Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kirill Swift & Paul

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me and my friend Paul. My name is Kirill Swift; I'm a web and graphic designer. Paul is a four-year-old Miniature Poodle – my favorite, by the way.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Breakfast in the kitchen before going to work is a great opportunity for my little friend to shake out of me some treats. It’s really difficult to resist his cute begging eyes.

What's brewing?

Believe it or not, it all depends on the mood. It may be an instant coffee or an exquisite Chinese green tea. I never know what I will want, so every day is a little bit different.

Any treats for you or Paul on this occasion?

We buy delicious cheese, cookies, and chocolate at the supermarket nearby; but Paul, like all dogs, cannot eat chocolate, so I give him extra cheese treats every morning.

How were you and Paul united?

His former mistress, the girl I loved, was a model, and she couldn’t pay enough attention to Paul. She loved him very much, so when he was 9 months old, she gave him to me, knowing that I will take good care of him in her memory.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

This is also the idea of ​​his mistress. His full name is Jean-Paul Laurens – his former mistress jokingly named him in honor of a French painter and sculptor. But she had also dreamed since childhood about a dog named by Paul. I also call him Paul, though his regular nickname is "Bandit."

Does Paul do more to help or hinder your design work?

He designs for me. Okay, just kidding. Rather, he helps, because when I'm working hard I must be able to exercise, too: this way I sometimes find new ideas. And it’s really impossible to ignore Paul, standing in front of me on his hind legs and trying to get my attention using his claws to scratch my knees.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Paul has nothing against postmen but cats are at risk of being in a tree after meeting him. He hasn’t seen squirrels yet, but I think he would have taken one for a sly masked cat.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky-toys are his favorite toys, but regardless of the presence of any toys he does not miss the opportunity to steal my socks, especially if he sees that I need them. Then he hides from me with his trophy and watches what I'm going to do.

Who is Paul's best pet-pal?

A Pekingese named Lily, but I'm not sure that his interest is only friendly.

What is Paul's best quality?

Quick wits: he is so cunning that he can foresee my actions and hide if they are not in his interest.

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

My habit to put off until tomorrow what I can do today.

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

I would ask him what he would like me to do for him.

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

Tom McGrath, the voice of Skipper from The Penguins of Madagascar.

What advice would Paul give if asked?

Accept anything given – run to avoid being beaten.

Visit the Sly Poodle website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 28, 2016

Linda B. Myers & Dotty Biscotti

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi, I'm Linda B. Myers. I'm doing my best to hold Dotty Biscotti in one spot long enough for Sis to take our picture without me slopping that coffee. Dotty is a three-year-old Maltese but flits like a hummingbird here and there; a still photo is pretty hard to capture. I write general fiction and mysteries under the name of Linda B. Myers. All my novels are available on Kindle, and Fun House Chronicles is also available in print.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Most mornings, I stagger up the stairs to the kitchen before daylight, grab a cuppa seriously strong joe, tame it with 2% lactose free, then kick start my writing. Dotty is used to this routine but it is hard on her to sit quietly in her bed under my desk.

What's brewing?

I swill down coffee throughout the morning. It's drip in the early hours, then Verona in a Verismo pod (Starbucks version of Keurig) in the evening. I can't break the habit ... thank heaven I don't do shots of tequila or sniff glue.

Any treats?

Dotty's breakfast is a mix of wet and dry salmon-based dog food. I have yogurt but yearn for bacon and eggs. She probably yearns for bacon and eggs, too.

How were you and Dotty united?

I rescued Dotty from a real nut job in Oregon a couple years back. Dotty is rumored to be full Maltese, but if so, she is the Amazon of that breed, weighing in at 14 pounds.

How did Dotty get her name?

She's Dotty for the pink dot on the top of her snout. Dotty Biscotti when she's sweet. Snotty Dotty when she's sassy.

Does Dotty help or hinder your work?

Dotty hates my computer because it takes my attention away from her. She invents games that involve growling and barking and dashing room to room in order to interrupt my concentration. And she drops her Sumo toy on my foot when I have ignored her too long. Her spelling in lousy, she doesn't care about things like character arcs, etc. so I guess she isn't much help at the writing. But she does give kisses whenever I need them which does wonders for my mood.

Have any actual canines inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

I had a cocker/dachshund mix that I called my cockadock. Max appears as Folly in my PI Bear Jacobs series. As long as I write the series, Max in immortal. So I guess I can't ever quit.

Who is Dotty's best pet-pal?

She shares the house with Caesar, a pom/shih-tzu cross [photo right]. She's faster but he corners better. Let the games begin!

Ball, squeaky toy, stick?

Dotty eviscerates stuffed toys in a matter of seconds, spreading their innards room to room. Her favorite possession is a bright yellow Sumo which is an off-brand Kong. She's had it for ages. She bounces it off my foot when she's ready to play.

Cat, postman, squirrel?

Dotty thinks door-to-door solicitors should be growled at and shaken by the scruff of the neck. I agree with her.

What is Dotty's best quality?

She's a bottomless well of sweetness. That this dog was once abused is an unforgivable sin.

If Dotty could change one thing about the denizens of the Pacific Northwest, what would it be?

We have a street gang of six black-tail deer who munch our roses. She would like it if, just once, one of them was scared enough of her to actually run when she barks.

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

How can I assure her that she'll never be abandoned.

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

Dotty Biscotti is a fluffy blonde to be sure, but smart as a whip. She's tough, and should never be underestimated. Her voice would be Christina Aguilera.

What advice would Dotty give if asked?

Life is full of surprises. Learn to roll with it.

Visit Linda B. Myers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Carla Anne Hart & Hershey

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello, my name is Carla Anne Hart and this is my chocolate lab, Hershey. I am in the middle of transitioning jobs. I’ve spent the last 20+ years creating and working in Children’s Hospital School programs across the country and now will be diving into the world of hair and hair design. This has been a passion area of mine for most of my life, and now, I have the opportunity to explore that field. I also love to write, create stories and blog. Hershey is my chocolate lab who is 10 years young! He still bounds around like a puppy, which recently resulted in a torn ACL. Ouch!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Hershey and I have coffee every morning while I check emails and conduct research on book and blog ideas.

What's brewing?

I grind and brew my coffee at home using local coffee beans. We are fortunate here in the Northwest as there are many yummy brands to choose from. I take my coffee with cream and like it extra hot!

Any treats for you or Hershey on this occasion?

Hershey usually gets a taste of peanut butter or yogurt from my breakfast. Today, he got yogurt.

How were you and Hershey united?

Hershey and I met here in Boise 10 years ago at his breeder's home. I saw him staring up at me with a curious glance and that’s all it took. He was such a sweet puppy that the breeders secretly wanted to keep him. Luckily, let me take him home!

"Hershey" is a great name for a chocolate lab, but did you consider any other names? Any aliases?

Hershey has quite a few nicknames depending on the day and his personality at the moment. A few of those names would include: Bean, Little Buddy, Peanut Butter, Wiggler, Love Bug and Angel.

Has Hershey had any influence on your writing?

Hershey is a calming force when it comes to my writing. He most often curls up right at my feet and sleeps peacefully while I write. He brings a sense of peace to the area where I sit and helps me to focus my thoughts. I take breaks to sit down next to him, snuggle him up and tell him how much I love him.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel! In fact he has a “friend” who loves to taunt him by running back and forth on the top of the backyard fence.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Stick for sure! He has been known to seek out a tree branch or two thinking we can play fetch with that!

Who is Hershey's best pet-pal?

Hershey doesn’t meet a stranger; any dog that we meet on our walks or hikes is his best friend.

What is Hershey's best quality?

Hershey’s best quality is his unconditional love. He gives it freely and to anyone who will accept it.

Where is Hershey's favorite outdoor destination?

Hershey loves to hike in the foothills of Boise, as well as walk the greenbelt along the Boise River. The walk along the river is a win-win as he gets to walk first and then take in a swim on the way back home.

If Hershey could change one thing about Idahoans, what would it be?

Hershey wouldn’t change anything about Idahoans. He loves them because the city is dog friendly, the people are “dog people” and very active as well. He loves that they get outside frequently and walk, hike, run, swim and have fun…all of his favorites.

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

Do you know how much I love you?

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

Someone whose voice is kind and calm would voice Hershey in a movie of our life.

What advice would Hershey give if asked?

Hershey would give the following advice:
  • Let everyone in your life know how much he or she means to you-every day.
  • Show gratitude- everyday.
  • Hospitality matters.
  • Be gentle with yourself and others.
  • Naps are great and so are treats, especially when shared with your best friend.
Visit Carla Anne Hart's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cynthia Lenz & Chauncy

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Cynthia Lenz. I am a writer. My blog is called Cynthia Lenz’s Naturally Healthy & Happy Blog. My dog’s name is Chauncy. He is an eight-year-old Havanese.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Chauncy is in attendance for most of my beverages. Chauncy, like most Havanese, is very attached to his human, me. Havanese are often referred to as Velcro dogs for that reason. It’s fine by me. I prefer to be around him as much as possible too.

What's brewing?

My daily cuppa is loose-leaf Earl Gray tea with a pinch of organic lavender. I have been getting my Earl Gray in bulk from for a year or so.

Any treats for you or Chauncy on this occasion?

My treat today was an English muffin. Chauncy gets his treats later in the day.

How were you and Chauncy united?

I like to think Chauncy and I manifested each other. I very much wanted to adopt a dog. My landlord at the time finally relented and said I could have one, who was less than 15 pounds. I kept combing local websites for a female dog but the girls were all too big. My boss said, “You should open up your search and consider a male dog.” The very next posting I saw on Craigslist was for Chauncy! He was living with a loving family but they had way too many animals. They were heartbroken to part with him but they knew it was best for him. I am so grateful to them every single day for letting me adopt him!

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Chauncy was four when I got him. So, I didn’t change his name or the unusual spelling omitting the E. I figured if Barbra Streisand could drop an A, then Chauncy didn’t need the E.

He has tons of aliases: Boo Boo, Puppy-pants, Bear, Little Man, Little Bear, Little Friend… (Sensing a theme?) The oddest is “Baby Ducks.” I always thought baby ducks were the cutest things I’ve ever seen and then I saw Chauncy. He was the cutest being I have ever seen. So, therefore, he must be… “Baby Ducks.”

Does Chauncy lend any support to your work as a health consultant?

He definitely lends support to my work as a writer. I have made several references to dogs on my website and Chauncy in particular. Chauncy and my folks’ dog, Lucy, also may or may not be an inspiration in another writing project, I am working on right now, which may or may not be fiction. Got to keep some mystery, right?

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

He will bark at the postman but I have to go with cat. Chauncy patrols the yard at regular intervals to make sure it is a cat-free zone. He will even stare into the neighbor’s yard, daring one of their cats to put a paw on the other side of the fence.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

None of the above. Chauncy is from a toy breed but he has no interest in toys. He gets excited about going on walks, cuddles and making sure the neighbors’ cats respect his authority.

Who is Chauncy's best pet-pal?

That’s easy, me!

What is Chauncy's best quality?

It really is hard to pick just one. Chauncy is a real gentleman. He’s not destructive. He doesn’t beg or jump on people. He will take a treat so gently from your hand; you’d think he had lips and was using them instead of his teeth.

Where is Chauncy's favorite outdoor destination?

Any place he hasn’t marked recently. I guess I would go with Old Westbury Gardens. We love going there when they hold Dog Days.

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

He would want me to work from home and never ever go out without him.

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

Ooooo, good question! I guess I would ask him if he knows how much I love him.

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

I want to say Antonio Banderas but that seems wrong since he has played a cat.

What advice would Chauncy give if asked?

Having a backyard is not a substitute for walking your dog. Walk as often as possible. It’s as good for you as it is your pooch!

Visit Cynthia Lenz’s Naturally Healthy & Happy Blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Janet Fox & Kai

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Janet Fox, author of books for children and young adults (most recently my middle grade debut The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle), and this is Kai, a two and a half year old male yellow Lab.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Kai watches me and my hubby make coffee every morning, since his early days with us, because it's a ritual. When he was a puppy, he used to lie right at our feet while we brewed. Now it's just, "Will you drink that right now please so we can go for a walk right now right now?"

What's brewing?

We've got a twenty-year-old Swiss espresso machine. My husband is a fanatic. I make myself a double mocha. I'm very good at making foam.

How were you and Kai united?

A friend of ours had a Lab from a breeder in the area and we loved his dog, so we went to her. She's very particular, and we had to fill out a long form before she'd consent to sell us one of her puppies. I guess we measured up.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Kai is short for Kailash, after the sacred mountain in Tibet. Our son suggested it after he and his dad came home from circling the mountain. It fits Kai's Buddhist personality.

Does Kai do more to help or hinder your writing?

Not five minutes ago he was nudging the arm of my chair. "Me time! Me time!" Five minutes before that, he was lying peacefully beside me.

Has Kai inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet, but as a kidlit author there's always a chance that I'll add a dog. Especially a Kai dog.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Bird. The magpies tease him endlessly.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above. And more now! Though as you can see, balls are a favorite.

Who is Kai's best pet-pal?

The last dog he met. He's a totally social animal.

What is Kai's best quality?

He's a sweetheart. He loves everything and everyone. He's never growled at a human or animal. He has so much love, he could share it with the whole world.

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

He wouldn't change a thing! Montanans love dogs. Love dogs. Plus, Montanans have cows. Cows make cowpies. Cowpies are awesome.

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

Wow. Tough question. So...what's it like to be a dog?

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

Chris Pratt. They even look alike..........

What advice would Kai give if asked?

Drink less coffee, play more.

Visit Janet Fox's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gayle M. Irwin & Mary

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Gayle Mansfield Irwin, author of inspirational dog books and stories for children and adults, and freelance writer for various magazines and newspapers. I write a monthly pet column that appears in a few publications, and I'm also a contributor to several Chicken Soup for the Soul books. This is Mary, a 10-year-old female springer-cocker mix who my husband and I adopted in February 2013, about a year after the passing of our blind springer spaniel named Sage – Sage was the catalyst for my book writing.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This is my home writing space, complete with a bench near the east-facing windows. I am a morning writer, and I start the pre-dawn hours with coffee. My office has several banks of windows that look onto the front yard where I feed the neighborhood songbirds and squirrels. The early-morning is quiet and prime time for me to write and for Mary to join me in my office – she likes sitting on the bench and watching out the windows. We both seem to enjoy watching the sunrise.

What's brewing?

I enjoy World Market Fair Trade Costa Rican blend with Truvia and a chocolate-mint or chocolate-raspberry creamer. I usually drink from my springer spaniel mug or my “Rescue Mom” cup, reminding me of part of my life's purpose: to help, love, and adopt dogs.

Any treats for you or Mary on this occasion?

Bagels and berries for me and bacon or chicken-flavored jerky for Mary. I'm working on two children’s books right now, one called BobCat Goes to School. It's based on an actual event in my parents' small Montana town when the neighbor's cat got locked in the school building for a weekend. The story is filled with mischief and humor, and a reminder to children that school is a great place for kids to go and learn but it's not the best place for a kitty!

How were you and Mary united?

I began writing books in 2007 based on life with my blind springer spaniel named Sage. My husband and I adopted Sage in 2001 and by 2003 she was completely blind due to Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). She was an incredible dog, persevering and courageous, and she taught me many lessons in life. I wrote my first book Sage's Big Adventure based on her life, including losing her for several days in a forest that's home to bears and mountain lions. How she survived, blind and alone, was/is a miracle! So, I wove those lessons of courage, perseverance, adaptability, and self-confidence into the story, hoping to inspire children (and adults) who face tough situations in life. I enjoyed more than a decade with Sage. She passed away from cancer in 2012. I've been a supporter of various pet rescue groups for years, often transporting dogs into foster care or to their new homes. One of those organizations is English Springer Spaniel Rescue. Mary came up for adoption in early 2013, and though my husband and I weren't sure we were ready, we decided to go and meet her. Within two hours, we knew she was meant for us and so we brought her home. Mary's special human had died suddenly a few months before, and she needed a new family … and we were ready for a new dog. She's been a wonderful addition to our family! Mary is trained as a therapy dog, and that's something I had wanted to do with Sage and never did, although she visited libraries, schools, and bookstores with me and was fabulous! Mary does well one-on-one or with small groups, such as a library setting; she's more nervous in larger group settings, such as classrooms. We've shared many library visits together and I hope we'll continue to do so for several more years.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Mary was almost 7 when we adopted her, and she already had that name, so we kept it. I sometimes call her “Pumpkin” or “Sweetie” and my husband refers to her as his “good girl” – they are very bonded.

Does Mary do more to help or hinder your writing?

Mary helps my writing, and she is a part of my two dog devotion books. However, she barks at people who walk by the house, so when kids walk to school and Mary is watching out the window, I get disrupted. But, then I take the time to make and eat breakfast, so it all works out! I can usually get in about two hours of writing time before the barking begins! Mary will have her own book someday, just like my other dogs, Sage and Cody, as I'm also writing a dog rescue book for children, and will highlight some of the dogs I've helped rescue and re-home, including Mary.

Please tell us about your books.

Currently I have three children's books: Sage's Big Adventure...; Sage Finds Friends; and Cody's Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest. All encourage kids in some way, weaving lessons about friendship, courage, perseverance, and self-confidence. Cody's Cabin... teaches about the plants and animals in a Rocky Mountain forest, as experienced through the senses of a dog, and it includes several activities and other nature educational tools. My other three books are faith-based devotional-style publications about the lessons we learn from dogs, including appreciation for nature, loyalty, and kindness. Those books are: Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog; Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God; and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice – Lessons from a Blind Dog and Other Canines I've Known. I've also written and published a Kindle book for owners of blind dogs, providing tips and encouragement on traveling the journey of blindness with a special canine; the book is called Help! My Dog is Going Blind – Now What Do I Do?

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Mary loves people and other animals, although she gets overly excited sometimes to get to know them and to play with them (people, cats, and other dogs) and that can be off-putting by some. She is also of a bird-hunting breed so chasing squirrels is a fun activity for her.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She was given a squeaky-chicken for her birthday, and that has become her favorite toy. She still has her previous favorite, a squeaky-penguin, as well as a rubber ball. But, the chicken is the beat all to end all at this moment in time!

Who is Mary's best pet-pal?

Sadly, she has lost her favorite pet friends recently: Cody, a cocker spaniel my husband and I adopted in 2008 when we still had Sage (Cody was nearly 18 when he died in January of this year); and Chewy, a shepherd-mix who belonged to one of my best friends – Mary and Chewy were both therapy dogs and we would all go to our local library about four times a year to conduct programs for kids and have them read to the two dogs; Chewy died about a week after Cody did – Chewy was more than 10 years old and had been diagnosed with cancer last fall.

What is Mary's best quality?

Her kindness and affection toward people – she loves people and wants to be with them. She enjoys sitting next to someone's legs or lying near them on the couch. She makes a great therapy dog, for me and my husband, our friends, even strangers. She just wants to be with you and to love you in her special doggie way.

If Mary could change one thing about Wyomingites, what would it be?

To not let people put their dogs in the back of pick-up trucks.

[photo left: Sage & Gayle, 2008]

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

“Do you remember your other human family, the one before Greg and I, and do you miss them?” I've always wondered, being part of pet rescue, what animals remember about their previous lives. Change can be very difficult and they must wonder why there are shuffled from home to home, whether that be via foster homes with rescue groups or cages in animal shelters.

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

Pauley Perrette of NCIS – I love her character in the show and in real life (Pauley is a huge animal lover!!)

What advice would Mary give if asked?

“Treat every person and every creature with kindness, respect, and compassion – everyone has problems and shortcomings, no one is perfect. But, we are all loved by and bound to the Creator.”

Visit Gayle M. Irwin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Laurel Saville & Ainsley and Jack

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Laurel Saville, author of North of Here and other books, and Ainsley and Jack.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The first sunny day after a long stretch of gray, on a spring morning after a record rainy winter in the Pacific NW.

What’s brewing?

I live on an island in the Puget Sound just west of Seattle, so we have quite the coffee culture here. I tend to rotate between the few local island roasteries.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

I always have a pocket with treats to reinforce my dogs’ welcome behaviors and work small moments of training into the daily rounds.

How were you and your dogs united?

The black dog came from a private Border Collie rescue group in Central New York state. We’ve been together 8 years. The red dog is some sort of herding/spaniel mix I got a few months ago from the Seattle Animal Shelter where I volunteer.

How did your dogs get their names?

Ainsley is a Scottish name meaning “hermitage in the woods.” Given that she is a Border Collie who was abandoned in the woods and found living under the front porch of an old hunting camp, it seemed appropriate. Jack is just, well, I always wanted a little boy dog with a simple name, and it really fit his personality.

Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?

Help! So much of my writing thinking, planning and pondering happens when I’m taking walks in the woods, and a dog seems a necessary accompaniment to that activity. Not people – they talk too much and wreck my concentration. Ainsley is too old and infirm for hikes anymore, so now it’s me and Jack. She does help when I’m gardening, though.

Have your dogs inspired the creation of any fictional canines?

Dix, one of the main characters in North of Here, finds a dog in the woods whose injuries are similar to those we discovered in Ainsley after we adopted her. She was not caught in a trap as Dix’s dog, Lucky, was, but she was for sure the inspiration.

Cat, postman, squirrel?

“Get the squirrel” is a favorite game. As is “Chase the deer” out of the garden and off the property. Our household also includes a small ginger cat and three ducks, so they have learned not to chase them. Sort of. Because, let’s face it, they’re herding dogs and it’s hard to resist.

Ball, squeaky toy, stick?

Ainsley clearly missed out on all kinds of formative experiences and had to be taught how to play. For a long time, squeaky toys scared her – she’d slink out of the room. She never developed much “fetch” interest and didn’t know how to play or appropriately interact with other dogs. She is not much like other Border Collies, that’s for sure. Part of why we got Jack was in the hopes she’d learn, at this late stage of her life – she’s maybe 13 years old – and even though she mostly blind and quite a gimp, how to be a dog. Much to our surprise, it worked, and now she romps and plays and grabs the other end of his stick and chases him through the yard. It’s quite a joy to witness.

What are your dogs' best qualities?

They are both very sweet in temperament.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Ainsley likes Jack a little more than he likes her, because he is a tad jealous of our attentions to her. In turn, Jack likes the cat a bit more than she likes him, but they get along well. The ducks are unsure of all the others, but it’s really quite a peaceable, if rag tag, crew of rescues.

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

Tell me what happened before you came into my life.

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

Lauren Bacall and Mickey Rooney.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Don’t abandon or neglect your dog friends. If you can’t care for us, take us to a reputable shelter or rescue and they’ll find someone to love and care for us.

Visit Laurel Saville's website.

Writers Read: Laurel Saville.

The Page 69 Test: North of Here.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 7, 2016

Susan Meissner & Bella

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello, there! My name is Susan Meissner and I’m a fiction writer who loves to write novels where I place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. My dog’s name is Bella and she’s a ten-year-old Golden Retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning is coffee time with Bella. My husband and I spend a half hour every morning with a hot cup of java, the morning paper, and the Today Show, with Bella lying between us.

What's brewing?

In the morning I love me two cups (and often a third that I heat up several times from breakfast to lunch) of freshly ground dark roast. Or if I’m in a hurry, a K-cup of Caribou Coffee’s Obsidian also makes me happy. In the afternoons, I like to spoil myself with a frothy Nespresso cappuccino and honestly, any flavor out of the Nespresso is my favorite.

Any treats for you or Bella on this occasion?

I had a toasted piece of beer bread for morning snack and Bella loved the corners of crust that I tossed to her.

How were you and Bella united?

An acquaintance of mine who breeds Goldens was retiring Bella and wanted to find a loving home for her. She was five then and deserving of a cushy life with dog lovers who only wanted one thing from her: affection. We had lots to give and so did she.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

I am not sure how she got her name, but we loved it and didn’t want to change it when she became our dog. We have lots of nicknames for her. Here are just a few: Bellaphone, Cinderbella, Tinkerbella, Bellaphant, Accabella, Tacobella, and Bellacopter.

Does Bella do more to help or hinder your writing?

Bella thinks she’s my muse. She is always as close as she can be to me when I’m writing. If I’m in my writing cave, she’s at the threshold of the room. If I’m writing in the living room, she’s lying on the rug at my feet. Whatever room in the house I decide to plop down in to work, she’s right there. I think she’s under the impression that if she’s not beside me, I am unable to write a word.

Please tell us about your new novel.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is a book about two studio secretaries who become best friends on the 1939 set of the most memorable film ever made, Gone With the Wind. One sets out to reinvent herself in LA after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart and lands a job at a Hollywood studio where she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow typist. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. This story is framed by a shorter contemporary thread about the iconic curtain-dress hat Vivien Leigh wore in the movie which shows up out of the blue at a Hollywood vintage clothing boutique.

Has Bella inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

I would say every time I give a character a dog, I do so because of not only Bella, but our Labrador Retriever, Luke, whom we lost three years ago at the age of 14. Our dogs have been such gentle companions to us. They’ve made our lives sweeter. I have given characters dogs who needed that sweetness because of all the trouble I put them through.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Bella chases nothing. Barks at nothing. She will bark when we get home but only because she’s happy we decided to come back.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She loves her toys. They’ve all been other animals, stuffed of course. Bear, bird, dragon, zebra. When she chews a toy (usually eviscerating it and pulling out the stuffing) it is the only time she shows a hint of aggression. She will chase a ball but bringing it back to you so you can throw it again isn’t high on her priority list. Or she might have not have figured out that’s how it works.

Who is Bella's best pet-pal?

She loves other dogs. All dogs. Cats, too. She doesn’t think for a moment that they might not like her. She will happily approach any dog or cat with the tail wag of friendship. It sometimes doesn’t go over too well.

What is Bella's best quality?

She wants to please you and make you happy. Her only aim is to make you feel good about being alive.

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

Bella would like to come inside all the stores, not just Petco.

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

Have you ever been in a bad mood?

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

Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna Bates on Downton Abbey.

What advice would Bella give if asked?

Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet or may not happen at all.

Visit Susan Meissner's website.

Writers Read: Susan Meissner.

My Book, The Movie: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Stella Cameron & Millie

Who is in the photo at right?

Stella Cameron here and I’m happy to “meet” you. The Alex Duggins Cotswold Mysteries are my ongoing project and passion. Out Comes The Evil, my current release, is the second book in the series after Folly, to be followed by Melody of Murder in June, 2015. The glamorous black-and-white person in the photo is my thirteen-year-old Papillon, Mellisande, Millie to her friends. Millie is my constant companion who would probably tell you that without her, I would never finish anything. We spend a great deal of time, often in wind and rain, sitting on a moldy park bench discussing plot dilemmas.

The fourth Alex Duggins book, Lies That Bind, is the book that consumes us both currently. I’ve published in several genres but mysteries always draw me back. Born and raised in the UK, Cotswold settings (Alex Duggins stomping grounds) are a comfortable milieu.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This morning we walked in the park by the marina. Millie hates this but Doc. Mike says she has to lose weight. She thinks her lovely, delicate legs were never intended to actually walk but I’m not about to be seen carrying a little dog. When we left the marina I took Millie to CafĂ© Lladro where we sat outside while I drank my ‘tall, skinny, latte with only a single shot.” Millie turns up her nose at this which may mean she thinks I’m a wuss and not to handle double shots like most people. We do quite nicely at Lladro—usually—but this morning Millie fidgeted around on my lap, sending glares at sweet old Daisy, a black dog of questionable ancestry. Everyone loves Daisy who is so friendly and gets lots of pats and kind words. Attention to any other dog infuriates Millie who eventually growls so persistently that we have to leave. The shame of it!

What's brewing?

Lladro Diablo. Tastes of tobacco leaf, brown sugar and dark chocolate. Dark roast. The Lladro man thinks it’s a waste to put milk in this but, as I’ve already said, I’m a wuss. I take milk in everything. And forget any notion that I’m a coffee connoisseur. I can’t tell one variety from another—I read the details given above on a package.

Any treats for you or Millie and Zipper and Jack on this occasion?

I’m glad Millie isn’t reading this. If she knew Zipper and Jack, mere cats, had been mentioned she would be most unhappy. Anyway, no treats for them. Millie got two home-made peanut butter treats I took in my pocket and I had a luscious almond croissant—which is not on my diet.

How were you and Millie united?

It’s a touching story. At a book-signing I took a sleepy Papillon on my lap where she instantly curled up and slept for more than an hour. In other words, I was suckered into longing for my own dear, soft, pretty dog who would only wanted to be with me. That dog was Belle, Millie’s mother.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Millie, or Mellisande as I call her when I am not pleased, looks like her name. Just as characters come to me complete with names, Millie came with hers. Black cat Zipper, a rescue, raced through our house from the moment her feet got inside the front door. Orange tabby Jack had lost an eye as a tiny kitten so one-eyed jack he was and is.

Does Millie do more to help or hinder your writing?

Millie makes me happy. I’m relaxed when I’m happy and my work flows more easily. Breaks spent with her on my lap are never a waste of time.

Has Millie inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Yes, although she invariably comes to me in disguise. Currently she is a mixed-breed terrier.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Oh, dear. Few are safe around “Millie’s house.” Only the UPS people are saved from the ferocious barks and growls of my fearsome 7lb beast. The boys and girls in brown carry milk bones—they are wonderful.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Millie does not chew, other than food, and neither does she chase. She doesn’t know what sticks are supposed to be for.

How would you describe Millie's relationship with Zipper and Jack?

Barely restrained hostility. If she doesn’t acknowledge them, perhaps they don’t exist.

What is Millie's best quality?

With me, Millie is gentle and loving, a dear friend who only wants affection—and as many treats as she can wheedle.

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

She deeply, sincerely wishes I didn’t like cats.

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

“Who is the most beautiful dog of all?”

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Millie and Zipper and Jack could speak, who should voice them?

Millie would be voiced by Helen Mirren. Zipper must be voiced by Sandra Bullock and for Jack, it’s Johnny Depp without a doubt.

What advice would Millie give if asked?

“Never compromise.”

Visit Stella Cameron's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue