Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Elizabeth Atkinson & Obadiah

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Elizabeth Atkinson, a middle grade author, and here I am having my morning coffee with my writing partner, Obadiah, an adorable 10-year-old Australian Labradoodle. Obadiah insists we take refreshing walks during the day, listens as I read rough drafts out loud, and Skypes with me during virtual Author Visits… so I couldn’t work without him.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I’m usually in my bathrobe reading and drinking my morning coffee, but on this particular morning, I’m dressed early as I’m heading out on a school visit. Obadiah’s waiting for me to hurry up and finish my coffee so I can take him on a quick walk before I leave.

What's brewing?

I always look forward to my morning coffee! I grind my favorite beans from Little Wolf roasters in Ipswich, MA, then brew my coffee in a small Cuisinart coffee maker. I drink coffee only in the morning – later in the day I have a cup of green or herbal tea, and occasionally I indulge in Godiva Hot Dark Cocoa at night.

Any treats for you or Obadiah on this occasion?

In the top photo, you might spy a tiny treat waiting for him on the counter. A little something to give him after his walk and before I leave on the school visit for the morning. Obadiah would eat dog cookies all day if you could.

How were you and Obadiah united?

After our sweet lab, China, died almost 11 years ago, our family wanted to adopt another dog to be part of our lives. However, both of our kids and my husband had been allergic to China all the years she was with us. So we knew we had to find a dog that was guaranteed to be hypoallergenic. Someone recommended Barksdale Labradoodles in Magee, Mississippi to us and that’s how this hypoallergenic puppy joined our family.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

Actually, that’s a funny story. At the time, we had an original portrait of my husband’s great-great grandfather, Obadiah Eames, hanging on the living room wall. He was a Mississippi River Boat Captain in the mid-1800s and the portrait had been passed down through the generations. Prior to our little puppy’s arrival, we had written down a bunch of possible names as everyone does. But when he arrived, there was just something about his eyes and expression that reminded us of our ancestor on the wall. And since they were both associated with Mississippi, we all agreed on Obadiah. His most common nicknames are Obi, Obes, Obester.

Does Obadiah do more to help or hinder your writing?

He’s almost always helpful, because I structure my writing schedule according to his schedule. The only time when he isn’t helpful is when he insists on a walk (according to his schedule) while I’m in the middle of a great writing streak and can’t stop.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The only actual dog inspiration appears in my new novel, Fly Back Agnes. The terrier mix, Tutu, is inspired by Toto in The Wizard of OZ. But I adore dogs and usually include them in my stories. Dogs provide companionship and unconditional love like no other living being, which kids really need. Dogs also help children develop so many important qualities, like empathy, responsibility, and patience. So I believe dog characters greatly enrich children’s literature.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Oh my, anything small and furry that moves fast. Six months ago, Obadiah tore his CCL (similar to a human ACL tear) chasing a cat – and even after he tore it, he kept chasing the cat on three legs!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

We have a basket full of beloved squeaky toys. Sometimes Obadiah will choose one to sleep with on his bed.

Who is Obadiah's best pet-pal?

To be honest, he’s more of people-dog than a dog-dog, because he loves cuddling. And my daughter is definitely his favorite cuddler. But his best dog pals are probably his dog friends at his doggy day care, which he attends about once a week to have fun. When he’s off leash at the local dog park, sometimes he and another dog seem to know each other, and then I find out the two dogs go to doggie daycare together. It’s funny to think your dog knows dogs you don’t know.

What is Obadiah's best quality?

He is very loving and loyal, but I have to say, his best quality is that he’s such an easy-going dog. We can take him anywhere! It’s wonderful and calming to live with such a relaxed, happy-to-be-alive creature.

If Obadiah could change one thing about New Englanders, what would it be?

People always like Obadiah but he loves people, so I know he wishes New Englanders would just stop what they’re doing, bend over and snuggle him, and then give him a treat. He lives for attention and dog biscuits!

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

I’ve been intrigued with Christina Hunger’s method of teaching her dog, Stella, to communicate using voice buttons and I follow them on Instagram. So I guess I would ask Obadiah, “Which words do you understand so far?” because we’re about to try the voice buttons.

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

Haha! We’ve kind of thought about this before… My son thinks Chris Pratt has Obadiah’s voice and I have to agree! Plus, I see a little resemblance.

What advice would Obadiah give if asked?

Love is all that really matters… and cookies.

Visit Elizabeth Atkinson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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