Saturday, September 9, 2023

Sung J. Woo & Koda

Who is in the photo at right?

The canine in the photo is Koda, a two-year-old male whippet. Our previous dog was a German shepherd (Ginny), and I still can't quite get over how different Koda is in comparison to Ginny. Sometimes I think Koda is a cat...! A working breed he is not.

The guy holding the dog is me. My name is Sung J. Woo, and I'm a novelist, though I have written a handful of personal essays for outlets like The New York Times and Vox.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I take Koda for his morning walk every morning. It's a mile around our neighborhood park, about twenty minutes. And when I get back, after making his breakfast (which includes heating up half a cup of water to pour over his kibble), I click on the little coffee machine.

What's brewing?

I was not a daily coffee drinker until my wife gifted me a little Breville Nespresso Pixie. Before this coffee maker came into my life, I drank coffee when I traveled but never at home. It always seemed like such a hassle, but the Nespresso pods make it very easy. For forty seconds, I nuke a splash of almond creamer and a splash of soy milk in my mug. With my lactose intolerance, I'm very glad many supermarket shelves are devoted to non-dairy creamers. Anyway, a button press and a screech later, I have a wonderful longo-sized cup of joe. My favorite pod is Peets, but as long as the casing is aluminum, I'm happy. I do recycle those!

Any treats for you or Koda on this occasion?

Nothing special. Koda's treat is his breakfast; mine is this slightly sweet and bitter brown liquid. Even though I try to slow down with my cup, I slurp it down just as fast as Koda inhales his meal.

How were you and Koda united?

After Ginny passed, I didn't want another dog. Her passing was so intensely sad that I really did not want to experience it again. But then time passed, and my wife and I looked around a bit, and there happened to be this whippet breeder not even ten minutes from our house. And like Hemingway's quote about bankruptcy, it all happened gradually, and then suddenly.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

On a visit to the breeder prior to bringing him home, we saw a black bear by the side of the road. Naming him Bear seemed too simple, so then we went on the internet, and we found a movie we've never seen: Brother Bear. It's an animated film, and one of the main characters is named Koda. It's Native American (Sioux) for "friend" or "ally," which was exactly what we were hoping he would be when he came into our lives.

Does Koda do more to help or hinder your writing?

I think it might be dead even. He helps because in my morning walks, which I never did with Ginny, I often find my mind wandering about whatever I'm working on. A wandering mind is fast becoming a rare occurrence nowadays, when we have so much entertainment (podcasts, ebooks, internet, etc.) at our fingertips at all times. So the walks definitely help. But Koda also takes up a significant part of my attention -- letting him out, boarding him when we're away, vet visits...etc. He's not a difficult dog to have around, and most of the time I'm upstairs with the cats while my wife is with him downstairs, so I'm probably casting undeserved blame. Sorry, Koda!

Has Koda inspired you to create any fictional canines?

In my fourth novel, Deep Roots, I have a whippet named Mare who comes into the story; nothing too involved, kind of like Koda himself. Here's the introductory sentence: "If the Queen of England saw what Her Majesty’s Charters
looked like, she would not be a fan. She may even have the palace guards tear down the signage, for it featured a dog in a tiara."

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

We are still attempting to acclimate him to our two cats; it's a work in progress. Koda loves people so if he did see the mail carrier (our mailbox is out of sight from him), he'd probably fall right in love. Squirrels, on the other hand...and rabbits and groundhogs...though nothing sets him off like deer.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Koda likes really small stuffed animals (and tearing them apart, of course). We have been showered with many gifts, including a wood bone (shaped and tastes like wood) and a silent squeak toy that only dogs can hear.

Who is Koda's best pet-pal?

I'd say his best pet BFF is Cooper, a friend's dog. He spent an afternoon with him in their yard, and they became fast friends. Neither my wife nor I are social butterflies, so I'm afraid Koda doesn't get a huge amount of fellow canine socialization.

What is Koda's best quality?

He barks very rarely. He does have a rather strange howl-yowl combination that he employs when very excited or distressed, but by and large, he is a silent dog.

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

"Can you please be a bit more generous with the treats?"

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

"When you have that blank look about you, what are you thinking about?"

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

I wish for Michael Peña, but in reality, he's probably more aligned with David Hyde Pierce.

What advice would Koda give if asked?

"What's not to like?"

Visit Sung J. Woo's website.

Q&A with Sung J. Woo.

My Book, The Movie: Deep Roots.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Roots.

Writers Read: Sung J. Woo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 31, 2023

Nan Fischer & Boone

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Nan Fischer, an author, and that's Boone beside me. He's a Vizsla and almost 15 years old!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I always bring a coffee down to the beach - Boone's favorite spot. You can't see my mug in the photo - Boone would knock it over. The beach is his favorite place and even at 14.5 he gets the zoomies once he hits the sand.

What's brewing?

I drink my coffee black, use a Jura machine for perfect crema, and prefer Stumptown beans.

Any treats for you or Boone on this occasion?

Boone doesn't get any treats from me at the beach because pretty much every dog owner down there has some in their pockets! Boone didn't always trust strangers so it's a great way to get him to interact in a positive way with people he doesn't know and learn to like them.

How were you and Boone united?

I grew up with rescue Beagles from a medical testing facility, but allergies led my husband and I to get a Vizsla as they're super short haired and easy to keep clean. Even so, my husband had hives around his eyes for a full year before his body got used to Boone! Our dog was rejected from the show ring (of course we think he's perfect) and so the breeder wanted a home for him where he'd have tons of love and exercise and we fit that bill.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I was flipping through books looking for unique names and saw Boone and it just fit as he's a gift and treasure in our lives. Aliases include Monkey, Sweetpea, Boonimul, and Lovebug.

Does Boone do more to help or hinder your writing?

Boone definitely helps my writing! He sleeps under my desk, keeps me company, and forces me to take breaks to exercise us both!

Has Boone inspired you to create any fictional canines?

Boone is in every single novel I've written! But in The Book of Silver Linings he was the inspiration for a dog named Growler who has behavioral problems and is in danger of being euthanized. Boone, too, had some pretty serious behavioral issues. If my husband and I hadn't been incredibly committed, he probably would've ended up at a shelter with a very bleak future. But we were devoted, stayed consistent, loved him even when it was hard, and he's come a very long way and we couldn't be more proud of him.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel for sure!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Boone loves every stuffed toy he's ever gotten and never rips them apart. His favorite is a giant fleece bone.

Who is Boone's best pet-pal?

Boone has never met a little dog he doesn't love. He's over the moon for my sister's dachshund mixes, Sydney and Oskar.

What is Boone's best quality?

Just one??? He's goofy, devoted to us and also lives in the moment.

If Boone could change one thing about people of the Pacific Northwest, what would it be?

He'd probably say that we shouldn't go outside when it rains and is cold. But that would be a lot of the winter.

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

What do you need most from us as you're getting older?

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

Wow! That's a fun question!! Maybe Ashton Kutcher? He strikes me as an actor with an enormous heart, like Boone!

What advice would Boone give if asked?

Live in the moment, try not to bark at strangers, and snuggle whenever possible.

Visit Nan Fischer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Richardson Fischer (October 2019).

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Falling Objects.

The Page 69 Test: The Speed of Falling Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 27, 2023

Margaret Fenton & Roly, Lady and Mimi

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello! My name is Margaret Fenton, and I am a mystery writer from Birmingham, Alabama, USA. I write the Claire Conover social work series, which starts with Little Lamb Lost, followed by Little Girl Gone, and then Little White Lies. I have three dogs, and they are all Papillons. I have a male named Roly, and two females named Lady and Mimi. In the picture, Roly is in my lap, Lady is on the back of the chair, and Mimi is on the armrest to my right. Roly and Mimi are ten years old, and Lady is nine.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I drink coffee every day with my canines, or anyone else who shows up.

What's brewing?

I’m going to be totally honest: My husband is the coffee snob. He buys whole bean coffee and grinds it himself daily. We went through a time where he tried every brand of coffee, and he says the best is the stuff he gets at Sam’s Club. It’s called Pablo’s Pride and it comes from Guatemala. Honestly, I’ll drink anything but this is good stuff. And I like it black black black.

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

Not usually. I drink coffee in the morning and we don’t eat until lunch.

How were you and your dogs united?

Ten years ago, I wanted a dog. I’m allergic to cats so a dog was kinda the only option for a furry pet other than some form of rodent (no, thank you). My husband said he wasn’t a dog person and we couldn’t get one (Ha! So wrong). I literally begged and begged until he gave in, but his only stipulation was to get one like my brother had. At the time, my brother and his (now ex-) wife had a Papillion named Cinderella who was so beautiful and smart. So I found a lady here in Alabama who had Pap puppies for sale. I knew I wanted a male and she had three four-month-olds that were available. I went to her house and she took all the females out of the room and I sat on the floor with the three males. Roly walked over and sat in my lap. His birth-owner said, “I think that’s your dog.”

No truer statement has ever been uttered. So I bring Roly home and it takes, oh, about a month before my husband falls deeply, madly and truly in love with Roly. He looked at me and said, “Go get another one!” I called Roly’s birth-owner and she had Roly’s half-sister for sale, so we got her and that’s Lady. Mimi was my above-mentioned brother’s dog. He was very sick with diabetes and complications so we took Mimi in several years before he passed away in April of 2022.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Roly came out of his mother nice and round and plump, so they called him “the roly-poly one” and the name just stuck. He’s always been very food motivated. I was going to change his name to Doodlebug, and his birth-owner told me to call him by the name his knows, Roly, and then say Doodlebug after that and eventually drop the Roly and he will respond to his new name. Well, in all the chaos of being new pet parents and potty training and everything, we got lazy and he just became Rolybug. So the name change thing didn’t go very well. Lady was named by my two best friends. I told them we were getting a female puppy and they said to name her Lady, and then we’d have Rolybug and Ladybug. Brilliant! Mimi was named by my brother and mimi is the Japanese word for ears. Not hard to see why that name was perfect.

Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?

I don’t think they do either. They sit on a chair and I take breaks to be a Dog Butler and get the door for them. I swear I’m putting that title on my resume.

Have your actual canines inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet. I have dreams of writing a cozy, so we’ll see.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel!!! I encourage the chasing of those rat-bastards who chew on the wood of my house.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Lady will chase a small tennis ball for days. Just say “ball” and she goes nuts.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Each other, I think.

What is each dog's best quality?

Rolybug is the sweetest dog ever. Really. He loves all people and is your friend instantly. Lady doesn’t have any good qualities. Just kidding. They are all really sweet, but Lady is the loudest dog ever. Her bark is high pitched and just…loud. I don’t know if that’s a best quality or not, but nobody is walking into my
house unnoticed. Mimi is my back-of-pack caretaker and will stop everything to make sure you are okay.

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

I’m sure they’d love for me to get up from this computer and walk them more often.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

You know there’s a dog door, right? Just push with your nose.

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

Yeah, so truthfully, I’m not much of a movie watcher. I’m a reader. I have zero idea what actors/actresses are out there now. Roly would be someone kind. Lady—someone loud. Mimi—someone friendly.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Take time to smell the world.

Visit Margaret Fenton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue