Thursday, January 21, 2016

Theresa Kaminski & Hugo

Who is in the photo at right?

Sitting at the dining table is me, Theresa Kaminski, a history professor and author of the newly-published book Angels of the Underground. The canine with the rawhide chewy in his mouth is Hugo, a 5-year old basset hound.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have my coffee and Cheerios every morning while Hugo settles in for his second nap. (He gets up very early with my husband, who gives him his breakfast and takes him for his first walk of the day.) Sometimes we’re in the dining area that’s just off the kitchen. If I’m anxious to start work right away, we’re in my study, also known as the Eeyore room because of the small stuffed Eeyore I keep on my desk as a writing mascot.

What's brewing?

Right now we’re finishing up a couple of bags of regional coffee that came to us as gifts: Tony’s from the Pacific Northwest and Tall Bean Coffee from Manitowoc, Wisconsin. A more typical coffee morning involves the Beaumont brand from the Aldi grocery store chain. I drink one cup a day, which I make with a single-serve pour-over Melitta coffee cone. I add enough 2% milk to turn the dark brown to beige.

Any treats for you or Hugo on this occasion?

No. I’m strict about no extra food intake in the morning. Hugo loses interest in his rawhide pretty quickly, preferring a nap.

How were you and Hugo united?

Not long after our golden retriever died, we started thinking about a new dog. We wanted a very different breed so we wouldn’t feel tempted to make comparisons between old dog and new. I started looking at various animal rescue organizations and my first choice was a greyhound, which my son and husband nixed. Then I found a small animal rescue organization that was adopting out two adult bassets and their six offspring. (In the case of bassets, “small” is a bit of a misnomer. They are short, but long and hefty.) The bassets had been removed from an abusive home.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Hugo seemed a fitting name since the breed originated in France. I sometimes call him Puppen, sometimes Stinky Boy. Because of their oily coat, bassets have a unique fragrance.

Does Hugo do more to help or hinder your writing?

Hinder, only because I have to pull myself away from my work to walk and feed him. If I forget, he reminds me with a wet nose wedged under my arm or a heavy paw on my thigh. Hugo has been inexplicably indifferent to my writing projects and deadlines.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Hugo loves cats and views them all as potential friends. He is crestfallen when they don’t see him the same way. Squirrels and rabbits are fair game, though. When they got into the yard, Hugo viewed them as interlopers and acted accordingly. He is very fit from regular exercise and can run fast. However, our new house doesn’t have a fenced yard so he won’t be out there on his own. Local wildlife is safe. Hugo ignores the postman except if we encounter him on a walk. Then Hugo wants to be petted.

[photo right: Hugo's mom, Molly]

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Right now Hugo is enamored of two toys, both Christmas presents. One is a gray plush toy in the shape of a dog that has an empty plastic bottle in its middle. He likes the crunching sound it makes when he chews on it or jumps on it. The other is a long knotted rope that he likes to drag around and show off. If I throw a ball for him, he watches to see where it went, then looks at me to see if I’ll get it for him.

Who is Hugo's best pet-pal?

Hugo was very fond of a Chihuahua named Jules who belongs to the people who pet sat him. He’s just met some new canine pals at a dog daycare near our new home. Hugo’s a sociable guy.

What is Hugo's best quality?

He’s very friendly and always happy to see us.

If Hugo could change one thing about Wisconsinites, what would it be?

I think he’s puzzled by why we have to take so long to bundle up before going outside in the winter. To him, it must seem a curious thing to do and it only causes a delay in his walks.

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

Why can’t you stop barking when I tell you to?

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

John Hillerman, who played Jonathan Quayle Higgins on Magnum, P.I. And he’d have to use the Higgins voice because Hugo would sound droll and always vaguely amused. If the movie were animated, it would take tremendous willpower not to draw Hugo wearing a deerstalker cap with a pipe in his mouth.

What advice would Hugo give if asked?

Take more naps.

Learn more about Angels of the Underground at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Angels of the Underground.

Writers Read: Theresa Kaminski.

My Book, The Movie: Angels of the Underground.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hugo is a very handsome boy. Your book sounds very interesting, there were so many amazing stories to come out of the war. I'm currently reading "No Better Friend" about the only canine Japanese POW. My father was a Japanese POW, it's important that these stories get told.