Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jane Isaac & Bollo

Who is in the photo at right?

Jane Isaac, UK based author of psychological crime thrillers, An Unfamiliar Murder and The Truth Will Out. And four-year-old Lab cross, Bollo, my fun-loving trusted companion.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have my morning brew with Bollo every morning before the rest of the household awakes. In the summertime, if it’s fine we’ll take it out into the garden. It’s our time.

What's brewing?

This morning we’re having a homemade latte.

Any treats for you or Bollo on this occasion?

There’s always treats for Bollo. And Bollo always thinks my treats are his too. Strangely he doesn’t share his with me. (I’m quite grateful really, but don’t tell him that.)

How were you and Bollo united?

We drove 60 miles to nearby Derbyshire to see him. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He was seven weeks old and all feet and ears.

How did your dog get his name?

Bollo was the name of a gorilla in a British comedy series called The Mighty Boosh. The name fits our Bollo perfectly – he makes us smile every day.

Does Bollo do more to help or hinder your writing?

Bollo is most certainly my partner-in-crime. When I’m facing a tricky twist or turn, or the mystery just isn’t cutting it, he tends to find the right moment to wade in and nudge me to take him for a walk. It’s amazing how much an hour of fresh air and rolling countryside can blow out the cobwebs and focus the mind.

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

I have a German Shepherd and two Labradors in my books to date. Hmmm. Wonder where they came from?

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel. Always the squirrel.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

I don’t think Bollo could exist without a game of ball at least once a day. (‘Sport Billy’ is one of his nick-names.)

Who is Bollo's best pet-pal?

A beautiful Dogue de Bordeaux named Elvis.

What is Bollo’s best quality?

How long have you got?

He’s such a friendly happy dog. The other day our friend described him as a ‘happy fool in a black fur suit’. I guess that kind of sums him up.

If Bollo could change one thing about Northamptonians, what would it be?

Probably nothing. He races down the road every morning as if there’s a party at the end of the village and he’s missing it. He’s just in love with life.

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

Where do you put all that food?

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

Billy Crystal.

Visit Jane Isaac's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden

Who is in the photo at right?

Yona Zeldis McDonough, a novelist and children’s book author. Dogs are Willa, a female Pomeranian who is about eight, and Holden, a male Pom who is seven.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I always have a morning latte and in the warm weather, an iced coffee late in the afternoon. I have to feed Willa and Holden before I have my morning brew because otherwise they bark so much I can’t enjoy it. But once they are eating peacefully, I can make that eagerly anticipated a.m. beverage. So they are eating while I am sipping at my dining room table.

What's brewing?

For the morning coffee, it’s a nifty Nespresso coffee maker that uses pods; the iced coffee is a chicory blend from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. My husband introduced me to it and I just love the robust, ever-so-slightly bitter flavor.

Any treats for you or Holden and Willa on this occasion?

Yes, when breakfast is over, they get dog biscuits and in the afternoons, I give some some broken up quinoa crackers, which make them insane with joy.

[photo left: Willa]

You have a new novel that's just hit the bookstores. Are there any dogs in it?

There is indeed a Pom in You Were Meant for Me. His name is Fluff and he’s a bit of a bad boy: snapping, snarling, chewing on slippers etc. The fiancĂ© of the character who owns him wants to get rid of him but they manage to come to an understanding that accommodates both man and beast.

Your new book for children, a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, has a dog pictured on the cover. I know the author had several dogs in her lifetime. Which one is that on the cover? Do the dogs appear in the biography?

That’s Jack, the bulldog her family had when she was a child. And yes, he appears in the biography. He’s a loyal and stalwart little guy.

Last year you shared that the dogs yap like mad at the postman. How's he holding up?

He seems to take it in stride. And to their credit, it’s all bark and no bite. In fact, I’ve never even known Holden to growl, though once in a rare while, Willa does.

We know Holden and Willa love your backyard. Do they have a favorite destination away from home?

Not for Willa. She is a true homebody. But Holden likes to take walks around our neighborhood (Park Slope) where he is much exclaimed over and admired.

Is Brooklyn generally a dog-friendly place?

Boy is it ever! So many dogs here, dogs runs in playgrounds and the park, shops that offer free biscuits and set out bowls of water for strolling pooches. Dog watching is fun here for that reason; I have lots of dog pals in the ‘hood.

[photo right: Holden, fresh from the groomer]

What's the latest thing that Holden and Willa did to help your writing? How about to impede it?

Once in a while, a barking jag may interfere with my concentration. But mostly I find them delightful little companions who inspire me and bring so much happiness to my writing, and my days.

In 2012 I asked you: if Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices? You said Nicole Kidman should play Willa and Tom Hanks should play Holden. Any reconsiderations or alternative casting choices?

I’m still standing by those choices but I also could see Cameron Diaz as Willa…just saying...

Visit Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Queenie, Willa and Holden (October 2012).

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden (September 2013).

The Page 69 Test: You Were Meant For Me.

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough.

My Book, The Movie: You Were Meant for Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kevin Lee Jacobs & Lily

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Kevin Lee Jacobs, the creator of the food and lifestyle blog A Garden for the House. In my arms is Lily the Beagle, my 6 1/2-year-old best friend. She’s also my sous-chef and, on occasion, my taste-tester. A more enthusiastic kitchen-helper doesn’t exist.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Just now we’re enjoying the morning sunshine in the Herb Garden. Then it’s back to work! I’m writing a cook book that covers Brunch, Afternoon Tea, the Cocktail Hour, Dinner and Dessert.

What's brewing?

A Columbian blend, fortified with heavy cream. Skim milk is against my religion.

Any treats for you or Lily on this occasion?

A scone for me. Lily had boiled chicken and veggies for breakfast, so no treat for her until tea time.

Your blog, A Garden for the House, is very lively. Does Lily play much of a role in it?

Are you kidding? My blog has made Lily an internet star!

How were you and Lily united?

Well, it's a sad story with a happy ending. Six years ago she was abandoned by her former owner. Then she was struck by a car in front of our house. My partner and I saved her, and gave her the medical attention she needed. Then we adopted her.

Who is Lily's best pet-pal?

She has two -- our cats Tiger and Camille.

Where is Lily's favorite outdoor destination?

Any place where squirrels are present.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

She can’t resist a squeaky, stuffed hedgehog. She also loves rawhide bones.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrels, definitely.

What is Lily's best quality?

Like all dogs, she gives love unconditionally. She’s also very musical -- you should hear her sing when the noon whistle blows. She matches the pitch!

If Lily could change one thing about New Yorkers, what would it be?

She likes New Yorkers just the way they are.

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

Bette Midler. Or maybe Vera Farmiga.

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

Like all dogs, Lily dreams when she sleeps. I'd love to know what, exactly, those dreams entail!

Visit the A Garden for the House blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dan Richards & Freddy

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi! My name is Dan Richards. I’m a children’s author. My debut picture book The Problem With Not Being Scared Of Monsters came out August 1st of this year. Next to me is my 7 year old Golden Doodle buddy Freddy.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

To be honest, neither of us drink coffee so we got together to prove it was possible to take a photo with us both looking into the camera.

Any treats for you or Freddy on this occasion?

Freddy got Natural Balance Potato and Duck treats. I got a headache trying to get him to pose.

How were you and Freddy united?

He’s been part of our family since he was 12 weeks old. Hard to remember life without him.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My daughter wanted to name him Fred after Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter series (not quite sure why) and my son wanted to name him Darth Vader after, well, Darth Vader. We compromised and named him Fred Vader though he’s known now as simply Freddy.

Does Freddy do more to help or hinder your writing?

Freddy likes to lay on the floor and wrap his body around my chair while I write. This helps my concentration but hinders getting up to use the restroom.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Freddy loves to chase cats. He could care less about the postman. Unless the postman is a cat.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

He loves stuffed animals. Unfortunately, he has razor sharp teeth. Nothing he plays with lasts more than a few minutes. He even sliced an ‘indestructible’ rubber toy in half.

What is Freddy's best quality?

He’s pretty much the gentlest dog ever. And the most creative in the use of pillows.

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

He would prefer every Washingtonian drop goldfish crackers wherever they go. Or drop cats.

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

How is it possible you can poop every time I take you for a walk even when it’s our fourth walk of the day?

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

Ben Stiller. They have the same hair and eyes.

What advice would Freddy give if asked?

When asked to pose for a photo, avoid the camera until all treats have been exhausted, including the ones supposedly forgotten in the back of the cupboard. Then give them one look to remember.

Visit the official Dan Richards website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Catherine Reef & Nandi

Who is in the photo at right?

Greetings! I am Catherine Reef, a hardworking author of nonfiction books for young people and adults.

The gentleman with me is Nandi, an eleven-year-old Italian greyhound.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are taking a break to check on the progress in our garden.

What's brewing?

Nothing fancy. I am having my usual half-caff blend brewed with cinnamon.

Any treats for you or Nandi on this occasion?

A treat for Nandi might be a scrambled egg.

How were you and Nandi united?

Nandi was living with some relatives of ours whose situation changed. I knew him and had seen what a nice dog he was, so I invited him to come here. The move worked out well for everyone concerned: old family, new family, and Nandi.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I had been thinking about getting a puppy, and I had told my mother that if I did, I would name it after her, because I knew this was something she would like. (Her name is Pat.) But instead, Nandi came to live with us. He was two years old and liked his name, so I gave him his middle name, Patrick. He is sometimes known as the Nandster, among other pet names.

Does Nandi do more to help or hinder your writing?

He’s a big help, really. He has a bed in my office, between the desk and radiator, and I call him my associate. He doesn’t accomplish a whole lot, but I value his company because writing is such solitary work.

What is Nandi's best quality?

His loving heart.

You're the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including many highly acclaimed biographies for young people. Which of your subjects was the biggest dog-lover?

Sigmund Freud. Are you surprised?

Freud learned to love dogs late in life. In fact, he was in his seventies when he befriended his daughter Anna’s German shepherd, Wolf. He doted on Wolf and would feed him treats or leave a light on for him when exiting a room. This led to much laughter in the Freud household and caused his family to ask if Wolf was planning to read. Freud soon had a canine companion of his own, his beloved chow, Jofi. She kept him company while he wrote just as Nandi does with me.

Who are Nandi's best pet-pals?

Nandi’s dog buddies, Gretta and Rondo, live in upstate New York with our son and his fiancĂ©e, so he only sees them a few times a year. Nandi has trouble remembering the many rules Rondo expects him to obey, but he looks forward to being with these two good friends all the same.

[photo right: The dogs, left to right, are Nandi, Rondo, and Gretta.]

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

We wait eagerly every day for the mail to be delivered, and a cat is just about the most exciting thing we can see on a walk. But squirrels? Eh.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Nandi is not a “toy” kind of guy. He would rather relax on a soft cushion and listen to beautiful music. He understands well the Italian concept dolce far niente: how sweet it is to do nothing.

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

He would make them more generous with the contents of the refrigerator—at least the Marylanders he knows.

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

I would ask, “Do you have a good life?” Because that’s what I want for him.

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

How about Placido Domingo? Of course the movie would have singing.

Visit Catherine Reef's website.

The Page 69 Test: Frida & Diego.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tania Malik & Deuce

Who is in the photo at right?

The photo is of me, Tania Malik, and my dog, Deuce, an eight-year-old cockapoo. I am mother to a teenage daughter and a writer.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

After our morning walk, Deuce and I take up our usual positions. I am on my laptop, sitting at my desk or on the couch. Deuce sleeps nearby or is curled up next to me.

What's brewing?

A cup of steaming hot tea, just regular old Twining’s English Breakfast. Black. No sugar. No milk.

Any treats for you or Deuce on this occasion?

Deuce is enjoying his Yeti Dog Chew. It is a long lasting, hard cheese treat made from yak and cow’s milk.

How were you and Deuce united?

When my daughter was seven she begged for a dog, promising she would walk it, feed it and clean up after it. We agreed and, opting for adoption, regularly visited our local humane society looking for the dog who would best fit in with our family. Several weeks later, I was told a one-year-old dog had come in but not been processed yet. They took me to see Deuce and his hair was overgrown--it almost touched the floor--but he had such a great attitude and the sweetest brown eyes and nose. I brought my family to see him later on that day and we were all charmed by his playful and affectionate disposition. Shortly after, we took him home. It was one of the best decisions our family made. Of course, my daughter’s promises to walk and feed him never really materialized, though she is better about it now that she is grown. But really, I love walking with Deuce and taking care of him.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He was named “Deuce” when we adopted him. It suited him. Sometimes, we call him “deucey-woosey” but I think Deuce feels this endearment compromises his masculinity.

Does Deuce do more to help or hinder your writing?

I cannot imagine my writing life without Deuce. He is a great companion. He motivates me to get off my chair and out the door for long, soul-replenishing walks, giving me time to think, reflect, and stretch my legs. For me, writing is a solitary activity and with him I am never alone. I like to bounce my writing ideas and thoughts off him. He’s a good listener.

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

In my novel, Three Bargains, there is a white, fluffy Pomeranian named Prince. Because of their size and looks, Pomeranians are a popular breed in India, where Three Bargains is set. They are often overfed, overindulged and poorly trained. Prince, with his high pitched yip, is the archetype of those Pomeranians that nipped at me when I was in the homes of friends and relatives while I was growing up.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

They all set Deuce off, but mostly it is other dogs who are on their walks. He will bark at them from our window as if to say, “Hey! Don’t just walk on by! Come on in and say hello!”

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Deuce loves a good game of tug-of-war with a thick piece of twisted rope.

Who is Deuce's best pet-pal?

Leela is a 12-year-old Gordon Setter and Australian Shepherd mix. Along with Leela’s owner, Cathy, we hike the trails of Northern California. Leela is getting a bit slow now but we hope to go on long walks with her as long as she is able.

What is Deuce's best quality?

Deuce is very compassionate. We had the opportunity to live in India for a couple of years where there are many stray dogs on the streets. One morning he refused to move until I looked under a parked car. I found a two-month-old abandoned mutt suffering from distemper. We brought him home. Deuce was gentle and caring, staying by the pup and offering it comfort, as if aware of how sick, malnourished and scared the pup was. We were able to take care of the distemper and now the puppy lives in his forever home on a huge farm where he can run free and is well loved. Deuce has helped me more than once in this way, but not only with dogs. When my daughter badly sprained her ankle he spent all night curled up next to her bandaged leg as though he were comforting her.

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

If it was up to Deuce he would vote for an end to the leash laws so all dogs could roam free, and be able to enjoy every beautiful Californian trail or open space without restraint. Recently, the park service here in our part of Northern California had proposed banning dogs from certain beaches and trails. I imagine if Deuce knew of this he would be out gathering signatures, or paw prints, to put an end to such draconian measures.

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

Deuce will sniff and then settle down when a stranger, like the cable guy, comes into the house, but the moment they try to leave he will rush at the door, barking. I would ask him why he doesn’t like it when they leave. I know he is a sociable animal but we can’t keep every cable person, plumber or electrician from leaving the house.

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

Benedict Cumberbatch who plays the perceptive Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series. The pitch and cadence of the actor’s voice as Holmes would suit Deuce who is also hyper-aware and cognizant of any changes to his environment and routine. Nothing gets past Deuce, and he is eager to be at the center of whatever is going on as well.

Visit Tania Malik's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Holly Schindler & Jake

Who is in the photo at right?

Me (Holly Schindler, author of both YA and MG novels, most recently the YA Feral, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly) and my Pekingese, Jake.

What the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every day is coffee with a canine. We’ve been together for eleven years—that’s a whole lotta coffee and a whole lotta manuscripts between us.

What’s brewing?

I’m a writer, so no daily five-dollar coffee here—if it ain’t on the dollar menu, I don’t eat it. Just a plain old cup of joe with a little milk. Jake’s favorite drink is sweet iced tea.

Any treats for you or Jake on this occasion?

Jake and I are getting a little older—we’re watching our donut intake. But we might sneak in an English muffin. Jake has a bit of a butter addiction. Okay, maybe we both have a bit of a butter addiction…

How were you and Jake united?

I was a couple of years into my pursuit of publication when Jake came into my life. I was getting rejections just covered in my blood and was in serious need of a little love. I always say Jake came from a breeder, and I’m the rescue dog.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Mom and I picked Jake up together; when we were driving home, we tried out all kinds of different names. Every time we said “Jake,” he looked at us. It was like he was already saying, “Yes? What do you want?” It always sort of felt like he told us what his name was. He has about a hundred different aliases, funny-sounding nicknames we all call him. Terms of endearment.

Does Jake do more to help or hinder your writing?

Definitely help—he keeps me on a strict schedule. And he also gets me out into the world. Makes sure I push myself from the desk and go on walks or trips to the park. Makes sure I have plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Which is good for the mental outlook (and a positive outlook leads to better writing…)

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

I have a WIP that is heavily influenced and inspired by Jake himself. (I’ll have to stop by again later to dish over coffee about that book!)

Cat, postman, squirrel…

Oh, man. Jake always watches for the mailman. (He barks to let us know the mail’s come.) He’s a big cat-hater. When he’s misbehaving, we’re always threatening, “If you don’t calm down, I’m getting you a cat!”

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick.

Squeaky toy. It’s obscene the number of toys he has. His favorite is Roo, a kangaroo-shaped toy [photo right]. We got it the same day we got him. So now Roo is also eleven years old.

Who is Jake’s best pet-pal?

He once had both a Papillon and a Lab that he hung out with quite a bit—lots of fence-racing—but they no longer live by us. In fact, we’re going to get new neighbors in the next few months, which means that Jake’s going to get a new pet-friend soon…

What is Jake’s best quality?

Intelligence. I also like the fact that he has his own mind. A Pekingese isn’t a Golden Retriever. It’s his world, and you live in it. But I like that. I like the fact that he has his own opinions, his own agenda.

If Jake could change on thing about you, what would it be?

He’d make it easier to wrench me away from my computer.

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

“Seriously—what are you thinking about?”

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

I know this answer isn’t possible…I’m going with a dream-world scenario here: When we’re outside and flies buzz near his head, Jake’s always trying to catch them with his mouth—he’s succeeded a few times, actually. It reminds me of the scene in Karate Kid when Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are catching flies with chopsticks. And since Jake’s an Asian breed (and I’m a child of the ‘80s), my dream choice would have to be Pat Morita.

Visit Holly Schindler's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Feral.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 6, 2014

J.M. Hayes & Kacy and Allie

Who is in the photo at right?

That's our formal family portrait, left to right, Jalepenio Kacydilla (Kacy), J.M. Hayes (me), and Allielujah (Allie). Kacy is six, Allie, five. I'm a little older and I write mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. The girls are both German Shepherds. I'm of Anglo-Irish descent with a little Neanderthal DNA.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We're celebrating the book launch for The Spirit and the Skull, a stand-alone novel set 15,000 years ago during a migration across Alaska into the New World. It's my eighth novel.

What's brewing?

Actually, the only one in our house who drinks coffee is my wife, Barbara. She brews a French roast, boiling the water and pouring it through a single cup size filter container when she can't get to her favorite Tucson coffee shops, Le Buzz and Raging Sage.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Kacy and Allie get treats almost every day. On special days like this, they get vanilla ice cream.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

They were pre-named by the the breeder, though Allie was Alena and we modified that a little. We added the fancy parts. Kacy is also Kacy Ann. Allie is sometimes addressed as Alliegator, perhaps in honor of the door she once chewed through, or Baby Al.

How were you and your dogs united?

Not long after losing a truly special German Shepherd, correctly named Phi Beta Kimba, we tried to recreate the experience by purchasing from a breeder of outstanding obedience dogs. The girls were air freighted from the state of Washington. Kacy arrived, calm and ready to play. Allie was yelping loudly enough to be heard all over the Tucson airport. She's still an expert yelper when she's excited, and she often is excited.

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

They're actually very patient with me when I'm at my computer. One or both often lie at my feet or go for the cushier feel of my office sofa. But when it's time to play or get fed, they let me know. Both have amazing internal clocks.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

When I was twelve, I got to pick my first dog. I chose a white German Shepherd—Sherry. We'd had great dogs, but she was so smart and bonded so completely with our family that I've almost always had German Shepherds ever since. All of them have been astounding friends and companions, though not always so clever or so attached. I used Sherry, and some of the dogs who've followed her in my life, as models for a rescue wolf-hybrid named Hailey. Hailey played an important role in the last five entries of my Mad Dog & Englishman series. She's a wolf-hybrid because Mad Dog is a born-again Cheyenne and a wannabe shaman. Sadly, the only wolf-hybrid I really knew was a poor match for his urban environment. There is a difference between wolves and domesticated dogs. Close relationships between wolves and humans require lots of special accommodations.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Whatever you've got. We don't get many squirrels in central Tucson, but the girls get very upset when postal people come to our door. Or when cats are visible anywhere. Kacy has a thing about birds, especially raptors or mockingbirds. Both girls love to chase lizards.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other. At the moment we don't have play dates with other dogs regularly. But the girls are both looking forward to a visit from a six-year-old human who'll be arriving soon. His name is Nikita. He and they do a fantastic job of entertaining each other.

What is each dog's best quality?

Kacy is our guardian. She's the boss of our house. Probably of my wife and me, too, though she's an amazing performer in obedience. Both girls finished their training at the top of their class. Allie with an even higher score, though she yips and whines with excitement as she performs. She's the puppy, the little girl who never gets enough play except when it's actually play time and she forgets where she's dropped her ball while she was checking on some bird or lizard. Kacy prefers frizbees, including for protection work. When something in the neighborhood bothers her, she'll grab a frizbee and savage it. If I were a bad guy, I'd be terrified of bringing a frizbee to our yard.

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

They'd probably make our legislature fund children's education and poverty programs so the average kid in Arizona learns and eats as well as Kacy and Allie do.

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

Not that they're available, but I think Elke Sommer at the height of her career would be ideal for our German beauty, Kacy. Allie would sound more like a young and precocious Shirley Temple.

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

Is there anything you want or need you're not getting?

Visit The Words & Worlds of J.M. Hayes website.

The Page 69 Test: The Spirit and the Skull.

Writers Read: J. M. Hayes.

My Book, The Movie: The Spirit and the Skull.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Steve Caplan & Ginger

Who is in the photo at right?

Allow me to introduce Ginger, my great friend and ~5 year old female Vizsla-Labrador retriever, pointer and setter! Oh, and I’m Steve Caplan, a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. I study membrane trafficking, but in addition, I’m a published author of fiction who has written 3 novels that deal with the lives of everyday scientists and academics, as well as mental health disorders. I also blog on Occam’s Typewriter and write for The Guardian (UK) science page as part of our Occam’s Corner group.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I am belatedly celebrating the publication of my most recent novel, A Degree of Betrayal, a mystery involving a stellar female graduate whose mentor slides into a depression and refuses to allow her to graduate. Someone who read the book recently tweeted that “It’s a must-read for every male scientific PI (principal investigator).”

What's brewing?

For many years I have been highly particular about my coffee and would even prefer tea (yuck) to bad or weak brew. My “Miss Sylvia” Rancilio espresso maker is firing up at this very moment for a double espresso (Lavazza; only the very best!) with a dollop of low fat steamed milk on top.

Any treats for you or Ginger on this occasion?

Ginger is always in favor of treats, and on this occasion it was some Indian curry followed by pistachio nuts. She will happily eat anything that humans eat, including lettuce, celery, spinach, raw kale, etc.

How did Ginger get her name? Any nicknames?

She was initially named Vi by the people at the shelter (being largely a Vizsla), and my daughter suggested Ginger because of her beautiful coloring and eyes. By the way, our family speaks Hebrew at home and Ginger is a bilingual dog. Although there is another word for “ginger” in Hebrew, the English word is typically used in day-to-day Hebrew. Her most frequent nickname is Ginger-baby!

How were you and Ginger united?

That is a fascinating story! About 16 years ago, when my wife and then-3-month old daughter moved from Israel to the US for postdoctoral studies, we brought our 12 year-old dog with us. Our kids grew up hearing countless stories of the semi-mythical canine figure that once played such an essential role in my life, and had been hounding us (pun intended) for years about adopting a dog. We finally overcame the last objections (my wife), with me mortgaging my soul in the process, and set out to adopt a dog last summer. Wanting only a very friendly and affectionate dog who is also active and enjoys long walks, I was convinced that a Labrador or Lab-mix would be a good fit for the family. I looked at dogs for adoption at a local and wonderful no-kill Nebraskan shelter (Hearts United for Animal, or HUA), and found a beautiful looking dog online whose primary description was loving, friendly and affectionate. My daughter, son and I set out to visit the shelter (about 80 miles from where we live), and we met “Vi” (given that name by the shelter because she was mostly, or at least half Vizsla). It was love at first lick. My kids had asked “How will we know if she is the right dog for our family?” After the visit there was no need to answer the question. Ginger fit in as though she had always been the key member of our family. By the way, when we adopted her she had been in the shelter for 3 years, and they had picked her up as a ‘stray’ in a small Nebraskan town when she was approximately 1 year old. The only explanation we could get as to why such a loving and beautiful dog hadn’t been adopted earlier was that people were worried about her highly affectionate nature and tendency to jump up in the air in pure happiness. Their loss and our gain!

Are there any Ginger-inspired dogs in your fiction?

Not yet, but doubtlessly there will be! My previous dog, Rodrigo (named after the Spanish composer) inspired the appearance of Compo (short for composer) in my first novel, Matter Over Mind.

Does Ginger do more to help or hinder your writing?

Ginger never hinders anything. She is the most wonderful wonderful companion, respectful of my work and time. Vizsla’s are known as Velcro dogs because of the way they stick to their humans, and Ginger sticks closer to me than my shadow! I think she ‘imprinted’ on me. But she also knows that I am a sucker for a game of ball or a nice long walk.

Who is Ginger's best pet-pal?

I guess that would have to be Vanilla the Guinea Pig, by default.

Where is Ginger's favorite outdoor destination?

Ginger loves any destination, outdoor or indoor, as long as she is with her humans. Walks to the park with a ‘Chuckit’ and tennis ball are well-loved, but I’d have to say that the few times we’ve taken her to swim in a nearby lake have been a highlight for her. She loves swimming and especially retrieving tennis balls thrown in the water.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Tennis ball, Tennis ball, Tennis ball (by the dozen)! Ginger has tremendous stamina, and as a pointer-retriever, she will keep going and retrieving for hours if I can spare the time. She also loves to catch tennis balls in the air or on the first bounce, and I spend a lot of time practicing with her. She leaps high in the air for catches and is very competitive and hates to miss a catch.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Rabbits! Ginger is a Pointer-Retriever, which means that when she spots a rabbit she slinks down really low to the ground and lifts one of her front paws, pointing in the direction of her prey. Now, what she would actually do if she caught a rabbit is another story. My guess would be to lick her to death.

What is Ginger's best quality?

Ginger’s best quality is her personality; her super-sweet affectionate nature. But she is no push-over; she is a dog who knows what she wants and how to ask for it!

If Ginger could change one thing about Nebraskans, what would it be?

I don’t know if this is a common thing in other states in the US (or perhaps other parts of the world), but dogs are loved and revered in Nebraska. It seems that almost everybody has a dog, and they are very well-treated by humans. I was very surprised one Saturday morning when I went through the drive-through bank (a common feature in the mid-west) and Ginger came along for the ride. When my driver’s license (ID) had been returned after I deposited a check via the air-pressure shuttle that sends the capsule to the teller at the window, I found a couple nice dog biscuits had been inserted for Ginger. I’m betting Ginger wishes that all Nebraskans would hand out treats in such a nice way!

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

I had to ask my kids for help on that one: Jennifer Lawrence of The Hunger Games.

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

First, Ginger definitely answers questions, at least in a yes or no manner. For example, if I ask her if she wants to go outside, she will leap vertically 3 feet in the air (seriously!). She makes basketball players look bad. But when Ginger does not want to go out (if it is raining or dark), she sits down where she is when I ask. If I ask her a second time, she then proceeds to lie down, as if to say “What part of ‘no’ is it that you don’t get?!”

But if I could ask her a question that she could answer with more than a yes-no response, it would have to be “Where did you live before you arrived at the shelter (HUA)?"

Visit Steve Caplan's website and Amazon author's page.

--Marshal Zeringue