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

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