Author Squared: Jenny Gardiner and Wade Rouse
Two Authors chat about their dogs, other pets, and fond memories...
I am pleased to welcome I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship's editor, Wade Rouse, and one of its contributing writers, Jenny Gardiner.
Take it away Jenny and Wade!
Jenny Gardiner: Wade, I know you're a dog freak as am I. I fell head over heels in love with dogs when we as a kid I to the Jersey shore with my family and met up with friends who had a black Lab named Indie. Our friends had a son, Chuck, who had Cerebral Palsy and back then there weren't really therapy dogs but Indie was as close to one as you'd ever come. Chuck and Indie were irrevocably bonded and she would swim with him and be sure he was safe, circling him in the ocean while his dad assisted him. I was so smitten by how much a dog could give a human being. When did you first fall for a dog?
Wade Rouse: Oh, sweetie! I've fallen for a lot of dogs in my life. But the first dog-dog I ever loved was an abandoned beagle puppy my mother brought home one night. She had found it in a ditch. I named it "Rouse's Rabbit Racer," "Racer" for short, and I adored that dog. It slept on my pillow, it rode in a car across the back of my neck, like a scarf, it sat on the front of a canoe. That's when I first learned about unconditional love, and complete devotion. I've had only rescue dogs since (six total), and I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship is really an ode to my mom, a hospice nurse and animal advocate, who taught me about giving back and loving completely, without worrying about the hurt/pain, and to my most current mutt, Marge, our 80-pound, Heinz 57, Scooby Doo mix we lost this April at the age of 14. They were both the loves of my life and my best friends (along, of course, with my partner, Gary!).
Jenny Gardiner: I'm so sorry you lost Marge. I know she was your BFF for a long long time (yeah, besides Gary!). It's so painful to lose a dog.
Hey! Our first dog was a beagle too! His name was Oogie and my mother had her hands full with 3 kids under the age of 3 and Oogie was a handful and he ran away all the time and then poof! One day, Oogie was gone. Taken to the old "farm" we were told. That was the end of household pets until I was about ten, when we started our stockpile of Labrador retrievers. We had BB, and she had a litter of puppies (omg you haven't lived till you've raised puppies) and we kept her son Ace, then BB died suddenly and we got Pepper, then she had a litter of puppies (hey, this was the 70's, a lot of backyard breeding went on back then) and we kept Ace, Jr (imaginative, no?), aka AJ.
I always remember those puppies--some of the best times of my childhood with those crazy little pups. So much so that we bred our dog Sassy, a yellow Lab, a few years ago because of my fond memories. We'd gotten Bridget, the object of my story, My Dog the Dominatrix, in the Bitch anthology, a bit impulsively, shortly after the death of the first dog I had as a grown-up (Beau, also a yellow Lab). I agreed to the premature acquisition of another dog provided I could still have a yellow Lab some day. So for my 40th birthday my husband surprised me with Sassy. Surprisingly Bridget, not a fan of other dogs, took to Sassy pretty well, as long as she could be the serious Alpha Dog. Sassy learned quite readily that she would always take the figurative scraps in Bridget's universe.
When Sassy was two years old we bred her. I'd always wanted my kids to have this wonderful puppy experience. We'd been told NEVER to let Bridget have puppies--the vet sort of grouped her in the "demon seed" category I think LOL. So that wasn't gonna happen. Poor Bridget got spayed right out of the gate. Because Beau had had so many health problems due to inbreeding, we were very professional (for amateurs) in how we bred Sassy. She had to go to all sorts of specialists to be sure her hips and eyes and god knows what else was in the best of conditions to perpetuate her gene pool. She passed all the tests and we farmed her out to be violated by some boy dog--this did agonize me. But when Sassy had those puppies, OMG were they the most adorable precious demonic things you ever did see. Raising a litter of puppies is like raising a team of landsharks. Those things with their razor sharp teeth annihilated anything with which they came in contact--be it drywall, floorboards, trim, or human flesh. It was an experience we STILL talk about all the time, we adored those puppies and it was so painful to let them go. In fact the kids and I still get mad at my husband who refused to agree to our keeping one--he felt three dogs would be more than he could ever bear to deal with. Boo hoo! I wrote a piece about the experience and reading it back was astounded by the amount of cleaning supplies we went through in that 8-week period. I should've invested in Swiffer at the time! It was interesting to see how Bridget was once Sassy had pups. Sass was a fierce protector of her babies and for that period of time her and Bridget's roles actually reversed.
I know that you and Gary have another rescue, right? What's she like? And I know you and Gary are on the road a lot and finding petsitters is a bit of a pain (well there is always the kennel, but my dogs have never been big fans). Might there even be a new beastie on the horizon for you?
Wade Rouse: Mabel is 30-pound, Labradoodle-beagle mix (I know, right? Think Labradoodle that looks as if it's been tossed into a dryer for about a half an hour.) She is adorable, and much easier than Marge ever was: She is laid-back, a great traveler, although she is very vocal (I tend to surround myself with very vocal humans and animals). It's much easier to travel with her than it was with Marge, as she can go more places easily and doesn't mind having a petsitter. We really made Marge needy and co-dependent. We couldn’t ever kennel Marge to go on a vacation, book tour, or weekend trip, as she would go on a hunger strike the minute she couldn’t see us while she ate – I mean, we couldn’t even leave the kitchen at home while she ate. That dog could also work her way out of any locked kennel, crate and room, as well as any door, be it hinged or hooked, bolted or padlocked. Marge was like a doggy MacGyver. She could use her large snout to turn handles or knobs, her paws and teeth to unlock doors, her giant head to push a closed structure open like a bulldozer. Once loose, she would free all other trapped dogs, a sort of Norma Rae staging a kennel riot, before standing back and watching the chaos she had created. One this smokescreen was in motion, only then would Marge walk free, on a quest to find her daddies. I know this, because I’ve seen it on those nanny-cam’s kennels utilize. But that dog slept on my feet every day while I wrote. She never left my side. I credit her with helping me write five books, because she was right there giving me support every second, urging me on, centering me with kisses, exercising with me. We have a pet-sitter (a fabulous vet tech from our vet's office) who watches Mabel and also house sits (win-win). But Mabel misses her sister, and we are thinking about getting another (big) rescue. Perhaps after this book tour. I'm sure I'll be feeling itchy for a dog after talking about dogs for six weeks.
Jenny Gardiner: Oooh, yeah, I vote you get another dog! Mabel must be lonely. LOL I love the Norma Rae analogy. Bridget is the Houdini part of that minus the "I'll free my compatriots" part. She's all about survival/self-preservation. If another dogs lucks out thanks to her wiles, so be it, but she's not looking for company in her escapades: spare dogs just end up being an albatross in her freedom quest. We've thought about setting up doggy-cams. Especially after Sassy (our ravenous Labrador) ate my husband's ear radio (the kind you take to football games), an entire check book, and a furnace filter. Oh and twice ate my daughter's retainer. We'd love to see what triggers her insane feeding frenzies and know we'd get a good laugh.
I did set up a parrot-cam with our parrot Graycie and was surprised to learn that she talks talks talks all day long when we're not around! When she had puppies she got the gourmet treatment, food-wise--she went from two scoops of boring nuggets a day to twelve cups of homemade food: boiled chicken, rice, cooked veggies. She enjoyed her real food, so when that got cut back to two meager scoops of nuggets, I guess her rebellion is to forage in our home. Bridget's never been a food-lover. If they were in a nursery rhyme Bridget would be Jack Sprat and Sassy would be his wife who could eat no lean. But we used to give Bridget major honker bones just to keep her from destroying our baseboards and our hands. She loved loved loved to eat our hands. So I would boil giant cow shanks and stuff them with cheese and other treats. It would keep her busy for a while but we ended up with so many bones lying around the house it felt sort of cadaverous after a while.
Do your dogs go nuts on weird things to eat?
Wade Rouse: Yep. Just like their daddies (I worship Kashi, and, oddly, candy necklaces ... fiber and sugar). Let's start with the weird food brought on by anxiety. Marge ate, in the following order (and survived): Three razor blades (she liked the mint from the shaving cream, ate the safety razors, but managed to pass them all with no damage); a giant chocolate Easter bunny that I had hid for Gary as a Valentine's surprise ("Thank God it was the cheap chocolate!" the vet stated, cementing the worst V-Day in the history of mankind); an entire box of raisins (which can be toxic ... as well as cleansing ... no damage); tubes of my Carmex, Burt's Bees, Vaseline lip balm, lip shimmer, which coated her snout. We learned she was eating things that smelled like us, or she had seen us touch, because she was having separation anxiety. After that, she got a mega-crate in the house, and that ended up being her safe zone and home. Marge loved salmon (any fish, really), rotissery chicken, parmesan cheese, carrots, dry spaghetti, pig's ears, and corn on the cob (which she could straight off the cob, like a person). More than anything, Marge loved those Frosty Paws ice cream treats, which we finally had to end, because she got so territorial with them (she would carry around the empty containers for days). Mabel loves EVERYTHING, from frogs, which she will proudly bring into the house and place on our laps (that's the beagle in her) to my own beloved Kashi (a girl after my own heart). She has never been a picky eater. Put it out, she eats. She's a really bad "counter cruiser": We can't leave any food out on the counter, or dinner table, and walk away, or she's having her own buffet. We recently had a dinner party, and put the salad on the table right before our guests had been seated. I walked away to get the dressing, and when I returned, Mabel was standing on top of the table eating the salad. Gary whispered, "What do we do?" And I said, "Toss it!" No one knew. Until now, of course. That will likely be our last dinner party once word gets out. Mabel's latest summer trick has been to eat all the fresh strawberries in our garden right off the plants. It's easy to bust her: We have no berries, and she stares up at us looking as if she just got a root canal by the dentist in "Marathon Man."
I hope readers are as gaga over this book as we are about our dogs! I have a feeling we're all in the same neurotic Noah's Ark together! Thanks, Jenny!
Jenny Gardiner: Hmm...Remind me to be wary at your next dinner party (I'd likely have done the same thing!). Those counter cruisers are the worst. We now have to shove anything food-like to the far recesses of the counter. If it's something like homemade pies, I put it up above the microwave because I know they go to great lengths to score a good snack.
We sure do put up with a lot with our crazy pets, don't we? I think people are going to LOVE this book! I got a quick glance at it today (still waiting for my copy!) when I did a radio interview and the reporter had a copy in front of me. Can't wait to read it all myself!
Thanks Jenny and Wade! Pets...You can't live with them and you can't live without them. I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship is an excellent book club pick for animal and comedy lovers!
Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver; Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me; Slim to None; Over the Falls; House of Cards; and a contributor to the humorous dog-lovers anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship. Her work has been found in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post and on NPR’s Day to Day. She lives in Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, one rabbit, and a gregarious parrot. In her free time she studies Italian, dreams of traveling to exotic locales, and feels very guilty for rarely attempting to clean the house. Visit her at her blog, www.jennygardiner.net/blog, on facebook www.facebook.com/jennygardinerbooks, or twitter twitter.com/jennygardiner
Wade Rouse is the author of five books, including four critically-acclaimed memoirs: America’s Boy (Dutton/2006), Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler (Harmony/2007), and the bestsellers, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life (Harmony/2009), and It’s All Relative: A Memoir of Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine (Crown/2011). Wade is also the creator and editor of the upcoming, humorous dog anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best Friends by America’s Favorite Humorists (September 6, 2011-NAL/Penguin), which features a foreword by Chelsea Handler and her dog, Chunk, and essays by 11 New York Times bestsellers and one Tony winner. Wade is donating a portion of the book’s proceeds to the Humane Society of the United States. For more, please visit www.WadesWriters.com or www.rhspeakers.com.