Who is in the photo at right?
I'm Aislinn Hunter, a writer – the human in the middle of the Border collie sandwich. Cooper is on my right, he's seven, and Juniper is on my left, she's six.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
An actual Saturday off which means lounging on the back deck, drinking coffee with my husband, hanging out with the animals and reading the paper.
I'm a huge fan of Kicking Horse Coffee. It's Fair Trade, organic, made in BC (near the Rockies) and so good I once called their 1-800 number and left a long goofy message saying how much I loved their beans. 95% of the time I'm a soy or almond milk person but for coffee I use a tiny splash of 2%.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
They're spoiled daily so being allowed on the furniture, getting to sprawl on us is the norm. We've all packed on a few pounds over the winter so treats in the form of cookies (for them) and croissants (for us) are off the table (this may be why Cooper looks so sad).
How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?
My husband Glenn works in the wine industry and Cooper was born on a vineyard (his mom was a stray) so we wanted a wine name and a cooper is a barrel-maker. Joon came from the rescue as 'Gin' and gin comes from Juniper so we went with Joon / Juniper. I have about 100 nicknames for the dogs which my husband thinks is about 98 too many. Sometimes Juniper gets 'Baboon-aper' (cause she's such a monkey) and Coop gets 'Noodle' because when he sees us even after a few hours he wiggles his whole body like a wet noodle.
How were you and your dogs united?
We got Coop as a puppy from a rescue down in Washington State and Juniper came from That'll Do Border Collie Rescue here in Vancouver. We didn't know we were Border collie people until we happened into it... Cooper was billed as a spaniel / collie mix at the rescue and we'd always liked spaniels. (Of course he turned out to be 100% Border collie so there was a steep learning curve but we got hooked on the breed's smarts and general A-type quirkiness.)
How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?
They hinder the writing but they help me. Border collies need at least two serious rounds of exercise every day along with mental tasks / brain work. We always go out before I write and when we come back, because they're happy, they'll give me a good 6 hours of writing. I've done longer stretches (maybe breaking for 10 mins) and they start to get bored – bark at stuff outside, circle the study. (Right now Cooper is under the desk at my feet totally relaxed and Juniper is nudging my left hand with her nose....) The dogs actually help me with my work/life balance. Back in December when I was working 12 hrs a day writing toward a deadline we were all miserable – I never want to be that snappish again. The dogs inspire me too. I love imagining the world through their eyes.
Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?
Our friend's dog Rupert appeared in an early short story and the spaniel/retriever cross that Glenn and I had before the collies (his name was Fiddler and he lived to 13) is the dog called Sam in my new novel The World Before Us. I missed – and still miss – Fid so much, so it was comforting to think of him when I was writing the novel.
Cat, postman, squirrel....?
Cat. Specifically the neighbour's cat for strutting around and preening in our yard.
Squeaky-toy, ball, stick...?
Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?
There's a dog beach at the foot of an off-leash forest here in Vancouver. They love to swim after floaty toys. Then roll in sand. Then swim, then hike. Then swim (you get the idea).
Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?
Each other. We've also had seven foster dogs over the years (working with a collie rescue) and they grew really fond of Sprite, Twist and JJ. We still see some of those dogs in their 'forever homes' so the dogs are sort of like an extended family.
What is each dog's best quality?
Coop is a genius. He grasps new ideas super fast (from sheep herding principals to domestic tasks). Joon is really funny, she's a total character, a bit manic but super-loving.
If your dogs could change one thing about Vancouverites, what would it be?
We own too many cars and not enough sheep.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
Benedict Cumberbatch and Miranda July.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
How can we make your lives better?
What advice would your dogs give if asked?
Ironically (give that they're collies) they'd probably advise me to slow down a bit to try to be more in the moment (like I was this morning when we took this photo).
Visit Aislinn Hunter's website.