Monday, December 30, 2013

May Wong & Miss Darcy

Who is in the photo at right?

May Wong - a blogger, an interior designer, a marketer. Miss Darcy is a cockapoo, now 2 3/4 - turns 3 on February 26.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

After our morning walks and she does her constitution, I like to stop for a coffee at Gail's for my decaff cappuccino - it's my time to start the day. And especially on summer Sunday mornings, I like to read the Sunday papers at Gail's - sharing the morning with Miss Darcy.

What's brewing?

Gail's decaff cappuccino.

Any treats for you or Miss Darcy on this occasion?

She shares my croissant!

How did Miss Darcy get her name? Any nicknames?

My fantasy is to have a "Mr. Darcy" in my life and the most assured way of getting a "Mr. Darcy" is to get a dog - loyal, protective and loving. But when Darcy turned out to be a girl - she became Miss Darcy.

How were you and Miss Darcy united?

I found her on the internet - a breeder's website. She came to me by special delivery from Wales - it would have been a very long drive or a long train ride.

Who are Miss Darcy's best pet-pals?

Zavia and Rocko.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Her squeaky teddy. When she gets excited, she runs up to it and pushes it with her nose to squeak it. Sometimes she decides to walk with it in her mouth.

What is Miss Darcy's best quality?

Loving every moment of every day - excited about every walk, every meal, every time I return home!

If Miss Darcy could change one thing about Londoners, what would it be?

Let dogs into all restaurants.

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

Renée Zellweger.

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

How much do you love me?

Visit the Miss Darcy's Adventures and May Ping Designs websites.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lorraine Pestell & Jed

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Lorraine Pestell and this handsome old boy is Jed. I am an IT professional living in Melbourne, Australia, and am also a determined author of contemporary fiction. Jed is in his 14th year and we have no idea what he is! Perhaps some Great Dane, some Greyhound and plenty of Black Labrador, given how much hair he loses and that he scavenges after the smelliest thing imaginable!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Today we met our great friends, Maggie and Archie [photo right], for a coffee and a slow amble around the park. When Jed was younger and we also had Amber, his gorgeous German Shepherd companion, Maggie and I belonged to a much larger group of dog-and-coffee lovers. Since most of these dogs are now dearly departed, we met today to reminisce about the wide-ranging conversations we shared and the funny scenes we caused.

What's brewing?

Maggie’s coffee is a “hot skinny latte” and mine is a “skinny long macchiato”. Having lived all over the world, I am always entertained by the different coffee descriptors used in each country. “Skinny” refers to no-fat milk, and in eastern Australia the long macchiato is analogous to a double-shot latte (although I don’t dare say this in front of a barista!)

Any treats for you or Jed on this occasion?

We are all partial to a raspberry and white chocolate muffin with our coffee. Much too partial, in fact. The café we frequented for our larger walking group used to bake an extra tray on Saturdays just for us, such was the tradition we created!

How were you and Jed united?

Jed, Amber and I [photo bottom left] were united in 2001 at the Save-A-Dog Scheme, which is a rehoming centre founded by a friend of Maggie’s. I had been in Australia for two years and had bought a house with a yard that was just yearning for paws and noses. Amber took a little longer to settle, since she had been mistreated, but it was love at first sight for Jed and me!

How did Jed get his name? Any aliases?

Jed was the name given to him by the fantastic volunteers at the pound. It suited him well, so I saw no point in changing it.

Aliases vary with how naughty he has been. “Houdini” springs to mind, because I have lost count of the number of times I had to bail him out of jail after he scaled the fence while I was at work, easily spooked by thunder storms or fireworks! No matter how high the fence, his motivation was always higher in times of panic.

Does Jed do more to help or hinder your writing?

Jed is my constant companion while I’m writing. In recent times, his contribution is limited to peaceful snoring in the background. Sometimes he makes me feel guilty for ignoring him, nudging my elbow or giving a disgruntled snort or two. These interruptions have mutual benefit however, because it encourages me to get up and walk around the garden for a few minutes! Otherwise, I would probably not move for hours and end up with really sore shoulders and a headache.

You used to be part of a larger group of coffee-drinking canine-lovers. What was that like?

Jed, Amber and I were part of a group of six humans and eight dogs who met every Saturday morning at Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens for a walk and a long breakfast. It was a great forum to discuss the events of the week and to air our views on changing the world. Our numbers would often swell to as many as 12, depending on who had visitors at the time. This is also where the muffin tradition first began!

We were often the centre of attention, particularly with children, who had never seen such a diverse bunch of dogs in one place before. Because Jed and Amber were so big, we needed lots of space, and other regulars were often kind enough to move so that we could arrange the tables.

There was even one occasion when Jed decided to blaze his own trail towards the muffins. He managed to nonchalantly stroll several metres inside the café before I realised and went scrambling after him, much to most people’s amusement! A few black looks from non-dog-lovers too, of course.

Cat, postman, rabbit...?

Postman, definitely! Ours arrives on a whining motorcycle which is instantly recognisable. In fact, when I used to buy huge bones for Jed and Amber, I always referred to them as “Postman” and “Milkman”…

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball, and always someone else’s! No toy ever lasted too long though.

Who is Jed's best pet-pal?

Jed used to be very social and loved Max, Maggie’s previous dog. Nowadays he’s more a solitary fellow, even though he and Archie get on well. Everything’s a bit too much trouble these days, especially young, bouncy puppies. Amber was the dominant one at home, so now that Jed has me all to himself, I think he’s happier!

What is Jed's best quality?

Jed is my best friend, always loving and gentle. I would say his worst quality is his overactive digestive system, which is becoming increasingly unpredictable as he gets older!

If Jed could change one thing about Melburnians, what would it be?

I’d guess that Jed’s greatest wish would be to have more space between tables at cafés, but otherwise I think he’s quite happy. Melburnians are a dog-friendly community, on the whole.

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

I would ask him whether he would recommend a dog’s life.

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

Even though he’s not originally from Australia, I would choose Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, The Dish, The Omen) to be Jed’s voice. Relaxed, sophisticated and sexy!

Visit Lorraine Pestell's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dale Kushner & Malibu

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Dale Kushner, with Malibu, our newly adopted Golden Retriever. In this photo, Malibu, aka Mali, and I are embarking on a training adventure. (Note the disarray behind us. Mali’s name should be “Velcro.” She likes to attach herself to me. I’d been trying to drink my coffee on the couch but slid off to work with her.)

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Mali, a champion of the dog show world, was raised by and has lived with her breeder for seven years. As a show dog, she’s traveled in planes and trains and can do an exquisite prance around the ring, but alas has never been socialized to live with a family. On the occasion of this photo, I’m trying to teach her manners. She’d rather cuddle! Since I’m a bit of a push-over, I have to train myself not to comply. My task here is to drink a cup of coffee without Mali climbing into my lap. You can see I’m not entirely successful.

What's brewing?

I’ve just dripped a cup of Bike Fuel from Just Coffee Cooperative.

Any treats for you or Malibu on this occasion?

No treats for me while training Mali, though later I might consider a cranberry scone. Mali, however, gets bison and sweet potato crinkles and peanut butter stars. These days the variety in doggie snacks sounds like a menu from the TV show Portlandia.

How were you and Malibu united?

Our vet called us to let us know that the breeder was selling an older dog. Were we interested? We’d been planning on getting a puppy this summer. Wisconsin winters can be brutal and our thought was we should wait until we could do more training outdoors, but when the call came, we couldn’t resist. Our last Golden Retriever, Carmelita [in photo, below left], died a year and a half ago, and we’ve been bereft without fur!

How did Malibu get her name? Any aliases?

Mali’s breeder was driving into Malibu, California, and presto magico! Mali got named for the city. (Or was it her blonde California good looks that synched the name?)

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?

Now I’m wondering why I haven't written about a dog. I’m gaga in love with dogs, like, kiss them on the lips kind of gaga! There’s a parakeet named Mr. Puccini in The Conditions of Love and a turtle named Eunice Turtle but no dog. Stay-tuned! I’m at work on novel #2, and there just may be a canine in the story.

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

Mali is a muse wannabe, that is, if the only job of a muse is to offer a fetching smile and endless affection. Actually, Mali’s more of a trickster than a muse. But then again, as a writer, I never know what will end up in the writing stew. Because of Mali, I am learning a lot about dog behavior. At the moment, I’m interested in what behaviorists call “prey drive,” that almost unstoppable instinct that provokes dogs to chase squirrels or cats to pounce on mice. I haven’t yet discovered if humans too have a prey drive. Hmmm. Will a creature who boasts a strong prey drive be part of something I write?

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel, Possum, shrew, chipmunk, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Retrievers love balls but have no idea how silly they look padding around with a yellow Wilson tennis ball in their mouths.

Who is Malibu's best pet-pal?

Her fav play pal—c’est moi. Me, me, and me, probably until she’s spayed.

What is Malibu's best quality?

Mali’s best quality is her sweet temperament. You meet people like this too, who simply have a sweet and affectionate soul. It’s something you can feel. Even when I have to coerce Mali into her crate at night, she never snarls or snaps.

If Malibu could change one thing about you--or you change one thing about her, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about Mali, I’d transform her anxiety about being in a new home. Until now she’s lived with her breeder and among her littermates. As a middle-aged dog, it’s tough for her to adjust to a completely new lifestyle.

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

I would ask Mali what would help her feel part of the Kushner family pack.

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

After we brought Mali home, we learned a sad fact: she’d been de-barked. (The breeder had been less than forthcoming with us!) I’d never heard of this surgery (tissue from the animal’s vocal chords is removed) and was truly horrified the first time I heard Mali’s non-voice—a cross between a rasp and a whisper. She stood at the window trying to bark, but the noise that came out was a ghost voice. However, in honor of the spirit that shines through, I would choose the silent film star Lillian Gish to portray Mali.

Visit Dale Kushner's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Dale M. Kushner.

The Page 69 Test: The Conditions of Love.

My Book, The Movie: The Conditions of Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 20, 2013

Debbie Levy & Toby

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Debbie Levy, author of books for young people, and not-so-young people, too. And that’s Toby—she’s a chocolate Lab, eleven-and-a-half years old.

What's brewing?

Last year, while on vacation, I discovered Illy coffee and brought home a tin of it. Oh, my. That is good. But it’s not at the grocery store, and Starbucks and Peet’s are, so that’s what I drip at home. I drink it black, and I don’t drink much of it, lest I get the coffee shakes. But I do truly savor my morning cup.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

As I write this, we’re having our first snow here in the D.C. area today. Although we’re enjoying it, I can’t help but daydream about summer days spent on the water. I love the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, and so does Toby. In her dotage, though, she’s become skittish about getting on boats, so she can’t indulge her love of the water as much as she used to. So I’m also daydreaming about the days when she would jump on the boat with me as if there was no other place she’d rather be, and that is what this first photo is about.

But this is not to say that she’s become a sedentary old dog—just look at this much more recent picture [photo left] of her running along a stream in the woods. She’s still got it!

Any treats for you or Toby on this occasion?

We did share some pretzel crisps today.

How were you and Toby united?

Toby is our family’s first and only dog. I was a cat person as a child, but one of our sons really wanted a dog twelve years ago—so here’s Toby, and now I am definitely a dog person as well.

How did Toby get her name? Any aliases?

Toby is short for Toblerone—you know, the chocolate, because she’s a chocolate Lab. She has too many aliases to list here, but my own creation and personal favorite is Tobi-Wan Kenobi. I think she favors that one, too.

Have any Toby-inspired dogs appeared in your published work?

I have a picture book coming out in the summer of 2014 about a Goldendoodle named Dozer who broke through his fence to join a charity half-marathon, ended up lost and then found, and raised more money for cancer research than any of the human runners in the race. It’s a true story, so while I can’t say that Dozer, a real dog, was inspired by Toby, I can say that my love for my own dog and my sense of her as a sentient being inspired my approach to presenting Dozer’s story in Dozer’s Run. You can read a brief article about the book here.

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

Helps! She hangs out with me when I’m working at my desk. Even if she falls asleep, she is likely to make all kinds of juicy dog-sounds, which is good company. She makes sure I get up and out on a regular basis. She listens, or pretends to, when I read her pages I’ve written. So when advance copies of my books come in, I’ve taken to sharing photos of Toby with the books on my blog and Facebook. Like these pictures of her with an ARC of Imperfect Spiral, my young adult novel that came out this past July, and with We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song, my picture book that came out on December 17.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Fox. Deer. But especially fox. Big drama when a fox comes around.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?


Does Toby have a favorite place to go for outings?

She’ll go anywhere. She even likes to ride in the car. She is perfect.

Who is Toby's best pet-pal?

Poor Toby. Her best pet-pal was a chocolate Lab named Monty, but he moved away. Oh, well. Toby tends to pay a lot more attention to the dogs’ people, anyway. She finds humans fascinating.

What is Toby's best quality?

Her sweet friendliness. That, and the way sometimes she smells like corn chips.

If Toby could change one thing about Marylanders, what would it be?

The amount of time we spend in traffic on the Beltway.

Oh, no, wait, that’s me and my husband. Toby’s just happy to be included in the outing, wherever we’re going.

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

“Have you been happy?” Because I think she has been, but what do we really know about the inner lives of dogs?

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

Annette Bening. Just because.

Visit Debbie Levy's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Imperfect Spiral.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tammar Stein & Scout

Who is in the photo at right?

The human is my humble self, Tammar Stein. I'm a novelist and my fourth novel, Spoils, which Amazon named a Best Book of the Month, was released on December 10th. The dog is the incomparable Scout. She's a Black Lab mutt, adopted in Germany. Scout is a well-traveled senior citizen, over a hundred years old, in dog years. Scout is so sweet and easy going that nearly every one of our friends who's ever dog-sat for us has offered to adopt her if we couldn't take her with us on our next move. (We move a lot.)

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Scout and I like our quiet mornings. I usually start the day off with tea and switch to coffee on particularly hectic afternoons.

What's brewing?

I'm a peasant when it comes to coffee. I'm not particular, as long as there's lot of milk involved. (My husband is in charge of the fancy espresso maker and when he's brewing only Illy will do.)

Any treats for you or Scout on this occasion?

If I'm feeling fancy and there are nibbles to go along with the drink, Scout expects me to be friendly and share. I usually do.

How were you and your dog united?

My husband and I were stationed in Germany when we adopted Scout. The Germans have a dog-loving culture. Scout went everywhere with me. Restaurants, department stores, the bank, other than grocery stores where the food is out on the shelves, dogs are welcome everywhere. Strangers would stop to give her treats. Stores would offer her a bowl of water if she looked thirsty. It was a small shock when we returned after three years and couldn't even sit on a cafe patio with her (dog laws in Texas are strict!).

How did Scout get her name? Any aliases?

When we adopted her, her name was Hera. But when I called her by her given name, she never responded. I think my American accent was so different from her previous German owners that she didn't recognize her name when I called it. Since she had to get used to a new name anyway, I figured I might as well give her one that I choose.

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

Scout is very respectful of the writing process! I wouldn't let anyone else hang out with me as I mutter at the screen, pace in frustration, and crow with triumph. Scout doesn't judge. Sometimes she raises an eyebrow, sometimes she suggests a walk might clear my thoughts, and usually, she's right.

I understand Scout is bi-lingual; what's up with that?

She was already trained in German commands when we adopted her. It was funny actually, since I don't speak German, I needed my landlady to teach me the basic German commands (for example, instead of "heel" Germans say "Fuß" which means foot.) After a couple of months, my landlady said, "do you think she knows, 'platz'?" As soon as she said it, Scout laid down! Who knows what else she learned in German. Scout has picked up on the English commands over time, but when I really want her to listen, I speak to her in German.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Postman! I don't know what it is about them. Is it the uniform? The smell of mail? I've had male and female mail carriers and it doesn't make a difference. My sweet girl turns into a raving maniac, barking like mad and throwing herself at the door. Every mailman I've had since Scout has given my front door a wide berth.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Rubber chicken.

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

More meat at dinner.

If your dog could answer only one question in English--or German, what would you ask her?

Scout, want to go out?

Visit Tammar Stein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tj O’Connor & Toby, Mosby, and Maggie Mae

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know, the Gumshoe Ghost mystery series, and four other novels. I’m the one with the goatee—err, the one in the inset photo. Left to right are my companions, Toby, age five; Mosby, age thirteen; and Maggie Mae, age eight. They’re all purebred Labs and proud of it.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My morning ritual (although the photo above is my pals’ evening ritual waiting for my wife and I to go up to bed). When I work from home, and after their breakfast and some initial work, I take them outside to my back yard and play ball while I have coffee. Yesterday morning it was below 30 degrees. They loved it. Me, not so much.

What's brewing?

Regular old decaf coffee—straight and black. I’m not big on the sweet, dessert blends or anything I need spell checker for.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

The morning ritual—ball playing—follows an hour after their breakfast. As they are Labs, extra treats are low fat or they’d be on the treadmill with me every day. Sometimes they get a nibble of my bagel and cream cheese, but mamma would be mad.

[photo left: Mosby]

Do your dogs help or hinder your writing? Have they inspired any dogs on your fiction?

My dogs help my writing and inspire me in more ways than one. First, I work from home quite often and would be strapped to this computer 18 hours a day if not interrupted. My writing takes place before the normal work day, often at lunch, and after work and dinner. The only interruptions I get are the phone, a wayward door-to-door marketer, and my Labs. Hourly, we play ball or keep-away. If I miss my hourly break, Maggie will climb in my lap and demand attention. Toby, the 115-pound black Lab, will even get under my desk and push my chair away from it. Many times, he’s gone paws up on the desk, stolen my wireless keyboard, and made a getaway for a game of chase. Luckily, he has a soft mouth.

My first published novel, Dying to Know, is the story of Oliver Tucker, a dead detective who returns to help solve his murder. It’s not a ghost story, mind you, but a mystery with a paranormal twist. Hercule, a black Lab, helps Tuck’s wife, Angela, realize that Tuck is still around. Hercule also protects her in dark times and helps decide who is good and evil. I wrote this part a year before we got Toby but he truly is Hercule to the bone.

How did your dogs get their names? Any nicknames?

I’m a history lover and the Civil War in Virginia is a significant part of our history. John S. Mosby, the famed raider, is a particular hero of mine and is our Yellow Lab’s namesake.

Maggie Mae is a sweet chocolate Lab and we wanted a southern-sounding name that would resonate with Mosby.

We rescued Toby [photo right] three years ago. He was in the pound because he was just too big for a couple—eight months old and already 85 pounds and growing. Tobias seemed to fit—a great old-fashioned name.

How were you and your dogs united?

We sought out Mosby and Maggie from reputable breeders. We decided to try a rescue when we looked for Toby. Several years ago after my daughter took her dog when she moved out, Mosby was about 4-5 years old. We worried he’d be lonely so we got Maggie. It worked. Years later, age started slowing Mosby down and Maggie was still young and wanted to play. So off we went to find Toby. He keeps Mags young and looks after Mosby in his old age, too.

Where do your dogs most like to visit on an outing?

Lakes, streams, or fast food restaurants. (We do try to keep them from the drive through.)

Do the dogs have any non-canine pet pals?

Yes, our cat, Penny, and our grandchildren. The grandkids are ages 6 months through 8 years. The older children chase and play ball for hours with them. The younger two, 2 ½ years and six months, just sit and cuddle with them. Mosby and Maggie [photo left] will sit with them and allow the kids to roll and climb on them. Toby is my youngest granddaughter’s favorite. She sees him and lights up. He rolls his ball to her on the floor while she plays on a play mat. He barks when she won’t roll it back—which is never, of course.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

We live in a country suburb and squirrels are more plentiful than people. They are also a source of constant games with my Labs. The squirrels will sit on our back deck and look in the glass door windows and taunt my Labs. When the dogs get out, they scurry away. But it seems a game as if one of the Labs catches up, they stop and let the squirrels escape. Many times they were literally on top of the squirrels but never laid a tooth on them. Fun and games.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Toby is a ball freak. Maggie loves her stuffed hedgehog. Mosby is all about nylon bones and sleep.

What is each dog's best quality?

Mosby is loyal to me to the core. He is constantly by my side. He is also a rules boy so he barks and tells on the other two when they’re into mischief—there’s a lot of barking. Maggie thinks she’s my girlfriend—sits on my lap a lot (yes, an 85-pound dog) and loves to snuggle up in bed. Toby is the protector and chief-play machine. But he also looks after Mosby in his old age. Mos has trouble with stairs and when he needs to go upstairs to bed or outside down our deck stairs, Toby walks alongside him and leans against him to steady his old body. Humans take note.

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

Require people to act more like dogs.

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

None. Hollywood is too self-absorbed and weird to capture the kind nature and heart of Labs.

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

Where’s Toby’s ball? (He loses it 50 times a day)!

Visit Tj O’Connor's website, blog, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 13, 2013

John Burley & Sterling

Who is in the photo to the right?

That’s me, John Burley. I’m an emergency department physician and an author of psychological suspense thrillers. I’m pictured here with my eight-year-old male Great Dane, Sterling.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee is essential on Monday mornings. Sterling and I like to frequent our local establishment, The Ugly Mug. This picture was taken on a Monday, which means it was a Double-Down Monday at The Ugly Mug. With every cup of coffee purchased, customers get to roll the store’s dice. If you roll doubles, you receive a free cup of coffee on your next visit. I did not roll doubles, unfortunately, but the excitement really got my heart racing. (Or maybe it was the caffeine.)

Sterling never pays for the coffee, so he doesn’t care if we roll doubles or not.

What’s brewing?

Sterling and I are drinking a Peruvian blend. He takes his with a shot of espresso. It gives him extra speed when he’s chasing deer through the woods of our property. One of these days, he hopes, he might actually catch one.

Any treats for you or Sterling on this occasion?

A peanut butter bone for both of us. It keeps our teeth strong and shiny.

How were you and your dog united?

Sterling was about six months old when we adopted him from a rescue organization. I don’t know what happened to him during the first few months of his life, but I do know that it wasn’t good. When I first met him, he cringed when I tried to pet him. He refused to get into our truck. Even to this day, he’s leery of strangers—particularly, men in hats. We’re working on that, but if you decide to join us for a cup of coffee it’s best to leave your hat at home.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Sterling already had his name when we adopted him. He was confused and freaked out enough, we thought, and so we left the name as it was. He had a small dusting of silver on his muzzle at the time, so the name suited him. In his old age, that silver has turned gray and has become much more pronounced. He’s self-conscious about it, but I tell him it makes him look wise and distinguished.

As for aliases, my wife and I sometimes call him ‘Big Ster.’ When my daughter was a toddler and first learning to talk, she called him ‘Steesels,’ and that’s also stuck.

So much for not confusing him.

Has Sterling inspired any dogs in your published work?

Oh, yes. The dog from my debut novel, The Absence of Mercy, is a 180-pound harlequin Great Dane named Alexander the Great. His character was inspired not only by Sterling, but also by a female harlequin Great Dane that was part of my family when I was growing up. I think anyone who brings a Great Dane into their family has a good chance of getting hooked.

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

Sterling has a real talent for character development—particular when writing chapters about bad guys. He incorporates his own fears into the writing. You’ll notice, for example, that many of the bad guys in my books are wearing hats.

Cat, postman, squirrel . . . ?

Deer. We live back in the woods, and there’s a family of deer who’ve chosen to basically reside on the property. They consider the garden in front of our house to be their own private salad bowl. Sterling stands out on the front porch and barks at them while they munch. If we forget to close the porch’s gate, he tears off into the garden, and then deer and dog embark on a frantic chase through the woods. Sterling comes back twenty minutes later, breathless and covered with poison ivy.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick . . . ?

Again, deer. They run faster and farther than you can ever throw a stick.

Does Sterling have a favorite place to go for outings?

There’s a state park not too far from where we live. Dirt trails twist through a forest of towering redwoods. It’s a great place to go walking—one of Sterling’s favorites, and one of mine, as well. If I’m having trouble figuring out where the plot of a story I’m working on needs to go next, the answer usually lies somewhere in those woods.

Who are your dog’s best pet-pals?

In addition to Sterling, we have an English Bulldog named Zoe. She has a pretty sedentary lifestyle. Sometimes she doesn’t move for days. She bosses Sterling around, though, which is odd because she’s only a quarter of his size. I don’t know if they’re exactly pals—more like an old married couple who’ve grown so accustomed to each other that they can’t live apart—but Zoe is the only other animal Sterling can tolerate.

What is your dogs best quality?

Sterling is extremely loyal and affectionate with my family. He’s ferociously protective of us, as well—something that can be embarrassing when we encounter other people or animals in public. Strangers often approach us, wanting to pet him.

“It’s better if you don’t,” I warn them. “He can be aggressive.”

“Oh, I’m really good with animals,” they say, thinking they can win him over.

It goes the same way every time: Sterling lunges. I have to restrain him with the leash. The person appears shocked and more than a little rattled by the experience. And I always feel the need to apologize.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “We rescued him from a bad situation when he was six months old. Whatever happened to him left its mark. The breed isn’t usually like this.”

If your dog could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

As the companion of an ER physician, Sterling is worried about infant deaths related to accidental smothering that can occur when babies sleep in the same bed as their parents. Such cases present to the ER on almost a monthly basis. Infants either die or sustain severe anoxic brain injury when one of their parents rolls on top of them during sleep. It’s incredibly tragic, but 100% preventable. Children less than two should never sleep in the same bed as their parents. It’s just too risky.

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

If you get to heaven before I do, will you save me a spot?

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

Steve Buscemi. He’s edgy and nervous—a guy you don’t want to turn your back on. If he doesn’t like you, he’ll let you know. I think that suits Sterling’s personality pretty well.

John Burley worked as a paramedic and firefighter before attending medical school in Chicago and completing an emergency medicine residency at University of Maryland Medical Center and Shock Trauma in Baltimore. His debut novel, The Absence of Mercy, received the National Black Ribbon Award, which recognizes a novelist who brings a fresh voice to suspense writing.

Visit John Burley's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

M. K. Zeppa & Tater Water and Hawk

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, M. K. (Melissa Kaye) Zeppa, artist, and the Lab Assistants, Tater Water, Yellow Labrador & Hawk, Black Labrador of Zeppa Studios, LLC…an animal themed giftware company.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Tea with the boys is a morning ritual. They wake me up before dawn (hence the odd light in the photo). I put the kettle on and prepare their food. We go for a walk. They have breakfast and I sit down with a giant “bubba mug” of tea and survey the news and work on our website or whatever else needs working on.

What's brewing? Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

I usually drink Twinings Irish Breakfast tea …simply bags steeped in boiling water with a dollop of half and half. The boys have just breakfasted, so they are usually enjoying a postprandial nap…treats later. I enjoy my tea…which lasts well after we relocate from the house to the studio across the yard. Once there, the boys get a treat and settle in their studio kips. We often have to move their beds so they can be in whichever section I am working…office, painting or production.

How were you and your dogs united?

Tater and Hawk are not our first assistants. Gator Bait was the first, and we were united because my husband decided to give me a dog as a surprise gift…the last thing you should ever do according to every expert I’ve ever read …the house wasn’t dog proofed, there was no crate, food or anything doggy at home. We picked up the pup and stopped at some friends to visit…whoa! Another “don’t”. It worked out for us…I took my new dog parent responsibilities seriously. About five years after our not so textbook version of bringing Gator into the family, a nice guy with two really cool kids came into our studio and asked about breeding his wonderful Lab, Olive, to Gator. We weren’t sure…all those bad feelings about “backyard breeders”… but when he said that he felt like he was pimping his daughter, we knew it would work out. The breeding happens and the puppies are born and my pesky husband surprises me with agreeing to take a puppy! At least we had a couple months to prepare for the arrival of our second assistant, Snake Plisken. It doesn’t stop there. Another four or five years go by and Snake’s sister has a litter and we get Hawk…Gator’s grandson, Snake’s nephew… Hey, our story is not typical (you know--do not try this at home)…why did it work out? Because the people involved were seriously committed to the dogs…our dogs.

How did Tater Water and Hawk get their names? Any aliases?

The best “how did you name him that” story belongs to Tater Water. We knew we were going to get a new pup after the great Gator passed away. We were (only slightly) tired of getting alligator and snake and even at that point hawk gift items however cool…so we thought the next dog’s name should be “Cash”. Then we went down to the Farm Coop to buy some fish to stock the pond and the gentleman from Farley’s Arkansas Pond Stockers noticed we were wearing Black Lab Vodka caps…”so,” he says “how much of that tater water did ya’ll hafta drink to get one of them hats?” Well, it took a minute, but we finally figured out “tater water” was Arkansan for vodka…so we gave the guy an extra black lab vodka cap that we had and “tater water” replaced “cash” on our “next dog’s names” list.

Please tell us about Zeepa Studios and your dogs' role there.

Zeppa Studios is an animal themed gift ware manufacturer...for lack of a better description. We make custom painted ceramic pieces and a collection we call “Fur Children” which includes note cards, coasters, cutting boards, etc. All the items are designed and/or hand painted by me. We sell to stores across the country and to retail customers who can’t find a reseller near them. Our current studio is not open to the public on any regular basis, but in the past it has been and the Lab Assistants have always been totally awesome greeters. At the moment, they mostly act as inspiration, security and foot warmers.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cats, when indoors, are ignored or are playmates. Cats and anything else that runs outdoors are fair game. The boys have all been serious “varmint hunters”. We went on a walk with a friend and her Jack Russells…the Russells were fixated on tennis balls and our Labs were digging for mice (or moles) in the hay field…we all wondered what’s wrong with this picture?

Any delivery person or other visitor to the studio is greeted warmly…if over enthusiastically…by the boys.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Balls, plush toys, sticks…it’s all good. Tater is more toy oriented at this point…

Do Tater Water and Hawk have a favorite place to go for outings?

The boys love anywhere they go…as long as it’s with us…I couldn’t fathom their favorite…some spots have more smells, some more opportunities to play. Tough call.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Our friends’ dogs become our dogs’ friends and vice versa. There are Labs, Gordon Setters, Pit Bulls and mutts currently on the list. Walking dogs in the woods and fields with friends has always been a favorite activity.

What is each dog's best quality?

Hawk’s best quality is steadfastness… Tater’s is his smile.

If your Tater Water and Hawk could change one thing about Virginians, what would it be?

To our fellow Southwestern Virginians “Hey you live in a beautiful country, show some respect and stop littering!” It’s truly frightening the amount of trash we pick up daily off the road frontage.

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

“Boys, what is it really like to smell the world?”

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Tater Water and Hawk could speak, who should voice them?

Oh this is a toughie… our black dogs have been really serious souls and our yellow guys totally goofy…at least on the surface. Hawk would sound like Diego in Ice Age…that was Denis Leary…Tater I think would sound like Donkey in Shrek…”pick me pick me”…that was Eddie Murphy. If the movie includes our passed away boys, Gator … Clint Eastwood, Snake…Launchpad McQuack (not sure who voiced him).

Visit the Zeppa Studios website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dawn Celapino & Jack

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Dawn Celapino and this is my buddy, Jack. Jack is a 8 year old Cairn Terrier. Because I am a Personal Trainer & I love being with Jack and we love anything fitness related and outdoors, we started a company called Leash Your Fitness in San Diego where your dog is your workout partner!! We have weekly fitness classes and we also do different outdoor activities with our dogs that include: surfing, kayaking, hiking, camping, yoga, and running!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We just needed to catch up on our "down time" and thought a nice cup of coffee on a beautiful fall day in San Diego would help us to relax!

What's brewing?

Iced Pumpkin Latte's of course!

Any treats for you or Jack on this occasion?

Jack likes anything that has meat in it! No vegetables for this canine!

How were you and Jack united?

I got Jack because I was tired of doing my outings by myself. His breed was described as a big dog in a small body and that was exactly what I was looking for!

How did Jack get his name?

Jack is named after his grandfather who passed away the same month and year Jack was born.

I read on the Leash Your Fitness site that your programs incorporate "hiking, surfing, kayaking, camping, yoga, trail running, upper & lower body classes [and] boot camp classes ALL WITH YOUR DOG!" Which of those activities is Jack's favorite? And his least favorite?

Jack loves anything that has to do with water! He loves to swim and jump into the water. His least favorite is probably yoga because he doesn't get to run around!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

He loves chasing bunnies and squirrels!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

He loves his "alien" squeaky toy.

I see that Jack's the winner of numerous medals dock diving & surfing. What's his proudest achievement??

He is most proud of the fact that he has been in 26 states and has swam in all of them!! He loves to swim!

Who is Jack's best pet-pal?

He likes Luna. She is a one year old in one of our classes and she is the only pup that he will play with!

What is Jack's best quality?

He is so active and fun! He just loves being out and about.

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

Why does he wake me up sometimes at 5 a.m. by putting his paws up on the bed? I think he is having a bad dream as he wants to come and cuddle in bed with me (which he never wants to do) I just never know what is wrong because he can't talk!

Visit the Leash Your Fitness website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 6, 2013

Faith McCune & Dayle and Alva

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Faith McCune, the author of a book titled Duffy’s World, Seeing the World through a Dog’s Eyes. Duffy opened my eyes to a whole new world of canine agility and, though he was too old to participate in this sport, his baby sister, Corrie, did. It was through this activity that I met Dayle and Alva, her Shetland Sheepdog, commonly called a Sheltie. Alva is a male, 9 years old, who happens to be deaf.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Corrie passed away suddenly in May, but I’ve kept in touch with all our dear friends in the agility world. Dayle and I decided to meet to celebrate the release of my book. Dayle and Alva achieved their big milestone, too. A championship for Alva! This is a very special feat for any of our dogs, but especially sweet for them. Most dog owners take for granted being able to speak our commands to our dogs. It takes a lot of know-how and patience to do it only with hand signals. Competing in canine agility with a deaf dog is remarkable. They are amazing to watch!

What's brewing?

Dayle’s beverage of choice is Starbuck’s skinny peppermint mocha while mine is their black tea brew.

Any treats for you and Dayle and Alva on this occasion?

Dayle had an artisan veggie Panini, which she shared with Alva. I also brought some buffalo and blueberry treats for him.

How were Dayle and Alva united?

Dayle already had a deaf dog at home when a breeder called to see if Dayle wanted Alva. She was reluctant to take him at first, but when the breeder was unsuccessful trying to find him a home, she decided to take him.

How did Alva get his name? Any aliases?

Dayle and her husband like naming their dogs after scientists and inventors. Alva was named after Thomas Alva Edison, who also was partially deaf.

Did Dayle know your dogs?

I first met Dayle about five years ago at her very first agility trial. She never met Duffy. Since then, Alva and Corrie competed in many agility events together. Most of the time, we ended up at the same venues, then started sharing space together. We and a few others became quite a circle. We shared stories, laughter, snacks, and course strategies together. We made long-lasting friendships and looked forward to seeing each other from event to event. As the years passed, we shared victories and championships together as well.

Did Corrie do more to help or hinder your writing when you were working on Duffy's World'?

Corrie [photo right] was in constant attendance while I wrote my book. She and I enjoyed daily walks where ideas flowed in the fresh morning air. She’d drop toys or balls at my feet periodically to remind me to take breaks. She was never far from me though she enjoyed time with my husband as well. I could never resist her beautiful eyes and face that urged me to come out and play. This usually meant four or five breaks a day regardless of what I was doing.

Does Alva have a favorite place to go for outings?

Dayle and I are both agility junkies! Alva and Corrie just loved going places and having fun. All I’d have to say is, “wanna go?” and Corrie would turn herself inside out, yipping and whining in anticipation. She got so she’d know the difference between just me leaving and us going somewhere together by the sound of the cap on the tubes of skin lotion vs sunscreen. Seeing her friends was an added plus. More friends meant more treats! Alva also likes his chiropractor because he knows how good he feels after a session. He goes crazy when Dayle approaches the doctor’s driveway. Corrie enjoyed her sessions, too. When dogs compete, they’re actually athletes and we make sure they have treatments they need to keep them sound. Most of all, they both loved butt rubs—and they didn’t have to go anywhere for that!

What is Alva's best quality?

Alva is highly attentive to Dayle. She’s not quite sure if it’s his personality or because he’s deaf. He also aims to please and does his best to focus on her. When his mom is happy, he’s happy.

If Alva could change one thing about you and Dayle, what would it be?

Dayle said he’d probably say she’s too stingy with her treats. He also looks at me like a giant treat machine, hoping I have something to give him because his “mom” isn’t forthcoming with anything at the moment. He wishes we weren’t so wise to his begging ways.

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

Dayle would be interested in knowing what he really thought about his siblings. He has a Sheltie brother and a Papillon sister. Dayle feels he’d be happier just being a laid-back only dog. His brother, Hutch, has fear issues so he’s always on the alert, whereas Tesla, his sister is a 10-month old hell-on-wheels girl, primed for the agility ring.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Alva could speak, who should voice him? How about Corrie and Duffy--who would voice them?

I’ve actually thought about an animated movie starring Duffy and Corrie. Dayle thought Tom Hanks would be a good voice for Alva. He can be smart alecky, wise-cracking, and still serious. Duffy’s wild vocal swings would be suited to someone like Will Smith or, as Dayle suggested, Mike Myers. Corrie would probably do well with a younger voice like Dakota Fanning, sweet yet impish in the blink of an eye.

Visit Duffy’s World website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Joyce Miller & Sammy and PG

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Joyce Miller. I'm a mechanical designer--I design experiments at a nuclear physics laboratory, Jefferson Lab, in Newport News, VA. In my spare time I volunteer for a greyhound adoption group, James River Greyhounds; I teach a therapy dog training class through Jefferson Lab's employee activity group; I paint; and I just started tap dancing when I turned 50 years old. I love to take my two greyhounds, shown in this photo of us at a tea party, on walks and I write a blog called Pawstcards from Hampton Roads. Sammy is a 5 year old male, white with brindle spots--which the greyhound people call "parti-colored." PG is a 5 year old brindle female.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are stopping for a drink on our way to take one of our walks. Sometimes we walk by ourselves and sometimes we walk with a big group of adopted greyhounds called the Around Town Hounds.

What's brewing?

I absolutely love coffee--but my doctor doesn't allow me to drink it any more. So I drink herbal tea now. Usually honey chamomile.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

My dogs get non-stop treats.

How were you and your dogs united?

I adopted my greyhounds through James River Greyhounds in Richmond, VA. Sammy was what they call an "oops" puppy. When the greyhound breeders don't witness the actual breeding of their greyhounds--the dogs can't be registered to race. So Sammy's whole litter was available for adoption as soon as they were born. I've had him since he was 6 months old. PG raced a few times at a Jacksonville, FL track and was a loser on the racetrack so I adopted her when she was not quite 2 years old. She's a winner now, though! Spends most of her days laying on my couch!

How did Sammy and PG get their names? Any aliases?

Sammy was named Sammy when I got him. I embellished his name to be Sammy Davis Jr. for several reasons. One is that I love tap dancing! And the other reason is because Sammy and I do a dog sport called Canine Freestyle or dog dancing. We do the dog dancing as part of our therapy work. Sammy has danced at schools, libraries and for a winter party for some refugees who didn't speak English but could appreciate music and dogs. Sammy just had to be named after a great dancer!

PG's racing name was PG Hairspray. I just kept the PG part because I couldn't think of anything to go with Hairspray. All of her littermates were named after PG movies--PG Top Gun, PG Footloose. It can also stand for pretty girl!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Definitely cat! When greyhounds are adopted out--they are tested around cats to determine whether or not they can live in a home with cats. Both of my hounds flunked that test! We have a cat in our neighborhood that I call Death Wish Cat because he always wants to come up to the dogs when I'm walking them. It makes me crazy because the dogs go nuts around him!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Has to be squeaky-toy for the greyhounds. The objective, of course, is to get the squeaky out of the toy! Greyhounds don't get any toys in the racing kennels--so when they move to a home they love having stuffies and toys.

Your blog is a wonderful resource for learning about pet-friendly destinations in and around Hampton Roads, Virginia. Do the dog's have a favorite locale for outings?

The dogs love all the walks that we go on but I suppose their favorites are the beach walks. I think the sand reminds them of sand at the race track--and they want to take off running as soon as they hit the sand. Grandview Beach in Hampton is a nature preserve so there are lots of smelly things on the beach for them--and they love that--the smellier, the better.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Sammy loves all of the greyhounds in our adoption group. One of his littermates from the "oops" litter, Jack, is in our adoption group and we see him at various adoption events.

And PG is Sammy's sidekick. I call her the Tonto to his Lone Ranger, the Robin to his Batman, the Rosie to his Sophia Grace!

What is each dog's best quality?

Sammy never read the book that says that greyhounds don't bark. He barks all the time--and it sometimes it seems to be for no reason at all. He just wants to make a joyful noise. It gives him so much personality--seems like he's talking to me sometimes. I think it would drive a lot of people crazy--but it's endearing to me.

And PG rarely barks--but when she does, she screams like a banshee. Their best qualities are giving me unconditional love.

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

If they could change one thing about Virginians--they would make them more welcoming of dogs in all establishments--like it is in France. We'd love to be able to go to a nice cafe after each dog walk we go on.

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

I would save this question for when they're sick--and ask them what's wrong. That is the time I most wish they could speak English.

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

Sammy would definitely be voiced by Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman! PG is very quiet and laid back--so she's tougher to cast. Maybe Zooey Deschanel.

Visit the Pawstcards from Hampton Roads blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nancy J. Parra & Little Dog

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi! I’m Nancy J Parra aka Nancy J Coco. I am the author of three new mystery series--The Baker’s Treat mystery series set in a gluten-free bakery. (Recipes included.) The first book in that series is Gluten For Punishment and coming May 2014, the second book, Murder Gone A-rye. The second series is under Nancy Coco. It’s the Candy Coated series, set in a fudge shop on Mackinac Island, Mich. (The setting of the classic movie, Somewhere in Time.) The first book, All Fudged Up, is out now and not only includes fudge recipes, but a sweet little Bichon-poo named, Marshmallow--Mal for short. The final series is the Perfect Proposals Mystery series which stars an engagement planner and is set in the Chicago area.

Whew-- that was long. My very own bichon-poo, affectionately known as “Little Dog” on line, tells me that was far too much information about me and not nearly enough about her. Little Dog, Boo Boo for short, is 7 years old and came into my life when I was searching for a companion to extend the life of our rescue puppy who grew to enormous size and whom I’ll refer to as Big Dog. Big Dog has since left us and crossed the rainbow bridge some four years ago, leaving only me for Little Dog to boss around. (She sighs. L.D. not me.)

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Little Dog is of French ancestry and, therefore, expects a daily trip to a sidewalk café for the finest coffee and doggie biscuits. She may be only 12 pounds, but she knows what she likes and she prefers to wear her hair in the bichon fashion as she thinks Poodle is a tad bit overdone.

What's brewing?

Espresso, of course. Little Dog would only sigh and roll her eyes at any other kind of coffee. She is very particular and believes the world should run exactly as she demands.

Any treats for you or Little Dog on this occasion?

Since I am gluten free due to Celiac, and Little Dog is gluten free by association, we dine on eggs with black truffles recipe, or brouillade de truffes.

How did your dog get her name? Any nicknames?

Little Dog’s nickname of “Boo Boo” came about when she was little and had a few accidents-at first it was “Poo-Poo” because she is a bichon-poo, but she refused to answer to that name. And so “Boo Boo” was born. (Little Dog appreciates her fans, but asks that I not reveal her actual name as the paparazzi would never leave her alone otherwise.)

How were you and Little Dog united?

Ah, you see I believe in rescue – to which Little Dog will tell you I did rescue her…from the pet store. I went in looking for a new leash for Big Dog and walked by the puppies. Little Dog took one look at me and said. “Hello, Mommy. What took you so long?” And then went straight to the back to be let out even before I could call the attendant. Then when she was brought out to the puppy meet and greet room, Little Dog reached for me, put her paws on my cheeks and kissed me in a proper French way. Everyone in the store melted. She has been with me ever since.

Are there any dogs in your fiction that are inspired by your dogs?

But, of course. In All Fudged Up you meet Mal, the bichon-poo puppy who is a natural pick pocket and clever little girl. Then in Book Two of the Baker’s Treat series, Murder Gone A-rye, we meet a not-so-little dog, Aubry, who happens to be a Great Pyrenees.

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

Little Dog is helpful with my writing, unless it is dinner time, walk time or treat time. The she jumps into my face and gives kisses. If that doesn’t work she pushes my hands off the keyboard to ensure I pet her and check the time. Her ruthless and patient pursuit of her goals has inspired me to meet mine.

Who are Little Dog's best pet-pals?

There was Big Dog, whom she bamboozled into doing whatever she wanted. Now she likes to meet her friends on walks –The Apricot Bichon-poo with the same first name whom she likes to chit chat with. Riley and his brother who she likes to flirt with and her sister’s puppy Hank, and the silly hound named Henry who lives with Little Dog’s Daddy.

Where is your dog's favorite outdoor destination?

Little Dog loves to take the jogging path through the preserve. There are so many rabbits to sneak up on and poke with her nose.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Little Dog loves her two Lambchop dolls--one nearly her size and one baby size. She also loves to play fetch with squeaky toys and pick up her leash and walk herself.

Cat, postman, rabbit...?

Be wary, wary, quiet...I’m hunting wabbits…

What is Little Dog's best quality?

Her sure and certain knowledge that she will get what she wants.

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

That I pet her far more than I pet the laptop. In fact I should just put that metal varmint away and only use my fingers to pet her and scratch her back.

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

Kate Hudson or Katey Sagal.

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

That’s a really hard question. She’s pretty expressive so it’s rare everyone in the room doesn’t know what she is thinking. I could ask her why she loves to wear her mailman costume to get the mail, but then she would say that was obvious and I’m a very poor question asker.

Perhaps the best question would be: What is the one thing she wants me to know that she’s never been able to get me to understand?

I suspect the answer would be “There isn’t anyone in the world who loves you more than me.”

Visit Nancy J. Parra's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue