Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tracy Calhoun & JJ

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Tracy Calhoun and I am a full time hospice nurse, in addition to being the driver for JJ, a seven-year-old female Golden Retriever, who is a therapy and crisis response dog, working alongside me at our inpatient hospice house.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

While in Seattle, our favorite stop for coffee is, of course, BARK! Espresso, with it's own dog cafe on one side.

What's brewing?

Even if it is 10 degrees below zero, it's always an iced latte for me.

Any treats for you or JJ on this occasion?

While I grab a cookie, since there is always time in a day for a cookie, JJ has the special Pooch's Peanut Butter Latte and gives it a 4 paws up rating.

How were you and JJ united?

I actually caught JJ when she was being born. She had a tiny white "kiss mark" on her forehead and still has a white twinkletoe on one foot.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

JJ was named after one of my nephews, Jaret. It's hard to come up with a girl's name from this, but JJ stuck. Her nickname is ButterButt, because she was so big as a puppy.

Please tell us about your new book.

In 2016, I was approached by a publisher asking if I would be interested in writing a book involving JJ, her hospice work and her day to day life. JJ's Journey tells the story of a therapy dog dedicated to helping humans through crises, tragedy, and loss through love and comfort. While these stories are often emotional, they also highlight the power of the human-animal bond, bringing smiles, laughter and tears. While the topic of hospice can be difficult for people to think about, many of the stories are about living life and helping others, expressed with humor and canine chaos along the way, as only a dog obsessed with bacon, puppies, and swimming can do. Along the way, JJ's sassy voice captions the photos throughout the book.

Cat, postman, rabbit...?


Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball or retriever bumper, but with the very non-retriever like attitude of "No take. Throw. No take." It makes the game a bit of a challenge.

Who is JJ's best pet-pal?

Taz, also known as Cat-dog. He was rescued as a tiny kitten and raised by a pack of Goldens. He sleeps every night curled up with JJ. We haven't had the heart to tell him he's a cat.

Where is JJ's favorite outdoor destination?

Anywhere she can find a pond to swim in.

She still is trying to convince me that a pond time counts as bath time.

What is JJ's best quality?

Her intuitive nature and ability to seek out those who need her comfort and attention.

If JJ could change one thing about Oregonians, what would it be?

Eat more bacon. And share it with your dog!

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

How are you able to pick the people who need you most day after day?

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

This one is easy, since one of JJ's names for me is BossyPants. It would have to be Tina Fey, bringing life to a very sassy dog!

What advice would JJ give if asked?

During the time of writing these stories, JJ was diagnosed with lymphoma. Even during treatment, she has taught us all how dogs embody the concept of living in the moment. No one has told her she has a life limiting disease, so she continues to live life with zest and work at her second home.

Her motto has become "Barke Diem", a dog's take on Carpe Diem, meaning seize the day.

Visit the JJ Hospice Therapy Dog website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Amy Giles & Sally

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Amy Giles, and I’m a young adult author. My debut Now Is Everything is available November 7th. The sassy girl with the racing stripe down the middle of her head is Sally, my faithful canine companion. Sally is five years old. Because she’s a muttigree, our best guess is she’s a Shepherd mix with some Jack Russell.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Sally joins me every morning for coffee and snuggles. Since I work from home, she’s always by my side. We’re both homebodies.

What's brewing?

I’m not much of a bean snob (unlike Hadley’s father in Now Is Everything). Today’s selection is Eight O’Clock Coffee, on sale from Stop & Shop, but perked in my electric percolator. I have a French Press in case of emergency (power outage), but I have no idea how to use it, TBH.

Any treats for you or Sally on this occasion?

Sally gets a sprinkle of grated cheese on her morning kibble. She’s fancy that way. I’m having a Kind breakfast bar.

How were you and Sally united?

A few weeks after our dog Max went over the rainbow bridge, my family felt the time was right to go to the shelter and adopt a new pup. I didn’t think I was ready; my heart was still shattered. But they talked me into it, and I’m so glad they did. Sally was curled up in a tiny ball in her cage. When they pulled her out and handed her to me, it was love at first sight. Sally wrapped her paws around my neck and wouldn’t let go.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Ha, welllll…my daughter Maggie named her Sally after Charlie Brown’s sister. My daughter Julia gave her the middle name of Hugsalot, because of Sally’s paws wrapped around my neck. That later evolved into Sally Peesalot when she urinated all over the vet’s office a few weeks later.

Does Sally do more to help or hinder your writing?

Sally is usually a great writing companion. If she needs to go out, she’ll put a gentle paw on my arm to tell me, “Okay, stop now and open the back door.” But one day when I had a deadline looming on a significant revision, a cute bunny took up residence in our flower bed. Sally barked out the window all day. That wasn’t fun.

Has Sally inspired the creation of any dogs in your fiction?

I have yet to put Sally in one of my stories, but now that you’ve pointed that out, I do feel a little guilty about it.

Cat, postman, rabbit...?

Squirrels, cats, rabbits, other dogs…any critter that dares to walk by the house will elicit the canine alarm. Nighttime can be brutal when the raccoons and possums come out to play.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

We’ve been trying to teach Sally how to fetch for five years. It’s still a game of catch me if you can.

Who is Sally's best pet-pal?

Sally plays nicely with Indiana, Franklin, and Augie. She just doesn’t pick up on the cues when they’re tired and no longer want to play. Indiana once hid behind a hydrangea bush to get away from Sally when he’d had enough.

What is Sally's best quality?

She is super lovable with everyone. She really is one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever met.

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

She’d want me to share her same boundless energy.

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

“Sally, what do you think happened in that last episode of The Sopranos?”

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

Amy Adams or Emma Stone.

What advice would Sally give if asked?

“See that deceptively benign patch of grass over there? Do not…I repeat…do not crawl on your belly over that. That’s a Yellowjacket nest. You do not want those buggers nipping at your nether regions. Trust me!”

Visit Amy Giles's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Valerie Constantine & Zorba

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Valerie Constantine, half of the writing team of Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish, sitting with the amazing Zorba, probably the greatest dog in the world. He is a seven-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and he loves to read––mostly history and mostly about England, since his breed hails from there. And actually he prefers tea to coffee.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We have our morning coffee together and I bounce ideas off him before I begin writing. Here we are sitting at a friend’s lake house and enjoying the scenery.

What's brewing?

I have a big cup of Fancy Santos from Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company.

Any treats for you or Zorba on this occasion?

Zorba will eat anything I put in front of him, but his favorite treat is a petite Greenie. Today, though, he is having a Trader Joe’s Organic Chicken Brown Rice Recipe Stick. He loves those as well.

How were you and Zorba united?

My husband spotted a Cavalier sitting in a car at a grocery store parking lot and waited for the owner to return. When she got to the car, he asked where she had gotten the dog. It turned out she was a breeder, so he gave her our information and asked her to call us when the next litter came along. We forgot about it, but a year and a half later, she called to tell us that she had a new litter of two. The girl was already taken, but the boy was available, and that’s how we wound up with our favorite dog of all time.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My husband and Zorba are both British. I am Greek. I guess I needed to be represented, thus the name Zorba, as in Zorba the Greek. Now he seems half and half to me. I like that. I occasionally call him Z for short.

Does Zorba do more to help or hinder your writing?

Zorba definitely helps my writing. He sits quietly near me when I write. He also gets me outside to walk, which often is a time that I’m hit with great inspiration.

Has Zorba inspired the creation of any dogs in your fiction?

Not so far, but my husband, who is also a writer, keeps talking about collaborating on a Zorba diary. Zorba has quite a mind of his own and isn’t bashful about letting us know. He also has a great sense of humor.

Cat, postman, rabbit...?

Squirrel, with a capital S. They drive him crazy, and he’s never caught one in his life. We have a fox and some deer that cross our lawn occasionally, and he goes mad with them as well. Loves the postman and UPS lady, because they give him treats. He’s not very fond of anyone walking past our house…

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

None of the above. Zorba won’t play with a toy unless someone plays with him. Tug of war is his favorite. He won’t fetch. He sort of looks at you like “You threw it, you go fetch it!”

Who is Zorba’s best pet-pal?

I am. He’s my best bud. The breeder told me that “a female dog will love you, but a male dog will fall in love with you.” That has worked both ways with Zorba and me.

What is Zorba’s best quality?

Without question it is his sweetness. He’s the most lovable dog ever!

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

He would make them better drivers. They would also not do 50 miles an hour in the fast lane, but would instead move over so that I could pass them.

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

How much of what we say to you do you understand?

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

Colin Firth. Posh and British.

What advice would Zorba give if asked?

Take long walks, stop and smell the roses along the way, get enough rest and spread lots of love.

Visit Valerie Constantine's website. Learn more about The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel by Liv Constantine (the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Lynne Constantine & Greyson

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Lynne Constantine, and Greyson.

How were you and Greyson united?

We were actually on a list with two rescue sites for a golden retriever. My beloved golden, Tucker, was ill and our kids begged us to get a dog to keep him company and to help with the transition when he passed. I got an email that there was a three-month-old silver lab available asking if we were interested. My husband and I talked about it before telling the kids, and he went to meet him. He Facetimed me from the rescue and as soon as I saw him I knew he was for us. We picked him up a week later and he and Tucker, our golden got to play together for six weeks before we had to say goodbye to Tucker.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He was called Ash when we got him, and we decided it sounded too much like another not so nice word. We through lists of names until our kids both decided that since he is a gray color, Greyson would be a good name for him. He sometimes answers to no no no, stop chewing that, or please don’t bite me.

Does Greyson do more to help or hinder your writing?

At this puppy stage, definitely hinders. However, Tucker was by my side when I wrote all my books to date (and he was a tough puppy) so I have hope that when Greyson matures, he will take his place next to me in my office.

Has Grayson inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet. But if I have any plots that include a dog that shreds paper – he’s in.

Cat, postman, rabbit…?

Yes, yes, yes as well as other dogs, reflections in the glass that look like other dogs, animals on television and anyone wearing a hat or hoodie. All inspire ferocious barking out of character with his adorable face.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Loves them all as well as socks, shoes, cardboard, scarves….

What is Greyson’s best quality?

His exuberance. He embraces life whole-heartedly and goes after everything with gusto.

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

That I would be more flexible about letting him leap into our bed at night. Maybe when he calms down a little.

Visit Lynne Constantine's website. Learn more about The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel by Liv Constantine (the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine).

--Marshal Zeringue