Friday, August 31, 2018

Sejal Badani & Skyler

Who is in the photo at right?

My Teacup Morkie, Skyler. She's nearly 7 years old and the baby of the house.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Skyler sits at my feet while I write, so naturally when I head out she assumes we're in it together.

What's brewing?

Venti Decaf Soy Cappuccino. I live on them.

Any treats for you or Skyler on this occasion?

I always take a treat with me for Skyler. She has a sensitive stomach so anything random that goes in I'm paying for later.

How were you and Skyler united?

She is really my daughter's dog but we're keeping it between Skyler and me that her loyalties have shifted.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

It was between Queens (my husband hails from New York) or Skyler. My husband was outvoted.

Does Skyler do more to help or hinder your writing?

Writing can be a lonely venture so definitely help except when she spots a squirrel and barks suddenly which makes me jump and interrupts any creative flow.

Has Skyler inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Rokie's loyalty in The Storyteller's Secret was definitely based off of Skyler. Though barely ten pounds she'll stand nose to nose with anyone out of a desire to protect.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel definitely and cars - her two nemeses.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Bones and lots of them. I know this because I'm always stubbing my toes on the little hard pieces she leaves behind.

Where is Skyler's favorite outdoor destination?

The backyard. She believes it her kingdom.

Who is Skyler's best pet-pal?

My socks. She loves them like an imaginary friend.

What is Skyler's best quality?

Her sweetness. She's really the nicest dog I've ever had.

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

The hours I spend on the computer during a deadline. Many a walk is either missed or shortened.

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

Does she know how loved she is?

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

Melissa McCarthy. I am a huge fan and absolutely love everything she does.

What advice would Skyler give if asked?

Chill out. And if that's not possible chew on a sock - it just makes everything better.

Visit Sejal Badani's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2018

Robert Fieseler & Chompers

Who is in the photo at right?

Featured in this photo is myself, Robert Fieseler, and Chompers, my thirteen-year-old male Cairn Terrier. My husband Ryan calls us Chompers 1 and Chompers 2 – with me, of course, being Chompers 2. I’m a nonfiction book author who recently published a work of queer history entitled Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, and Chompers is my familiar, in the spiritual sense, and my writing companion.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I write in a secret nook of the Boston Athenaeum, a private membership library hid near the State House, on a hilltop overlooking Boston Common. As the Athenaeum is an historic institution still frequented by elite Brahmin families, the library has several unique rules that are important only to weird people like writers and rich old ladies: 1. Coffee is always permitted in a closed container and 2. One well-behaved dog is permitted with each library member. Thus, Chompers comes with me virtually every day that I spend at the Athenaeum, which I utilize as my office and place of work. I wrote all of Tinderbox in this magical setting—mostly with Chompers dog-napping underneath the oak table that I think of as my desk.

What's brewing?

Generally, an espresso or Americano prepared at Café Marliave by an exceptional barista named Andrew, who can and should win awards for his coffee artistry. I am lucky in that Marliave is within walking distance of the Athenaeum and, like my library, is dog friendly. Chompers is always pleased to see Andrew, who gives him one or two treats.

How were you and Chompers united?

It’s a long story that involves a sad breakup, but I’ll condense the drama and just say that Chompers became my sole responsibility in 2006 at the end of an acrimonious yet unofficial gay divorce. My ex, a good person who spearheaded our getting a puppy from an online breeder somewhere in Arkansas, was unable to care for the animal when we separated.

Thus, I got Chompers in the divvying up of emotional belongings. I still feel bad when I look back on that time, but the reality of most gay breakups is that one person gets the dog or that packs of dogs get separated. Visitation, or co-ownership, doesn’t really work, as it’s best for everyone to take the breakup seriously and make a clean start.

So, at age 24, I became another one of those overgrown Peter Pans with an untrained dog counting on me for everything. Like the movie Three Men and a Baby but instead called One Man and a Poochie. Predictably, this small, stubborn little creature somehow trained me in adulthood—teaching me responsibility, forcing me to set a schedule for walks and feedings, compelling me to plan for his daily happiness and my future. He became my world.

I shudder to think who I’d be without him. My mother reminded me, much later, how my favorite childhood film was The Wizard of Oz and how I’d always begged her for a little dog like Toto, who it turns out was also a Cairn Terrier. I have vague, blurry memories of crying my five-year-old eyes out just wishing for that dog. Life is so weird, not just in that a spate of almost unbearable acrimony can sometimes be one’s destiny but also in that blessings can manifest out of the utmost difficulty.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My ex and I had the name Chompers picked out for about a year prior to us acquiring the real Chompers – the puppy who somehow magically and instantly embodied the title. I just loved the idea of a tiny dog being associated with a ferocious name. Come to think of it, I think it’s an homage to the teacup dog that Karen had in the show Will & Grace!

Of course, Chompers has acquired an evolving set of nicknames over the years: Lomps, Lumps, Lompeers, Peers, Lomping, Baby Lomping and Plumpers. These nicknames reached a crescendo around 2012 and finally resolved into Ping or Mr. Ping, which is what it’s been ever since. Don’t ask me why. He responds by any of these nicknames on call.

Does Chompers do more to help or hinder your writing?

It’s a privilege and a joy to write with him. He’s an indelible part of my creative process, in the sense that I plan my day to engage creatively at certain stages and in certain places, usually at the Athenaeum. As Chompers is now a thirteen-year-old senior, he usually finds a patch of sun and falls asleep at my feet. Much like a cat at a bookshop.

When I get listless or I get too stuck in my head after hours of donning the mental armor to do battle on the page, I look up at him…and he’ll look up at me in that instant. And I’ll read, by his body language, if it’s time for a snuggle session on the floor or time for our usual stroll in the park. There’s not a lot of pulling on the leash anymore, but I’ll walk him, and he’ll walk me simultaneously. We guide each other through Boston Common and explore the various smells and sights.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

As Cairns were originally bred to be mousers, the common squirrel is Chompers’ menace—his instinctual and natural nemesis. I wish I had a relationship so clear and pure. Even at thirteen, with arthritis, he chases them at top speed. The rustle of a squirrel tail across grass is enough to make him sprint. Thankfully, he doesn’t catch them anymore and bring them back to me deceased.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball, of course. Ball, always. Except when he’s napping, when he’s not to be disturbed, there is not a time of day that couldn’t be improved by one or three tennis balls bouncing in a hallway or open space.

Where is Chompers's favorite outdoor destination?

We live near a sprawling green meadow in an arboretum with many flowers, and Chompers loves to run about this place, unleashed, around dusk. Considering that scent is his most powerful sense, I think he finds aroma of the wildflowers to be invigorating. It’s hard to face this reality, but I think that when Chompers eventually does leave my side, if there is a reward to be had in an afterlife or even an afterlife at all, he will return there or a place like there in his imagination.

Who is Chompers's best pet-pal?

Chompers, like his daddy, tends to be choosy when it comes to deeper friendships. He only has a few. But I will share that Chompers nurtures a special love-hate bond with Jade, my parents’ miniature dachshund (his dog-cousin), that verges on profound. He and Jade were both puppies at the same time, so they are birds of a feather generationally—pooches of an era. They’ve seen equivalent sights and both grown slightly crabby, yet wise, and I think they’ve earned each other’s mutual respect.

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

This will sound so egotistical, but Chompers and I are so connected that it would be strange for me to hear anything but my own voice. The only other voice I could accept would be the voice of his stepdad and pack-mate (a.k.a. my husband Ryan).

What is Chompers's best quality?

His devotion to his family. He’s incredibly loving and diligent in seeking moments when it gets to be just you and him in the universe. It’s therapeutic, the way he forces you to disconnect from tasks that seem so important in the moment but, in the great scope of things, are complete bullshit.

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

In the next life, if there is a next one, can we change places? Can I be your dog this time?

Visit Robert W. Fieseler's website.

The Page 99 Test: Tinderbox.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Janna King & Melvin and Olive

Who is in the photos in this entry?

I’m Janna King and I’m an author, screenwriter and playwright who, on rare occasions, directs. I’m with my dogs, Melvin, a 4-year-old Husky/Staffordshire Terrier/Shepherd mix and Olive, an 8-year-old English/American Bulldog mix.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

They are my writing partners. In our photos together, I’m chatting with them at home where I work. We’re discussing my debut novel, The Seasonaires, and I’m letting them in on some upcoming projects. Mel is never impressed. Olive has no idea what I’m saying, but she’s a good listener.

What's brewing?

I’m indulging my two-a-day almond milk latte habit, brewed and frothed by my beloved Nespresso machine in mugs made with my kids (now 19 and 21) at Color Me Mine. I plunk in two heaping teaspoons of sugar. I affectionately blame my coffee sweet tooth on my Grandma Honey who used to make me “coffee milk” when I was a kid: a teeny bit of coffee, the rest milk and a whole lot of sugar.

Any treats for you or Mel and Olive on this occasion?

Mel is also not impressed by treats, but he does like carrots. Olive’s mouth doesn’t allow her to chew carrots. She covets Greenies, but they don’t really help with her pungent dog breath.

How were you and your dogs united?

My daughter volunteered at a Los Angeles pet rescue and she fell in love with siblings Olive and Sully. The rescue didn’t want them separated, so my ex-husband adopted Sully and I took Olive. That way my kids could be with both dogs. I dogsit Sully on occasion so brother and sister can hang out together.

I was looking for another rescue pup and leaning towards German Shepherds because I had one I adored, Teddy. When we saw Mel, we thought he would grow to be Shepherd size, but he stopped about halfway there. He’s a handsome fella in his own right and knows it.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

I can’t remember their original names when we adopted them. The kids are in charge of naming pets and tend towards very human names for pups. We call Melvin “Mel,” unless he’s in trouble, and then I use his full name. My daughter also calls him “Mooey," so we’ve all taken to that.

Olive is “Lady” because she’s such a pretty lady!

Do Mel and Olive do more to help or hinder your writing?

Writing can be very solitary, so they keep me company. They are usually pretty chill unless the doorbell rings or dogs pass by the house or the mail carrier comes or Amazon delivery or... Mel gets very antsy when I’m on the phone, but that’s probably because I’m antsy when I’m on the phone.

They distract me sometimes because I love to take their photos, often for their Instagram account 2bulliesandaroo, which they have with Olive’s brother Sully. The “roo” refers to Mel, who we think looks like a kangaroo and can jump about as high. When Mel made the Boop My Nose Instagram feed, I was more excited about that than pretty much any accomplishment.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

I have a bulldog in the book I’m currently writing. But I imagine this one being more like my first bulldog (over two decades ago), Stella, who was so fat that she looked like a plump seal lolling on the beach. This novel takes place in Malibu, so that seemed appropriate.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Mel goes after the squirrels and crows. Olive barks at anything that moves.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Mel is pretty good at catch. We take him to the park and he’s fast, but in short bursts. Then he plops down in the dirt and lets the other dogs take over.

Olive likes rope toys. The two play tug-of-war, which is an entertaining distraction.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

They love each other. Sometimes they bicker over food we accidentally drop during dinner. I’m not crazy about that. They also get along great with Sully, who is The Man!

What is each dog's best quality?

Mel is the sweetest dog ever! He just wants everyone to love him. But he also has some ‘tude and often looks at us like he thinks we’re dolts.

Olive is just plain goofy. She is the best "Saturday morning snuggies" for my daughter Izzy, when Izzy visits.

If Mel and Olive could change one thing about Angelenos, what would it be?

Mel would like Angelenos to stop looking at their cellphones on our hikes and say “hello” to him instead.

And Olive feels like drivers should chill out with the road rage.

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

I would ask Mel, “What’s the secret to life?” because he’s so confident and content.

To Olive I would ask, "What are you thinking about right now?” because I always want to know that when I’m looking at her face.

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

Christian Slater = Mel
Aubrey Plaza = Olive

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Mel would say, “You be you."

Olive would tell me that I need to take naps and drink more water.

Visit Janna King's website.

Check out Mel and Olive on Instagram.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2018

Amanda Robson & Merlin

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Amanda Robson, Sunday Times bestselling author of psychological thrillers and my dog Merlin.

What’s the occasion for coffee with a canine?

A trip to Marble Hill Park in Richmond Surrey UK where refreshments are available for both pooch and owner.

What’s brewing?

Americano with hot milk.

Any treats for you and Merlin on this occasion?

Coffee cake for me, and turkey treats for Merlin.

How were you and Merlin united?

We bought him from a UK breeder and Cruft’s judge who delivered him to us in a layby, half way between our houses. I cradled him in my arms like a baby as my husband drove us home.

How did your dog get his name?

Merlin is the name of a mythical magical wizard. My dog is so special to me it feels like magic.

Does Merlin do more to help or hinder your writing?

Help. He keeps me company and sits at my feet as I write.

Cat, postman, squirrel?

He loves our cat, ignores the post man, and chases squirrels.

Ball squeaky toy, stick?

Stick. The biggest he can find.

Where is Merlin’s favorite outdoor destination?

The River Thames. He likes to swim and chase ducks.

Who is Merlin’s best pet-pal?

His half-brother Zander who died last year. A dark gold retriever. They were inseparable. They went everywhere together and slept curled up together.

What is Merlin’s best quality?

Being loving and friendly. When you stroke him he purrs like a cat, because he loves being stroked so much.

If Merlin could answer one question in English what would you ask?

He is so old now- over 14 years. I would want to know whether he was in any pain. I think his joints might hurt. If I knew what hurt maybe I could help him.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Merlin could speak who would voice him?

Aidan Turner. He has a beautiful voice.

What advice would Merlin give if asked?

Be faithful. Love unconditionally.

Visit Amanda Robson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Miriam Parker & Leopold Bloom

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Miriam Parker and this is Leopold Bloom. I'm the author of The Shortest Way Home, a novel about love and wine and dogs. I'm also the Associate Publisher of Ecco, where I oversee marketing and publicity. My dog is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He is male, six years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The photo [below left] is of Leo with a cafe au lait in Aix en Provence France. We travel together all the time--he's been to seventeen states and to France. He's been in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, and has also walked next to Lake Michigan. He's an excellent travel companion. I take him with me almost everywhere and he knows he has to behave or else I'll stop taking him.

What's brewing?

I love a cappuccino, but it has to be made well--it's all about the foam. So many people don't make them correctly here in the United States, but in Europe they are universally perfect. Why is that?

Any treats for you or Leo on this occasion?

Leo eats treats all the time. He's especially partial to the Old Mother Hubbard treats, which have a good crunch to them. But he'll chew on anything, even a stick. He also loves carrots, blueberries and has been known to eat raw broccoli, radishes and zucchini. Anything with a crunch. If I have a treat, it's more of a savory situation--I love cheese and crackers and butter and bread. And wine, obviously.

How were you and Leo united?

I had always wanted a dog and then one day at my last job, I got an unexpected promotion. I was living in an affordable apartment and with that promotion I finally had enough disposable income to pay a dog walker. I also was in a life moment where I needed some limits placed upon me and a dog was the perfect answer to that problem. Having a dog means you have to take care of a living being that needs you. I think I got him almost immediately after that promotion. Our first few weeks together were a little rocky--he pooped everywhere and I got no sleep and was constantly convinced that I had killed him. But we also loved each other unconditionally from the first moment he gave me a kiss.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I read the book Ulysses in college and the line "Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowl" has been lodged in my brain ever since. When I got Leo, I considered other names briefly (Zippy was one, after Haven Kimmel's A Girl Named Zippy, but in retrospect Leo is just not a Zippy at all), but Leopold Bloom just rose up in my brain that first sleepless night and I realized it was perfect.

Does Leo do more to help or hinder your writing?

He's 100% helpful. He keeps me company when I'm working and even came on a research trip with me to California. Having a dog in a tote bag makes asking possibly dumb questions about how wine is made much less invasive. You're never lonely when you have a dog. Writing can be a solitary occupation, but dogs somehow alleviate that.

Has Leopold Bloom inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Absolutely, the Cavalier Tannin in my book is 100% based on Leo. His loyalty, his kisses, his neediness.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Leo is entirely Team Squirrel. Although he would love to kiss a cat or a postman.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Stick. Not really a fan of toys, my dog.

Where is Leo's favorite outdoor destination?

He loves the wine store because they have treats. We do also go to the park sometimes, but honestly we go to the wine store more.

Who is Leo's best pet-pal?

He has two friends he's had since puppyhood--a papillon named Pita Chip who he adores and a Sheltie named Aussie who is his wrestling buddy. There's also a dog called Kyle at the park who loves Leo and expresses his love for him every time he sees him. Leo accepts Kyle's love, but he prefers Pita and Aussie.

What is Leo's best quality?

He's the most loyal, loving dog in the world.

If Leo could change one thing about New Yorkers, what would it be?

They would all have treats falling out of their pockets at all times. New Yorkers pretty much are perfect for Leo otherwise--they smell delicious and they pet him on the subway and smile at him on the sidewalk.

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

Are you in a lot of pain? He has a disease called Syringomeilia which is congenital in Cavaliers and which I give him medicine for three times a day. He handles it all so well, but I worry about him so much. I hope he isn't in too much pain and that I'm doing enough to help him.

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

We call him the Zoolander of Dogs, so I think it would have to be Ben Stiller.

What advice would Leo give if asked?

Never be embarrassed about how much you love someone. If you love someone, you should scream it from the rooftops, no matter where you see them and who is watching you.

Visit Miriam Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue