Thursday, May 29, 2014

Anthony Bidulka & Kona and Magic

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Anthony Bidulka and I’m the author of two series, a long-running mystery series featuring detective Russell Quant, and a new suspense series featuring Disaster Recovery Agent Adam Saint. Fifteen years ago I left a long career as a CPA to write full time and spend more time with my dogs. Today I’m with my two labradoodles. Kona is the blond, five years old, and Magic is her four-year-old half-sister.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

One of our favourite things to do on the weekend, is to go for a long walk around the border of our property, with something great to drink for me, and lots of exciting things to sniff for Kona and Magic.

What's brewing?

Starbucks Dark Roast, with just a splash of heated skim milk.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Just the fresh air and the wind in our faces.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

We’d gone a few years without dogs after we lost our first girls, Mocha and Bali, within a couple months of each other. They were such great dogs, could never be replaced, and we wondered if we were done as dog owners. Plus, we travel a lot and didn’t see that changing. Of course, a house used to the kinetic, loving, exuberant, cozy energy of dogs, simply radiates a certain barrenness without them.

Turns out, it was travel that got us thinking about it again. We remembered how we named Bali after our first trip to Indonesia. And it was while we were walking the beach in one of our favourite getaway spots in Hawaii, that we started chatting about what we would name a new dog if we happened to get one. Kona came to mind. It was a nice blend of the names of our first pair, Mocha (like Kona, another coffee flavor) and Bali (named after a resort we loved, whereas Kona is the name of a popular Hawaiian district). Slippery slope as they say. Once we had a name the actual dog soon followed.

Magic came to us a year later. We actually made a list of dog names we liked. Molly was the top. But when we finally met Kona’s sister, her demeanor and black coloring just shouted out Magic. We often call her Magical, because of her sweet spirit.

How were you and your dogs united?

Both dogs were bred by the same woman, Margaret, who lives in a city several hours away. We’d heard good things about her and her dogs raising practices, but with our busy schedules we were having a hard time finding time to see her puppies when they were ready. Understanding our interest, she told us that she just happened to be delivering a puppy to another owner nearby, and she would be willing to drop off the puppy we were interested in (we’d only seen photos) to spend the day with us. As it happened, I was in California on a book tour, so only my husband was home to share the time with the pup. Of course, the puppy never went back with Margaret, and was firmly ensconced in our home by the time I got back.

I think Margaret knew exactly what she was doing, because a year later, when we were considering a companion for Kona and called her, she told us the same story: she just happened to be delivering a puppy to another owner nearby, and she would be willing to drop off the puppy we were interested in to spend the day with us. Strangely enough, this time it was my husband who was out of town, and by the time he returned from his business trip, Kona’s sister Magic was busily casting her spell over our (her) home.

How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?

In four very important ways. First: I prefer solitude and complete quiet when I am in serious writing mode. No radio, no chatter in the background. Dogs fit perfectly into that kind of scenario. They are always present, but quiet, often doing nothing more than having a snooze on the couch in front of the desk where I write. But they lend a certain coziness and familiarity and groundedness that I associate with a good writing day.

Second: When things aren’t flowing quite right, or something needs a bit of a think-over, there is nothing better than to take a walk around the grounds, have a quick game of fetch in the back yard, or a brisk jaunt around the neighbourhood, to clear the head and get some new thoughts brewing. I don’t know how many times I’ve been off with the dogs and the perfect idea or heretofore stubborn solution suddenly springs to mind.

Third: In pretty much all of my books, especially the Russell Quant series, I also have dog characters. They don’t usually have too big a role, and they don’t talk or solve crimes or anything like that, but they do the same thing they do for me - create an atmosphere and lend a special flavor of reality to fiction, especially if you write them well. It doesn’t take much, just a certain wag of tail or sniff of nose to communicate a great deal. And how a character interacts with animals can speak volumes about that character. Having the pets I’d had in my life has been invaluable in helping me do that, if for no other reason than to teach me that dogs, and other animals, are just as unique and quirky as the rest of us. One dimensional characterizations don’t work for humans and they don’t work for animals.

Four: Writing can be a butt-numbing endeavor. It can be easy to allow your inner world take over in favor of the outer, including physical exercise. Kona and Magic are generally well-behaved, and I know they say dogs can’t tell time, but these two definitely know if I’m late for our regularly scheduled walks and make me aware of it. They need it, and I do too.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

Oddly enough, the two dogs in the Russell Quant books are Standard Schnauzers. I’ve never owned Schnauzers, but I’ve met quite a few and always liked them. And one in particular, a little character named Alex, was definitely the inspirational starting point for my literary creations of Barbra and Brutus. The dogs I write about in the Adam Saint books are rough amalgamations of the dogs we had when I was growing up on the farm.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Living where we do, on an acreage outside a city, Kona and Magic don’t get to see a postman. We have no squirrels. But there is a neighbor cat who does make regular appearances in the night and who loves to drive Kona mad by posing on the other side of a glass door knowing full well how safe she is. Kona has been known to go after the odd gopher, rabbit, and just the other day she gave her best at chasing down a low flying pair of geese. Magic is little more restrained and seems to have the opinion: if it can’t pet me, why go after it?

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Definitely each other. They had their alpha-dog fight-to-near-death competition in their first six months together (Kona won quite handily), and ever since are best pals. When we travel, Kona and Magic move in with a mother-daughter team who board a few special dogs (taken in only after an interview process!), and I think Kona may use these opportunities to have quiet affairs with a young fellow named Miguel.

What is each dog's best quality?

Kona has an independence which is admirable. Generally all four of us tend to hang out a lot when we’re all at home. But if we’re outside and she’s hot, she’ll simply disappear and we’ll find her on the other side of the yard in a hidden shade area, whereas Magic just sweats it out just to be near us. If it’s late and she’s tired, Kona will simply totter off to the bedroom without a backwards glance. Yet, she still manages to balance this independence and confidence with just enough affection and silliness and kindness to make her endearing.

Most definitely Magic’s best quality is how sweet she is. She truly loves nothing better than to be next to you, or within sight of you, and if your hand happens to be rubbing her belly or scratching an ear, all the better. She’s the one who will come up to you, plop down on her haunches, and stare up adoringly into your face, just because.

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

For Magic, they would come over more often and pet her, rub her belly, scratch her nose, bring treats. For Kona, the vet and groomer would move far far far away from Saskatoon and never be heard from again. For both of them, as much as they seem to enjoy visiting the sitters when we’re away, I think they’d much prefer it if we never left home, ever, not even for a second.

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

Kona: Julia Roberts. Magic: Drew Barrymore.

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

Do you really—as the vet and dog professionals suggest—prefer the same, albeit healthy, round, brown, dry kibble every day?

Visit Anthony Bidulka's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lou Allin & Zia, Zodie, and Friday

Who is in the photo at right?

Shogun (gone to Rainbow Bridge) and Zia (now three) surround Friday, the blind mini-poodle. The other pic [below left] for your curiosity is Nikon, the GSD, and His Girl Friday on our lake in N Ontario. I'm Lou Allin, a retired college English teacher.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Friday insists on shepherding her border-collie sisters Zia and Zodie for a trek to Tugwell Creek, near where we live on Vancouver Island. Fresh, cold water from the mountains is her favourite libation. The silly border collies chase sticks while she kicks back pawing gravel and I enjoy a travel mug of our locally roasted coffee from The Stick in Sooke. It's named after our last postal code VOSINO, which has now been changed to V9Z 0K6, which doesn't work as well.

What's brewing?

See above.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

The collies are chowhounds and will eat anything, polishing off plain chow after their icy swim. Friday agrees that outdoors "everything tastes great," so she gets a few kibbles, too. As for me, how about some cranberry-water buffalo sticks? Somehow I don't think they are made here in Canada's Caribbean.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

The late Shogun was a BC rescue named Hogan, later changed to Logan. When we got him, his huge bark gave him the commanding name of Shogun, and he lived up to it, using his Karelian bear-dog heritage (think border collie with short hair and a flowing plumed tail curved over the back to be vampirish in enveloping other dogs. "Do you drink....pond water?") He chased off many bears for us. Zia's name came from New Mexico and the zia four-corners sign, a state we have visited many times hunting for Anazazi-Fremont ruins. Zodie comes from Zodiac and follows the Z idea. Of course they are Zo and Zee and ZeeBean in the usual nicknames. Friday got her name because she was "his girl Friday" for a German shepherd Nikon, also gone to Rainbow. He was her mighty protector, not that she needed much protecting, with her speed and agility.

How were you and your dogs united?

Friday came from a breeder in Ontario. Her original name was Chile Pepper, which she's lived up to, a fierce little lion in bark and posture. Zia came from Washington State and Zodie from middle Oregon. So we celebrate both holidays, July 1 and 4th.

How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?

My dogs love everything I write. Of course! They want to be in all the books and even have one to themselves, preferably with their name, like Friday's in Bush Poodles are Murder. She insists that the pup in that book was nothing like her because it was spoiled, and its silly name was Strudel, because its owner said it was "cute enough to eat." Friday replies, "Spare me."

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

All the dogs in my book come from my own animals and act like them. They are integral parts of each book and not mere window dressing. Don't ask me about kids, though.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

We are our own little pack out here in the boonies and walk mostly where there are no other dogs, like clear cuts and the bush. The border collies are set up to "protect" Friday.

What is each dog's best quality?

Friday= intelligence. She is blind but you'd never know it. Problem solving has always been her strength. She finds her way up and down and around our two-storey house. Outside, with a "pup pup" from me, she navigates over logs.

[photo left -- Shogun]

Zia=seriousness, a reluctant mother hen.

Zodie=comedy and a true concern for her blind sister.

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

I'd like to run agility with the border collies like my partner does, but I am too lazy and have my writing instead. It takes years and years to learn the tricks of the agility trade. Then you need your own place, preferably a covered barn to run them all winter. We rent a farm field down the street.

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

I'm a classic film buff, so your readers may not recognize two of these names.

Friday [photo right] would be Gloria Swanson, as in "I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille."

Zia would be Deborah Kerr, the moral compass in Night of the Iguana.

For the youngsters under thirty, Zodie would be Gwen Stefani, "All the girls stomp your feet like this!" Life of the party and up for anything.

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

Why won't you use the expensive dog beds we bought for you?

Visit Lou Allin's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Molly Caro May & Bru

Who is in the photo at right?

Here we are doing what we do best together—leaping off hay bales on our land in Montana, having fun. I’m Molly Caro May and I teach place-based writing workshop around the country. My debut memoir The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place also hit bookstores in March 2014. This is Bru. He’s a boy, or “big man” as I call him; he’s almost six; he’s a mutt: Great Dane, Mastiff, Hound, we think.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

There is a hot beverage brewing in the background here. It’s about 100 yards away in our yurt. No need for a formal occasion because we are together most of the time.

What's brewing?

I don’t do coffee. Never have liked the taste. So we are drinking a ginger tea here. Raw ginger sliced. Hot water poured over it. Bru isn’t on board with ginger yet. It makes him peel his lips back.

Any treats for you or Bru on this occasion?

He does appreciate the whites of a soft-boiled egg.

How were you and Bru united?

I found Bru at the Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter. Didn’t intend to come home with a dog. But he was there, stretching in this small cage. All the other dogs were hyper. He gave me one loud deep bark and then eye-d me. I felt like we were having a conversation and I knew he needed a place to run. We lived on 107 acres. He seemed to deserve that sort of vastness. It took me one night to convince my husband that this was our dog. We had wanted to wait another six months or so, but sometimes timing isn’t a choice.

[photo left: May and Bru inside the yurt]

How did Bru get his name? Any aliases?

He was 1 ½ when we got him. He came with the name Bruno and we felt it would be strange to change his location and name all at once. I couldn’t deal with Bruno—reminded me of an Italian Mafioso. So, we shortened it to Bru. My husband jokes that his name is Brutus. But my secret name for him is Brujo, Spanish for wizard.

Does Bru do more to help or hinder your writing?

He is critical. He sits by me and gives the eye. The eye means: What exactly are you doing sitting down in front of that computer? Let’s go play. So I go play and when I’m out playing I have 5,468 ideas for whatever I was writing and I come back energized and more aware of everything.

Does Bru--or any other dog--appear in your new book?

Bru is one of the main characters. People at book signings ask me about him.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Try deer. If he sees a group of deer and they bolt, especially if it’s spring and the smells are rising up from melting snow, he’s gone. He’ll be gone for hours. Once two women with a horse trailer picked him up; then a man found him crossing a busy road near Kmart in town a month later. We’ve found him hanging around in the ditch, so thrilled by his adventure he ignores our calls. He comes back with snags from barbed wire fences. We tried a shock collar once, but I could never bring myself to do it. Now that we have a daughter, he’s slowed down somehow. He won’t run as long or as far. We think he wants to stick around more, or feels some level of responsibility for her.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

None of the above. He has no retriever in him. He likes watching a stick fly in the air but once he runs to it, he doesn’t know what to do with it. Here again, deer antler. He’ll chew on one of those all day long. He also loves to hunt bugs.

Who is Bru's best pet-pal?

Watson (male) and Dolce (male) and Chui (female). Separate families. They have all stayed with us and Bru gets cozy, though he seems to prefer male dogs to female dogs. Loves it.

What is Bru's best quality?

His combo of exuberance and mellowness.

If Bru could change one thing about Montanans, what would it be?

He would probably say, “Please don’t be so territorial. Please let me run all over your land, even if you have sheep or cattle.” We do worry that he’ll end up on the wrong person’s land and get shot for trespassing. That seems to happen.

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

This one is emotional for me. I was sick for almost all 10 months of my pregnancy. Bru watched me and spent a lot of time with me then. I think it scared him. We no longer went on long walks together. I was grouchy. I threw up a lot. Right before I gave birth, he had a weird autoimmune flare up and we thought we might lose him—this from a dog who had never been ill. Six months after giving birth, I was diagnosed with postpartum hypothyroidism. The exact same day, he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism too. We are both on thyroid meds for now. I hold his snout near my nose all the time and whisper, “You don’t have to take this on.” So it’s not so much a question but more of a releasing. I want him to know that he doesn’t have to mimic me. I’ve heard of how many dogs take on their owner’s illness. This is the thing about dogs. They are such feelers, such empathizers. I really believe that. I’d like Bru to be free of that.

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

Ahhh, this will take me 5 hours to figure out. I’m not good with movie star knowledge. But I could say someone with a deep voice who is playful and wise as hell.

Visit Molly Caro May's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Map of Enough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 19, 2014

Alan Beechey & Leila

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Leila, a female mutt who’s nearly seven, and me. I’m Alan Beechey and I’m the author of a murder mystery series featuring Oliver Swithin, an amateur detective who writes children’s books. (My third title, This Private Plot, is out this month.) An early DNA test showed that Leila has bits of Japanese Akita, Chow, and Shar-Pei, three breeds that a recent National Geographic said were still largely wolf. She certainly has the Akita Inu’s pink nose. I also suspect cat genes.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m addicted to both coffee and canines, so just waking up is a good enough reason.

What’s brewing?

Straight illy brand ground roast, in a Mr. Coffee maker, strong setting. Plus half-and-half.

How did Leila get her name? Any nicknames?

My oldest son had a classmate call Leila at his nursery school, and he once said that he’d like to use the name for a pet. I think it was meant as a compliment. And well-deserved. When the real Leila was about four, it was discovered that she had serious hearing difficulties, which hadn’t been detected earlier because she’d simply managed to work around them. So for courage and resourcefulness, a worthy namesake. (If Leila had been a male, she’d have been Bertie, after P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster.)

Leila’s full name is now up to The Divine Leila Gretel Kibbles Indiana Bones Sherlock Bones Beechey, Mistress of All Squirrels. (Did I mention I have three boys?) Incidentally, Leila means “night” in Arabic, which is kind of perverse for a white dog.

How were you and Leila united?

She was one of a batch of unwanted puppies rescued from North Carolina by Pet Rescue of Larchmont, New York. We’ve had her since she was four months old.

Are there any Leila-inspired dogs in your new novel?

No, This Private Plot only has a brief appearance by a family cat and the odd sheep. But my first book An Embarrassment of Corpses featured a black cat that was based a former girlfriend’s cat called Smudge, only I renamed him Satan (entirely appropriately). My second book, Murdering Ministers, includes a harrier called Murray in one scene. This was a way of thanking the real Murray’s owner, who was the poison expert I’d consulted on the administration of strychnine.

Does Leila do more to help or hinder your writing?

Leila is the perfect beast for a writer: her morning walks give me time to think and plan, and then she withdraws to a modest distance while I’m at the desk. My children, on the other hand...

Where is Leila’s favorite outdoor destination?

I live in Rye, New York, which is on the Long Island Sound, and during the long winter months, at least one of our beaches is open for dog-walking. There’s nothing Leila likes better than chasing a tennis ball along the sand until she gets bored with fetching, paddles into the sea, and drops it just of out of my reach. Incidentally, a wallow in the ocean – although she’s not a swimmer – is a feature of every beach trip, even in sub-freezing conditions. But try to put her in a nice warm bath...

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Tennis ball, all her life. Sock. Anything made of Nylabone.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel. Her frequent attempts to pursue a squirrel up a tree trunk are what make us suspect the cat genes. That and her habit of trying to bury her number twos.

What is Leila’s best quality?

Well, of course, she’s smart, she’s affectionate, she’s beautiful. She is boisterous but not aggressive. But although she’s only a fraction Akita, she exhibits a lot of Akita traits, which includes a certain aloofness with other dogs and with people. She’s polite and curious and happy to romp for a while with a puppy on the beach or join a sprint in the park, but then she slips away, preferring her own company. Her philosophy of socializing boils down to “do no harm, take no crap.” I think if more humans started out with this as a basic tenet, the world would be a better place.

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

When I was training Leila as a puppy, it was hard at first to find a tone that was firm without being fierce. I finally evolved a voice that implied I was morally scandalized by any disobedience, like the prim headmistress at an academy for young ladies. So my scolding voice tends to be that of the magnificent British character actress Joyce Grenfell, or occasionally Dame Maggie Smith at her most vinegary. (“What were you thinking, young lady?”) As for Leila, a thoroughly American dog? Oh, Sarah Vowell, who did Violet in The Incredibles.

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

Why are you talking like Sarah Vowell?

Visit Alan Beechey's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: This Private Plot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Amanda Stern & Busy

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Amanda Stern. I’m an author, and the founder/curator and host of the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series in NYC. My dog is Busy Stern, a rescue whose breed and age hasn’t been confirmed, but the best guesses find her to be around two years old (maybe a bit less), and a mix of Poodle, Havanese and possibly Spaniel.

To my right is Jenny, who lives directly across the street from me. She’s holding her dog Rita, who is not just Busy’s best friend, but her girlfriend. Possibly wife.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning I take Busy to the park at around 8am where we see our dog park friends, and then at around 9am, we all head over to Bittersweet, our local coffee shop for coffee and dog treats. This is the only real routine I have.

[photo left: Busy on the way to the park]

What's brewing?

I switch up my drinks, but my mainstay is the Fancy Amanda™, which is an iced red eye with steamed soymilk. Hot and cold together is the secret to happiness. Other times I have an iced soy latte (I’m lactose intolerant, hence all the soy), but they are too delicious and I drink them too fast. Bittersweet uses La Colombe Torrefaction Nizza for my coffee deliciousness.

Any treats for you or Busy on this occasion?

My coffee shop (Bittersweet, in Fort Greene) sells homemade dog treats. They’re the size of golf balls and the dogs are insane for them. Some dogs forgo chewing them altogether swallowing them whole in the hopes another one might fly their way.

How did Busy get her name? Any nicknames?

I have a weird name obsession (and have named ten babies) so I had a list of names all ready, and Busy was on the list, but I decided to feel her out a bit before choosing a name for her. On our walk from the shelter to Petco she was very curious about everything and everyone, licking people’s legs as we passed, peering into low-slung purses and as one woman passed us she looked down and said, “Oh, so cute, and so busy!” And that’s when Busy officially became her name.

[photo right: only a few of the dog park friends]

I have an exorbitant amount of nicknames for her. There are the obvious ones like sweetie, peanut, baby and sugar pie, but my specialty nicknames for her include: buggy (& bug/s), loves (and lovey), gugs, peanut, little face, rabbit, funny, the business, little bee, the girl, bell and belly.

How were you and Busy united?

I’d been wanting a dog for a long time, but I wouldn’t let myself get one until I finished a draft of my novel. I knew it’d be a long while, so instead of being rewarded with an actual dog, I went on Petfinder every night and scoured. As I closed in on my draft, I came across a dog I fell totally in love with and applied for him, but he was too big and too much of a puppy for me to truly handle and so I had to keep looking. The night before I finished my novel I was on Petfinder and I refreshed and there was Busy (then, Penny) and I thought she was cute as hell, but maybe too little and I was still sad about not being able to get the other dog I wanted, but I applied for Busy anyway, and it turned out I was the first of 23 applicants and so I got her. It was not love at first sight. I was nervous and thought she was too small and I wasn’t convinced but I took her anyway, and at around the two week mark I fell madly in love with her and not a day passes without me realizing how lucky I am to have her. I adopted her from Social Tees Rescue in the East Village.

Does Busy do more to help or hinder your writing?

I allow her to hinder it because I want to play with her, but she really is quite easy-going and leaves me alone when I’m working. She will however, let me know when she thinks I’m done working. She does this by standing on my laptop, usually while I’m using it.

Who are Busy's best pet-pals?

Busy has a whole community of dog friends and human friends. Her best pal (and wife) is Rita, a Brussels Griffon who lives directly across the street. She also loves Merle, Bajji, Gretl, Woodrow and Lupe, and Baxter who lives on our block. She has a real thing for kids and babies so there’s a group of children on our block she adores and loves to be belly-rubbed by [photo left].

Where is Busy's favorite outdoor destination?

Honestly? The pharmacy. A dog after my own medicated heart. (My heart is not technically medicated). They are so sweet and kind to her there, she just eats it up. She also loves going to other people’s houses and she loves the country. That said, she’s become quite the Brooklyn stoop sitter.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

All of the above in this order: Squeeky toy (she removes the facial features of any animal toy, stitch by careful stitch. Then she disembowels the actual squeaker, and then finally, the stuffing). She loves sticks and will fetch any branchy thing you toss. She’ll also race after balls, but stops halfway to do other important work.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrels and pigeons, but mainly squirrels.

What is Busy's best quality?

Busy is the most patient being on this earth. She entertains herself when she sees I’m not done working, or not nearly as ready to go out as she’d like me to be. When we do go out, I almost always forget things and have to rush back upstairs and into the apartment and she just calmly sits and waits while I go retrieve whatever it is I’ve forgotten. She’s very self-reliant, weirdly grounded and preternaturally calm, which are all qualities I aspire to possess.

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

I can be a little droppy and forgetful and she doesn’t like when things accidentally fall out of my hands and crash to the ground, or when I have to constantly race back into the apartment for something. So she’d change how in my own head I can get.

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

Lili Taylor, without a doubt.

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

Do you understand that I am your forever mama, and this is your forever home?

Visit Amanda Stern's website and follow her on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 12, 2014

Laura Hobgood-Oster & Milo, Codi and Cooper

Who is in the photo at right?

In the photo I'm with Milo - a wonderful rescue dog. I'm Laura Hobgood-Oster. I teach religion and environmental studies at Southwestern University, but am also very involved with dog rescue. The dog here is about 7 years old, he was surrendered to the county shelter close to the college where I work and had some serious health issues. I'm happy to say that Milo is on the road to recovery! We have him on thyroid medication and have had a large tumor removed. He's lost 30 pounds and is a happy boy - and he's been adopted!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with my dogs Codi and Cooper every morning at home - but on the special occasions when I take them to work with me we stop at Cianfrani's Coffee Shop in Georgetown to get our second cup of coffee. It's a great little, local place that roasts coffee right in the back of the store. Cooper loves people, so he has a great time when we sit in front of the coffee shop since he gets to visit with everyone who passes by.

What's brewing?

Black coffee - straight up! One of the Cianfrani specials - Antiquity French Roast.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Probably not terribly healthy for them, but I did get a bagel and cream cheese - they got half of it of course.

How did Codi and Cooper get their names? Any aliases?

Codi and Cooper have lots of aliases! Codi is frequently called "Bean" (appropriate for a girl who is a coffee buddy of mine) and Cooper is also known as "Deuce" (little deuce coupe). Jack, my husband, came up with both of the names - not sure why he went with "C" names for them. Codi had been named "Tundra" at the shelter and Cooper was "Paddington" - neither of those stuck.

How were you and Codi and Cooper united?

Both are shelter dogs. Codi came from the Humane Society in Austin, Texas - we adopted her shortly after our old border collie (who lived until he was 16) died. Cooper came from the city shelter in Georgetown where I was volunteering at the time. He had been dumped outside one of the local social service agencies and animal control brought him in. The first time I saw him I knew he was my dog.

How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?

Well, all of my writing these days is about dogs - the book I just finished is a history of dogs and humans. So all of the dogs around me inspire me in the writing efforts. Cooper, though, does make it a little bit of a challenge. If I'm on the sofa with my laptop, he gets right next to me and puts his big old paws right on the keyboard - I've lost a few pages of writing because of this nice little habit of his!

Please tell us about your new book.

A Dog's History of the World tells the 30,000 year story of humans and dogs - how we have impacted each other, changed each other, helped each other. Frequently this is a touching story - dogs have been healers and have accompanied us into the afterlife (in myths and in real burials). Other times it's not as nice of a story, humans have used dogs to create empires and fight wars. But I contend that we would be a very different species if we hadn't hooked up with dogs all of those millennia ago.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
Codi and Cooper are best pals with each other. They play together and cuddle up next to each other all the time. Sometimes Cooper drives Codi crazy because he's younger and is sort of a goofball. But overall they adore each other. Neither is terribly fond of cats unfortunately.

Where is Codi and Cooper's favorite outdoor destination?

There are a couple of great parks in the Georgetown and Austin areas that they both love - San Gabriel Park in Georgetown and Emma Long Park in Austin. Both have wonderful trails and cool water. And San Gabriel Park is full of squirrels - very exciting.

What is each dog's best quality?

Cooper is a clown, he makes me laugh all the time just through his silly antics. Codi is a lovebug, she's a sweet cuddler.

If Codi and Cooper could change one thing about Texans, what would it be?

It gets wickedly hot here in the summer, and those nasty fire ants and scorpions. But both of them have learned to alert us to scorpions in the house - Codi will make a funny growl-bark sound that is unique to spotting a scorpion. She taught Cooper how to do this too.

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

Cooper, has to be Sylvester Stallone in his Rocky voice. Codi would be Meryl Streep in her August Osage County role.

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

A very general question I think - "what makes you the happiest?" I think we assume (or I do) that my dogs are happy, but it would be great to find out.

Learn more about Laura Hobgood-Oster's books: Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition, The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals, and A Dog's History of the World: Canines and Human Domestication.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Laura Kenyon & Shadow

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Laura Kenyon, and this big guy (well, little in this picture because it’s one of our first!) is my buddy, Shadow. I’m a blogger, journalist, and author of Desperately Ever After, which puts a Sex and the City spin on our favorite fairy tales. Shadow is a silver (yes, silver!) Labrador retriever who just turned four but thinks he’s still a puppy.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We’re celebrating the fact that I finally sent the manuscript for my next book, Damsels in Distress, off to my agent. For me, that means I can come out of my hole. For him, that means a less stressed mom, more spur-of-the-moment walks, and lots of Frisbees.

What's brewing?

Allegro Organic Breakfast Blend in the Keurig

Any treats for you or Shadow on this occasion?

I’ve got my typical yogurt and granola with bananas, and Shadow always gets a few chunks of my banana. Somehow, he knows the moment I touch one and comes racing in—even if he’s on a different floor of the house!

How were you and Shadow united?

I spent 27 years longing for a dog, but my parents just weren’t into it. My husband, on the other hand, considered his yellow Lab a second brother. So it was always in the cards for us. The day we went to pick out Shadow (ten months after our wedding, so I didn’t waste any time!) just might have been the happiest day of my life! Sitting on the floor with a whole bunch of seven-week-old puppies? Perfection. Shadow was the one who hung out with us the longest. I think he was in love with my shoelaces. It was meant to be.

How did Shadow get his name? Any aliases?

Shadow’s color was just so unique, we had to honor it. I toyed with the name Blizzard for a while, because I thought of a blizzard as gray and foggy, but most people pictured white snow. And while he does have tons of energy like a blizzard, he is definitely my shadow around the house so it fits perfectly. As for nicknames: The Dooger, Shadowbear, Monster, Buddy, Buggy, Gremlin … my husband and I are always making things up for him!

Does Shadow do more to help or hinder your writing?

Hmm. While sometimes I think he’s deliberately trying to sabotage my writing … I’d have to say at the end of the day he helps it. I’ve written two full-length books so far, and he appears in both. But more importantly, when I’m stuck, that game-changing epiphany usually comes while I’m taking him for a walk or playing fetch in the back yard. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think writers often get so obsessed with the minutiae that they lock themselves away when really they should be getting out and clearing their heads. It’s hard, but Shadow helps me do that.

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

Absolutely! Shadow! In Desperately Ever After, the main character (Belle, as in Beauty and the Beast) adopts a dog who’s been cast aside just like her. His name just happens to be Beast … and he becomes instant family to her.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Shadow loves chasing squirrels, but he never barks at them. (They’re the same color, so he might think they’re long-lost brothers.) The postman gets an earful every single day, as does UPS. And cats … well, he has an especially berserk bark for cats. His hair stands up all along his back and the noise he makes is just awful. I’m pretty sure he believes they’re demons.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above, although squeaky toys get dissected in a matter of minutes, so they’re not allowed anymore! If we’re outside, he has to have a stick. And inside, it’s amazing watching him fit a bone, a ball, and a Kong in his mouth all at the same time. He’s talented like that.

Who is Shadow's best pet-pal?

My in-laws have a golden retriever, Artie, who was trained to work with autistic children but didn’t quite pass the program. As a result, he’s extremely obedient, well behaved, and reserved. In other words, Shadow is Dennis the Menace to Artie’s Mr. Wilson. But after four years, they’re starting to rub off on each other—for better or for worse!

What is Shadow's best quality?

He’s just a total goof, always wanting to play. He makes me smile even during those times when I think it’s not possible. That’s why I love him so darned much!

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

Shadow is so easygoing and carefree, while I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by things that don’t really matter. I’d love it if he could transfer some of that roll-off-your-shoulders attitude to me!

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

Why do you run away every time I wash a pan?

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

Steve Carell. His portrayal of the psychotic, hyper-active squirrel in Over the Hedge was spot-on.

Visit Laura Kenyon's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lisa Alber & Luna

[editor's note: R.I.P. Luna, who passed away since Lisa Alber submitted this guest post.]

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Lisa Alber, and I’m a debut novelist. My novel is called Kilmoon, and it’s the first in the County Clare Mystery series. Ever distractible, you may find me staring out windows, fooling around online, drinking red wine with my friends—or, of course, hanging out with Her Highness Luna, an 11-year-old King Charles Spaniel/Pekingese mix. Or maybe a Japanese Chin. I vote for the former though.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Kilmoon launched on March 18th. Woohoo! Luna’s been with me through most of its creation. Kilmoon is a mystery set in Ireland. In it, Californian Merrit Chase travels to County Clare to meet her long-lost father, the famous Matchmaker of Lisfenora. Her simple, if fraught, quest turns complicated when she’s pulled into a murder investigation and she discovers that her father's dark past is at the heart of the chaos. Murder, vengeance, betrayal, and family secrets—not the family reunion she was hoping for!

I’m celebrating my novel, but I’m also here to honor wee Luna, who has oral melanoma and won’t be with me much longer. I’ll miss her terribly. I’m grateful I’ve had the chance to steward her through the latter half of her life.

What's brewing?

Being from Portland, OR, I've got myself a double soy latte made from locally roasted Stumptown Coffee beans. Yum!

Any treats for you or Luna on this occasion?

Lately, I’ve been letting Luna drink a little soy milk too. She gets whatever she wants! Tonight I’ll be hand-feeding her tiny pieces of steak.

How did Luna get her name? Any nicknames?

Luna is a rescue dog, and she came to me with one eye. I love symbology, so I researched what the left eye means. In Egyptian mythology, the left eye is the Eye of Horus, which was often used to symbolize healing and protection, and was associated with the moon. Also, in western traditions, the left eye is considered a lunar trait. So, Luna, which is Spanish for moon.

Oh, I call her all kinds of things. On Facebook, she’s known as “Luna the One-Eyed Wonder Dog.” I call her “Luna Tuna” and “Mistress Moon” and “Loony Tunes” and “Sweet Pea” just to name a few endearments.

How were you and Luna united?

I used to write in a coffeehouse called “Kodi’s” with a shop dog named Kodi. I grew so attached to him that I'd take him for walks. Long story short, the shop closed, I missed Kodi, and one day I found myself browsing Just looking. A month later I was still “just looking” when I saw a photo of Queenie, as her foster mom called her. I fell in love. Luna had been a stray and had had a nasty run-in with a raccoon. She’s lucky to be alive in so many ways. OFOSA, the Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals, had rescued her from Animal Control. Poor thing had a infected eye and was going to be put down.

Are there any Luna-inspired dogs in your new novel?

Kilmoon doesn’t feature any dogs. However, my second novel in the series, tentatively titled Grey Man, does! In appearance about as opposite as you can get from Luna, a huge Dogue de Bordeaux named Bijou (French for “jewel”). She’s gotta a sweet Luna-like temperament though. In the novel, Bijou is instrumental in helping a traumatized, mute woman.

Does Luna do more to help or hinder your writing?
There’s a reason the foster mom called her “Queenie”—because she sits around doing nothing but be waited on! She’s a companion dog through and through. In fact, I call her “the Buddha of dogs” because she’s so chill and so patient. So, she’s a great comfort as she lies around watching me with her big brown eye.

Who is Luna's best pet-pal?

That would be Trio, my Siamese mix. Luna hides it well, but I know she likes Trio. And Trio looooves Luna. He makes no bones about it, rubbing up against her. His behavior changed when Luna fell ill. He sleeps close by, kneads to self-soothe, and has quit doing his running leaps over her.

Where is Luna's favorite outdoor destination?

I’d say her favorite outdoor destination is any sunny, quiet spot where she can sunbathe. (She’s like a cat that way.)

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

None of the above. She likes a nice pillow to climb on for naps or to bury treats under. I once saw her start to chase another dog’s squeaky toy. For about second. That said, she does have her feisty moments when she slaps her paws against the ground or dashes back and forth or butts her head into the bed covers.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

A squirrel could tap Luna on the nose, and she'd just blink and turn her head away. So, none of the above for this one too.

What is Luna's best quality?

Her sweet, Buddha-like temperament. She’s got an old soul.

If Luna could change one thing about Oregonians, what would it be?

She’d like to see a little less outdoorsy dishevelment and a little more refinement beside a roaring fire. Yes, Your Highness.

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

Something British and high-class and wise ... hmm ... Dame Judy Dench, I think.

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

How are you going to let me know when it’s your perfect time to go?

Visit Lisa Alber's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dandi Daley Mackall & Moxie and Munch

Who is in the photo at right?

I do know that the photo with me in it (and I’m Dandi Daley Mackall, author of more animal books that I can count) is a horse—my horse, Cheyenne. I have no pictures of me with my dogs because I’m always the one taking the pictures. Moxie is the smaller dog, and Munch is the big one, though the gals are from the same litter. They are supposed to be Shih-Tzus, but, come on, do they look fancy to you?

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning I get up while it’s still dark, and the dogs sit on my lap while I read and down a giant mug of French Vanilla coffee, which my daughter prepares the night before.

What's brewing?

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion? No treats, no way. If these two eat anything except their expensive special dogfood (Hmmm…so maybe they are fancy on the inside?), they puke. And puke. (Okay—on occasion, I slip them a cheerio.)

How did Moxie and Munch get their names? Any aliases?

Daughter Katy named both dogs, and we never know where she gets any of her ideas. But I’ve used both Moxie and Munch in books. In My Boyfriends' Dogs, which has recently been turned into a movie by Hallmark, a Shih-Tzu features prominently, though she goes by the name Shirley because the book’s subtitle is: The Tales of Adam and Eve and Shirley, 3 dogs from 3 boyfriends, and Shirley just seemed funnier to me.

How were you and your dogs united?

We had a real Shih-Tzu for 14 years. When she died, it took two dogs to fill the hole.

How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?

Our dogs do nothing. They used to not even bark, though they finally learned how. All day as I sit at the computer, Moxie and Munch sleep on my rug. I like that . . . until they start snoring. And I mean snoring.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

Besides the obvious one, My Boyfriends' Dogs, I probably have dogs in over half of my novels. My brand new Knopf/Random House novel, The Secrets of Tree Taylor, brings back my first dog, Midge the mutt. Mad Dog is the title of one my Starlight Animal Rescue novels, and though Winnie the Horse Gentler majors in horses, a secondary character named Barkley has a bunch of dogs and knows all kinds of trivia about our canine buddies.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

We have a bunch of outdoor and barn cats. I even have an I Can Read series about my kids’ favorite cat: Allyson J. Cat (aka Ali Cat). And the young adult novel Wild Cat is about a pure white cat who is blind.

Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?

My dogs are afraid of anything that squeaks. Munch is afraid of fires in our fireplace. Moxie fears the dishwasher. They’re also afraid of hair spray (to my hair, not theirs), running water, cooking.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Moxie and Munch are their own best pals, which is a great reason to have two dogs.

What is each dog's best quality?

Moxie is 9, but still bounces and acts like a puppy.

Munch is an old soul and always has been.

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

They would keep me in my reading chair all day so they could sit on my lap as I drink my coffee.

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

Munch would be an old Mae West, and Moxie a young comedic Marilyn Monroe.

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

What’s so scary about the dishwasher and a lovely fire in the fireplace?

Visit Dandi Daley Mackall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue