Friday, March 29, 2019

Shelley Sackier & Haggis

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Shelley Sackier, here with Haggis—seriously, he is the smartest hound I’ve ever had the pleasure of keeping company with. Haggis is a nine-year-old golden doodle who probably shares half my brain, and definitely half of my food.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Haggis is with me nearly 24/7, so whatever I’m cooking/baking/drinking/eating, he offers up his palate as beta taster. Brave of him. And kind.

What's brewing?

Usually my cup is full of some small farm organic, Fairtrade, South American grind—something so strong it’ll scrape the tartar off your teeth. Then, once my eyes have gone to their fully opened position, I switch to herbal teas—but punchy, tart, and tangy ones.

Any treats for you or Haggis on this occasion?

Our coffee is always accompanied by a large spoonful of almond butter. Make that two. One for me, and always one for Haggis.

How were you and Haggis united?

I met Haggis about a day after he was born. He was piled up with about 8 or 9 other brothers and sisters—all of them just working on breathing. Necessary skills on day one. I then came back once he’d perfected this, along with the talents of running and tumbling, about 6 weeks later to take him home with me. Happy, happy day.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Haggis is named after my favorite food. A Scottish dish that’s a little bit like a round sausage. There are a few more bits and bobs than just meat within the “sausage,” but as some of those ingredients tend to make people a teensy bit queasy, I shall refrain from including them in this description. But oh, wow, yum. Seriously. Nearly as scrumptious as my hound.

He is also referred to as Mr. Muttonchops and The Fluffernutter.

Does Haggis do more to help or hinder your writing?

Haggis is a perfect writing companion. My beta reader for sure. He lies in a giant pile of white fur under my feet until he hears the keyboard stop clacking, or he sees the sun slant at a specific angle. Then it’s time for a walk to put some necessary oxygen in our brains.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Yup. Haggis is in my middle grade contemporary humor book Dear Opl, but known to readers as “Mr. Muttonchops.”

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Haggis and my cat Smudge wrestle together beautifully. I know that is a challenging thing to envision, but they are the best of friends. Smudge is much braver and will chase Haggis everywhere, but sometimes I think he’s just so big hearted that he’s making Smudge think she’s super courageous to be “attacking” a big dog. It’s hysterically funny.

And throw in bunnies, fox, deer, raccoons, skunk, bobcats, and bear as his other chase-worthy companions. Haggis sees them every day, but realizes that entire group runs much, much faster than he does. He’s also a big birdwatcher, and will sit for hours just enjoying their flight patterns.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Nope. Not much of a toy kinda guy. Mostly he’s just chewing on the remnants of deer bones from the woods. Such a fierce warrior. [snort]

Where is Haggis's favorite outdoor destination?

Haggis and I live on top of a mountain in the Blue Ridge of Virginia. We hike every single day. So any path in a forest is his favorite place to tread. There is just so so much to smell.

Who is Haggis's best pet-pal?

Definitely Smudge. I just love their friendship.

What is Haggis's best quality?

Haggis has the greatest smile ever. He’s the happiest dog I’ve ever seen. You call him, and he comes a’runnin’.

If Haggis could change one thing about Virginians, what would it be?

I think he would ask them to leave a bit more meat on the deer bones they give him as treats. We have a lot of hunters here, and he’s the lucky recipient of anything they might not find a use for.

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

Could you please tell me if anything hurts? Please?

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

Bill Murray.

What advice would Haggis give if asked?

Stay away from the small black things that look like wambling, chubby dogs. Their mothers are incredibly mean—they roar and bite.

Also, we should eat more meat. I meant you. You should eat more meat. I’m fine with this stuff in my bowl, unless, of course, you can’t finish what’s in yours. Then I’m happy to help. But there really should be more meat in your bowl.

Visit Shelley Sackier's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Antidote.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Laura Pohl & Vina

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Laura Pohl, here with Vina! Vina’s a two-year-old dachshund who loves to chew toys and sleep. She’s a good company always.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee every morning sitting next to her. Or in this case, sometimes I get coffee while working and she’s still sleeping in bed.

What's brewing?

I love cappuccinos, but usually have a healthy dose of café au lait in the mornings. Brazilian brands only.

Any treats for you or Vina on this occasion?

I’m eating brownies my friend baked. Vina’s eyeing them in the hopes of getting some, but she’s already had her morning biscuit.

How were you and Vina united?

Vina’s a rescue dog. Me and my roommate rescued her from people who were abusing her and did not want dogs. She was real quiet and scared at first, but she warmed up to us quickly and is very affectionate.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Vina is slang for “sausage” in Curitiba, Brazil — the city where I grew up. I thought it’d be amusing to name her that. She always answers when I call her “baby” though.

Does Vina do more to help or hinder your writing?

She does both. Sometimes she really wants attention and I need to stop writing and walk with her or play, but usually she stays asleep while I work and is there when I need a break.

Has Vina inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Yes! My debut book, The Last 8, has a dog in it – Sputnik is a Bernese Mountain Dog, but she has much of the same personality as Vina. Very chaotic but very cute.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

We live in an apartment building, so it ends up being just the doorman or the neighbor next door (who she deeply despises).

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Her favorite toy is a ball that’s shaped as a meteor.

Where is Vina's favorite outdoor destination?

The dog park a couple of blocks away.

Who is Vina's best pet-pal?

My parents’ dog, Fadinha. She’s also a dachshund, and they get along pretty well.

What is Vina's best quality?

I think she’s very loving toward everyone she encounters. Once she meets them, she’s very protective of people, and likes cuddling and just being affectionate.

If Vina could answer only one question in English or Portuguese, what would you ask her?

Why do you keep throwing your own ball in places you can’t reach only so I have to get it for you?

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

Huuh, that’s a hard one! I feel like Vina would have to be someone a little bit sarcastic as well, maybe like Chelsea Peretti.

What advice would Vina give if asked?

Vina is a firm believer in taking naps and taking breaks. Don’t overwork yourself—you have all the time in the world.

Visit Laura Pohl's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Elisabeth Elo & Freddie

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me, Elisabeth Elo, author of suspense novels, with Freddie, my three-year-old golden doodle (1/4 golden retriever, ¾ poodle).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Freddie and I go out to get coffee every morning. We drive, and he usually sits on the middle console leaning into my shoulder. Or he sits in the passenger street paying close attention to dogs on their morning walk. By this time, he’s already had a good romp in the dog park.

What's brewing?

Large latte. I heat it up some more when I get it home because I like it very hot. Then I put it in the trusty pink thermos my daughter gave me, and it gets me through a few hours of work. I’m always sorry when it’s done.

Any treats for you or Freddie on this occasion?

Freddie has breakfast at this time. When he’s finished eating, he comes over to lick his chops at me and get patted. If I don’t pay attention to him right away, he swipes my leg with his paw. I think he likes to share the joy of a good meal.

How were you and Freddie united?

I was allergic to the last dog we had and spent twelve years sniffling and feeling scratchy whenever I got too close to him. It was OK because that dog was really my kids’ dog and he got lots of attention from them. I knew that our next dog would be mostly mine, and I couldn’t risk feeling uncomfortable around him, so I figured he would have to be a poodle or poodle mix. I did a lot of research and visited a number of breeders. In the end the search was entirely worth it because Freddie is a fabulous dog and I’m symptom-free.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Just out of the blue. Freddie feels like someone you’d like to hang around with—a friendly, low-maintenance kind of guy. However, he does have names for different facets of his personality. His formal title is Frederick the Great, and in certain circles he’s known as Freddie Wop.

As T.S. Eliot pointed out in his famous poem “The Naming of Cats,” an animal sometimes has a name known to him alone: “An ineffable effable / Effanineffable / Deep and inscrutable singular Name.” I have reason to believe that Freddie also possesses one of these secret mysterious Names, but of course I’ll never know for sure.

Does Freddie do more to help or hinder your writing?

He keeps me from working in coffee shops because I don’t want to leave him alone for too long. That may seem like a hindrance, but it’s actually not, because I think coffee shops were just a distraction for me anyway. Now that I have Freddie, I just sit at my desk in the morning without a lot of futzing around (but with coffee). We mostly ignore each other until about three-thirty in the afternoon when, without fail, he comes over and swipes my leg with his paw as if to say, “That’s enough. Take a damn break, would you?”

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Freddie loves all sentient beings with the exception of dogs larger than himself. He spends a lot of time resting on the couch looking out the window and, when he sees one of these possible aggressors on the street, he reacts with sudden, protective vigor. I can usually talk him out of this reaction, and he usually complies, but not before he’s looked at me as if I clearly have no idea what I’m talking about it.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball, unless there are other dogs around to play with. In the house, he tears up old T-shirts.

Where is Freddie's favorite outdoor destination?

Anywhere with my husband, who often takes long walks.

What is Freddie's best quality?

Unquenchable joie de vivre.

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

He’s not judgmental at all. He likes everyone just the way they are, including me.

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

What can I do to make your life happier?

What advice would Freddie give if asked?

Don’t worry. We’re not meant to know everything.

Visit Elisabeth Elo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue