Monday, February 29, 2016

Julie Strauss Bettinger & Lily Belle

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Julie Strauss Bettinger, and my “editorial assistant,” Lily Belle. I’m an author and she’s in charge of humor breaks, naptime and walks to see her four legged friends up the hill. She just turned four, but, like most yellow Labradors, has no plans to leave puppyhood.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We work together all week at my home office, but on Saturdays, I like to work from a place called RedEye coffee. My most recently published book about a dog was written mostly in a back corner of that café. So for this occasion, I asked special permission, and brought Lily by for a visit. The baristas loved it. One of them helped me get the photo (which involved many doggie kisses between shots).

What's brewing?

Large-caramel-macchiato-with-hazelnut-instead-of-vanilla-and-whipped-cream. Jason is usually mixing it when he sees me walk in the door.

Any treats for you or Lily Belle on this occasion?

Since she was especially good, sacrificing valuable naptime to accompany me, I gave her extra liver treats. Coffee was the only treat her human needed.

How were you and Lily Belle united?

My husband Jim and I were “between dogs” for five years, after an extended illness took our middle dog when she was only eight. When I started writing Encounters with Rikki, all the dog people I interviewed were taking bets on how soon they thought Julie and Jim would be adopting again. It turned out to be about nine months. Our hearts were waiting for Lily!

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Five minutes down the road, as I cradled our just weaned girl in my lap, my husband and I were entertaining names. Her big sister’s name was Daisy Bell, so the flower theme seemed to fit. Plus, it was springtime. And we’re in the south, so she just “had” to have a double name. The writer in me insisted on something unique in the spelling, like a southern belle. And we use numerous terms of endearment. My most common: “Puppy Girl.”

Does Lily Belle do more to help or hinder your writing?

She plays a crucial role in my mental and physical health by forcing me to take breaks for potty time, snack time and play dates with neighbor dogs. The underlying theme of my book is the power of the human-animal bond through animal assisted therapy, and she is a constant source of therapy for me.

Please tell us about your new book, Encounters With Rikki: from Hurricane Katrina rescue to exceptional Therapy Dog.

As my publisher described it, “Lives change when a man discovers his rescue dog’s ability to heal trauma survivors.”

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrels – lots of them. Lily Belle’s playground (our backyard), which we also call her “Queendom,” is full of the rascals. Only one of them ever lost a race with her. So sad. Oh! And lizards, her second favorite. All happy endings on those relationships (that we know about).

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above, after all, she’s a Lab! But her absolute favorite is a squeaky tennis ball. She chews it like bubble gum and the noise seems to give her an extra sense of satisfaction. You can see it in her eyes.

Who is Lily Belle's best pet-pal?

Her first “boyfriend,” is Cooper. He lives across the street and they were in the same basic obedience class. They still play the best together. It’s like watching a perfectly matched couple waltz, their rhythm in play is spectacular.

If Lily Belle could change one thing about Floridians, what would it be?

I don’t know, she’s pretty content with the ones she’s met so far. They walk by her fence and reach through the posts to scratch her head and smooth her ears. If they dare to ignore her, she barks briefly to summon them over. They’re quite accommodating.

What is Lily Belle's best quality?

Her various sleeping positions. I have more photos of Lily sleeping than I do of waking moments. I just never get tired of seeing her upside-down, spread eagle, with lips dangling to expose fangs and tightly clenched eyes. It’s irresistible to my iPhone.

[photo left: Lily Belle with Dixie, the Black Lab, and Remington, the Golden mix]

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

What are your nightmares made of? This continues to baffle us: exactly what is scary in her life that causes the occasional whimpering in her sleep? Her life sure seems pretty blissful to me.

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

Sandra Bullock. She’s the only actress I know who has re-created a believable southern accent.

What advice would Lily Belle give if asked?

Slow down, enjoy more adventurous walks on the greenway and remember that routines are good for the soul.

Visit Julie Strauss Bettinger's website, and learn more about Encounters With Rikki: from Hurricane Katrina rescue to exceptional Therapy Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Victoria J. Coe & Kipper

Who is in the photo at right?

The dog: Kipper - Probably 10 years old, and definitely one of a kind. Every day somebody stops us on the street to ask what kind of dog he is!

The human: Victoria J. Coe - Reader, teacher, and author of Fenway and Hattie (GP Putnam's Son's/Penguin Young Readers), a novel for kids ages 8 and up told from a dog's POV.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I enjoy my one and only cup of coffee in the morning before Kipper and I head out for a walk.

What's brewing?

Whatever my husband makes. As long as it's hot and has caffeine, I drink it.

Any treats for you or Kipper on this occasion?

On our walk, Kipper enjoys treats from my pocket as well as treats found "in the wild" - especially pizza crusts, smooshed pop tarts, bits of bagel (he's not choosy!).

How were you and Kipper united?

When we moved from California to Massachusetts, we promised our kids two things - a backyard hockey rink and a dog. We kept both promises!

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Our kids decided on Kipper after Miikka Kiprusoff, a top NHL goaltender at the time. And you know, the two Kippers actually kind of look alike.

Does Kipper do more to help or hinder your writing?

Kipper is a huge help. Our morning walks are a chance for me to let my mind wander and unleash my creativity. And when we come home, Kipper dutifully crashes - which gives me lots of peace and quiet for writing. At least until the Big Brown Truck arrives...

Have any of your actual dogs inspired the creation of fictional canines?

I got the idea for my fictional character Fenway from Kipper, but to be honest, Fenway is a lot more like me than my dog. However, Fenway and Kipper do have a few traits in common - they're both insecure, they're both protective, they both love treats, and they both hate squirrels!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

All of the above.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky toys, for as long as they last.

What is Kipper's best quality?

His good looks, definitely.

Who is Kipper's best pet-pal?

He greatly prefers his two human brothers to other dogs. They are his best pals, by far!

If Kipper could change one thing about Massachusettsans, what would it be?

He would probably try to convince the natives (and tourists) not to feed the squirrels in Boston Common. Those monsters are totally out of control!

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

If Kipper could understand English, there is a lot I'd love to explain to him. Like the fact that his barking does not scare the Big Brown Truck away!

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

One of those youngish actors who always plays the awkward sidekick.

What advice would Kipper give if asked?

Kipper would advise anyone and everyone to follow me on Twitter or Instagram so they can see pictures of him every day.

Visit Victoria J. Coe's website and learn more about Fenway and Hattie at the GP Putnam's Sons/Penguin Young Readers website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 22, 2016

Adam Flohr & Walter

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Adam Flohr. I'm a photographer. Here's my portfolio.

Walter is my chihuahua. He's about 7 years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We decided that we should stay home and enjoy our own backyard. I spend a lot of time back here just relaxing, and Walter likes to sit in my lap and visit with me.

What's brewing?

Boring, yet economical, drip coffee.

Any treats for you or Walter on this occasion?

Walter is super interested in treats, unless, it's dinner time for me. Then he likes to beg for scraps.

How were you and Walter united?

My mother brought him home from work one day. Her co-worker had puppies. Over time I became super attached to him and his constant need to be cuddled.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My father. He always names our new pets. After holding him for a while, he took a good look at him, and decided that "Walter" was a good fit for his personality. I'd agree 100%!

When did it hit you that Walter needed to branch out on his own blog?

Walter has always been a fixture in my life on my own personal social media. He always has the best expressions in pictures. He is actually the mascot for my film company "Silk Dog Films". We gave him wings in the logo because my friend and I decided that he kind of looks like a fruit bat.

Here's the video version of Walter as our mascot.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Anybody new that walks into the house!!

Walter loves people but is always standoffish with strangers in his home. He will growl at them for 15 minutes, and then he sits in your lap and demands your love. I think this is common with his breed.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Walter is not huge on toys. He spends most of his time snuggling. However, he's been known to enjoy playing catch with a tennis ball - which is the size of his head!

Where is Walter's favorite outdoor destination?

Anywhere! Like most dogs he loves the car.

Who is Walter's best pet-pal?

Walter is more of a people lover and isn't big on other dogs. Probably because he's a spoiled, only child!

What is Walter's best quality?

Aside from being so cute and having an amazing personality to match? Walter is an amazing companion. He's always there when you are worried and you need something adorable to hold!

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

He'd make everybody quit their job, stay home, and cuddle with him all day!

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

Why don't you attempt to pee when I let you out at night before bed? It's way better than holding it till the morning!

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

A worrisome, yet joyful, Andy Devine type. Like the sheriff character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

Check out Adam Flohr's portfolio and visit Walter's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Kristin von Kreisler & Bridget

Who is in the photo at right?

The magnificent German Shepherd in the photo is Bridget. She’s a rescue, so no one knows her age for sure, but she’s probably about six. I, Kristin von Kreisler, am her devoted human. Every day she accompanies me to my office, where I write novels about dogs – and she never gets jealous. She loyally supported me through my first novel, An Unexpected Grace, about a golden, and my last novel, Earnest, about a yellow Lab.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Bridget and I start every day with teatime. We commune in silence, or we “talk” – and anybody who loves a dog knows that words are not necessary for intense conversation. Sometimes Bridget mentions the raccoon who visited in the night or the neighborhood cat whom she hopes to teach a thing or two on our walk in the afternoon. I often bring up concerns about the workday I am about to begin: what to do with a certain scene, for example, or how to get a certain character out of trouble. Bridget and I are best friends. She understands everything.

What’s brewing?

I drink a London Fog, which is black tea, topped with skim milk and vanilla syrup, whipped into foam. Bridget sometimes slurps water from her bowl.

Any treats for you or Bridget on this occasion?

There is always a biscuit for Bridget. Currently her favorite flavor is gourmet peanut butter, but she will stoop to anything in biscuit form. I hate to admit that once in a while, I get distracted and forget to give her a biscuit at teatime, and she looks at me with desperation in her eyes. They say as clearly as anyone ever said anything, How could you?! Surely, you don’t intend to neglect me. Of course, I, the absent-minded brute, rush to her biscuit jar and feed her immediately. Thank goodness she is very forgiving.

How were you and Bridget united?

I found the Washington German Shepherd Rescue online, and their volunteer sent me to a man (well, a saint), who lives in Seattle and was fostering Bridget. She had been picked up in the San Bernardino desert – starving and infested with worms, fleas, and ticks. Someone took her to a shelter, where a vet decided that she should be put down. In the nick of time the Washington rescuers arrived and spirited her away, and then they brought her back to health. Without those people’s kindness, Bridget would have perished. Now she is confident and gorgeous. I’m not prejudiced or anything, but I think she’s a miracle.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

She was named Bridget when I met her, so I kept the name to keep her from getting confused. Of course, I have endless pet names for her: Bridgie, Precious, Beauty Dog, Adorable Girl, Sweetie Pie, and the list goes on.

Does Bridget do more to help or hinder your writing?

She absolutely helps my writing. In my office she lounges on her bed and keeps a careful eye on me – and keeps me calm. If I get stumped on something, I turn to her and ask her opinion. She may not have a solution to my problem, but, far more important, she listens and seems to care. She radiates love, which travels across my office and feeds my spirit.

Please tell us about your new novel.

My new novel, Earnest, is about a couple who split up and fight over custody of their yellow Lab. Being a wise and sensitive dog, he has plenty to teach them about love and forgiveness, and he helps them grow in ways they never knew they could.

Has Bridget inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

I am currently working on a new novel, Justice, about a German Shepherd K-9. I’ve had six Shepherds in my life so I know a lot about the breed! Justice, my new fictional Shepherd, has Bridget’s loyalty and devotion. But he also has the fierce courage of Logan, my Shepherd before her. Justice may be a combination of all the Shepherds I have loved.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Bridget’s archfoes are the raccoons who like to sit in my plum tree after dark and look down on her with amusement. I can’t blame her for barking at them because they are not so respectful as they should be. It’s her plum tree, after all, and they have trespassed in her yard. Fortunately, her arguments with them are not too ferocious.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Bridget’s favorite possession is a rubber owl with secret pockets, where I stash tiny heart-shaped biscuits for her to eat before I leave her home alone. She also loves to gallop across the lawn in pursuit of her Frisbee, and she has a ball that she buried in her bed.

Who is Bridget’s best pet-pal?

Tula, a huge, galumphing Great Pyrenees. They like to romp on the lawn together.

What is Bridget’s best quality?

She is caring, kind, and loving. And loyal. And devoted. You can’t just ask for a single best quality when she is such a sterling dog!

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

I think she’d suggest that the winter rains stop. Since she came from Southern California, it took her awhile to get used to cold and storms.

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

I have two crucial questions: What was your life like before I found you? And what can I do to make you the happiest dog in the world?

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

Hmmm. Maybe Maggie Smith for her elegance and spunk.

What advice would Bridget give if asked?

Chill! Enjoy! Life is just a bowl of biscuits!

Visit Kristin von Kreisler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 15, 2016

Susan Schubel & Pipsi and Huckleberry

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Susan Schubel, and Pipsi Ruby Rhubarb (the Pug, age 8) with her ukulele backup band at the 2015 World Championship Boatyard Dog Competition in Rockland Maine (we tied for second). Another photo [below left] is a rare in-focus photo of Huckleberry Honeysuckle (the Jaroodle, age 5) with me on a snowy woods walk.

I work for National Audubon’s Project Puffin as assistant sanctuary manager in the summer and outreach educator in the winter. It is excellent fun work which encompasses birds, research, conservation, construction of field stations, boat work, lots of weather, kids, and education.

Sometimes I work at the Hog Island Audubon Camp - a nature camp for adults, teens, and families. My side business is Murremaid Music Boxes, a company which makes sound systems to attract birds to safe or historic breeding areas.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The summer is a very busy time for me, being bird season, so winter is when I have more time to linger with my pooches. We just took a walk in the snowy woods (no school today!) and are going to settle down with a warm cuppa.

What's brewing?

Drinking bird-friendly coffee from Old Dodge Farm Roasters, cooked up in an stovetop espresso pot, with half and half. I always feel best when drinking a bird-friendly coffee since it is grown in a diverse shady understory habitat which can support more wildlife, including “our” northern birds on their wintering grounds. (Though I admit to Dunkin’ Donuts on the road…) This coffee is delicious and so much better for the planet!

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Always treats. There are always treats. A bowl of popcorn with butter and salt makes us all very happy!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

I was in search of a dog to name Rhubarb, but when we found our little puppy my daughter thought she was a Pipsi. Her name just flowed together when we added the middle name Ruby. Pips, Pug O’ My Heart, Sweet Puggy Wug, and Your Highness, are some of her many nicknames. Huckleberry Honeysuckle just goes by Huckleberry, Grumbler, Fluffin, or “Stop Barking!".

How were you and your dogs united?

After losing my dog Jibbie (JibAsInTheSail, a lab-shepherd) I decided to never just have one dog at a time, and to stagger their ages. The lack of toenails tapping on the the wooden floor was just too much for me. We got Bessie Puddin’ Pie (a houndy mix) as a puppy in 1999, so our daughter wouldn’t have to be born into the world with no dog to snuffle her. When Bessie was seven, I had nurtured my pug obsession to the point of no return and we started looking for puppies. Once one starts looking for puppies, one must find a puppy! We found Pipsi in an ad in the local swap/sell it journal (Uncle Henry’s) and met her nice family in a neighborhood full of kids. They had dad (Toby), and acquired the mom (Tiny) from a fellow customer at another Maine standard, Marden’s. Pug puppies are so cute!!! A year after we lost Bessie, when Pipsi was 3, we began to think about another pup, a birthday pup for my daughter. Again puppy desperation kicked in, and we searched the Uncle Henry’s and newspapers to find one — cute little Jack Russell/Poodle mixes were found nearby. Both parents were absolutely nuts, but still we took her! Pipsi wondered why she had to come live with us, and still looks at me from time to time in frustration at this crazy jack russellian energy we’ve added to the house.

Please tell us about Project Puffin and Hog Island Audubon Camp.

Project Puffin is Audubon’s Seabird Restoration Program, and works to protect and restore seabird colonies in Maine and beyond. We work on seven islands in Maine which are home to terns, puffins, guillemots and other species. This project was integral in getting puffins and terns back to the islands of Maine after they were decimated by plume-hunters in the late 1800’s. Now the focus is research and protection of these important sanctuaries. The Hog Island Camp is a very special place in Muscongus Bay - the oldest Conservation Camp in the country. Anyone who enjoys birds and nature will definitely want to come for a session!

[photo left: a puffin]

Cat, postman, squirrel….?

Everyone must bark at everything and everyone. All the time. Huckleberry is very obsessed with squirrels and mice. Pipsi would like to eat snow plows and passing large dogs.

Squeaky-toy, ball, stick…?

There are favorite stuffies, most of whom have been desqueaked by chewing. Pipsi chewed the nose off her favorite dog to make it more puglike. There is some stick chasing on our morning woods walk, and in the winter the snowball catching game is very popular!

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

We walk in our woods every day, just a short loop but there is dirt to eat and things like fox trails to sniff. Huckleberry really likes the chance to go to a beach for a swim. We think she might swim across the whole ocean given the chance. When daughter Ayla was smaller, we would have both dogs pull her in a sled down the road (Pipsi most of the muscle and Huckle most of the song) and thought perhaps we could start a small sled dog race called the “Itty bitty Iditty”.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Pipsi tends to prefer small dogs, pugs, and some rough-around-the edges dogs that seem to have a bone to pick - including Penny, a fellow ruffian she used to do agility with. Pipsi particularly dislikes the happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever types and tries to eat them.

Huckleberry is very nervous about everyone and everything, but I think she does like Pipsi. Her new pal is a Pomeranian named Jose.

[photo right: Pipsi was the first contender at Boatyard Dogs to tie knots. Here she ties a cleat hitch.]

What is each dog's best quality?

Pipsi is loving, snuggly and very devoted. She is solid and does not get stage fright.

Huckleberry is sweet mostly, and can run like the wind and swim like an otter. It is a joy to watch her revel as an athlete.

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

They would like me to be with them all the time. Why must I go off to these dog-unfriendly islands?

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

I’ve thought and thought about this and decided that Pipsi would probably have a large, no-nonsense, take-charge, deep woman’s voice, where as Huckle would have a nerve-wracked, high-pitched frenzied voice. Can’t pin them down exactly though as the thought of them speaking in human voices is disturbing.

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

Pipsi, why must you go after all these big dogs?!

Huckleberry, why do you growl in your sleep?

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Even though we always have treats, I’m sure they would re-iterate that “It’s always time for a treat!”.

Visit the Facebook page for Murremaid Music Boxes, a company which makes sound systems to attract birds to safe or historic breeding areas. Learn more about Project Puffin and Hog Island Audubon Camp.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kasie Chelanne & Lola

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello, I'm Kasie. I work in the non-profit sector in sunny Los Angeles and blog at Musings on Momentum. My furry friend Lola is a six, soon to be seven, year old Puggle.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I generally make my own coffee at home. Lola loves any excuse to be in the kitchen and is always excited to help out with the process.

What's brewing?

You will normally find me drinking espresso from our espresso machine. I'm not picky about brand, though being originally from Seattle I do have a soft spot for Starbucks!

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I often enjoy a slice of my favorite homemade gluten free berry crumble along with my espresso. If Lola has behaved herself during the brewing process she will get a treat once my coffee is ready.

How were you and Lola united?

During my last quarter of college I began the search for a furry friend through various pet adoption and rescue agencies in Seattle. Along the way I came across a little Puggle who had been rescued from a puppy mill. Though I was not chosen to be that Puggle's mom, I fell in love with the breed and knew they were the right pups for me. I began researching Puggles and found Lola a few weeks later.

Lola was the runt of her litter and by the time I met her she had all but been abandoned by her mother. She was so small when I brought her home. In fact she fit in the palm of my hand (and I have really small hands)!

Lola quickly bonded to me as her "mom" and it was clear we were meant to be from day one. We have the same personality...she is clearly my child!

Any treats for Lola on this occasion?

Always! Lola enjoys all foods but particularly loves Charlie Bear treats from Trader Joe's.

How did Lola get her name? Does she have any nicknames?

I came up with a lit of several names for a puppy before I got Lola. Her name was on the list and the second I met her I knew it was the perfect fit for her. She has many nicknames...her main one is Lolabee because she once wore a little bee costume for Halloween.

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy...?

Lola adores squeaky toys! She has developed quite the collection of furry friends. Her favorite activity is defeating their squeakers before ripping them open.

Postman, cat, squirrel...?

Squirrel! Lola is quite intrigued by squirrels and loves to chase them up trees during her walks.

Where is Lola's favorite place for an outing?

We live right at the base of Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles. Lola loves to run around off leash and climb to the highest of high reaches of the canyon.

Who is Lola's best pet-pal?

Lola's best friend is Bowser, a Beagle and French Bulldog mix who she grew up with. They are quite the dynamic duo.

What is Lola's most endearing quality?

Lola really loves to snuggle up with people. Her capacity for love always cancels out any mischievous behavior.

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

She would ask them if they could please eat less healthy food because it doesn't make for the best table scraps. More meat please!

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

Ellen Degeneres! Nobody else possesses the level of sarcasm and sass necessary to voice Lola.

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

Why must you put everything in your mouth?

Visit the Musings on Momentum blog and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sarah Messina & Stella

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi! My name is Sarah Messina. I am a freelance artist and designer. My dog’s name is Stella; she is a 10-year-old mini dapple Dachshund.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I work from home a lot and Stella and I start a lot of our mornings with some freshly brewed coffee, she totally loves the smell.

What's brewing?

Freshly ground, New England Coffee, Blueberry Cobbler Medium Roasted. I usually take my coffee black, if made at home, or if it’s a wonderful flavored blend from a cafe. But today I added a splash of Baileys Irish Crème. It’s a rare once in awhile treat.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I love making a toasted English muffin with peanut butter on it and letting the peanut butter melt a little before I dig in.

How were you and Stella united?

Every since my childhood dog Hasbro, a Cockapoo, passed away, I begged my parents for a Dachshund. I just love the breed; I think they are so adorable. So in 2005 my parents caved, said yes, and I began my search for a Doxie on the Internet. I came across a breeder in Texas. I first picked out one of Stella's brothers, an all black and tan Doxie. But then the breeder sent me a photo of Stella and I was immediately in love. We paid the breeder, drove to the Philadelphia International Airport (I am from South Jersey and was living at home at the time), and picked her up. She was so tiny I could not even see her in the crate at first. I fell in love even more (if that was even possible) then I did when I saw her photo for the first time. She has been a constant in my life ever since.

Any treats for Stella on this occasion?

Since I am having peanut butter Stella is have a tablespoon of it as well.

How did Stella get her name? Does she have any nicknames?

I was so excited about getting Stella that I got a baby name book out of the library, and I also searched baby names on the Internet. I kept coming back to the name Stella. It means star. I asked my father, who at the time was in his last few months of life battling brain cancer, if he liked the name and he said that he did, and told me go for it. So, I did. And yes, she has many, many, nicknames... Bean, Beanie, Nu Nu, Noosh, Chi Chi, Nee Nee, Bim, Bimie, Binki... She is so amazingly cute these names just come out of my mouth when I talk to her. Also one of my best friends, Devin and I have a special dog language for our fur babies, and they totally understand it.

Does Stella help or hinder your art and design?

She truly helps. No matter where I am working she is either nestled behind me in my chair, or next to me in her bed. It is a true comfort having her with me; it relaxes me and makes me feel happy. I will admit though, she can get a little needy with my attention sometimes and that does distract me, but honestly I would not want it any other way.

Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy...?

Oh, squeaky toy for sure!

Postman, cat, squirrel...?

Definitely squirrel first. Her body goes straight, her tail sticks out and she lifts her one paw off the ground as if in full hunter mode. Stella is a protector, so she will bark at a passer-by here and there.

Where is Stella's favorite place for an outing?

Honestly anywhere with me. All I have to say is ‘Want to go bye-byes with Mom?’ and she can’t wait to leave.

What is Stella's most endearing quality?

She knows when I am crying, comes over and licks my tears.

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

That I would be home 24/7 with her curled up on the couch, and never leave.

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

I love this question! I will admit though I asked my brother, Jason Messina, for his thoughts, and he said Judi Dench. And I 100% completely agree.

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

Have you loved your life so far?

What advice would Stella give if asked?

Be grateful for all you have, life is good. Oh, and if you have a long back like me, be careful of your leaps off the couch.

Visit Sarah Messina's website and Instagram page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Yona Zeldis McDonough, a novelist and children’s book author. With me is Holden (left) and Willa (right). He is nine and she is ten; both are purebred Pomeranians. Before I adopted them they belonged to a breeder and were bred together, so I call them husband and wife. They had a puppy named Beebee. I got to meet her and she was darling!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Unless I have an early appointment and have to race out, we have coffee together in my dining room every morning.

What's brewing?

We have a snappy new Nepresso maker in lipstick red and I love it. Every morning I use it to make a vanilla latte with an extra hit of steamed milk. I call it Heaven in a Mug.

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

I might toast a slice of my favorite spelt bread and spread it with apple or pear butter that my daughter brings me from a farm stand near Tivoli, New York; the dogs get bits of dried lamb lung, which they adore. The pet store owner where I buy it refers to it as “puppy crack.”

Are there many dog-friendly cafes in Park Slope?

Not nearly enough! Dogs are not welcome at most, which means I can’t stop in if I’m with them. I would never leave them tied up on the street—perish the thought!

[photo left: Willa]

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

Yes, there is an elegant and very well-behaved black standard poodle named Emma; she has a significant presence in the story. And there is also a brief, cameo appearance of brindle Pom pup named Panda.

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

Just having them in my presence helps my writing. I feel good when I see them, and if I am stuck with a scene or a chapter, there’s always a little dog time to distract me.

How about to impede your writing?

When they bark hysterically at someone walking by!

Who are Holden and Willa's best pet-pals?

Holden [photo right] is not really into other dogs much though on occasion, he spends time in upstate New York with my daughter and she says he’s met some new doggy friends up there. Willa has no interest in other dogs.

And their favorite humans?

I am by far Holden’s favorite in our household. He seeks me out and wants to chill with me wherever I am. I often look deeply into his dark, soulful eyes; I feel we are communing.

For Willa, it’s my husband Paul. She circles, coughs, and whimpers to get his attention and she wants to sit in his lap or be held by him 24/7. She’s also very coy and even flirtatious (if a Pom can flirt!) in his presence—I think she’s in love with him!

What advice would Holden and Willa give if asked?

Willa: More belly rubs please!
Holden: Ignore the vet when he says I’ve gained weight and have to cut back on my portions.

Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden (October 2014).

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough.

The Page 69 Test: The House on Primrose Pond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 1, 2016

Leza Lowitz & Bingo and Memo

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s Memo on the left, and Bingo on the right, chilling out in the early morning before their first walk. They’re both rescue dogs, so we don’t know their exact ages or breeds. But Memo is about eight and part Shiba Inu and part Corgi (we think). Bingo is about five and part Shiba Inu and part Japanese tanuki or fox-- something totally undomesticated and undomesticatable. Is that a word?

I’m Leza Lowitz and my husband is Shogo [photo left]. We don’t have many pictures of us with the dogs because they don’t stay still for anything, let alone a camera. We write books and run a yoga studio in Tokyo.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Just waking up. Any occasion to crowd the ‘Rents pillow, you know? Give us a soft spot and we’ll take it over. That’s our motto.

What's brewing?

Since we live in Tokyo, it has to be green tea. Anything green tea. Matcha with a traditional bamboo whisk. Or a matcha latte.

Any treats for you and Bingo and Memo on this occasion?

A one-hour walk and lots of love.

How were you and Bingo and Memo united?

It’s a modern love story: Shogo found Memo on the Internet. It was just after the earthquake and tsunami, and she was rescued from the mountains outside of Tokyo. When she got picked up, she gave birth to eight puppies in the rescue truck. All the pups were adopted, but Mama dog was still waiting for a forever home. She looked exactly like our previous rescue dog, Aska, who we’d brought with us to Tokyo from San Francisco, so Shogo was kind of stalking her online to see if she’d get adopted. When she didn’t, we decided to take the plunge. The little one, Bingo, was connected to Memo by some kind of invisible string, even though she wasn’t one of Memo’s pups. There was no way we could separate them. So we brought them both home.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Memo is the name she came to us with. When Bingo came, she was named Karen. Bingo is a totally wild dog, always jumping long distances suddenly with a boing and landing somewhere completely unexpected, like on top of a table or a lap. Needless to say, the name “Karen” was way too boring. At the time, our six-year-old son was learning the English song, “There was a Farmer...” and you know the rest. He gave her the name Bingo.

Do Bingo and Memo do more to help or hinder your writing?

The verdict is still out on that one. They do keep us active though. And laughing.

[photo right: Lowitz and Aska]

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

We wrote an epic adventure story about a female ninja, called Jet Black & The Ninja Wind, in which there is a bad-ass ninja dog guessed it--Aska!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Definitely cat. Our little Tokyo alley seems to attract people who leave out food for stray cats who drive the girls crazy. We also have a pretty wild garden, so the unwitting cats inevitably make their way into the ninja dog’s den. Then the fun begins.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Do cats qualify as any of the above? Try telling that to Memo and Bingo.

[photo left: The Boy and Memo]

Who are Bingo and Memo's best pet-pals?

A Shiba Inu named Riku and two huge white giant poodles who shall remain nameless because they belong to the local yakuza gangster (in full tattoo--we know because we’ve seen him at the bathhouse) and his paramour. These two characters also have a young black Kai breed male dog, who is totally tough and wild, and of course the girls love him.

What is each dog's best quality?


If Bingo and Memo could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Uh. That five letter word called a....leash?

If Bingo and Memo could answer only one question in English or Japanese, what would you ask them?

Inu ni umarette shiawase desu ka? (犬に生まれて幸せですか?)Are you happy you were born a dog? (This is from our ten-year old son).

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Bingo and Memo could speak, who should voice them?

Memo would be voiced by Anthony Daniels, the actor who voiced C-3PO.
Bingo would be voiced by Lady Gaga or Jennifer Lawrence.

What advice would Bingo and Memo give if asked?

Live Free (from Shogo).
Treat People Well (from the ten-year-old).

Visit Leza Lowitz's website, and learn more about her latest novel, Up from the Sea, which BuzzFeed chose as one of five new YA novels you should read this January.

The Page 69 Test: Up From the Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue