Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ellen Emerson White & Patrick

Who is in the photo at right?

That is me (Ellen Emerson White), and clearly, in addition to being a writer and sports photographer, I’m a Red Sox fan. His name is Patrick, and he’s a Labrador mix. Probably about ten years old now.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It was Tuesday. (Or one of the other six days of the week.)

What's brewing?

Starbucks decaf quad espresso. Vanilla powder added, if they have it out on the side station.

Any treats for you or Patrick on this occasion?

No, but hope springs eternal. A multitude of snack options upon arriving home, though.

How were you and Patrick united?

I adopted him from Arkansas, after requesting “a black dog” from the animal rescue group, since they are the least likely to be adopted. (What’s up with that, anyway?) His very kind foster owner sent him up on a pet transport truck, and we went to pick him up in Nyack, NY—where a stream of black dogs came out of the truck to meet their new owners. I had no idea which one was mine. I sat in the backseat with him on the way home to the city, and he apparently decided that I was the vet tech, and my sister (who was driving) was The New Owner. He was disconcerted—and possibly disappointed--when we got to Manhattan, and found out that he was coming home with me, instead.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He came with the name Webster, but I preferred Patrick—for no discernible reason. I called him Patrick Webster for a few weeks, and gradually dropped the Webster. However, at the vet’s office, he is in the computer as Patrick Webster White, and they tell me he is their only client with a middle name. His nickname is “The Bad Hat,” because—despite his sweetness—his size intimidates people. Also, it amuses me.

Does Patrick do more to help or hinder your writing?

Mostly, he naps quietly, or chews a rawhide bone or something, but sometimes, he feels compelled to stand next to my chair and—do nothing. He just stands there, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. This can last for an hour or more. The family refers to it as “Patrick having a stand.” I find it rather unsettling.

Has Patrick inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

As it happens, he is the star of one of my books, Webster: Tale of an Outlaw (in which he is goofily grumpy and disgruntled, which bears no resemblance to the actual Patrick). And he’s the dog in something new I’m working on, although I haven’t decided on the name yet. Also, I throw Bad Hat photos up on social media all the time, generally showing appalling, anti-social behavior on his part. It goes without saying that this is a complete sham, since he is unusually good-natured.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

None of the above. He is a peaceful soul. Although three men tried to mug me one night, and he broke it up, so I guess it’s fair to say that he does not care for criminals.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Rawhide chew. Despite being a retriever mix, he has absolutely no interest in fetching anything. He does have a few squeaky toys, though, now that I think about it. If I shout, “Get Kylo Ren!,” he will grab that particular one and violently subdue it. Jedi dog, all the way.

Who is Patrick's best pet-pal?

He has a very congenial relationship with the two cats (Bert and Dorothy) who share his home.

What is Patrick's best quality?

He is incredibly pleasant, and also easily amused. It’s a good combination.

If Patrick could change one thing about the good people of New York, what would it be?

He would probably prefer it if his fellow New Yorkers were a little less tightly-wrapped.

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

Honestly, I would ask him what things would make him the most happy, so that I could be sure and do them for him.

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

Let’s go with Kyle Chandler, when he’s using a stronger Southern accent than usual. I am certain that Patrick has a Southern accent.

What advice would Patrick give if asked?

One shudders to think, really. Less fussing and fretting, particularly when it comes to writing, I suspect.

Visit Ellen Emerson White's website, and learn more about her latest YA book, A Season of Daring Greatly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tracee de Hahn & Alvaro and Laika

Who is pictured in these photos?

I’m Tracee de Hahn and I live and work in an old Victorian house in Virginia. Many times I can be found on my front porch with Alvaro, our nine-year-old Jack Russell, who isn’t always a fan of being cuddled. His sister and litter mate, Laika, is always willing to be held…. particularly in this photo [at right], when we were waiting for the vet prior to her cataract surgery (which was a great success…. all the better to see distant squirrels).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Who needs a reason! They are with me every day almost all day long. They love walking into town for a coffee.

What's brewing?

At home I drink tea – Lady Grey by Twinings. Out of the house I treat myself to a cappuccino.

Any treats for you or Alvaro and Laika on this occasion?

Absolutely – I’m having a scone. Laika isn’t at all interested, she’s more focused on the squirrels (which look like a tasty snack to her). Alvaro [photo left] knows that he will get a doggy treat. He’s very food motivated and waits patiently for his reward.

How were you and your dogs united?

Alvaro and Laika were true life savers. We had a pair of Jack Russells and the girl, Sabatchka, died. She was the sweetest dog in the world and her brother fell into immediate depression (as did my husband). I found a girl puppy all the way up the coast at the top of California (we were living in the center of the state) and we drove there right away. During the seven hour drive we kept saying ‘them’ and not ‘her’. And sure enough we just couldn’t leave the final pup (a boy) there. For many years we had three Jack Russsells and I’m convinced that once our older dog was accustomed to them, they were the mainstay of his life for the next seven years.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Our boy dogs are traditionally named after famous architects. Alvaro is in honor of Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. The girls have Russian names – in honor of my love of Russian literature. Laika was the first dog in space. The terrier who went up in Sputnik.

Do Alvaro and Laika do more to help or hinder your writing?

That depends on their mood. Many days they sit nearby in their bed or on a chair looking out the window, waiting patiently until we have a walk. Other days they want to be closer, which means I must abandon the desk and sit on a sofa so they can cuddle nearby. Occasionally Laika is only content if she is literally on my lap – with my computer or notebook balanced on top of her.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

The Great Dane in Swiss Vendetta plays a critical role. He is based on a Great Dane I met once in Franklin, Tennessee. A gorgeous harlequin.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Laika wants to be friends with the neighborhood cats, but they aren’t very willing. Perhaps because they see how desperate she is to catch the squirrels.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Alvaro love his toys, particularly tennis balls, but really any toy. Squeaky toys lose their squeak after five minutes but that’s five minutes of pure joy so it’s worth it! Now he’s nudging me as a reminder that the rats from Ikea are his favorite. Intended for human children, they don’t have squeakers but they are fun to carry and sleep with.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

They have always been together so the bond is strong. With each of our pairs of dogs, the female bonds with my husband and the male with me.

What is each dog's best quality?

Laika – when not obsessed with the squirrels – is very affectionate. Alvaro is playful and loyal.

If Alvaro and Laika could change one thing about Virginians, what would it be?

They love everything about the state. The weather – love that snow! – and how friendly people are. Plus there are lots of dogs, which makes them feel at home everywhere.

Laika was particularly happy when we moved here two years ago because she had terrible skin allergies in California and had to wear a shirt to prevent scratching. Horribly embarrassing for her.

If Alvaro and Laika could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

What could we do to make their routine even better.

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

Kate Winslet for Laika, because of her beautiful voice with a bit of spunk.

Alvaro might be Matt Damon, good humored but also serious.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

To enjoy every day, that’s their attitude toward life and I think it’s working out for them.

Visit Tracee de Hahn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cat Urbigkit & Hud

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Cat Urbigkit, and I’m a writer who lives on a working sheep ranch in western Wyoming. I’m in the truck with my husband Jim, a lamb, and Hud, the herding dog looking on from the back seat.

Hud is a six-year old herding dog. He’s a cross between a bearded collie and an Australian shepherd.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee with Hud every day.

What's brewing?

I’m a big fan of Peet’s Columbia deep roast coffee, made in a stainless steel percolator.

Any treats for you or Hud on this occasion?

No treats for me, but Hud always gets a nimble of my husband’s breakfast bacon.

How were you and Hud united?

We already had one bearded collie, Abe, and as he began to age, we were able to obtain a pup from the same working dog lineage. It was a stressful time in my life, and when I talked to the breeder, I told her I didn’t need to select a puppy from the litter, but asked her to give me the pup that no one else wanted. Of course that meant that I would end up with the pup that was meant to be with me!

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

My best friend, Sheri Hudson Nolan, had just passed away at a relatively young age from cancer, so I wanted to honor her. Hudson was a perfect name for a pup – shortened to Hud, which was also the name of an old western movie starring Paul Newman.

Please tell us about your new book, Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs.

My new book is my celebration of another type of working dog – livestock guardian dogs that protect livestock from predators.

Does Hud do more to help or hinder your writing?

Hud helps my writing because he often lounges under my desk, providing a soft, warm place for my toes.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Prairie dogs - they have a unique bark and chatter that drives Hud crazy!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Hedgehog. Hud believes that one of his jobs is to remove the squeaker.

Who is Hud's best pet-pal?

Hud is friends with all our guardian dogs, but his best pals are always the lambs that end up in our ranch yard for special care. Hud licks their noses and takes naps with them, and even as the lambs grow and become adults, he maintains a close relationship with them.

What is Hud's best quality?

Hud is very kind.

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

For me to get off the computer and come roll around in the snow (or manure) with him more often.

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

Hud is such a great communicator already, but the one question I would ask is “How are you feeling?” because he is so stoic about going about his work even if he isn’t feeling well.

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

Hud has a smooth, deep voice, so Morgan Freeman would be a great match.

What advice would Hud give if asked?

Find the fun in every day.

Learn more about Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs and visit Cat Urbigkit’s Paradise Sheep website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cat Urbigkit & Rena.


--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lisa Gardner & Annabelle and Bowie

Who is in the photo at right?

The little brown brindle is Annabelle, a four year old cairn terrier poodle mix. She loves swimming, hiking, chasing squirrels and believe it or not, paddle boarding (summer is her favorite season). The fluffy white dog is Bowie, our one year old blue merle sheltie. He loves snow shoeing, snow flake chasing, and snow eating (winter is his favorite season).

I’m Lisa Gardner, a novelist, specializing in crime thrillers, many of which have involved savvy dogs to help save the day.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Years ago, I gave up coffee for herbal tea. But the dogs will tell you some days it still takes caffeine to get through the afternoon. I like to stop by J-Town Deli, in Jackson, New Hampshire, which is dog friendly. Annabelle and Bowie run immediately to the front counter and wag their tails furiously until cookies are produced. I’m not sure the dogs even know or care I’m getting coffee. In their world, a stop at J-Town is all about them.

What's brewing?

Mocha latte. Chocolate and coffee all in one cup. Mmm…

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

They are all about the dog cookies. And Annabelle likes being fussed over by the staff and other customers. She’s a social butterfly. Bowie is less convinced. He takes his cookie, then hangs out with me.

How were you and your dogs united?

We found Annabelle through a friend who also had a cairn terrier. We were looking for a smaller dog, but still active and outdoorsy, given that we live in the mountains of New Hampshire. Annabelle is happy to spend her days hiking the mountains or swimming in the lake, and her nights snuggled up on the sofa.

As for Bowie, we’ve always loved shelties. Our first pair passed away two years ago, leaving a significant hole in our lives. We returned to the breeder where we got our first sheltie, Murphy, who will always be the great love of my life. Bowie is a completely different dog, but still a joy to have around. He’s a total goofball, which is a nice fit with Annabelle, who is much more dignified.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Our daughter named Annabelle, thinking she would be called Annie. But Annabelle is Annabelle. Somehow the longer name suits her. We got Bowie right after David Bowie died. Given his one blue eye, it seemed appropriate to name him in the singer’s honor. If you ask our thirteen-year old daughter, however, he was named after the knife; she doesn’t do seventies pop stars.

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

Annabelle is a great writing companion, content to sleep at my feet.

Bowie is a youngster. As long as I’m just sitting there, surely I could throw a ball. I end having to bribe him with a chew bone if I want to get anything done. But writing is generally followed walking to work out plot problems. Bowie approves of that part of the process.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

My latest book, Right Behind You, features both a retired police dog, Luka, and a search dog, Molly. Luka is fictional, but Molly [photo right] is a real dog, a pit bull mix rescued by the Conway Area Humane Society. Abandoned and emaciated, Molly still managed to give birth to seven fat, healthy puppies and did an incredible job nursing them before finding her forever home with the shelter’s operations manager Deb Cameron. They are real heroes, deserving of a role tracking a spree killer in the wilds of Oregon.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrel. Definitely squirrels, and we are surrounded by them!

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball. Bowie will fetch forever. Until Annabelle becomes frustrated, steals the ball from him and lays on it.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Bowie worships the ground Annabelle walks on. Whatever she does, he does. Basically, he’s the annoying little brother, but he loves her so much, she puts up with him.

What is each dog's best quality?

Annabelle is a complete snuggle bug. She loves to sleep with her head on my lap, or curled up in a ball, tucked under my chin. There is no amount of snuggling that is too much.

Bowie is the best dog I’ve ever had off leash. He returns the moment he’s called, sits on a dime, will do whatever you want as long as you take him with you. He’s definitely a work dog—always looking to make sure the humans are happy and always ready for the next adventure.

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

New Hampshire has mountains, lakes and tons of dog-friendly people and businesses. Nothing to change, other dogs should come visit.

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

What is the secret to happiness?

Honestly, they greet each day, each moment with such enthusiasm. Being a moody writer type, I’d love to know their secret.

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

Annbelle should be voiced by Kate Hudson, feminine, energetic, beautiful.

Kevin Hart would make an excellent Bowie. Big loveable goofball. Perfect!

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Start every day with a tail wag and cookies will follow!

Visit Lisa Gardner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sally J. Pla & Leo

Who is in the photo at right?

Why, hello. It’s me, Sally J. Pla, debut author of The Someday Birds, with my golden doodle, Leo. He is large. Almost 80 pounds of large. A bit of a jumbo doodle. Let’s call him a Venti.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Leo jumps heavily onto the foot of my bed every morning. Then he drags me downstairs for coffee, a scoop of kibble, and a wee. Me, I’d rather slide straight from REM sleep right into writing, but it is never to be. So the occasion, here, is our every-morning routine…coffee in the kitchen.

What's brewing?

Bella Donovan roast, ordered online from Blue Bottle, in a Bodum French press, with cream and sugar. Leo always asks to lick the cup. I don’t usually let him.

Any treats for you or Leo on this occasion?

There’s a French cafĂ©/bakery down the road; on weekends, I’ll head down for a croissant to go. They have a raspberry almond variety that’s darn fine. That, on a Sunday, with The New York Times and the sun streaming in the kitchen, is a pretty optimum coffee-with-canine experience.

How were you and Leo united?

When my son was 10, he campaigned like crazy for second dog. We resisted, until the day he developed acute appendicitis. They wheeled my son into the OR, still pleading, hands clasped, suffering, angelic. “All this would be better if I only had a puppy!” he moaned. What monster would say no to that?

We got Leo soon after. And as the two homebodies of the family, Leo and I… bonded. Deeply. It happened almost from day one – while Leo loves my son, he has always been ‘my’ dog, somehow. I feel closer to him than to many people.

Several years ago, I was bedridden for a month after major surgery. Leo never left the foot of my bed. He never left me. My son had to pull him by the collar to get him to go downstairs to eat. Leo guards my bed every night, and is never more than an arm’s reach away from me at all times. When I leave to run errands, he parks himself by the front door until I get back. I can’t even go to the bathroom without him standing guard. It’s really a little ridiculous. But his loyalty and devotion is heart-melting. I’d do anything for that dog.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

He was carefully and lovingly named by my son.

Does Leo do more to help or hinder your writing?

He helps and hinders. He’s missed plenty of walks because I was too deeply in thrall to a scene, too immersed. He is infinitely patient, slumped nearby, sleeping, awaiting the Magical Sound of the Closing of the Laptop. When he hears it—no matter how softly I close that MacBook—he scrambles up quickly in exasperated anticipation: “Are we finally going to do something now?” he’ll asks me. (Yes, he talks.)

Has Leo inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

There’s a bit of Leo in the three-legged stray, Tiberius, that Charlie and his brothers rescue in The Someday Birds. And Leo’s goofy side is in Albert Einstein, the world’s least intelligent golden retriever of my second middle-grade novel, John Lockdown is in the Building (HarperCollins 2018). I cannot imagine writing a novel without a dog in it. Dogs rule!

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cat-phobia. Squirrel-perplexion. Postal workers incite frenzied love-attacks.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

He’s a heavy chewer. The only thing that stands up is an elk horn or Galileo Bone, heavy as a rock, and when Leo chews on it, the whole house shakes.

Who is Leo's best pet-pal?

Although Copper, the neighbor’s teacup Yorkie, is fairly well tolerated, Leo’s not a dog’s dog. Leo thinks he’s a person. A timid person. At dog parks, he hides behind my knees like a kid on the first day of preschool.

What is Leo's best quality?

Could it be the intelligence and emotional honesty in his eyes? The warm leathery feel of the inside of his ears? How his floofy feet are the size of dinner plates? Could it be the unconditional mutual love? Seriously, it’s a problem how much I adore this dog.

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

He’d tell them to give homes to more real dogs, not those tiny spoiled yippy purse-toys.

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

Are you comfortable and happy?

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

Some magical meld of Jemaine Clement, Robin Williams, and Greg Kinnear.

What advice would Leo give if asked?

He’d say: “Stop obsessing about the pet hair on your leggings. Concentrate on the good stuff, on treasuring our every moment. A dog’s life is fleeting. Don’t forget to stop and smell the coffee.”

Visit Sally J. Pla's website.

--Marshal Zeringue