Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Morris Ardoin & Hugo

Who is in the photo at right?

I am Morris Ardoin, a PR practitioner in New York City and writer in Cornwallville, a little town in the Catskill mountains. My pooch is Hugo, an 18-month-old Vizsla.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The only time that Hugo respects my humanly need for consumption without his begging is coffee time. He seems to get that he needs to let me fully awaken so I can devote the rest of my existence each day to his needs. So he lets my have my coffee in peace.

What's brewing?

I use a French press to brew my coffee each morning. Community Coffee, shipped from Baton Rouge, La. is my preferred brew, but when I run out of that, I like a blend of French and regular roast whole beans I get from the Russian market down the block from my apartment in New York. No matter the brew, I take my coffee with whole milk and sugar.

Any treats for you or Hugo on this occasion?

No treats for him or me accompany coffee time – it’s all about the coffee. On big-breakfast weekends, however, that rule goes out the window. And then anything is possible.

How were you and Hugo united?

We got Hugo from the same breeder that sold us our previous pooch, Moby. She only breeds vizslas. Hugo was one of 14 puppies. When we got there, there were only three of the siblings left. Hugo rushed right up to me (the other two were otherwise distracted) – and I said, “This one is Hugo,” and that was that.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

After having Moby for 13 years, we were very familiar with the breed; it’s quirks; attributes; and physical aspects. Those all played a part in our brainstorming for names that would work with such a dog. Hugo quickly rose to the top of about 25 names we considered. At first, when he was just a wee little thing, I called him “The Nugget” because of his rich golden color, but he soon owned the name Hugo – and has been called only that ever since.

Is Hugo more of a help or a hinder to your writing?

Unlike Moby, who sat attentively near me as I wrote my book, and genuinely seemed to be interested in what I read back to him, Hugo is aloof – he is not one to listen to reading. If he is not tired, he starts fidgeting pretty quickly, so he has been a bit of a handful to deal with while I write these days. But he’s a love, so I do my best.

You dedicated your new memoir to your late dog Moby? Please tell us about him.

Moby was wonderfully laid back and, like most vizslas, a “Velcro dog” – always clinging to my side. Moby was totally loyal and took commands very readily. It was very difficult to let him go when it was time. He lived 13 too-short years with us and I miss him every day.

Does Hugo have a favorite place to go for walk?

Yes – Hugo loves to walk around our pond in Cornwallville, New York. He actually prefers running to walking – so it is good that we have several acres of property for him to run around on up here in the Catskills.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

All of the above. He has not yet learned that he can’t jump up on the postman or delivery people. He has a knack, though, for putting them at ease with his friendly disposition. He does not come across as menacing. With cats, he’s very playful – but with birds, his hunting instincts kick in, so we have to keep an eye on him.

Who is Hugo's best pet pal?

Hugo’s best pal is Clover, a pit bull mix belonging to one of our close friends. The two of them can spend hours together without tiring. The mention of her name gets him jumping.

What is Hugo's best quality? What was Moby's?

Hugo’s best quality is his gregariousness. He loves all other dogs – has no issues with certain breeds, like some dogs can. He also loves humans. In a group situation, he tends to be the ring-leader. Other dogs love him.

Moby’s best quality was his quiet way of showing affection. He did not jump around like Hugo does; and he was very loyal – and took commands readily. That said, he could be very skittish around certain breeds of dogs.

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

I’m sure Hugo would love for me to quit spending so much time on my laptop – or on anything that takes my attention away from him.

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

Hugo would be voiced by Jim Carrey.

Moby would be voiced by Adam Sandler.

What advice would Hugo give if asked?

Lighten up and play more. Life is short!

Visit Morris Ardoin's website and learn about his memoir, Stone Motel: Memoirs of a Cajun Boy.

The Page 99 Test: Stone Motel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Beth Morrey & Polly

Who is in the photo at right?

The human is me: I am a writer called Beth Morrey. My first book, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, is published by Putman on 7th April. In my previous life I was a TV producer, and nowadays as well as writing I have a podcast series, One Torn Every Minute, which is about childbirth, and also write a TV blog called Square Eyes. The dog is Polly. She is a labradoodle and she is 13 years old. Her occupation is lying on furniture, and going out for the occasional perambulation.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Polly and I like to stop at the café in our local park in North London. We sit outside on the verandah and enjoy the views, often talking to people and dogs we know who pass by.

What's brewing?

I like a very plain Americano with lots of cold milk. Polly prefers puddle water.

Any treats for you or Polly on this occasion?

The reason Polly likes going to this particular café is they do a very good sourdough toast. We usually cut it in half and share it, and she insists on butter and jam. The combination of butter and sugar makes her drool uncontrollably. Me too.

How were you and Polly united?

My husband and I got her from a farm in Chepstow in Wales. She was three months old when we met her, and it was love at first sight.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

Her full name is Polly Wolly Doodle the Brave the Good and the True. We often call her Poll Woll for short, or the Pollster, or the Brave Doodle of Barking & Pawchester. She has many aliases and pays no attention to any of them.

Does Polly do more to help or hinder your writing?

She often occupies my writing chair when I want to sit in it. Or, while I am sitting in it, she paws me aggressively and barks until I get out and let her have it. So no, she’s not particularly helpful. And yet I credit her as my muse in my Acknowledgements.

In your work, have any actual dogs inspired the creation of fictional ones?

Yes – the character of Bobby in my novel was inspired by a handsome Australian shepherd we see in the park. He’s really gorgeous with vivid blue eyes. My husband and I refer to him as The Most Beautiful Dog in the Park because we don’t know his name. Oddly though, he’s not particularly friendly, whereas the Bobby in my book is a very affectionate hound. My dog also appears in my book, but it’s just a brief cameo for her fans, and she’s not named, to protect her privacy.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Polly loathes cats and does highly embarrassing howls whenever she sees them in the street. She’s not keen on squirrels and will chase them in a business-like way. She barks at the postman, but only in the sense that she barks at anybody who comes to the house – she’s not remotely threatening; more like a very loud doorbell.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Polly occasionally picks up sticks to chew them, but she would never chase a thrown stick as she’s too grand. She also used to love finding discarded tennis balls, but now she’s a more senior lady, she’s not so interested. She has always loved soft toys, and gets a new one for birthdays and Christmas. Her favourite is called Bob (oh my God, I’ve just realised that’s why I called the dog Bob in my book – duh!). Bob is a very large soft toy Labrador from Ikea. She often uses him as a pillow.

Where is Polly's favorite outdoor destination?

There’s a stretch of grassland alongside a row of houses in Highbury, where we live. It’s not very well-maintained, and there’s lots of rubbish and dubious substances left there. She loves it, and always tries to drag me over there when we walk past. Her favourite thing is to pick up and eat a discarded wet wipe. We tried one of those muzzle things, but it didn't work and she still managed to suck things up. She’s utterly vile.

Who is Polly's best pet-pal?

Polly doesn’t really like other dogs as she doesn’t see herself as one. But if she had to pick a BFF (Best Four-Legged Friend), it would probably be Baxter, a border-terrier owned by the guy who took my author photos. She deigns to romp with him occasionally.

What is Polly's best quality?

She is incredibly expressive, and doesn’t need words to communicate – you know exactly what she wants from her facial expressions. Her best physical quality is her fine lustrous beard, which is currently shaved because of a rather unpleasant mouth infection.

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

She would want me to be less affectionate around her – she doesn’t like being cuddled and would rather I stayed away. I am constantly mauling her.

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

What is it about filthy wet wipes that you love so much?

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

Ooooh! What an interesting question. My husband and I do impressions of Polly’s speaking voice and it sounds like no one on Earth. But I guess if I was casting, I’d choose Amy Poehler, make her do an English accent and then slow down the recording.

What advice would Polly give if asked?

Leave me alone.

Visit Beth Morrey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

--Marshal Zeringue