In April I received an invitation from writer-producer at Darkbloomz Productions, Marshal Zeringue to join him in a coffee talk with a canine twist. This is the first time I'm stepping from behind Cleo's large shadow, and thick Husky fur, to speak solely from my perspective. The questions are from Marshal's series of interviews which run regularly on his blog, Coffee with a Canine.
MZ: Who is in the photo?
I am Sharon Castellanos, a writer and photographer in San Francisco. Cleo found my husband and I five years while we were visiting our SPCA. They said she was between two-five years but every year since then, because we adore her so much, we have agreed she must have been two. She was surrendered to a shelter up north so no one really knows her history. We think she is about seven now. She is likely part Husky, part German Shepherd but some folks and even local children she meets on her walks wonder if she is part wolf.
MZ: What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Every morning she wakes me up like a clock at 8:00 AM for her morning routine, which includes my making her breakfast then lots of cuddles and petting while I have my coffee. What's brewing? In the morning I love a double espresso, sometimes with a shot of cream! We have a great Krups machine that does it all including the occasional coffee or cappuccino.
MZ: Any goodies to go with the coffee?
For breakfast it is usually a piece of fruit and some yogurt, though the weekends will often include eggs and bacon.
MZ: Any treat for Cleo on this occasion?
Cleo gets fed twice daily salmon and sweet potato kibble, with a scoop of low fat cottage cheese, a scoop of flax meal and a protein like cooked ground beef. She eats well and is already a big girl. Her treats are the occasional lamb jerky or a tiny piece of bacon or tiny corner of peanut butter toast on the weekends.
MZ: How were you and Cleo united?
In 2005 we were ready for a dog. We knew we wanted a big dog and the SF/SPCA has a great facility so we started visiting every week or so. One afternoon we saw Cleo inside a room with another dog. Cleo remained on the little bed just staring at us serenely while the other dog jumped and barked at the window. Something about her stuck with us. My husband went on his own the next week and when the staff member let him inside the room, Cleo came over and put her head in his lap. He was hooked. Since the SPCA doesn’t “hold” a dog for you he rushed to get me so we could bring her home that night. We’ve been a tight knit pack ever since.
MZ: How did Cleo get her name? Does she have any aliases?
Cleo came with her name. I don’t know who gave it to her but in the beginning I accidentally called her Chloe a few times. Since she never responded to that, it was up to me to learn her name. Also as we have gotten to know her personality, Cleo fits. Not only does she have certain feline aspects like her tiny feet, her love of rubbing her body along the sides of the bed and couch, she has the regal bearing of Cleopatra. She has many aliases with the most popular being Kitten Feet, Trotsky, Kitty Kaboom and of course Grouchy Puppy.
MZ: Why “of course Grouchy Puppy”?
Cleo is the muse behind Grouchy Puppy™ a dog character and a website that I’m in the process of creating. She inspired the name because she is so often misunderstood, besides how can you be afraid of or mad at a grouchy puppy? Last year I started her blog, Cleo’s Day because we are impressed by her ability to demonstrate simple principles like unconditional love and tolerance. I’m in the middle now of writing a series of children’s books starring Cleo, the Grouchy Puppy. We hope to use the character to teach children and really people of all ages.
MZ: Squirrel, cat, postman...?
Squirrel, postman and man in brown! Her tolerance unfortunately doesn’t yet include these three. She will sit and stare up into a tree for hours at a squirrel, if we let her. I feel so bad for any postman because she turns into Cujo whenever she sees or hears one. If we are out on our walk, I make sure to cross the street so the postman isn’t afraid. The same goes for the man in brown. Seriously any package delivered, gets a more thorough going over by her nose than any TSA inspection at the airport.
MZ: Tennis ball, stick, squeaky-toy...?
Squeaky toy wins every time! She doesn’t care much for fetch unless she thinks it will make us happy but even that motivation doesn’t last longer than two tosses. Her idea of heaven is a plush squeaky toy every time. It is only after the squeaker dies that she starts to lose a little interest and even then she will give the toy a few bites out of love.
MZ: Where is Cleo's favorite place for an outing?
Cleo absolutely loves Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco with its wide open grassy meadow. It’s perfect for lots of running, sniffing and chasing the low flying swallows. She also loves Fort Funston because of its many smells, occasional stinky carcass to drop down onto and rub her body all over, the wide beach area to run fast over while chasing shore birds and the chance to dip into and bite ocean water! These two public areas are off leash so a favorite with many local dog owners and dog walkers.
MZ: Who is Cleo's best pet-pal?
Cleo adores any little dog she meets. She will make this soft grunting-whine sound when we encounter a wee pup on the street or at the beach. She’ll make herself small to play with them then suddenly pop her butt high into the air and pounce like a reindeer. She loves that they will often let her slobber all over their neck while play fighting.
MZ: What's Cleo's most endearing quality?
Her most endearing quality is how loving and grateful she is. She seems to know how lucky she is. She loves to sidle up to people and lean in real close and hard (leaving lots of her fur/hair on your clothes!) for long moments. She will walk up to you and put her head deep into your lap and leave it there so that you can pet her. Her fur is really soft and being so tall, it is easy for you to cuddle with her and rub her tummy while she is standing. It is also unusual for a dog how long she will look you in the eye and hold your gaze, conveying to you how much she adores you in return.
MZ: What's Cleo's proudest moment so far? Her most embarrassing?
Proudest moment – digging around in her basket and finding just the right toy that she wants to use to show you in the moment how happy she is that you’re home. She is picky and wants the right toy that allows her to put her head down, with the toy in her mouth, squeak the toy madly while her neck fur is fluffed fully. It’s a sight to see. The most embarrassing is when she chooses the wrong toy, like her crab because the claws are long enough that she has stepped on one and almost tripped head first in front of you.