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The Writing Life with Henry, the Coffee Drinkin’ Dog

I search for a word, the right word, the perfect one to complete the sentence that will make the paragraph come alive, and perhaps touch a few readers with the raw, honest truth I hope to infuse into my latest story. Must focus. I almost have it…

You! Yeah, you out there! I’m talkin’ to you, dog! What the hell are you doing on my street?


It’s my street. That’s right, the whole damn block. Oh my God, he’s peeing on my lawn!


If I could open this window I’d run out there and show that bum who’s the boss of this street. Hey! Come back here! You think you can just pee and then walk away?



I’ll take my frustrations out on this toy you just bought me.

A writer’s ability to focus, to balance characterization and plot in order to illustrate the truth about human experience, is paramount to the process of creating…

Yeah, whatever. How about giving me some of that coffee? You know I love coffee. I mean, you know I love all kinds of people food.

All right, but just a sip, and then I have to get back to this story.

Why? Wouldn’t you rather play with me? I have this toy duck.

I’m working on a very difficult section, where the protagonist realizes how wrong he’s been about his wife…

Listen. When I bite down, it makes a quackin’ noise. Quack quack quack quack…

Come on, Bubba. Do you have to do that right now? I’m really trying to concentrate…

You don’t want to play? Then I’ll sulk over here, where you can see me.

Just take a break, Buddy. I’ll play with you as soon as I get through this paragraph.

Oh. Holy cow!

What is it now?

There’s a squirrel in the yard!

Not again.

I can catch him this time. I know I can. Come on. Open the door. Open the door. Open the door.

All right. I’m coming.

Hurry up! He’s right there!

Here you go.



Five minutes later…

Man, that was fun.

You didn’t get him.

I will next time, you can write it down.

I wish I had the time to write it down. Now can I get back to work?

How about a snack first? Isn’t it time to take our walk? I’m all amped up. We should go play or something.

Henry, please. I’m supposed to be writing.

You’re no fun. I’m gonna take my frustrations out on that duck.

Don’t eat the stuffing. You know it makes you sick.

What do I care? You’re the one who has to pick it up.

Sometime later…

There. I finally finished. I don’t even know if it’s good anymore, but at least it’s done. Okay, Babalouie[1]. You ready to play?

Don’t bother me, man. I’m taking a nap.

So that’s it? You pester me all morning while I’m working, and when I’m done you ignore me?

How could anyone stay mad at this face?

How could anyone stay mad at this face?

You need to relax. Tell you what, why not sit over here and I’ll push up against you.

Yeah, you’re right. This is relaxing, just sitting on the couch and getting away from the computer for a while. Gives me a chance to think about things with a different perspective, like the fact that you never criticize my writing, or me for that matter. And no matter how much you bug me during my work, I can’t stay angry at you.

Umph. Let me get in closer. I’ll put my head on your leg too. There, that’s better.

Yes it is.

While you’re here, how about a belly rub?

[1]   FYI, these are the official Approved Henry Nicknames: Bubba, Babalou(ie), Caligula, Mr. Waggin’ Tail, Melvin Belly, Buddy, Mister (Dona’s). Do Not Use: Hank.


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


32 thoughts on “The Writing Life with Henry, the Coffee Drinkin’ Dog

  1. What a whittle boogie-woogums! :-]. Nice one!

    Posted by fpdorchak | February 2, 2013, 2:07 PM
  2. Totally how a dog thinks. Oh pets…don’t they love to distract us? And it’s only when we really want to get some work done.

    Posted by lenorahoward | February 2, 2013, 2:52 PM
    • Thanks. I’ve had eight years of distraction experience. Henry and I are at the point where we read each other’s minds.

      Posted by jpon | February 2, 2013, 2:58 PM
  3. OMG! I love Henry. Write a book about him. I know the perfect agent to query. He’s comes off as a tough guy, but he’s a sucker for well-written dog stories.

    Posted by Darrelyn Saloom | February 2, 2013, 3:16 PM
    • This may explain why I’m having such a tough time finding an agent for my satire. Believe me, this blog scarcely touches the surface of Henry’s many antics. Maybe I’ll write about the magic tree in our backyard, the one Henry believes produces a squirrel every time I shake it.

      Posted by jpon | February 2, 2013, 11:38 PM
  4. Love your list of approved nicknames for Henry the Coffe Drinking Dog! I’m getting into the whole pet thing… I adopted a cat from the animal shelter a couple weeks ago. Her name is Naveen, but we’re also working on an approved list of nicknames. So far, it includes “Love Buster” and “Sweet Thing.” She also gets called “lovey,” “chica,” and “baby.” Yeah, I guess I’m a soft touch… She, too, drinks coffee. She likes to stick her paw in the mug and then lick her paw. She also loooves walking across the keys of my laptop. At least, Henry doesn’t accidentally send emails to people…

    Posted by Meg | February 2, 2013, 3:28 PM
    • Not yet he doesn’t.

      Yeah, the nicknames are fun. Dona named him Henry (and it certainly seems to fit), but there are times when he’s just a good old Bubba.

      Posted by jpon | February 2, 2013, 11:40 PM
  5. Adorable!!

    Posted by sadie cox | February 2, 2013, 5:14 PM
  6. Henry sounds as if he takes his responsibilities seriously. I have a cat that’s been training me for almost 17 years. Once I’ve spread out all my reference material for some project or the other, Ink jumps on the desk and ceremoniously stretches himself out to cover all my papers with his black self. I’m sure he thinks I’ve made a comfy nest just for him so that I can take a break to give hima good scratch scratch. Pets know best.

    Posted by Lovetta | February 2, 2013, 5:31 PM
    • Indeed they do. We have a spare bedroom that Henry’s annexed as his own. He jumps on the bed and rearranges the comforter until it’s just right–crumpled into a cozy little pile–and then he crashes. Good to hear from you, Lovetta.

      Posted by jpon | February 2, 2013, 11:42 PM
  7. Three Dachshunds, one of whom needs to be carried up and down stairs. But when we’re alone, they’re all pretty calm. And even though Oogie’s 80% deaf, if I hold him and tell him I need a certain word, he gives it to me. Who’s the Good Boy?

    Posted by Jon Zech | February 2, 2013, 6:12 PM
  8. I love this post. I vote for a Henry book, too.

    Posted by michellemorouse | February 2, 2013, 6:47 PM
    • Henry says if I don’t write a book about him, he’ll pester me even more. I guess I’ll have to now.

      Posted by jpon | February 2, 2013, 11:44 PM
  9. Just look at that face. How in the world could you ever resist a face like that?

    Posted by girl in the hat | February 2, 2013, 8:11 PM
    • We couldn’t. We adopted Henry eight years ago when a friend of Dona’s put him up. They had two little girls who grew tired of the little guy in just a few weeks. When we saw his picture we had to act. He’s been using that face ever since to get whatever he wants.

      Posted by jpon | February 3, 2013, 12:55 AM
  10. I’ve been working hard since this morning on finishing up some key writing, knowing by the blink of my e-mail button that I had the much-anticipated Henry Post that I requested to read, and finally, I’ve finished my writing, and I got to read all about Henry. But what I really want to say (and I feel I must second commenters above, and Henry would certainly second me, so we’re all standing in line together), is that you yes, must write a Henry book. He sounds and looks absolutely adorable! You’ve captured the inner essence of dogginess (doghood?) so well, and Henry seems a prime example of a good POV to speak from. Let him visit again from time to time, at the very least. You’ll know I mean it when I say that even though I’ve been a cat owner and lover lots of times and haven’t owned a dog since childhood, Henry really makes me miss those doggy, old, wet-muskrat-smelling days!

    Posted by shadowoperator | February 2, 2013, 9:08 PM
    • Well the little runt has done it to me again. I’m on the hook to write a book about you, Buddy. I should make you write it.

      You know I can’t write. I can only look over your shoulder and criticize.

      That should be enough, Bubba.

      Posted by jpon | February 3, 2013, 12:58 AM
  11. Love your Henry! I think our dog, Tickle, has issues. Sometimes she thinks she’s a very small dog, sometimes she thinks she’s a cat… And sometimes she’s absolutely amazing. This is a standard-sized Australian Labradoodle. She lets a dog the size of a loaf of bread boss her around. Sometimes she’ll do the cat thing – stare at a spot where there *isn’t* anything and spook in a huge melodramatic scramble to get away from the invisible monster. And then “her” boy will sign ‘dog, dog, dog’ and she’ll trot right over to him. He’ll sign ‘kiss’ and she’ll cover his whole face with kisses. He’ll sign ‘down and play’ and she’ll come find one of us “big people” and nudge with her nose and look significantly at “her” boy and then at his trampoline, and then plunk her butt on the floor and eyebrow at us until we give in and put him down to play. He drops something, she picks it up and gives it back to him. And she *thinks*… he’s tube fed. She’s never seen him “eat” the way she thinks of eating. Every now and then she’ll get worried and bring him a mouthful of her kibble and nose it at him to try to get him to eat. Dogs are marvelous critters.

    Posted by robitille | February 2, 2013, 9:43 PM
    • Henry is at the other end of that spectrum. A bit of a bully. When we take him to day care they have to put him in with the big dogs because he gets too rough with the small dogs. A real Napoleon complex if you ask me.

      Your dog sounds like the perfect companion.

      Posted by jpon | February 3, 2013, 1:02 AM
  12. Look at that beautiful, charming, mischievous face. Good for you, Henry, for keeping your dad on his toes!

    I can so relate to every single word of this. (well, except for the trademark coffee-drinking part) My troublemaker is JoJo who tap-taps on the glass slider when she wants out. Which seems like every 15 minutes. She has to pee, she sees a blowing leaf, there’s that darn squirrel running her fence, the neighbor is outside and she needs to say hello, hey is that mean Beagle walking by again?, —- the list goes on and on. You know what I mean.

    Add Lea and her special quirks. And now add Annie, our newest arrival. Between (amongst?) the 3 of them it’s a wonder I can even return an email message…. but I wouldn’t trade them for the world, not even a published book.

    Posted by Teri | February 2, 2013, 10:04 PM
    • I think what touches me about dogs, and pets in general, is their innocence. It’s something from our childhoods, a little bit of their personality that asks, why can’t we just play and sleep all day? We humans grow up (most of us, anyway) and learn about responsibility and image and duplicity, how to get by in a competitive world. But for many of us our pets are reminders of another time in our lives, and the way we would like to still be, if we only could.

      So glad to hear that Annie is fitting in with the rest of the family.

      Posted by jpon | February 3, 2013, 1:10 AM
  13. You have captured the essence of our little guy perfectly. HP( another approved nickname) is just the best dogie ever. Yes, you should write a book about Henry!

    Posted by daponepinto | February 3, 2013, 12:38 AM
    • I guess it’s official–a book about Henry. Wonder what I’ll do about a plot though. Thanks, my dear. Sorry your comment had to be approved.

      Posted by jpon | February 3, 2013, 1:03 AM
  14. Oh my god. How adorable is Henry? My little Izzy-bella is a quiet, lazy creature who wouldn’t know what on earth you expected her to do with a squeaky toy. She only comes alive for squirrels and cats, who’ll give our house a wide berth if they know what’s good for ’em.

    Git em, Izzy.

    Posted by Averil Dean | February 3, 2013, 2:41 PM
    • I don’t know if squirrels are capable of learning which yards to avoid, but it sure seems like they spend more time at the neighbors’ when Henry’s on guard.

      Posted by jpon | February 3, 2013, 7:53 PM
  15. sweet. i love the whimsy of this piece. write more of these!

    Posted by Stephanie Barbé Hammer | February 4, 2013, 4:59 AM
    • I will ask Henry if he’s up for it. As you know, this kind of thing is so not what I typically write. I’ll have to look to the little guy for inspiration.

      Posted by jpon | February 4, 2013, 10:36 AM

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