Saturday, March 10, 2018

Leslie Karst & Ziggy

Who is in the photo at right?

This is Ziggy, a Jack Russell mix, age seven. (But when she switches into her devil-dog mode, tearing around the place in circles, you’d swear she was still a pup.) I am Leslie Karst, author of the Sally Solari culinary mystery series. I’m a Western-European mix, age sixty-one. (But after several cocktails, if you can get me dancing to “Burning Down the House,” you might swear I was still a teenager.)

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Ziggy and I are waiting for the Merrie Monarch (a world-renowned hula competition) parade to pass through downtown Hilo, Hawai’i, where we live half the year. But right before this photo was snapped, we were at home out on our lanai, me sipping a cuppa joe, she stalking geckos scurrying around the ti and ginger plants.

What's brewing?

Kirkland label House Blend, medium roast, by Starbucks. (It’s the Costco brand, and not at all bad for the money.) Brewed strong, with milk—or half-and-half, if there’s any in the fridge.

Any treats for you or Ziggy on this occasion?

Some of the folks on the parade floats tossed wrapped candy our way, and I let Ziggy have several licks.

How were you and Ziggy united?

Ziggy was in the local paper as one of a litter of puppies born in Puna, the district south of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai‘i (Puna is also home to the active volcano and a whole lot of hippies). Since my wife and I wanted a dog that would be small enough when full-grown to ride in the airplane cabin with us when we travel between Hawai‘i and Santa Cruz, California, we needed to meet both parents, to see how big they were. Ziggy’s mom and dad were not only the requisite size, but her dad (a JRT-Corgi mix, we think) was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever encountered. (Her mom, a JRT-Chihuahua mix, not so much).

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Ziggy’s full name is Sieglinde (but we spell it with a Z so folks will pronounce it correctly). She’s named after the heroine in Wagner’s opera, Die Walküre, and has the majesty and spunk to match her namesake—the demi-goddess who fell in love with her brother and bore Siegfried, who himself went on to marry his aunt, Brünhilde. (And you think your family is dysfunctional.) We mostly call her Zig, Ziggy, or Sieglinde, but on occasion refer to her as “the Zigster,” or “the princess.”

Does Ziggy do more to help or hinder your writing?

In general she does neither, spending her day lazing about the house while I write. But when she’s ready for her walk or wants to play, there’s no ignoring her piercing barks as she sits at my feet with that look in her eye: Get up from the computer right this instant and pay attention to me!

Has Ziggy inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Sally’s dog, Buster, is certainly inspired in part by Ziggy, but also by every other dog I’ve known in my life. And Ziggy and Buster do share an infatuation with critters who scurry and who live in holes.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

All of the above, and also geckos and mongoose, when we are in Hawai‘i. But squirrels—especially the ground variety that burrow by the levee in Santa Cruz—are without doubt her favorite. We don’t even say the letters S-Q around Ziggy, lest she go berserk.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Those will all do in a pinch, but she mostly loves to chew the eyes off stuffed animals we buy for a quarter at garage sales, then pull the stuffing out of their eye sockets, imagining herself (or so I imagine) one of those vicious hyenas feasting on zebra from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

Where is Ziggy's favorite outdoor destination?

Anywhere that has (shhhhh!)...s-qs. And she loved tearing through the snowbanks in Fairbanks, Alaska, where we once spent five months.

Who is Ziggy's best pet-pal?

Her biggest crush was an Alaskan husky mix named Makai. She met him when we were in Fairbanks, and fell head-over-paws in love with that handsome dog. Makai taught her to lift her leg when she pees—which she still does when she’s marking—and they would run off together for adventures in the woods until we put a stop to it (we were worried the little Zigster could be carried off by an eagle; this was Alaska, after all). But her best long-term pal is Daisy, whom Ziggy met as a pup in Santa Cruz.

What is Ziggy's best quality?

Her curiosity. She’s fascinated by the world and is constantly checking everything out: looking around, listening, cocking her head, wondering, “wait, what’s that?”

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

She would make it so I never left the house without taking her with me.

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

What goes through your brain when you lie there in the sun gazing out at the world?

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

Rachel Maddow. She’s smart and curious like Ziggy, but also has a bit of the devil dog in her.

What advice would Ziggy give if asked?

Make sure you’re adopted by humans who are retired or who write for a living. They don’t leave home nearly as much as those other kinds.

Visit Leslie Karst’s author website.

--Marshal Zeringue