Monday, September 29, 2014

Dori Hillestad Butler & Mouse

Who is in the photo at right?

The cute one is Mouse. He’s a 102-pound golden retriever mix.

I’m Dori Hillestad Butler and I’m a children’s book author.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Launching my new children’s book series, The Haunted Library.

What's brewing?

A perfect cup of coffee. Black. My husband orders green coffee beans from all over the world and then he roasts them in an old bread machine with a heat gun and I’m not even sure what else [photo left]. He knows just how many days to let each variety of bean sit once it’s been roasted. Then he measures just the right amount of beans, heats the water to just the right temperature, and uses a handheld aeropress coffee maker to make me that perfect cup of coffee. Today’s roast is an Ethiopian Sidamo.

Any treats for you or Mouse on this occasion?

A liver treat for Mouse and a chocolate glazed donut for me. I love chocolate glazed donuts, but they’re not very good for you, so I don’t have them very often. Not nearly as often as Mouse gets liver treats.

How were you and Mouse united?

I wanted to get involved in the R.E.A.D. program, so I searched area animal shelters and rescue groups for a dog I felt I could train to be a therapy dog. The other dog I had at that time was old and she wasn’t too crazy about people outside the family. I fell in love with Mouse’s picture online. The shelter that had him brought him for a visit before we could adopt him. That was step 1 in their adoption process—they wanted to meet all the people and pets who already lived in the home and see how well the potential adoptee fit in. I have to admit that when he arrived, he was a little bigger than we were expecting. The online description said he was 65 pounds. He was actually 87 pounds and he was underweight! Of course, I didn’t know that when I first met him. I just knew he was big. Could I really handle such a big dog? I took him for a walk to find out. He pulled a bit, but I decided I could handle him. He got along well with our other dog and cat. He was clearly smart. He loved people (the most necessary trait for a therapy dog). He was food motivated and eager to please (i.e. highly trainable!). He caught treats in his mouth from halfway across the room (i.e. this was going to be a fun dog!). And he had the most beautiful brown eyes. I was sold on the dog and the shelter was sold on us! The adoption went through.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I have to blame my older son for that. The shelter said his name was Mowgli, but that was too close to our other dog’s name (Molly). I was thinking I’d call him Shadow, but my son is a fan of the Dresden books. Harry Dresden has a big gray dog named Mouse. My son liked the irony of a huge dog named Mouse. And well…I guess I did, too. It worked well when we became a registered therapy dog team. Having a 102 pound dog named Mouse is an instant conversation starter.

Does Mouse do more to help or hinder your writing?

Definitely helps. He keeps me company while I write. He also lies on my feet and keeps them warm. You can’t write when you have cold feet.

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

Mouse inspired my Buddy Files series. Many of the other dogs mentioned in that series are dogs I know. There’s also a scene involving a runaway dog and a bean field in my middle grade novel, Yes, I Know the Monkey Man, which I lifted right out of my own childhood.

Who is Mouse's best pet-pal?

Well…we just moved to Seattle from Iowa City, Iowa. This is Molly, the Weimaraner [photo left].

Molly is absolutely the coolest dog Mouse has met since we got here. She has introduced him to sunglasses and convertibles.

Back in Iowa, Juno was probably his best dog friend. Juno is an Australian Shepherd/Blue heeler mix. She and Mouse used to walk together, go to the dog park together, even go to the pool together the day before the city drained the pool. When we moved, Juno made this going away video for Mouse. Here’s a picture of Mouse watching Juno’s video [photo below right].

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel. Mouse likes cats. And he likes people (whether they’re delivering the mail or not). But he loves squirrels. And ducks. If you’d put duck in the list, I probably would’ve picked duck over squirrel.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky toy! Nothing makes Mouse happier than to receive a brand new squeaky toy. As soon as it’s given to him, he runs away with it so he can check it out in private. After he’s found all the squeakers on it, he’ll bring it back and allow you to play with it with him.

What is Mouse's best quality?

The fact that he loves everyone. In fact, that’s what his shelter write-up said: “he never met anyone, two or four-footed, that he didn’t love.” It’s why I adopted him in the first place.

If Mouse could change one thing about Washingtonians, what would it be?

Mouse loves Washington. The milder climate suits him much better than the Iowa weather extremes. And we live in a community where it’s okay to take your dog into the coffee shop or the hardware store. He likes that, too! So I’m not sure he’d change much about Washingtonians in general. But if he could change the rules at the townhouse community where we live, he would do it. Dogs are allowed here, but you’re not supposed to let your dog relieve himself on the grass out front. You have to walk your dog away from the property. He doesn’t mind the walk, even in the rain. But he doesn’t understand why he can’t pee on his own yard. He doesn’t quite get that the grass out front isn't actually his yard.

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

What are you thinking? That’s one question, but I could ask it over and over, right?

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

I would’ve said Robin Williams, but I guess that ship has sailed. I’m not sure who else could capture the voice I hear inside my head when I imagine Mouse speaking. Maybe Eddie Murphy.

Visit Dori Hillestad Butler's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Haunted Library.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. awww! i LOVE the idea of a 102 lb dog named mouse!

  2. Oh, Mouse, it looks like you are missing Juno so much! I kind of know how you feel. I missed my Irish sister, Susie, so much after she went to some place called Rainbow Bridge. I watched videos of her that mommy and daddy recorded all the time. I am glad you have a new friend in Seattle though... Sometimes being an only pup gets a bit boring.

  3. What a cool dude! My dog, Norman, is a former shelter pup, now therapy dog too!