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

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