Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tracee de Hahn & Alvaro and Laika

Who is pictured in these photos?

I’m Tracee de Hahn and I live and work in an old Victorian house in Virginia. Many times I can be found on my front porch with Alvaro, our nine-year-old Jack Russell, who isn’t always a fan of being cuddled. His sister and litter mate, Laika, is always willing to be held…. particularly in this photo [at right], when we were waiting for the vet prior to her cataract surgery (which was a great success…. all the better to see distant squirrels).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Who needs a reason! They are with me every day almost all day long. They love walking into town for a coffee.

What's brewing?

At home I drink tea – Lady Grey by Twinings. Out of the house I treat myself to a cappuccino.

Any treats for you or Alvaro and Laika on this occasion?

Absolutely – I’m having a scone. Laika isn’t at all interested, she’s more focused on the squirrels (which look like a tasty snack to her). Alvaro [photo left] knows that he will get a doggy treat. He’s very food motivated and waits patiently for his reward.

How were you and your dogs united?

Alvaro and Laika were true life savers. We had a pair of Jack Russells and the girl, Sabatchka, died. She was the sweetest dog in the world and her brother fell into immediate depression (as did my husband). I found a girl puppy all the way up the coast at the top of California (we were living in the center of the state) and we drove there right away. During the seven hour drive we kept saying ‘them’ and not ‘her’. And sure enough we just couldn’t leave the final pup (a boy) there. For many years we had three Jack Russsells and I’m convinced that once our older dog was accustomed to them, they were the mainstay of his life for the next seven years.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Our boy dogs are traditionally named after famous architects. Alvaro is in honor of Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. The girls have Russian names – in honor of my love of Russian literature. Laika was the first dog in space. The terrier who went up in Sputnik.

Do Alvaro and Laika do more to help or hinder your writing?

That depends on their mood. Many days they sit nearby in their bed or on a chair looking out the window, waiting patiently until we have a walk. Other days they want to be closer, which means I must abandon the desk and sit on a sofa so they can cuddle nearby. Occasionally Laika is only content if she is literally on my lap – with my computer or notebook balanced on top of her.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The Great Dane in Swiss Vendetta plays a critical role. He is based on a Great Dane I met once in Franklin, Tennessee. A gorgeous harlequin.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Laika wants to be friends with the neighborhood cats, but they aren’t very willing. Perhaps because they see how desperate she is to catch the squirrels.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Alvaro love his toys, particularly tennis balls, but really any toy. Squeaky toys lose their squeak after five minutes but that’s five minutes of pure joy so it’s worth it! Now he’s nudging me as a reminder that the rats from Ikea are his favorite. Intended for human children, they don’t have squeakers but they are fun to carry and sleep with.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

They have always been together so the bond is strong. With each of our pairs of dogs, the female bonds with my husband and the male with me.

What is each dog's best quality?

Laika – when not obsessed with the squirrels – is very affectionate. Alvaro is playful and loyal.

If Alvaro and Laika could change one thing about Virginians, what would it be?

They love everything about the state. The weather – love that snow! – and how friendly people are. Plus there are lots of dogs, which makes them feel at home everywhere.

Laika was particularly happy when we moved here two years ago because she had terrible skin allergies in California and had to wear a shirt to prevent scratching. Horribly embarrassing for her.

If Alvaro and Laika could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

What could we do to make their routine even better.

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

Kate Winslet for Laika, because of her beautiful voice with a bit of spunk.

Alvaro might be Matt Damon, good humored but also serious.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

To enjoy every day, that’s their attitude toward life and I think it’s working out for them.

Visit Tracee de Hahn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cat Urbigkit & Hud

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Cat Urbigkit, and I’m a writer who lives on a working sheep ranch in western Wyoming. I’m in the truck with my husband Jim, a lamb, and Hud, the herding dog looking on from the back seat.

Hud is a six-year old herding dog. He’s a cross between a bearded collie and an Australian shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with Hud every day.

What's brewing?

I’m a big fan of Peet’s Columbia deep roast coffee, made in a stainless steel percolator.

Any treats for you or Hud on this occasion?

No treats for me, but Hud always gets a nimble of my husband’s breakfast bacon.

How were you and Hud united?

We already had one bearded collie, Abe, and as he began to age, we were able to obtain a pup from the same working dog lineage. It was a stressful time in my life, and when I talked to the breeder, I told her I didn’t need to select a puppy from the litter, but asked her to give me the pup that no one else wanted. Of course that meant that I would end up with the pup that was meant to be with me!

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My best friend, Sheri Hudson Nolan, had just passed away at a relatively young age from cancer, so I wanted to honor her. Hudson was a perfect name for a pup – shortened to Hud, which was also the name of an old western movie starring Paul Newman.

Please tell us about your new book, Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs.

My new book is my celebration of another type of working dog – livestock guardian dogs that protect livestock from predators.

Does Hud do more to help or hinder your writing?

Hud helps my writing because he often lounges under my desk, providing a soft, warm place for my toes.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Prairie dogs - they have a unique bark and chatter that drives Hud crazy!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Hedgehog. Hud believes that one of his jobs is to remove the squeaker.

Who is Hud's best pet-pal?

Hud is friends with all our guardian dogs, but his best pals are always the lambs that end up in our ranch yard for special care. Hud licks their noses and takes naps with them, and even as the lambs grow and become adults, he maintains a close relationship with them.

What is Hud's best quality?

Hud is very kind.

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

For me to get off the computer and come roll around in the snow (or manure) with him more often.

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

Hud is such a great communicator already, but the one question I would ask is “How are you feeling?” because he is so stoic about going about his work even if he isn’t feeling well.

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

Hud has a smooth, deep voice, so Morgan Freeman would be a great match.

What advice would Hud give if asked?

Find the fun in every day.

Learn more about Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs and visit Cat Urbigkit’s Paradise Sheep website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cat Urbigkit & Rena.

--Marshal Zeringue