Friday, September 21, 2018

Paula Munier & Bear

Who’s in the photo at right?

That's me, Paula Munier, and Bear.

I'm an author, an agent, and a writing teacher. My dog's name is Bear. He's a male, probably about three years old, a Newfoundland Retriever mix as far as we can tell.

Every morning we have coffee together. I drink coffee, he drinks water. Bear is a morning person, I am not a morning person. That’s why Bear has to wait for me to get my act together and come outside and sit down and drink my coffee. We live in New England in a big old 18th-century Colonial—19 acres of Sugar Maples and a lake, and lots of wildlife all around.

What's brewing?

What's brewing is coffee, black. I never drank coffee as a young woman. I drank Pepsi. When I got my first job as the only woman reporter on a tough-guy staff of a business magazine back in the 80s, they made fun of me. They said that real reporters drank black coffee. So I learned to do it. They taught me to curse, too, but that's another story.

Any treats for you or Bear on this occasion?

Bear always get a treat. If we're having bacon and eggs, he gets bacon and eggs. If we're having peanut butter toast, he gets a little peanut butter toast. He's spoiled. What can I say?

How were you and Bear united?

We adopted him. He's a rescue from Alabama. He'd been hit in the head (probably with a shovel) and abandoned. Double Dog Rescue found him, fostered him, and brought him up to New England for us. He's a lovely dog in every way.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

His name was Bear already when we got him. But I call him Yogi Berra because he's the same goofy, profound kind of character that Yogi Berra was. If you see a fork in the road, take it….

Does Bear do more to help or hinder your writing?

Bear is a great help to me in my writing. He served as the inspiration for Susie Bear, one of the dogs in my K-9 mystery, A Borrowing of Bones. She’s a Newfoundland Retriever mix like Bear. She works as a search-and-rescue dog with Vermont Game Warden Troy Warner. Like Bear, she’s friendly and cheerful—and a very good swimmer.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

We have a rescue cat, a torbie tabby named Ursula. Bear chases her, but only with the aim of persuading her to play with him, which she naturally refuses to do. He really needs a pal, and we're on the lookout for another rescue dog to be his playmate.

Ball, squeaky toy, stick?

Bear doesn't show much interest in fetching, although he’s a very smart dog. He's done very well in obedience training, and we’re doing some agility and nose work now. (When we train him, we use treats as a reward.) We've taught him to go kayaking with us in our tandem kayak, and to jump up on my paddleboard with me when I go out on the lake, which is great for me because it adds almost 100 pounds to my workout.

What is Bear's favorite outdoor destination?

Bear likes to go anywhere anytime. He loves to go with rides from Michael in his truck, especially to Home Depot because he knows that every Home Depot run usually ends in a stop at McDonald's for a cheeseburger or a breakfast McMuffin depending on the time of day. (We are remodeling the house, so there are a lot of trips to Home Depot.) He likes to go on walks with me in the woods. He likes to go swimming in the lake. He likes to go anywhere and everywhere. He's always ready to have fun.

What is Bear's best quality?

I would say his best quality is his ability to live in the moment. He had a very rough beginning in Alabama. When we rescued him, he showed up with half of his upper teeth missing and it was apparent from the X-rays that his skull and facial bones had been fractured. Our vet removed the roots left from those missing teeth, and he seems to be fine now. But you’d never know that he’d had such a tough past. Our vet calls him The Happiest Dog in the World. He’s living large in the present. A good lesson for all of us.

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

That's a really funny question. I'm stricter with Bear than anyone else in the family, because I do the training with him. So, he'd probably like it if I let him get away with more at home. And he’d probably like our walks through the countryside to be even longer than they already are.

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

I'd ask him to tell me a little bit more about his past so that we'd understand him better. Or maybe I’d take a cue from his “Be Here Now” philosophy and just ask him what kind of playmate he'd like to have, now that we are actively looking for another rescue. (Or two or three or...after all, we do have 19 acres now.)

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

I would say Yogi Berra, because he reminds me so much of Yogi Berra in that zany Zen monk kind of way. But since Yogi Berra is no longer with us, Bear will have to settle for Tom Hanks.

What advice would Bear give if asked?

I think Bear would advise us to lighten up, have fun, and live for the moment. He'd also tell us to take care of one another. He's a very protective and loyal dog. And he pays very close attention to everything we do and say. I think he'd remind us to pay attention to the people we love. Just like he does.

Visit Paula Munier's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Borrowing of Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 14, 2018

Andrew Peterson & Gia, Lilli, and Fiona

Who is in the photo at right?

My wife, Carla, me, Andy Peterson, of course and our dogs – all female. The one out front is Gia, she’s a Spinone Italiano and is 1 year old. The proud black Giant Schnauzer is Lilli – she is definitely high energy and 2-1/2 in the photo. The big girl is Fiona, an Irish Wolfhound also one year old. We’re photographed at an open public preserve along the central coast of California. It’s a great place to walk our dogs

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s a routine event with me! Every day I’m up with my pooches by 5:30am, with the coffee maker already brewing on auto. After adding half and half and squirt of Stevia, I’m out the back door into our fenced patio area with my girls. We live remotely in southern Monterey County surrounded by beautiful oak-covered hillsides and native grasses; lots of pines too. Here’s our morning view looking north on a clear day [below, left].

What's brewing?

Home prep includes a Cuisinart drip coffeemaker as my brew master. Yes, it’s that simple. I like a light roast that I purchase from the Naga CafĂ©, a local coffee house about 20 miles away near Lake Nacimiento. If you’re ever in the area and drop in, tell Tony I sent you. When I’m at Naga my order is a hot, triple shot, 16 oz latte with whole-milk and one Splenda. Okay, sometimes two Splendas.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

No, not really. Carla keeps our girls on a pretty healthy diet. Since childhood, we’ve always had dogs in our lives. We’re not really strict with their diet, but when we give treats we use glucosamine chewies, chewable vitamin C or something I’m eating - you know the last bite of my sandwich, a chip, etc.... Life without dogs is no life at all – at least that’s true in our home.

How were you and your dogs united?

We made an earnest effort to find the best breeders in the western states. We don’t mind supporting breeders working hard to keep improving their breed of choice. All of the breeders screened us with a telephone interview and written questionnaire – which we appreciated. We also traveled to the National Spinone Specialty dog show in Seattle to familiarize ourselves with the breed and meet a few breeders. It was a fun trip and we met some very interesting people and learned a lot.

Lilli, our Giant Schnauzer, came from Skansen Kennel in Sebastopol which is about an hour north of San Francisco (we’ve owned 2 other Giant Schnauzers from this breeder). Fiona our Wolfhound came from Taryn’s Kennel in Gainesville, Texas, and Gia’s from Alla Festa Kennel in Rapid City, South Dakota.

In case you’re wondering, we drove over 4,000 miles to pick up Fiona and Gia. Lilli went with us on the trip. Traveling by car with three dogs isn’t as bad as it sounds. We all survived!

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

We usually try to name our dogs after their ethnic origin. Lilli is named Lillith, a very old German name. Lilli’s also known as the “Monster” and “Gomer Girl.” Gia’s breed originates from Italy. She’s also referred to as “Peanut” and “Brown Sugar.” Fiona is an old Irish name and I especially like it because I love Princess Fiona in Shrek! She’s also referred to as “Lanky” and “Big Dog.”

Do Fiona, Lilli and Gia do more to help or hinder your writing?

It’s really a mix of both. I love being at my computer with all three of the girls at my feet – asleep of course. After a few hours they stir and remind me that I’ve been sitting too long. So I get up, walk them down two flights of stairs, grab another cup of coffee, and take them outside for some playtime. Of course, the day is a little different when Carla’s home.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Absolutely! The working dogs of law enforcement agencies and the military inspired me to include them in my series. Nathan McBride, the hero of my novels, owns two Giant Schnauzers who are trained tactical dogs. I chose the Giant Schnauzer breed for a couple reasons. First of all, we owned 2 at the time I was writing First to Kill. Secondly, in Germany (as well as other countries), Giant Schnauzers are used right along side the German Shepard and Doberman as police dogs. If you ever see one in person you’ll understand why. The Giant Schnauzer commands a presence that makes a person pause before approaching. It must be something about their size, posture, color, and those high pointy ears. Their absolute fearlessness is another great characteristic when it comes to tactical work. To see Lilli jump in the air – like a Frisbee dog – is a sight to behold. Giant Schnauzers are not only athletic, they’re incredibly strong.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above for these three. Fiona can destroy anything made of rubber, including Kong toys. She loves to chew on hard toys that taste like wood. Gia loves to prance around with a toy football in her mouth. She also loves the hard wood-tasting toys. Lilli just wants to run, chase the ball. Her favorite thing to grab is a dirty sock out of the hamper – fortunately, she just carries it around and doesn’t eat it. Gia, on the other hand, eats just about everything. We’ve avoided serious vet trouble – so far…

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

With Lilli it’s literally anything that moves.

Gia’s all about birds – after all, she’s a hunting dog breed. [Gia "pointing" hummingbirds; photo left] It’s funny to note that she doesn’t like getting her feet wet. Go figure. I guess she’s high maintenance.

Fiona watches yellowjackets and butterflies, but she’ll chase down anything and anyone running away from her. She also focuses on Black-tailed deer moving through our property in the early morning and late evening.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Carla is everyone’s best pal – she takes care of all of us!

When it comes to the dogs, Gia loves to wrestle with Lilli, Fiona loves to chase Lilli. And even little Gia will take on big Fiona at times. I refer to Gia as little, but she’s a 73 pound dog. Lilli weighs about the same, but is taller and much more athletic. Fiona weighs in at 140 pounds – we’re very thankful she’s a gentle giant.

What is each dog's best quality?

Lilli – Alert. Protective. Loyal. Affectionate. Wants to please and doesn’t shed!

Fiona – Gentle, but watch that tail. It’s at the perfect height to inflict major damage to a certain body part, or should I say “two” body parts! She’s super affectionate, but independent and very quiet. She hardly ever barks.

Gia – Goofy. Docile. Smart. Very tactile (she always want to be touching you, leaning on you, or resting her head on your foot, etc…) But she also stubborn!

If Fiona, Lilli and Gia could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

I believe my girls would want people to be better stewards of their pets. Care for them properly. Don’t let them get overweight. If you don’t have the time to spend with dogs, don’t get any!!! Also be mindful of your dog’s activities, especially when they’re in public places. In other words, please pick up after your dog!!! Be responsible! The reason so many places don’t allow dogs is because people don’t act responsibly.

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

What do you dream about?

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

Wow, this is a tough question. Since I have female dogs this is especially hard. I guess my fall back position will again be based on ethnic origin. Gia would be good with Sophia Loren’s voice. Even though she’s Danish, I’d pick Brigitte Nielsen for Lilli’s voice. For Fiona I’d go with Saoirse Ronan (Atonement and The Lovely Bones); she’s not only Irish but is known for her excellent grasp of performing many accents. I’m thinking a couple of my choices definitely show my age.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Wag more, bark less!!

Visit Andrew Peterson's website, and learn more about the latest novel in his Nathan McBride Series, Hired to Kill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Margaret Mizushima, and I write the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Please allow me to introduce you to our pack—from left to right we have: Hannah, a German shorthaired pointer; Bertie, also a GSP; Lily, a yellow lab; and Tess, a border collie. Our eager beaver Tess thought this photo shoot was loads of fun, while Hannah…not so much. Though she’s never liked to have her picture taken, she was a bit more relaxed for the picture in the chair.

What’s the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My drink of choice is herbal tea, and I have a cup in hand every morning when I go upstairs to my office to write. The dog who likes to follow me is Hannah, because we’re attached at the hip. Tess and Bertie go with my husband to work at his veterinary clinic, and Lily, who is quite elderly, likes to sleep.

What’s brewing?

My favorite is a Yogi brand tea, Egyptian Licorice. It’s spicy, naturally sweet, and it tastes like licorice. Yes, licorice is one of those flavors that you either love or hate, and I happen to love it. Inherited that trait from my dad.

Any treats for you and your dogs on this occasion?

Treats come at breakfast time, and Hannah barks at us if we forget. When she was a pup, we taught her to sit on the stairway for a treat. Now, at seven years old, she perches on the steps and watches us until she gets one. If we don’t respond to the silent begging, she barks for our attention.

How were you and your dogs united?

My husband is a veterinarian, and he seems to need a pack of dogs to be happy. His work provides him with many opportunities to adopt a new pet. We’ve been married thirty-six years and have shared our space with dozens of dogs and cats, the occasional tank of fish, and an exotic bird or two.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Lily was soft and sweet as a puppy, which reminded us of a flower. Hannah came next, and she got a name that I love because it reminds me of someone who’s kind-hearted and dear, which Hannah is to a fault. Tess is a cattle dog, and we needed a short name that we could use for her training; it’s also the name of Cole Walker’s assistant, the vet character in my Timber Creek K-9 mysteries. (Both the dog Tess and the character Tess assist their vets at work.) And Bertie just seemed like a good name for a rollicking puppy.

Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?

They all definitely help my writing. I’ve spent years observing dog behavior, traits I utilized to develop Robo, the K-9 German shepherd in my books. I think that dog behavior is interesting, and I try to stay true to dog nature when I write. Here is one reviewer’s take on characters Mattie and Robo in Killing Trail, the first book in the series: “Winning heroine…strong debut…a realistic view of how a K-9 team works, treating Robo as an important character, but never stooping to anthropomorphism. And it’s impossible not to fall in love with Robo.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Cat, postman, squirrel?

Birds and mice. We live in the country, so a postman doesn’t come to the door. Our dogs have grown up with cats, so cats are just part of the pack. We don’t have squirrels in our yard, but we have plenty of birds and mice. Our bird dogs—Lily, Hannah, and Bertie—point birds in the trees, and Hannah even pointed an airplane in the sky when she was a puppy. Tess, our border collie, loves anything that moves, and going after mice in the grass is a favorite pass-time.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick?

All four love squeaky-toys. It sounds like an orchestra warming up when they’re all chewing at once.

What is each dog’s best quality?

Each one is sweet and they all make great companions, but I’m fascinated with the propensities associated with each breed. If you watch the foursome play in the yard, the bird dogs will be pointing and flushing sparrows in the bushes, the cattle dog will be circling the sprinkler snapping at the droplets, and the water-dog retriever will be rolling on the wet grass or picking up the sprinkler head to carry it around while the water sprays in her mouth.

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

What’s keeping you girls from learning how to cook dinner?

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

This is a fun question! Lily would need someone old-fashioned and blonde—Doris Day comes to mind. Tess needs a voice from someone who plays characters that are tough and brave, maybe Sigourney Weaver. Bertie is a clown—how about Goldie Hawn or Kate Hudson? And Ashley Judd should play our sophisticated and regal Hannah.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Eat food that’s good for you, enjoy your work, and take a walk every day.

Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

--Marshal Zeringue