Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Kate O'Shaughnessy & Mo

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Kate O’Shaughnessy, a middle grade author, and in this picture I’m having coffee with my stalwart writing companion, Mo. She’s pretty lazy as far as writing assistants go, but at least she’s pretty cute. I’ve been obsessed with dogs my whole life—when I was twelve, I for some strange reason decided to memorize every dog breed recognized by the AKC to prove to my parents that I was ready for a dog—so this blog is totally my jam.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The first thing I do every morning is make a giant mug of coffee and take it to my desk, which overlooks our garden. Whenever I sit down, Mo joins me in the office in the big armchair directly behind me.

What's brewing?

On vacation in Big Sur this past October, my husband and I tried Verve Coffee Roasters for the first time and were immediately obsessed. Before we left, I made sure to write down the bean variety the hotel served (Seabright!), and the first thing we did on our drive back to Berkeley was a stop in Santa Cruz to pick up a bunch of bags. Our car smelled like coffee in the best way for two days, and we haven’t brewed any other kind of coffee since!

Any treats for you or Mo on this occasion?

As I write this, I have leftover cake in the freezer from The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane book launch last week. I just may have to reward myself with a slice if I get enough writing done today. As for Mo, we spoil her. She’s not really food-motivated, but the words “chicken” or “bone” will get those giant ears of hers to perk up.

How were you and Mo united?

We first spotted Mo’s profile on the website of a local rescue, and were immediately taken by her incredible smile. When we reached out to see if we could meet her, we were told that she was actually a part of their international program—and was located in Taiwan! At first we didn’t feel comfortable adopting a dog without meeting them first, but the rescue continued to send us videos of Mo and we fell increasingly in love with her. Finally, we decided to go for it—and picked her up at the San Francisco airport! It was a rough adjustment—she had a ton of trauma in her past, including abuse, abandonment, and the loss of her puppies—but with a lot of love and patience she’s completely bloomed, as you can hopefully see. The picture above left is Mo when she was first picked up off the streets and the second [photo right] is after about a year with us. We love her so much!

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

The rescue had randomly assigned her the name “Mona,” which we liked but didn’t love. So instead of giving her an entirely new name, we shortened it to Mo. We’ve also given her endless nicknames. She’s Mo, Mo Mo, Mosephine Dingus, but more than anything, we call her “Piggy.” She got that nickname because when she stretches out on the couch, she sort of thrusts her belly forward so she looks a little chubbier than she really is [photo left]. Sort of like a pig!

Does Mo do more to help or hinder your writing?

She’s a great help. I love her company—usually she’s sleeping in the armchair behind me—and when I’ve been sitting for too long, she jumps down to come nose me for pets and beg for a walk. She reminds me it’s okay to get up and stretch my legs every now and again.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The dog in The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Pickle, is definitely one of the most important characters. He’s a dachshund with special needs, and shows Maybelle that sometimes it feels good to take care of other people—which opens her up to letting other people take care of her. Pickle was treated badly and neglected by his previous owner, so while Pickle wasn’t inspired by a real life dog, he somehow inspired me to become ready to adopt one of my own. We got Mo about a year after I finished writing Maybelle.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

She loves to chase squirrels, the postman is her mortal enemy, and she’s extremely interested in but unsure about cats.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

None, sadly. When we first got Mo she had no clue how to play with toys. Now she only likes to play with soft things. Her favorite thing to do is to attack the tags on blankets. The most fearsome predator!

Where is Mo's favorite outdoor destination?

The beach!! Mo turns into the most joyful version of herself on the beach. She rolls in the sand, gets the fastest, most wild-eyed zoomies, and says hello to everyone there. She loves the sand but hates the water.

Who is Mo's best pet-pal?

There’s a dog in our neighborhood, Rufus, who Mo one day decided to become obsessed with. She can be standoffish with other dogs, but she just fell in love with Rufus—every time we see him, she cries, wags her tail, and strains on the leash to get to him. His feelings toward her are lukewarm, but Mo is persistent in her love.

What is Mo's best quality?

So many! She’s incredibly chill, and happy to relax on the couch for hours. At the same time, she’s always up for adventure.

My first book is about a road trip, because I love going on them—and luckily Mo does too! She’s the most loyal companion you could imagine.

If Mo could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

That we don’t live every second of our lives at the park, on a walk in the woods, or on a beach.

Mo lives for walks and doesn’t understand why people don’t take them 20-30 times a day instead of just twice.

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

Are you happy? And I hope her answer would be yes!

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

Given that Mo is originally from Taiwan, I would choose Constance Wu, whose parents emigrated from Taiwan.

What advice would Mo give if asked?

Don’t trust the postman. Or FedEx trucks. Or any delivery truck in general. Or people that walk by on the sidewalk minding their own business. They’re all up to no good. Stay vigilant!!!!

Visit Kate O’Shaughnessy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Thank you very much! I see that I can get the book on audiobooks.com. I try to keep
    up with juv fiction to recommend to teachers and friends' grands.

  2. Bless you for rescuing your sweet looking assistant! What an adorable face.