Saturday, December 7, 2019

Jacqueline Firkins & Ffiona

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Jacqueline Firkins, a costume designer, theatre prof, lit geek, and author of the YA rom-com, Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. With me is Ffiona, my 14-year-old Welsh terrier. She spells it with 2 effs because she's Welsh. And pretentious.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This photo was taken in my office. Ffiona has come to work with me since I got her as a puppy. She hangs out in costume shops, helps with college recruiting events, and provides stress relief for students who are away from their own pets. I made it an unofficial condition of my hire that my dog would basically be glued to my side everywhere but in the classroom. So far no one's dared to challenge that.

What's brewing?

Tucked just off screen is my usual afternoon cup of Earl Grey. I've never been a coffee drinker but I consume boatloads of tea in all varieties. The smell of bergamot feels right in the afternoon.

Any treats for you or Ffiona on this occasion?

Treats are never far away, and Ffiona knows it. As a very good sport for posing for this photo, she nipped into a salmon square.

How were you and Ffiona united?

I freelanced for many years. When I finally got a fulltime job I knew I could handle taking care of a pet. I grew up with big dogs, but I was living in a building with a 25 lb. size limit on pets. Despite having fostered dogs and fundraised for shelters, I wanted a puppy and I couldn't risk a rescue that grew larger than 25 lbs. I looked for a breed that had a big dog personality in a little dog body. I found a breeder on a wonderful farm, drove out to meet the whole terrier family, and came home with my new life partner.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Before picking Ffiona up, I scanned a long list of Welsh names. Many I couldn't pronounce. Ffiona seemed recognizable enough that I wouldn't have to explain her name to people, while the double eff gave her a unique twist. Aliases: Little Ffi, Supercute-a-potamus, Wee Ffi Beastie.

Does Ffiona do more to help or hinder your writing?

A little of both. She's a demand on my time, but one I wouldn't change for anything. The walks help clear my head. The quiet company lends me support.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Skateboard. 100%.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

For years she was obsessed with tennis balls. Lately she prefers the ball with the treats in it. Smart dog.

Where is Ffiona's favorite outdoor destination?

I'm lucky to live within a couple of miles of dog friendly ocean beaches and forest preserves. But Ffiona's favourite destination is probably beneath my parents' kitchen table, where she's bound to get handouts.

Who is Ffiona's best pet-pal?

Ffiona had a great group of dog friends when we lived in Chicago. "We're" still in touch with some. She also has 4 coworkers at my university and a walking buddy, so she's in good company.

What is Ffiona's best quality?

Cuteness. And love. And quirkiness. And patience with my inability to stick to parameters.

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

Slower walking speed so she could smell everything.

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

She's getting old, so at this point the thing I'd most want to know is when/if she's in pain or discomfort. Watching a dog age is hard, but I'm going to take advantage of every day I have with her.

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

I don't know many Welsh actresses, but I think the accent would be essential. And plenty of attitude.

What advice would Ffiona give if asked?

The world needs more bacon more than it needs more books.

Visit Jacqueline Firkins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue