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

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