Sunday, July 29, 2018

Amber Brock & Bitty, Fred and Vicki

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Amber Brock, teacher and author of A Fine Imitation and Lady Be Good. Bitty has joined me for coffee today! She’s one of my three rescue dogs, and she’s a nine-year-old miniature Australian Shepherd mixed with mystery mutt. My other two (not pictured) are Fred, a fourteen-year-old German Shepherd/Australian Shepherd mix; and Vicki, a five-year-old Chihuahua mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

In the summer, I get to have coffee with my dogs every morning before our big walk. They definitely prefer that to the school year, when I have to rush out the door early.

What's brewing?

I drink my coffee black, and I have since I started drinking coffee in college.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

My dogs like to get their “cookies.” Their favorite is Lose-a-Finger, a local Atlanta brand.

How were you and your dogs united?

Ever since I adopted Fred twelve years ago, I’ve been committed to always adopting rescue dogs. When we’re ready to adopt, we meet as many dogs at the local rescue as possible and consider who would be the best fit in our pack.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Fred came from the rescue with his name, and he was such a perfect “Fred.” I couldn’t bear to change it! Bitty was originally Chex, but I started calling her “Little Bit” and “Bitty” because at the time she was the smallest in our pack. Now we have Vicki, who was Cinderella at the rescue. Vicki is an obscure reference to an episode of The Simpsons, and we gave her the name because she does a little tap dance when she’s excited about dinner—bonus points to anyone who knows it!

Do Fred, Bitty, and Vicki do more to help or hinder your writing?

Vicki likes to be in my lap, which can make it challenging to find a comfortable writing position. Fred is content to stay on the couch and ignore me when I’m working. Bitty usually sleeps on the bed all day—she likes a little luxury.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Loco in Lady Be Good is inspired by Bitty’s look and Vicki’s “Velcro” qualities. Much like Loco with my main character Kitty, Vicki always wants to be by my side!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

All are cause for raucous barking, and all three dogs are convinced that someday, somehow, they will catch a squirrel.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Vicki immediately shreds any toy she gets her teeth in, even the supposedly indestructible ones. Bitty has “her” toys, and she doesn’t like to share (probably due to Vicki’s destructive tendencies). Now that Fred is fourteen, it’s rare that he’s interested in toys. But when he gets interested, he’ll play with anything!

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Bitty pretends to be distant, but she can’t bear to be separated from Fred. If he goes to the vet or on his special, shorter walks, she waits anxiously to celebrate his return. Vicki seems to think she’s a person and is mostly baffled by the other two.

What is each dog's best quality?

Vicki is the sweetest, Bitty is the funniest, and Fred is the most loyal. He’s always trying to top himself on the “good boy” scale.

If Fred, Bitty, and Vicki could change one thing about Georgians, what would it be?

They would request fewer fireworks! The poor girls don’t care for July 4th or New Years’ at all.

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

I’d probably ask all of them if I’ve been a good dog mom. They seem really happy, though, so I guess I’m treating them well.

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

Fred: Tom Hanks (doing a goofy voice, for sure)

Bitty: Retta (Donna on Parks and Rec)

Vicki: Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson)

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

They would always, without fail, advise people to take more naps and give more cookies!

Visit Amber Brock's website.

My Book, The Movie: Lady Be Good.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Gwen Florio & Nell

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, writer Gwen Florio, and my 8-year-old Brittany, Nell.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine? What's brewing? Any treats for you or Nell on this occasion?

Most days, I stop by Black Coffee [image below left] on my way to work, and on weekends will walk there (it’s about a mile from our house) with Nell, to fuel my day with a 12-ounce oat milk latte, with Vinyl blend coffee. Nell is not in love with Black Coffee because they don’t have dog treats. But sometimes I take her for a run along the trail beside the Clark Fork River that runs through Missoula and make a one-block detour to L’Petit Outre, a bakery that also has great espresso drinks and dog biscuits. There always seem to be a couple of contented dogs outside, and Nell is happy to join them. I make a heroic effort to avoid the people treats at each place. But Black Coffee makes a mean avocado toast or—even better—toast with prosciutto and cream cheese, and L’Petit has a pain du matin and yummy little cannele to die for.

How were you and Nell united?

We got Nell as a puppy when it became clear that our elderly Brittany, Jake, was not long for this world. Jake was an old dog when we acquired him, quiet (we found out only later it’s because he was deaf), calm and sweet. We wanted another one just like him. Nell’s a Brittany, too, but the resemblance ended there. Jake checked out within a month of our bringing her home, no doubt preferring the peace of the Other Side to her irrational exuberance.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Nell is short for Grinnell, after one of Montana’s fast-vanishing glaciers.

Does Nell do more to help or hinder your writing?

Overall, more of a help. She’s a constant companion as I write, preferring to lie across my feet, although sometimes bopping my elbow with her nose to let me know it’s time to stop writing and go for a run. When she was a puppy, she consumed her share of manuscript pages, but now that she’s matured, she focuses on the obviously edible, as opposed to say, prescription eyewear (two pairs) or the remote.

Has Nell inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

She’s the model, behavior-wise, for Bub the border collie who plays a large part in the five novels in my Lola Wicks crime series. Readers reacted so strongly to Bub’s role in the first book that I had to write him into the others. Do you know how hard it is to find different things for a dog to do over five books? But Bub, like Nell, is endlessly smart and finds ever-new ways to get into mischief.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel! Nell fiercely defends the yard from all rodent incursions.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Squeaky toy—usually destroyed within five minutes.

Where is Nell's favorite outdoor destination?

Missoula’s Rattlesnake Recreation Area, which eventually turns into a wilderness, and where after the first couple of miles she can run off-leash. There are bears, but we’ve actually seen more bears on our street than in the Rattlesnake (where, thankfully, there are no rattlesnakes). A branch off the main trail runs beside a creek, and Nell loves to dip in and out of the water.

Who is Nell's best pet-pal?

Her buddy Finn, a dog of indeterminate parentage who looks like a miniature black Lab. She goes berserk when she sees him, and is equally crazy for Finn’s owner, Kileen, who takes her mountain-biking and in general is more fun than we are.

What is Nell's best quality?

Nell is game for anything. We’ve gone on runs in below-zero weather, and she doesn’t bat an eye; in fact, she’s the one who forces us out of the house on those days. (Sometimes, after we’ve survived one of those winter runs, we jump in the car and drive for coffee.) Also, I’m convinced she has a sense of humor – she seems to want to make us laugh, and usually succeeds.

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

Stop driving everywhere and take more walks. So what if your destination is a hundred miles away?

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

Who do you love more, me or Scott? (Asked while holding an extra-special treat in my hand.)

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

Tina Fey, because she’s really smart and really funny. Also a smart-ass.

What advice would Nell give if asked?

More walks. More treats. And stop going off to work every day. Stay home and play with me instead. You know you want to.

Visit Gwen Florio's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Caryn Lix & Aleiah and Archer

Who is in the photos at right and below?

That's me, Caryn Lix, author of Sanctuary and teacher of children. The dogs are Archer (the Boston terrier, who is five) and Aleiah (mostly lab, who is nine).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

If I leave them home alone, I never know what they will do, so here we are!

What's brewing?

Chai latte. But it's summer right now, so I'll take it iced!

Any treats for you or Aleiah and Archer on this occasion?

I eat all the treats and so do my dogs. Actually while no one was looking there's a good chance Aleiah stole all the cookies out of the cabinet.

How were you and your dogs united?

I saw Aleiah at a dog adoption event. They were trying to introduce me to another dog and all I could focus on was the baby girl dragging one of her legs around and looking like everyone was out to get her. Six months later, the leg had been amputated, and she was living in my house. Archer came to me when his family couldn't take care of him anymore.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Aleiah came pre-named, and we liked her name so we kept it. Archer is named after the television show, and he lives up to the name. He also looks like he's wearing a suit. They have many names. Aleiah's middle name is Freeman because my husband wanted to be able to shout "Hey everybody, let's follow Freeman!" when she took off at the dog park. And Archer's middle name is Fremulon, just because we like the way it sounds.

Do Aleiah and Archer do more to help or hinder your writing?

Oh, they are a constant hindrance. I'll be deep in the middle of a scene and suddenly I'll hear a whimper and Archer will be up on his hind legs, pawing at my arm. It's fantastic.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

They actually haven't. I rarely put dogs in my writing. Whenever I see a dog on TV, I'm convinced it's going to die.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Bird. There's a magpie who lives in our backyard who takes great joy in dropping sticks on their heads. Then they go berserk chasing the magpie around the yard.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Anything they can rip to pieces.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Archer loves Aleiah. She is his best friend and he will do anything to protect her. Aleiah is pretty fixated on me. She was scared and nervous when I first got her, and she doesn't like for me to be too far out of her sight.

What is each dog's best quality?

Aleiah is literally the best dog in the world. She is sweet, gentle, kind, cheerful, you name it. I can't name one best quality. Archer is a handful, but he is also completely hilarious and constantly doing weird things like getting on his hind legs and bicycling his front paws for no apparent reason, so we love that about him.

If Aleiah and Archer could change one thing about Albertans, what would it be?

Aleiah would like them to stop trying to pet her. Archer would like them to get rid of all the other dogs and just pay attention to him.

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

I would ask Aleiah what she's scared of, so I can try to protect her from it. I would ask Archer how I can get him to calm down for thirty five seconds.

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

Well, clearly Archer would have to be voiced by H. Jon Benjamin! Aleiah is so gentle and kind, I feel like Inoue Marina, who does the voice of Armin in Attack on Titan, would be great.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Aleiah: Just... keep quiet. Watch from the sidelines until you're sure things are safe. Also, licking people is a great way to get their attention.

Archer: Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me. Wait. Advice? What? Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me!

Visit Caryn Lix's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Danielle Banas & Cooper

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Danielle Banas, author of the young adult novel, The Supervillain and Me, which was recently released from Swoon Reads and Macmillan. The little guy with me is my best buddy Cooper. He’s a five-year-old Cavapoo and the best boy ever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This picture was taken on Coop’s 4th birthday right before I had to leave for work, so we unfortunately didn’t drink coffee together, but we did have cupcakes! It’s our birthday tradition. He eats a few bites of yellow cupcake, and I eat the rest plus the icing. My family has been trying to teach him to blow out his candle, but we haven’t mastered that trick quite yet.

What's brewing?

I consume most of my coffee while I’m at my office job (2 cups of Chock full o’Nuts original blend with vanilla creamer). When I’m at home, I stick to tea or hot chocolate. Cooper is a big hot chocolate fan – well, I should say he’s a big whipped cream fan. As soon as I pull out the can, he comes running and begs me to share.

Any treats for you or Cooper on this occasion?

All Cooper does all day is eat treats. Green beans, yogurt, chicken, carrots – and that’s just the people food!

How were you and Cooper united?

My family saw an ad in the Pennysaver. A guy in Ohio bred his dog with his mother’s, and he was trying to find homes for the puppies. We went back and forth for a day or two about whether we wanted one because we had lost our Shih Tzu about two years prior and didn’t know if we could potty train another puppy, but once we emailed the seller and got pictures of the pups, we were sold. My parents drove over an hour to the house in Ohio, and Cooper was the last one left. They literally saved the best for last.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

We brainstormed a lot of names. Some of them were golf-related because my dad is a golf fanatic, but we shot those ones down. I don’t remember who, but one of us suggested the name Andy, after Anderson Cooper, and then we decided that Cooper was a more suitable name. He has so many nicknames though. Coop, Mr. Coop, Coopie, Cooperdo, Cooperman, Super Cooper, and Monkey. One of those names is definitely not like the others.

Does Cooper do more to help or hinder your writing?

Cooper loves to snuggle. Cooper also loves to snuggle on my lap while I’m trying to write, so then I have to move my laptop onto the arm of the couch and turn awkwardly to type while he’s sleeping – then my back starts to hurt. So he definitely hinders more than helps, but I still gave him a shout-out on the acknowledgments page of my book. If nothing else, he’s good for moral support.

Has Cooper inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Yes, actually. I wrote a draft of a story with a dog named Cooper. The fictional Cooper was a black Standard Poodle, so he resembled my little guy in name alone. Maybe I’ll write the real Cooper into a story one day.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Friend, friend, friend. Cooper loves everyone and everything. Cats and squirrels confuse him a bit because he doesn’t see them often, but he still likes them. Postmen are his buddies. He loves anyone who comes to our house.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Cooper plays fetch with tennis balls and he gets so into it. We used to play outside, and he would crouch down really low and chew a blade of grass like he was a baseball player or something. We stick to playing ball inside now because he has some issues with his knees, and he was getting way too enthusiastic outside. He would slide across the grass and do somersaults and stuff. As for squeaky-toys, he’s not a big fan. He likes stuffed animals so that he can rip them to shreds. Sticks are bad because he’ll try to eat them.

Where is Cooper's favorite outdoor destination?

He loves the park! In fact, he loves the park so much that we can’t take him there very often because he goes nuts and pulls really hard on his leash, which is exhausting. He looks small, but he’s 40 pounds of pure muscle.

Who is Cooper's best pet-pal?

The ladies in the neighborhood love Mr. Coop. Pippy across the street rolls over every time she sees him. She’s a Yorkie, and the difference in size between the two of them is too funny. His other girlfriend is Molly three doors up. She’s a Cockapoo and always acts aloof whenever he’s around, but we know she’s just playing hard to get.

What is Cooper's best quality?

I call Coop a baby angel. He would never hurt a fly. We put fingers in his mouth all the time because he loves to eat things he shouldn’t, and he’s never tried to bite any of us.

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

He would make sure that I let him do more sniffing while on walks. I get so impatient that I tend to drag him along – because honestly, the 100th blade of grass smells exactly like the 99 that he sniffed before it.

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

We left Cooper once to go on a family vacation, and the friend who watched him told us he cried all night the first night. I would ask him if he knows that Momma, Daddy, and Danielle will always come back for him.

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

Michael Keaton all the way.

What advice would Cooper give if asked?

He’d probably tell me to relax and quit overanalyzing everything all the time. Then he’d suggest that I give him a treat.

Visit Danielle Banas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue