Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Melissa Scholes Young & Huckleberry Nacho Finn

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Melissa Scholes Young. I'm a writer and a teacher. This is the dog who picked me, Huckleberry Nacho Finn Scholes Young. He sits on my feet while I write books. We think he's about four years old. He's a chocolate lab/Pit Bull/Boxer/Love of my life mutt.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We're on our way to the dog park. He let's me take him as a reward if I make his morning chicken just right.

What's brewing?

Nespresso. Dry cappuccino with skim milk. Huck prefers his with whipped cream.

Any treats for you or Huck on this occasion?

I'm enjoying a salad and Huck is enjoying the salmon that used to be on top of my salad.

How were you and Huck united?

He chose me at a Lucky Dog adoption event. He leaned in. If you've ever had a dog lean in and claim you, you know the rest.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's boyhood home, so I'm a big literary fan of Twain's. Huck just seemed to be a Huck, but the first time he ate an entire stick of butter off of our table Huckleberry Finn came out of my mouth in a certain tone that Widow Douglass would have used. My youngest daughter added the Nacho part to his name. He mostly goes by Huckanoodles and Good Boy.

Does Huck do more to help or hinder your writing?

He sits on my feet and makes me sit and stay. He reminds me to take breaks and walk him. He lets me throw his ball while I'm working out plot points in my mind. He snores a lot and there seem to be a lot of snoring dogs in my scenes.

Has Huck inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Yes. The novel I'm working on now has a Nacho in it. Nacho prefers sticks to balls but whatever.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Bunnies.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball. Ball. Ball.

Where is Huck's favorite outdoor destination?

Our woods. Anywhere there is water.

Who is Huck's best pet-pal?

Cinder. She's also from Lucky Dog Rescue and she is Huck's everything. She likes to play rough.

What is Huck's best quality?

He is absolutely the best listener ever.

If Huck could change one thing about Marylanders, what would it be?

They think their dogs have behavior problems. They're really only owner problems.

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

Do you know how much I adore you?

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

Matthew McConaughey with a southern accent.

What advice would Huck give if asked?

Don't work so hard. Take more naps.

Visit Melissa Scholes Young's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Trish Doller & Cobi

Who is in the photo at right?

I attempted to get a good picture of my dog and me, but it was kind of a perfect storm of weird lighting, new location, and Other Dogs. But I am Trish Doller, author of In a Perfect World, and this is my dog Cobi, a 10-year-old male Border Collie.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

My typical morning caffeine is usually a bottle of Coke (I don’t care for coffee), but since this was a special occasion, I took Cobi to Bennett’s Fresh Roast, which is simply the best place in Fort Myers for coffee and doughnuts.

What's brewing?

I opted for a red tea with cranberry and orange, and it was delicious, but left me kind of sweaty because the weather is so hot today!

Any treats for you or Cobi on this occasion?

Bennett’s has amazing homemade apple fritters and doughnuts in flavors like maple bacon, s’mores, and orange coconut. My favorite is the key lime-filled with a dusting of graham cracker pie crust. So delicious. (I gave Cobi a little nibble.)

How were you and Cobi united?

One of my favorite internet activities is browsing petfinder—even when I’m not actively looking for a pet—and about eight years ago, I came across a ridiculously cute Border Collie named Kobe. His profile said he was already in the adoption process, so I continued browsing. About a month later, Kobe was still there. I emailed the rescue agency and they told me the adoption had fallen through. I submitted an application and three days later he was mine!

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

His original name was Korbin, given to him by the people who eventually surrendered him to animal services, but he was renamed Kobe by the rescue agency. I was not huge fan of the name, but his rescue “mom” loved him so much that I felt a little disrespectful changing it. So we changed the spelling instead.

My whole family loves soccer, so Kobe became Cobi Jones (after the former US player) and his aliases are Mr. Jones, Jones, Bones, Kobayashi Maru, Cobi Wan Kenobi, and sometimes Jermaine. (Bonus points for anyone who figures out that last one.)

Does Cobi do more to help or hinder your writing?

Now you know who really writes my books. [photo right]

Has Cobi inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

I've written three novels with dogs as characters, but none of them are Cobi-inspired. Odd.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Cobi isn’t bothered much by cats or squirrels, but he barks at other dogs going past the house and at delivery people. I’m trying to teach him that we don’t bark at people who bring us food, but so far the lessons haven’t stuck.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Ball. And there is nothing that can’t become a ball. Plush toy? Ball. Sock? Ball. Plastic soda bottle? Ball. I once bought him one of those toys in which you put treats so the dog must figure out how to get the treats out. It’s a ball.

Where is Cobi's favorite outdoor destination?

He loves Dog Beach on Lovers Key. It’s kind of far, so we don’t go very often, but when we cross the bridge, he knows where we’re going and he gets so excited.

Who is Cobi's best pet-pal?

He doesn’t have a BFF, but Cobi likes just about every dog he meets.

What is Cobi's best quality?

He is the sweetest and most well-mannered dog I’ve ever owned, but his best quality is his charm. It’s impossible not to like him.

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

Cobi is a wanderer. When he was young, he used to dig under the fence to escape the yard. Once, he squeezed out a window. Fortunately, we’ve always gotten him back, but I would love to know where he goes and what he does when he’s wandering.

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

Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Dodgeball) is one of the best voice actors ever and if anyone could get Cobi’s voice, it would be him.

What advice would Cobi give if asked?

Stop what you’re doing and play ball with your dog. (Which is never a bad idea.)

Visit Trish Doller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Robyn Harding & Ozzie

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Robyn Harding and I’m the author of the novel The Party. My dog, Ozzie, is a twelve-year-old, male papillon. He weighs 7.5 pounds and has no teeth.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning, Ozzie and I have coffee together at home. Ozzie doesn’t like to go out for coffee. He is very nervous so he prefers to avoid people, traffic, and other dogs. In the mornings, I like to grab my coffee and start writing. Ozzie keeps me company.

What's brewing?

During the week, I drink Ethical Bean drip coffee with honey and milk. On the weekends, I’ll have a latte.

Any treats for you or Ozzie on this occasion?

Ozzie is very picky and doesn’t like treats, which is probably good because they’d be a challenge without teeth. But every morning, he gets a home-cooked breakfast with just a sprinkling of tiny kibble on top. He’s spoiled.

How were you and Ozzie united?

My kids had begged for a dog. I knew the care and maintenance would ultimately fall on me, so I said the smaller the better. Ozzie came from a family of show dogs but he isn’t “breed standard”, so they were getting rid of him. Apparently, he’s not cute enough to compete on the dog show circuit, but I beg to differ.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

The breeder had already named him Ozzie. My husband is an Aussie. When he heard the name he said, “That’s the dog for us!”.

Does Ozzie do more to help or hinder your writing?

He helps me by forcing me to take breaks. When we go for walks, it lets me plot out my story, and gives my neck and shoulders a break from typing.

Has Ozzie inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

No, but he’d be a great character in a children’s story – a sweet, fluffy little guy who is afraid of everything.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Squirrels. They’re the only thing Ozzie isn’t afraid of… although, if he ever actually caught one, I’m sure he would be.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

We have tiny tennis balls that he’s able to pick up in his small, toothless mouth. But in the last few years, he’s gotten pretty lazy. I’ll throw the ball or a small stick for him, and he just looks at me.

Where is Ozzie's favorite outdoor destination?

He loves to go to the beach – but not the dog beach. That’s terrifying! We take him to the human beach in the off-season (when there are no lifeguards around). He likes to run figure eights in the sand.

Who is Ozzie's best pet-pal?

Me. Or my husband or my kids. He doesn’t like any other dogs. And only a couple of other humans.

What is Ozzie's best quality?

His very sweet and compliant nature. He always wants to be a good boy, even when he’s getting a bath or a trim or I’m putting drops in his eyes.

If Ozzie could change one thing about Vancouverites, what would it be?

They wouldn’t have so many dogs! Everyone in Vancouver seems to have a dog or two. Ozzie would like to be the only dog in the whole city.

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

Do you remember your dog mom?

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

Steve Buscemi.

What advice would Ozzie give if asked?

Be careful! Everything could kill you!

Visit Robyn Harding's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 26, 2017

Heather Gudenkauf & Lolo

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Heather Gudenkauf, author and educator and this lovely girl (who, with no luck, we were trying to get to pose for a picture) is Lolo, a four-year-old German shorthair pointer.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

On weekends, Lolo and I have a ritual of hopping into the car and going to get a Diet Coke.

What's brewing?

For me, it’s a Diet Coke from a fountain with a skinny straw. Odd I know, but it’s the simple things in life that make us happy, right?

Any treats for you or Lolo on this occasion?


No treats for me today but I always keep a stash of dog treats in the car’s center console.


How did your dog get her name?

Lolo is named after Iowa native and Olympic athlete Lolo Jones.

Any aliases?

We call her Lo for short.

Back in 2010 you introduced us to the much-loved Maxine, also a German Shorthaired Pointer. Is there something about the breed that you really like, or can that be a coincidence?

It’s no coincidence and kind of a long story. Maxine, our mischievous German Shorthair Pointer, completed our family. If Maxine didn’t have the chance to run each day, destruction would follow. Shoes disappeared, food vanished from countertops, especially sticks of butter, and once we discovered a hole eaten out of the center of our mattress. But Maxine was also smart and loving. When one of our five was diagnosed with cancer, Maxine, once the bossy center of our household found herself on the sidelines. Between trips to the hospital, work and school, Maxine was often left alone for long stretches, but she was always there for whoever needed comfort.

We could cry into her soft fur when we became overwhelmed with the reality of the illness that changed our family. She would lie patiently at our side, head on our laps, when we had no energy to do anything else.

On a cold evening, ten-year-old Maxine died suddenly.

We were devastated. While we continued to feel the deep loss, we were mindful of the joy that having a pet brought us. One day I received an unexpected call from the man we bought Maxine from. He said he had a puppy if we wanted to meet her. We did.

The pup was returned to him by the hunter he sold her to because she was soft, scared of loud noises. She intermittently approached us and skittered away, but still, we fell in love. The man pulled out her papers and then brought out Maxine’s genealogy. He smiled broadly. The puppy’s mother was a littermate to Maxine. Maxine was this puppy’s aunt!

We named her Lolo and she seamlessly joined our clan. I imagine her Aunt Maxine, from the great beyond murmuring, That spot, next to the windows, is the best place to soak up the morning sun. Right there, in front of the fireplace is the perfect spot to lie down and chew on your bone. You can play in the woods, but don’t go too far (Lolo doesn’t). Don’t chew on shoes, they hate that (Lolo does). And I imagine that Maxine whispers to Lolo about us, her human family ~ all good, I hope.

Does Lolo do more to help or hinder your writing?

I love having Lolo nearby as I write. She looks out the window or snuggles up in a chair while I work at the computer. If I’m sitting for too long she reminds me that it’s time for a break and talks me into taking her for a walk.

Has Lolo inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

I think there is a lot of Lolo in Stitch from Not A Sound. Like Stitch, Lolo definitely has a mind of her own, is loyal and loving.

Cat, postman, rabbit...?

Rabbits, squirrels, anything small and crittery Lolo will get her attention.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

All of the above!

Who is Lolo's best pet-pal?

Lolo loves to hang out with the neighbor dogs – two yellow labs named Roxie and Bo.

What is Lolo's best quality?

Lolo is sweet, snuggly and always up for an adventure.

If Lolo could change one thing about Iowans, what would it be?

I think Lolo would encourage we Iowans to take a little time off work and get outside and hike the beautiful trails that many people don’t realize that Iowa has.



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



I would ask Lolo what she thinks of us all – though I’m a little afraid to hear the answer!

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

What a fun question! I would say Alexis Bledel, Rory Gilmore of Gilmore Girls.

What advice would Lolo give if asked?

Wake up each morning ready to explore the world around you, run hard, rest when you need to.

Visit Heather Gudenkauf's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf and Maxine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Claire LaZebnik & Harvey, Lula and Mabel

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Claire LaZebnik, book author, mother of four, and wife to a Simpsons writer. I have three dogs: Harvey (a male yellow Lab—he’s thirteen), Mabel (a female boxer/German Shepherd mix—mature adult but I’m not sure how old), Lula (female small terrier mix, also mature adult). And there’s Juno the cat but she doesn’t get to join us for coffee today.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Thought I’d grab my laptop and work a bit at a table outside of Starbucks, while Lula hangs out in my lap. She likes to sit in laps. I’d say her entire being is focused on getting into someone’s lap. She’s not picky about whose, although she prefers mine to anyone else’s.

What's brewing?

Black iced Americano. The most refreshing drink of all. It’s like slightly bitter water. If I’m hot and thirsty, it satisfies me like nothing else. You need the perfect ratio of ice to coffee though—too much coffee and the ice melts and the drink goes warm, which is unpleasant, and too much ice, you only get a few sips of coffee before it’s gone.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Starbucks sous vide egg whites—hot and smooth and delicious and as good for the pup as for me.

How were you and your dogs united?

We got Harvey, our old Lab, at a school fundraiser; I guess someone had asked his breeder to donate a puppy. Harvey was being passed from arm to arm and he was so calm and gentle, even my husband (who doesn’t always like dogs) was attracted to him. We’d both had a glass of wine, so I said, “Let’s bid on him,” and he said, “Sure—we’ll be outbid instantly so why not?” We bid and no one else raised a hand after. We were shocked. We thought tons of people would want him. We went home with him that night and our kids have never been more excited than when they discovered we had gained a dog while they were asleep.

Lula and Mabel are both rescues. My daughter fell in love with Lula when she was volunteering for a dog shelter and begged us to adopt her. Mabel’s also adopted but her story is long and complicated—I tell the whole thing in a book of essays and recipes I edited, called SisterWriterEaters. If anyone’s interested, it’s available on Amazon.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Harvey was named after the invisible rabbit Harvey from the play, because he was big and goofy and sweet. Lula is short for “Cholula,” my husband’s favorite hot sauce (we wanted him to like her). She had been named “Mandy” but we didn’t like that so we changed it. And Mabel came with her name—we liked it so we kept it.

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

Oh, hinder, definitely. They’re always barking at something and distracting me or needing walks or attention. Sometimes I have to leave the house and go to a coffee shop to write just to get anything done. On the plus side, they’re good for my health—I wouldn’t walk so much without them. And of course I love them.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

Yes, there’s a sweet big dog in one of my novels (If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now). She’s named “Eleanor Roosevelt.” I wish I’d named a dog that. It’s a great dog name. Anyway, she definitely has some Harvey-like characteristics.

Cat, postman, squirrel…?

Harvey loves the world and refuses to chase anything or anyone. We had ducks living in our pool and he did nothing to dissuade them. Lula only pays attention to humans and wants to sit in all their laps, but Mabel will chase and bark at absolutely everything. The poor UPS guy is terrified of her.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick…?

Ball. Harvey used to fetch for hours but he’s too old now to run. Lula doesn’t play with anything, and Mabel likes to run after balls but doesn’t bring them back.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Harvey and Mabel are very close—they’re rarely far apart physically. Lula isn’t interested in other pets. Just people.

What is each dog's best quality?

Harvey is pure goodness. He would never hurt a fly. Our kitten used to swat at his tail and he would just let her.

Lula is like a living stuffed animal. She curls up with you when you sleep or work and makes every space feel cozy.

Mabel was probably abused in her previous life and is less overtly lovable, but the fact she has bonded to me and trusts me completely is really touching and meaningful.

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

Mabel would like all the friendly people who come near her to stop putting their hands in her face. People do it to introduce themselves—we’re all taught that with a new dog—but I think some owner must have hit her in the face because it’s scary to her.

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

I would ask Mabel about her previous life. I would ask Harvey whether anything hurts (he’s getting old and moving stiffly), and I would ask Lula why she likes to be held so much. And if the cat could speak, I would ask her about her nocturnal adventures.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs--and Juno the cat--could speak, who should voice them?

Harvey would be Morgan Freeman; Lula would be Kristen Schaal; Mabel would be Julianna Margulies; and Juno would be Scarlett Johansson.

What advice would your dogs give if asked?

Don’t step in the poop.

Visit Claire LaZebnik's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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