Friday, May 10, 2013

Marianne McKiernan & Mina, Meryl, and Jeb

Who are in the photos below?

I'm Marianne McKiernan and I work at KMGH-TV in Denver as a producer and consumer advocate. I'm also a volunteer puppy raiser with my husband John, an author and an animal communicator.

[photo right: Marianne and Hydra, recently graduated as a Skilled Companion]

The photos are of our dogs, Mina, Meryl and Jeb, and the cats, Dewey and Diddums. The photo of me is with a "grandpuppy" from Ross, the sixth Canine Companions puppy we raised who was selected to be a CCI breeder dog.

Jeb is our current Canine Companions puppy in training. He's a Labrador/Golden Retriever cross, almost nine months old. Mina is eleven years old and she is a Saluki/Terrier mix. Meryl is a five-year old female Great Dane. Dewey is an Oriental Shorthair and Diddums is a British Shorthair. Both are males, rescues, around six years old, and extremely friendly and dog-tolerant.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We're celebrating my book, Let the Dogs Speak! Puppies in Training Tell the Story of Canine Companions for Independence.

What's brewing?

It's a cold snowy night in Denver so I'm having freshly brewed New Mexico PiƱon coffee with half-and-half. [photo left: Mina]

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

I made myself a 70-second chocolate cake (let me know if you want the recipe!) and each of the dogs got a small cookie. The cats don't particularly care about treats.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Jeb II came named by Canine Companions. All the puppies in a litter are named with the same initial so all his siblings are also "J" puppies. Jeb is named in honor of Jeb the First, a Canine Companions Facility Dog. Jeb the First has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, and we're honored to raise his namesake. We also call him Jebbity, Jebby, Jebenezer, and Jebidiah. I will admit to having moments of confusion when I lose track of who the current puppy is and revert to a previous puppy's name, so he's sometimes called Rocket, Ross, Mars or even a puppy for whom we recently sat! For instance, he got called Charlie this morning. Puppy raisers trade pups and puppy sit for each other, so it's often a rotating cast of puppies at our house. This week Otter is staying with us for a few days while his family is out of town. So far today he's been called Otter, Jeb and Charlie. I've been known to resort to "You there, puppy! Whatever your name is, stop that!" when all else fails.

Meryl, our Great Dane, [photo right, with Diddums] was originally named Madeleine, but we'd recently lost our elderly Greyhound who was also called Madeleine. Since there could only be one Madeleine, Meryl graciously agreed to be renamed. Aliases include Tall Girl, Tall Dog and Tall Doggie. Notice a theme?

Mina, our small Saluki/Terrier mix, was originally called Willamina which seemed way too long for her dainty self, so we shortened it to Mina, then lengthened it to Mina Mouse. She also goes by Mouse, Miss Mouse and Mousie.

How were you and your dogs united?

Jeb [photo left] arrived in Denver from Santa Rosa, California (where Canine Companions breeding program is headquartered) via United Airlines October 3, 2013. He's the ninth puppy we've raised for Canine Companions.

Meryl came from Great Dane Rescue at a year of age. Her previous family had a change in circumstances so they couldn't keep her, but we are very glad she came to live with us! There's a chapter in the book with one of Penny Blankenship's hilarious illustrations, showing how Santa brought her to our house.

Mina was at the Colorado Humane Association with her two sisters. We were looking for a medium or big dog as a playmate for Madeleine the Greyhound, but Mina was just too cute to pass up. Mina chose us, as so often happens. When we sat down with the three sisters in a visiting room, Mina came over to me, put her paws on my lap, looked into my eyes and I knew she was coming home with us. She is all of 23 pounds but she's the boss of the house.

Please tell us about your new book and Canine Companions for Independence.

Let the Dogs Speak! tells what it's like to be a puppy in training, from the dog's point of view. It's written by four of our previous Canine Companions pups: Hudson, Parker, Ross and Mars. It is humorous, heartwarming and informative, and the illustrations are delightful. Canine Companions for Independence provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities other than blindness, free of charge. Their motto is "Help is a four-legged word." Canine Companions trains four types of Assistance Dogs: Service Dogs, Skilled Companions, Hearing Dogs and Facility Dogs.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Mina is our ferocious hunter, despite my best efforts to convince her to live and let live. She occasionally kills snakes, squirrels and birds in our back yard, and would like to take on the foxes and raccoons that wander through the neighborhood, She cannot understand why the postman persists in coming to our house, since she hurls curses at him Every. Single. Day.

Jeb [with Diddums, photo left] loves all beings, including our two kitties. Everyone and everything is his friend, especially if there's a cookie involved.

Meryl loves our kitties and barks hello! at everything else. Meryl would only kill something accidentally, either by stepping on it or with her whip-like tail. She has given me a black eye with that tail! Meryl wants to greet and/or play with everyone. I'm not sure our postman is convinced of that, however. He flinches when she grins and barks at him.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Jeb's best friend is whoever wants to play with him. We have frequent play dates with other CCI puppies and grad dogs, so he has lots of friends, including Chisum, Lionel, Kindle, Pilar, Pella, Hughy, Charlie, Waffle, and Palima. Don't you love those CCI names?

Meryl's best pet-pals are Mina, whoever our current puppy in training is, and Diddums, who loves to snuggle with (and often on) her.

[photo right: Dewey]

Mina's best pet-pal is Meryl. She mostly tolerates the foolish puppies in training, teaching them manners and boundaries. She generally ignores the cats.

What is each dog's best quality?

Jeb is cheerful, playful and adores little kids. Meryl is happy and silly - she makes us laugh a lot. Mina is bossy, focused and endearing.

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

Hmmmm, I'm guessing Mina and Meryl want me to stop reprimanding them for barking at the people passing by the house. "Just let us bark - it's our job!" they say. "Yeah, but Meryl's bark rattles the windows and Mina's is ear-piercing," I grumble. It's an on-going discussion at our house.

Jeb wants me to stop making him wear his detested Gentle Leader head collar, to which I say, "Sorry, Jebbity. You need to learn to walk on a loose leash and learn impulse control." This is another on-going topic of discussion. *sigh*

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

Meryl - Ellen DeGeneris
Mina - Holly Hunter
Jeb - Jordan Nagai (the kid in Up)
Dewey - Rhys Ifans
Diddums - Colin Firth

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

Ah well, you see, in my spare time I provide services as a professional animal communicator, so animals (mine and others) actually do talk to me. No, really. I know it sounds wacky, but it's true. That's probably a whole different interview.

Visit the Telling Tails website and read more about Let the Dogs Speak! Puppies in Training Tell the Story of Canine Companions for Independence.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Oh those photos of the dogs with kitties is just beyond sweet. Of course my MOM is all gaga over the great dane. She just loves loves them. I'm OK with that cuz I am the one who lives with her. Great interview.

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