Friends and Suzy Allman Photography.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Free book: "The Possibility Dogs"

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Coffee with a Canine are giving away a copy of the new book, The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of "Unadoptables" Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing by Susannah Charleson.

HOW TO ENTER: (1) send an email to this address:

(2) In the subject line, type: Coffee: Possibility Dogs.

(3) Include your name (or alias or whatever you wish to be called if I email you to tell you you've won the book) in the body of the email.

[I will not sell or share your email address; nor will I be in touch with you unless it is to tell you you have won the book.  I promise.]

Contest closes on Sunday, June 9th.

Only one entry per person, please. [We believe in second chances: you may also register for a copy of the book at Campaign for the American Reader. Note that there's a different entry code.]

Winner must have a US mailing address.

Learn more about The Possibility Dogs at Susannah Charleson's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Susannah Charleson and Puzzle (July 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sheila Webster Boneham & Sunny

Who is in the photo at right?

These are my two best girlydog friends and content advisors, Sunny and Lily. I'm Sheila Webster Boneham [behind the camera]. I write the Animals in Focus mystery series as well as nonfiction about animals, including Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009), and I frequently call on my dogs for help – they are my muses, my foot warmers, and my reminders that there’s more to life than work.

Sunny, who is in the spotlight today, is a twelve-year-young Golden Retriever. We adopted her last November from the Golden Retriever Rescue Club of Charlotte (NC), where she landed when the people who had inherited her finally decided to let rescue find her a loving home. When her first owner died, family members took Sunny in but didn’t want her, and she spent eight years – eight years! – overfed and underloved. A sad but important reminder that we should all have plans in place to ensure that our pets go to people who care about them if anything happens to us.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We need an occasion for coffee and cuddles? But okay, today Sunny and I are on the screened porch reading the galleys of The Money Bird, the sequel to Drop Dead on Recall. Sunny likes book two because it features retrievers – Goldens, Labs, Flat-coats, well as the protagonist’s Australian Shepherd. She’s excited that the new book will be out in September and she gets to go to her first book signing.

What's brewing?

Tea? Can I say that here? Republic of Tea Blackberry Sage. Brewed in bone china teapot. Mmmmm.

Any treats for you or Sunny on this occasion?

Sunny had a carrot earlier, and a couple of strawberries. Mmmmm.

How did Sunny get her name? Any nicknames?

When we adopted her, her name was "Suni." I didn’t like it much, but she has such a sunny personality in spite of those years of neglect that Sunny was the perfect little change. She doesn’t have a registered name, but if she did, it would have to be Walking on Sunshine. She also answers to Sunny Bunny (but asks that you not spread that around too much!).

How were you and Sunny united?

We lost our fourteen-year-old Aussie Jay last July and let ourselves and Lily grieve for a bit. Then I was away for a book event and my husband called to say that he thought we should adopt an older dog who needed a loving home. We decided that any of several breeds would be fine, and I started surfing rescue groups within a few hours of us. When I saw Sunny on the GRRCC website, I knew I wanted her. Sunny was pretty shell-shocked when we first met her – have you ever met a Golden who didn’t make eye contact? She didn’t know how to cuddle, and she was enormously fat. Six months later she has lost 18 pounds, runs like the wind after her tennis ball, and prances along on a leash like an obedience star.

Please tell us about your Animals in Focus mystery series.

The series features 50-something animal photographer Janet MacPhail, her Aussie Jay, and her orange tabby Leo, as well as several other human and animal characters who appear throughout the series. Each book features an animal activity (obedience, retriever work, feline & canine agility in the first three respectively) and an issue that prompts the mystery (breeder ethics in #1, wildlife trafficking in #2, wait and see! in #3).

Does Sunny do more to help or to hinder your writing?

Sunny is a big help! She is calm and accepting, and always close by.

Who are Sunny's best pet-pals?

Sunny and Lily hit if off immediately and love to hang out together, whether for an afternoon snooze, a game of tug, or scouting the backyard for bugs and good chewy sticks. They like to race to see who gets to the tennis ball first, too!

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Tennis ball! Yes!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

That darn squirrel! He runs up and down the top of the fence and is so annoying! And the little green lizards are fun to chase, too.

What is Sunny's best quality?

Her sweet, gentle, loving nature.

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

She’d make me a lot less stingy with the food! (But she’s so much healthier with her slimmer figure!)

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

Sandra Bullock.

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

I would ask her if she’s happy, and whether she needs anything she doesn’t have to make her next few years even better. (Other than unlimited food!)

Visit Sheila Webster Boneham's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 27, 2013

Barbara Dewell & Katie

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Barbara Dewell, and Katie, my Chihuahua. I’m retired, a native Californian, and have been traveling and living in my 24 foot motor home for two years. I love to write, and I document our travels in my RV blog, Me and My Dog …and My RV.

Katie and I have traveled in the western part of the United States, and have lived in the forests and at the beaches, deserts, and lakes, as well as Wal-Mart parking lots along the way. Can you see the look on her face: “Mom – do you have to take my picture again?!” Sometimes she is so funny.

Katie is a rescue dog, and according to the vet, she is either a Deer Chihuahua or a Chihuahua cross of some kind. She’s about 12 pounds and six years old now, and the perfect traveling companion. When we are on the road, she travels in a car seat on the passenger side with a tether from her vest to the seat belt for safety.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I don’t really have Coffee with a Canine, she’s still in bed! Katie is a sleeper in the morning, and although she’s close by, I’ve usually finished my coffee and been on my computer for an hour before she is up and ready to go outside for a walk. Gotta love a dog that doesn’t get me up at oh-dark-thirty!

What's brewing?

Katie and I dry camp (no hook-ups), so the first thing I do in the morning is turn on the generator for power to my kitchen and load up my Keurig one-cup coffee maker with water and a K-Cup. I like strong coffee with sugar and vanilla creamer, and usually drink only one cup every day. I drink my coffee while reading blogs on my laptop. (My computer and TV – all the electrical outlets in my dinette area - are powered by solar panels, and my kitchen and bathroom need generator power.)

Any treats for you or Katie on this occasion?

I guess this could be considered a treat – I love Cheerios for breakfast with fresh, sweet strawberries on top, and milk. Katie gets a dog cookie every morning after her first walk. After our second walk she gets two baby carrots, in the afternoon she gets a small rawhide chew toy, and before bed, a teaspoon of peanut butter in her Kong toy. The peanut butter treat is her favorite.

How did Katie get her name? Any nicknames?

Katie came to me with a name that I didn’t like. My mom is named Kathleen, and I’ve always liked the name Katie, so that’s what I chose for her. No nicknames, but sometimes I call her “Monkey” when she does something funny.

How were you and Katie united?

Katie was owned by a military family in San Diego, CA. When they were deployed, they couldn’t take her with them. They brought her to a rescue center, and I saw Katie’s photo on their website. As soon as I saw her, I knew. Katie came with dresses, t-shirts, a book about Chihuahuas and all her medical records. She was a year and a half old, and was well loved and also trained to sit, stay and heel. I was asked to send an e-mail with a few photos of Katie a month or so after I got her; the center said they would forward it to the previous owners, who wanted to know she was with a good family.

This is her “closet door,” [photo left] with hooks to hold her summer dress, winter dress, warm jacket and rain coat. She only wears them when necessary, and is a good sport about it. (The summer Princess dress is used when visiting, she sheds a lot in the summer and the dress helps with that.) She has more clothes, but these are the ones most worn.

Who are Katie's best pet-pals?

Since we travel, she doesn’t have constant companions. Her most frequent pals are two Greyhounds, Fleur and Power. They travel with one of my friends, and we meet up on the road from time to time. I always ask Katie, “Do you want to see the Big Dogs?” At first she was afraid of them, but not anymore.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

I’ve gotten her a lot of toys, but the only thing she really likes are little tennis balls. She is a great ball player, but since we are usually at state parks or in areas I wouldn’t want her to run free due to coyotes or other wild animals, she is almost always on a leash, so ball playing is limited to the inside of our 24 foot motor home. Not such a good, long run, but she still happily fetches and returns the ball to me.

Cat, postman, squirrel, snake, roadrunner...?

Katie is pretty mellow when we are out for a walk, but when she sees a lizard she goes nuts. She’ll sniff all around the big rock or bush the lizard ran under and will wait. Unfortunately for her, I won’t, so we keep going after I give her a minute to feel like The Big Hunter, and she’s okay with that. We call them “critters.” If Katie gets to see a critter on our walk, she is a happy camper.

You and Katie travel a lot. What are a couple of her favorite recent destinations?

Katie loves anywhere that has good weather and lots of good walking trails – and she just plan loves to travel.

When we were at Imperial Dam in California, she had an encounter with the wild burros [photo left] that was really fun to watch. Of course there was a screen door or window separating them.

There’s always something out the window to keep her entertained.

Recently we were parked near a nest of breeding Mountain Bluebirds. They found my side mirror and apparently thought it was another bird invading their territory. Katie watched them from her car seat and I got some beautiful photos of the birds.

What is Katie's best quality?

Katie is really smart, very loving and completely loyal.

When I’m “birding,” and see a good bird I want to photograph, I start walking slower and whisper to her, she lags behind me, also walking slower, and when I lay her leash handle down, she will sit and wait quietly at that spot until I’m done taking photos of the bird [photo right]. The first time she did that, I was amazed. She seemed to instinctively know what to do, and she doesn’t move an inch until I come back to her. (She is always within eyesight of where I am.)

Another thing she does that I think is amazing is that she “guards” me. If I’m working in the kitchen, which is at the back of the motor home, she will get up and sit at the entrance of the kitchen, facing the front of the rig. She stays there until I leave the kitchen. She doesn’t beg for food, she is really standing guard.

If Katie could change one thing about the campers of the Southwest, what would it be?

Probably that they would all have small dogs, so she could play with them more comfortably. Big dogs still scare her sometimes.

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

That’s a hard one, I don’t watch many movies and don’t know the actresses’ voices. Someone with a sweet but no nonsense voice? Kate Hudson maybe?

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

We do this all the time – she will jump up to sit right next to me, and she will just stare at me. I know she wants something, but have no idea what. She’s just been walked, had her treat, has food and water in the kitchen, etc. I’ll say to her, “What do you want, Katie?” It would be only that one question, but I would ask her often.

Visit Barbara Dewell's Me and My Dog …and My RV blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Free book: "The Possibility Dogs"

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Coffee with a Canine are giving away a copy of the new book, The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of "Unadoptables" Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing by Susannah Charleson.

HOW TO ENTER: (1) send an email to this address:

(2) In the subject line, type: Coffee: Possibility Dogs.

(3) Include your name (or alias or whatever you wish to be called if I email you to tell you you've won the book) in the body of the email.

[I will not sell or share your email address; nor will I be in touch with you unless it is to tell you you have won the book.  I promise.]

Contest closes on Sunday, June 9th.

Only one entry per person, please. [We believe in second chances: you may also register for a copy of the book at Campaign for the American Reader. Note that there's a different entry code.]

Winner must have a US mailing address.

Learn more about The Possibility Dogs at Susannah Charleson's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Susannah Charleson and Puzzle (July 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2013

Henriette Lazaridis Power & Finn

Who is in the photo at right?

This is me, Henriette Lazaridis Power, novelist and author of The Clover House (Ballantine Books 2013) and Entertainment Coordinator for Finn, the family Golden Retriever, aged 7 1/2.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning, Finn chooses not to follow in the footsteps of his late uncle Flash who sang along to the coffee grinder. Finn greets this noisy first step in daily coffee preparation in stoic silence. Actually, since nothing Finn does is stoic, it’s more likely that he is stunned each morning into muteness by the authority of this small, hoarse creature that gets to sit on the kitchen counter while he watches, in awe, from below. Finn is an Omega Dog.

What's brewing?

I grind Starbucks beans, a mixture of decaf and caff, and make a French press. If I’m feeling lazy--or if I want to give Finn a break from the Grinder God--I pop a pod in a Nespresso and make an Americano.

Any treats for you or Finn on this occasion?

My treat is a scone pretty much every day. Finn has just had his breakfast. Do you want me to spoil him?

How were you and Finn united?

Our dog Flash died suddenly at age eight, and while we thought we would be all right with just have one dog--our black Lab-Border Collie mix Ailsa--we couldn’t bear to see her go outside and stand there, looking for the buddy she used to boss around. We contacted the breeder we had gotten Flash from, and she immediately put us on the top of her list. Lo and behold, she had a litter coming in a month, and we got Finn. Ailsa was very happy and so were we.

How did Finn get his name? Any aliases?

Our daughter who was 13 at the time chose the name out of thin air. He has several aliases, depending on his mood, among them: Finniedoodle, Finsterwald. Doodlebug. Doodle, and Buddy-Buddy. Also Sweedart (say it aloud).

Does Finn do more to help or to hinder your writing?

Depends on the day. There are lots of days when he lies near my feet and makes his patented radiator noises, as though his polite frustration at not being able to go out and play Frisbee is escaping from him discreetly like steam. I end up feeling like Odysseus trying not to heed the sirens’ call, and eventually, I give in to the dog’s whistling (a sort of pathetic come-hither) and take him outside. I like to think my writing benefits from this pause in the fictional action. There are other days when I need a break and, whether he’s making his noises or not, I am all too eager to go throw the disc for him or take him for a walk.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Cat, but not in the way you think. Our ageless cat Cascade is the complete master of the house. Finn will go the long way around to reach even his most beloved object as long as he doesn’t have to cross paths with the ominous feline.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Besides the black soft-rubber Frisbee that he lives and dies for (and catches mid-air quite athletically, even though he does not wear a bandanna), the object of Finn’s greatest affection is a stuffed lamb toy named Roger.

Does Finn have a favorite place to go for outings?

Finn says the theater. He enjoys comedies. But every now and then he feels the need to push his emotional range by viewing a tragedy. Aeschylus is good. He really recommends him. Finn just thinks he has a lot to say about the human condition.

Or anywhere the Frisbee goes.

Who is Finn's best pet-pal?

Finn says: “I'm in an interesting relationship at the moment with a cat, who I like a lot but I'm also horrified by. It's tricky. I don't want to talk about it.”

What is Finn's best quality?

Without a doubt his razor-sharp wit. And his ability to catch the Frisbee.

If Finn could change one thing about Bostonians, what would it be?

He just wishes they would enjoy life more. They don't need to be so angry. They should throw the Frisbee more.

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

Where did you put the other Frisbee?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Finn could speak, who should voice him?

Besides my college-age daughter who voices Finn for us, I’d say Tina Fey. Or Daniel Craig.

Visit Henriette Lazaridis Power's website and blog.

Writers Read: Henriette Lazaridis Power.

The Page 69 Test: The Clover House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ashli & Pepe Pleasant

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Ashli, an Australian expat living in the United States. I'm a Freelance Writer, certified Personal Trainer and I blog over at But What About Protein?

The little guy with me is Pepe Pleasant. He just turned 2 years old and he's a 4lb Chihuahua.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

A celebration of Pepe's birthday, and the warmer weather finally arriving which allows Pepe to enjoy his favorite pastime - sunbathing on the deck.

What's brewing?

Green Mountain Coffee Organic Decaf House Blend, in my Mr Coffee coffeemaker.

Any treats for you or Pepe on this occasion?

Pepe enjoyed some steamed sweet potato from the batch I make for him each week, and a small spoonful of peanut butter - his two favorite treats.

How were you and Pepe united?

I was rather lonely after moving from Australia to the United States, and with a husband who often worked overseas and interstate, I wanted some extra company. I looked on a local website for dogs that needed to find a new home, and as soon as I saw Pepe's picture, I knew he was the one. We met in person the next day, and have been inseparable ever since.

How did Pepe get his name? Any aliases?

Pepe was named for the skunk Pepe La Pew, the Parisian skunk who strolls the streets of Paris in search of love. I have a love affair with Paris after going to school there, and when I saw Pepe, the name just popped into my head - it seemed to fit him perfectly.

The second part of his name "Pleasant" is a nod to my husband's southern roots, where "double names" are traditionally used. His name is usually just shortened to Pepe, but he has a number of nicknames including Peppers, Bubby, Little Man and Baby Boy.

Does Pepe play any role in your "But What About Protein?" blog?

Pepe is in my lap while I'm writing every post, and he is with me in the kitchen while I'm developing recipes. He always manages to "talk" me into giving him a try of any dog friendly ingredients I may be using!

Cat, postman, squirrel?

Definitely cat - Pepe loves playing chase with his big sister, a 6 year old cat named Freya Darling.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick?

Pepe can't go past a squeaky toy - his favorite is a little triceratops that he's doing his best to "de-squeak".

Does Pepe have a favorite place to go for outings?

Pepe loves going for long walks at a local walking trail nearby. There's so much to see - squirrels, deer, birds. It's a Chihuahua's paradise!

Who is Pepe's best pet-pal?

Pepe's best pet-pal is his big sister, Freya Darling. It took a while for them to get used to each other - Freya had been the queen of the house for quite a few years, but Pepe managed to work his way into Freya's heart. They love chasing each other around the house!

What is Pepe's best quality?

Pepe's best quality is his friendly outgoing nature. He loves giving kisses to everyone he meets, and he's never met a human or animal that he didn't like.

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

That I would never have to leave the house, and that I didn't ration his sweet potato - he would love to eat the whole batch in one sitting!

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

I would ask Pepe if he knows how much he means to me and how much I love him.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Pepe could speak, who should voice him?

Olivier Martinez.

Visit Ashli's But What About Protein? blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2013

Marianne Wesson & Mo and Amos

Who is in the photo at right?

Amos is a rescue Great Pyrenees. He’s only nine, but showing serious signs of age. Sadly, these big dogs don’t live for that long. Amos is the third Pyrenees we’ve owned. For a long time we tried to keep a pair as guard dogs; we keep llamas, and there are mountain lions active in our neighborhood. Ivan and Misty are no longer with us, but Amos remains, although now retired from guard duty. He was never much of threat to the predators anyway, poor sweet guy. It became clear after we brought him home that he had experienced terrible abuse, and he’s frightened of almost everything. He’s affectionate with us and few frequent visitors, but mostly he hides when anyone or anything unfamiliar shows up. Our other dog is Mo, a seven-year old mutt; he’s mostly Wheaton Terrier, we think.

I'm Marianne Wesson, law professor, novelist, and author of the new book, A Death at Crooked Creek: The Case of the Cowboy, the Cigarmaker, and the Love Letter.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

What do you mean, occasion? It’s morning, of course. Comes around every day. Morning without caffeine is not to be contemplated, not by me, anyway. When it’s sunny, I try to drink a cup outdoors on our ranch. The big rocks you see catch the morning sun and warm up beautifully. Amos [with Misty and llamas, photo left] was willing to join me on this occasion, but you can tell he’s not all that happy about it. I rarely have morning coffee anywhere but at home—we live about ten miles (five of them dirt road) from the nearest coffee shop. You might find me at one in the afternoon, but by then I’m ready to switch from the coffee to something more soothing.

What's brewing?

I make coffee for myself one cup at a time, in a Keurig coffeemaker with a reusable K-cup. Lately I’ve been filling it with Starbucks French Roast. I know some people say it tastes burnt, but I guess I like it that way.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Just the coffee for me, and the sunshine for both of us.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Mo [photo right] was named by my husband Ben; his real name is Monster. Ben had just gotten a Ducati Monster motorcycle and was very infatuated with it. But the dog lasted much longer than the bike, and these days we just call him Mo. Or Mojo, Mo-man, and any other stupid two-syllable name that starts with Mo-. Or Mope, when he is wearing that dejected dog look like he is just so very disappointed.

Amos is named in a tradition of rechristening the Pyrenees after we get them home from the rescue shelter. His name was Aramis, like the Musketeer (and the aftershave). But that was just way too pompous a name for a ranch dog, so we tried to find a better name that would sound enough like Aramis that he’d know we were talking to him. (He’s deaf now, so it probably doesn't matter what we call him. Unless he can lip-read, which is possible.) We had to go through something similar with Misty, whose shelter name was Christy, but that is also Ben’s ex-wife’s name and he thought the human Christy would be furious if she heard we had a dog with her name, so we changed it to Misty. Misty caught right on.

How were you and your dogs united?

Mo came from the Longmont, Colorado Humane Society, brought home by a very happy Ben. I brought Amos  home, after many preliminaries, from Great Pyrenees Rescue and Sanctuary, Inc., outside of Colorado Springs: a wonderful organization.

How do your animals help--and how do they hinder--your writing?

Writers can be emotional wrecks sometimes, at least this one can, and I’m sure they act as therapy animals. My new book, A Death at Crooked Creek, took me ten years to research, write, revise, and publish. At least five dogs served as my confidantes over that time. They don’t really hinder—Ben is really the animal care specialist here anyway.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Our mail is delivered five miles down the road, so that’s not an issue. There’s one squirrel that Mo hates with a steaming passion, and he goes berserk when he sees this rodent through the window. We’ve learned not to let him out to chase the trespasser because he’s come back with his footpads full of cactus spines that he picked up while in hot pursuit. We have four cats (two house, two barn) who have their own issues, but they tolerate the dogs and the dogs are fond of them. Mo [as a puppy, photo right] sometimes gets excited by the local wildlife, especially the elk and wild turkeys, but he doesn't rally want to chase them, just bark.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other. They don’t really see too many other dogs because of where we live. Mo does have a couple of buddies among my friends’ dogs, who come to visit occasionally.

What is each dog's best quality?

Mo: likes to stand on his head.

Amos: sweetness.

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

Amos [with Freckles the llama, photo left] would actually prefer that there be no people in the state except for me and Ben. Mo would like for every Coloradan to send him a chewy, and is so very disappointed this has not happened.

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

Amos: Robert Duvall.

Mo: Billy Crystal.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

Mo: What is your deal?

Amos: (same).

Visit Marianne Wesson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 17, 2013

Camille Egdorf & Kemuk

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Camille Egdorf and I make my living in the fly fishing industry. I work in Alaska during the summers as a fly fishing guide and cook then during the winters I attend college in Bozeman, Montana and am a travel host for a booking agent called Fishing With Larry. I also write for Muskegon River Lodge's monthly newsletter. My canine companion is named Kemuk (key-muck) and he's a 2 year old, 100lb male yellow lab.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee with Kemuk is an occasion that mainly occurs while in Alaska. Before the rest of the camp is awake, I brew a pot of cowboy coffee, start a fire in the fire pit and sit listening to the river ghostly flow by with Kemuk at my side. It's the perfect way to start a day.

What's brewing?

"The best part of waking up, is having Folger's in your cup!" Folger's coffee is what I have perking on the stove top in the mornings. I'm not what you would call a "die hard" coffee drinker so I always mix in a little hot chocolate with my freshly brewed coffee. Which I guess is called a Mocha?

Any treats for you or Kemuk on this occasion?

Kemuk is spoiled and it's a wonder that he's not 20 pounds heftier than he is. I prepare lunches for clients before breakfast and I always chuck pieces of lunch meat to him. He definitely knows when to sit next to the counter in the morning and puts on his best beggar's face. He goes bonkers if there's bacon involved.

How were Kemuk and your parents united?

Kemuk was a gift from a family friend. My dad had been looking for a good lab for a few years but never found the right fit. When Ole (family friend) had a litter of puppies, he gave dad the biggest pup of the litter. Right from the start we knew Kemuk was different. He had no problems with being alone and was fearless. My dad was immediately attached.

How did Kemuk get his name? Any aliases?

My dad is a pilot and does all of our flying in Alaska. When flying to our camp there is one mountain that he always flies around and uses as a landmark. It's his favorite mountain and it's name just so happens to be Kemuk.

What's the wildest critter Kemuk has met in the wild?

Kemuk has had many encounters with critters in the great outdoors. Most of which take place in Alaska. He's seen bears and caribou but I think the most intense experience was when he had a stand off with a cow moose. This moose was crossing the river right in front of camp when Kemuk caught her scent and started barking and running up and down the river bank. She ran off into the bushes and about a minute later she came back out, mad. Before I could grab Kemuk, he took off and it looked as though he was going to chase the cow, however the exact opposite happened. The moose's ears went back, her hackles went up and she chased Kemuk back into camp. I've never seen a dog go from macho man to scaredy cat so quick.

You're a fly-fishing professional. Has a dog, your own or a client's, ever gotten rambunctious just when you were about to hook a big fish?

Kemuk is a fantastic dog but he's also 100 lbs of muscle and pure adrenaline. He's like a 5 year old trapped in a dog's body. With that being said, he's not quite ready to be in a boat while out fishing; he'd probably tip the boat over if he saw a fish. He's a great dog to have around though if you're out wade fishing. He always lets you know if there's something going on.

Does Kemuk have a favorite place to go for outings?

Kemuk loves going duck hunting so I'd say that his favorite place to be would be in the duck blind waiting for ducks or tearing through the water to retrieve one.

What is Kemuk's best quality?

He has many great qualities but his best one would have to be his persistence. Although it can be annoying at times, he just never gives up. If he wants to play fetch, he'll bug you all day until you finally give in and throw a stick for him. If you're out hunting and there's a bird you're unable to find, he won't quit until he finds it. I remember watching him bring 3 ducks back at once this last duck season. My dad and I were amazed. He truly has the gift of persistence.

If Kemuk could change one thing about Alaskans, what would it be?

He would most definitely have them throw more sticks for him.

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

What do dogs dream about?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Kemuk could speak, who should voice him?

That is a great question. It would have to be someone with a sense of humor and the ability to do goofy voices. Jim Carrey maybe?

Visit Camille Egdorf's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Darden North & Valerie and Foxy

Who are in the photos with this entry?

That’s me Darden North and our two dogs, Valerie and Foxy. Both are hand-me-ups from our daughter. Valerie is a Chihuahua and Foxy a Pomeranian-rat terrier mix, otherwise known as a pomerat. Foxy indeed resembles a fox and Valerie a Chihuahua. I share the feeding, walking, and picking-up duties of these two beautiful girls with my wife Sally, although I do most of the meals and picking-up. As expected, Valerie and Foxy love me more. The two girls are at my heels the minute I get home from my day job as an obstetrician-gynecologist in a busy medical practice in Jackson, Mississippi. After a walk around the block, the dogs follow me to the computer where I write mysteries and medical thrillers. My books are set in the Deep South where lots of folks sport Labrador retrievers, but I leave the lab (our grand dog) to our son in Kentucky.

My fourth novel Wiggle Room is due in June as an eBook and in trade-paper print from publisher Sartoris Literary Group. My second novel Points of Origin was awarded an IPPY in Southern Fiction. The screenplay of my third novel Fresh Frozen is in film development.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine? What’s brewing?

Foxy is the first one up with me at 5:25 a.m. on weekdays. She follows me into a small room off the master bedroom where we keep a Keurig coffee maker. My wife Sally usually has two clean cups waiting. (Sally uses the other cup – not Foxy.) Since most days I am due at the hospital for gyn surgery by 6:45, I need a lot of caffeine. My favorite wake-up brew is Revv by Keurig Brewers, so strong that I choose the 10 ounce selection to dilute it somewhat. I alternate this with Green Mountain Coffee’s Dark Magic. Until about 18 months ago I wasn’t a coffee drinker, except to complement dessert in a nice restaurant. I abandoned Diet Coke and switched to java when I needed to lose the 25 pounds gained while writing three thriller novels. (A lot of sodium is ingested with four Diet Cokes by 9:00 each morning.) We have the same type brewer at the office, and I usually drink a Donut Shop or Our Blend about 3 p.m. every day. (I sneak in a Coke Zero now and then to supplement.) I never drink coffee in the hospital doctors’ lounge --- no reason in particular.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

While I drink about half of the Revv, I take both dogs out for their morning backroom break. (We actually call it potty around our house.) The trick is not pouring the hot brew on Valerie when dragging her from under the covers for the trip to the backyard. The Chihuahua’s wake-up schedule is more in line with my wife’s. Valerie growls at Foxy during this process; I think she resents her sister for being so chipper so early. Foxy’s treat is an immediate breakfast of Science Diet Adult Dog, gulped in less time than the coffee maker can brew, before retiring to my closet for a nap. Valerie’s treat is to get back in bed after a few seconds outside. She burrows under the sheets and bedspread, sometimes without even a nose showing from under the edge. The wife never stirs.

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

Valerie was originally a Valentine’s Day gift to my daughter when she was in the eleventh grade. Valerie seemed to go well with Valentine, so Valerie Valentine North it was. I doubt if there are many other Chihuahuas named Valerie. Because she was so difficult to housetrain as a puppy, my wife and I became Valerie’s keeper. We’re still working on that seven years later and finally rolled-up the hall rug and put it away. When the same daughter was in college, she secretly bought Foxy from a kennel in Tennessee and gave her a name that I cannot remember. But I changed it to Foxy (Again refer to photo) when the sweet pomerat was still very young and Sally and I became primary care givers. I don’t think we ever gave Foxy a middle name. Occasionally we call them Val and Fox. We love them both.

How do your dogs help, and how do they hinder, your writing?

My two dogs crave attention, but whose dog doesn’t? Valerie in particular will stand near when I’m writing at the desktop and bark the most high-pitched, irritating sound imaginable if I have been late with her second meal of the day. This is a late supper, usually around 10:30 before bed. Breakfast was around 6 p.m. Foxy has a favorite toy, a small yellow pillow – about her same fur color – that she likes to use in games of fetch. If I have ignored her, spending more than an hour or so writing, she appears with the toy and her own version of a piercing, irritating bark. Valerie and our son’s yellow lab (our grand dog Bandit) will play with the pillow when abandoned by Foxy. The toy is very durable, it seems. Sometimes sitting on the den couch and working on my laptop, I can accommodate both small dogs: Valerie in the remaining lap space between the keyboard and my stomach and Foxy behind my head at the top of the couch. She makes a great headrest.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Both Valerie and Foxy chase whatever crawls, flies, leaps, or burrows into our fenced-in backyard: cat, possum, squirrel, bird, rabbit, or mole. As I am answering these questions, Foxy is intrigued by a sparrow that keeps flying against the window pane. We both heard the knocking sound and went to investigate. Foxy also nips at the bottom of human pant legs. The other day I noted an unusual aroma while writing at the computer desktop. I looked down to the rug to find Foxy enjoying the remains of a frog head.

What is each dog's best quality?

Sally and I have had smarter pets in the past, but none as sweet as Foxy. I cannot claim that Valerie is not sweet because she loves to roll over for a tummy rub or plant a lick in the face of her mom or dad, but she is the conniving one, the regal one. Fox wins the peppy and cuddly contest. Both dogs are fiercely loyal.

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

They would want me to sleep later and not work so hard.

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

No one could play Valerie Valentine North except Joan Rivers. Like Rivers, who also has her own jewelry line on QVC, Valerie loves jewels, particularly rhinestone collars, although she prefers diamonds --- maybe a reward for sparing the rug in the hall? At Christmas my wife wraps both Valerie and Foxy in a necklace of pet-store pearls. Valerie probably knows they’re fake – doubt if Foxy cares. Kristin Chenoweth would be a natural as Foxy North because the actress is soft and peppy and blond.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

“Valerie, why do you like to pose on the furniture like the queen of the neighborhood but still roll around outside in smelly things?”

“Foxy, why do you like to lick expensive upholstery fabric, which stains it and causes my wife to insist on having the den sofa recovered for the third time?”

Visit Darden North's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue