Welcome to Dogoppo! In this edition, we have the pleasure of speaking with WL Hawkin, a Canadian author known for her urban fantasy series, Hollystone Mysteries. But today, we’re going to dive into a different aspect of her life—the delightful bond she shares with her canine companion, Skaha. As a dog parent, WL Hawkin has experienced the joys and challenges of raising a beloved furry friend. Let’s explore her journey as a dog parent, the mischievous moments, and the special connection they’ve formed. So, grab a cup of coffee, get cozy, and join us as we embark on this heartwarming interview with WL Hawkin and her beloved dog, Skaha.
HELLO WL HAWKIN, WELCOME TO DOGOPPO. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A DOG PARENT?
I’ve always loved dogs. After my golden retriever, Puddy, passed from cancer, I grieved for five years. People said, “You’re a little woman. Get a little dog.” I considered a West Highland terrier and may one day I will parent one of those wee white dream dogs. But I kept seeing these incredibly well-behaved Labrador retrievers in capes, and thought, why not volunteer with a therapy-dog group, and learn how to train a big dog. In the fall of 2017, I returned from a research trip in Ireland, and went to a PADS (Pacific Assistance Dog Society) volunteer info session. I filled out the application, was approved after a home visit, and eight weeks, later picked up my brand-new little yellow lab. She’d been born the weekend I went to the meeting. Since then, my phone has been full of dog photos.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR DOG AND HIS/HER PERSONALITY?
Skaha is a New Yorker (What? You got a problem?) compared to my golden retriever who used to say “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it” if I looked at him sideways. She’ll be six this August, but I should tell you how we ended up together. I trained Skaha for the first two years. That meant weekly training sessions at PADS and homework. At two, she went into Advanced Training, so she stayed with the trainers during the week and only came home to me on weekends. Six months into AT, I thought, “This is it. Any moment now I’ll be saying goodbye, and I’ll never see her again.” That’s how it works when you sign on as a volunteer puppy raiser—you know an end is looming.
Skaha had all her cues and was being raised for someone who was deaf. Then, one January day, the trainer called and said, “We’ve decided to release her. We can’t get her to stop scavenging. You two are a great team. Would you like to adopt her?” When I stopped crying, I went and picked her up, and we’ve been together ever since. One personality trait is food distracted. Another is poser. When I ask her to “jump on” she does a terrific modeling act then waits for her treat. She’s also an amazing traveler and often goes on trips or to community events with me. If you check my website and Instagram page, you’ll find her photo everywhere. In fact, I took her along to my last photo session.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR DOG’S NAME?
PADS theme-names all their litters. Skaha is from the British Columbia lakes litter, so all her sibs are named for lakes too. Skaha Lake is in the Okanagan and I’m told, Skaha is a Shuswap word for dog. Sometimes we call her Skups—a portmanteau for Skaha Pup.
WHAT’S THE MOST MISCHIEVOUS THING YOUR DOG HAS EVER DONE?
Hmmm … that’s a toss-up between sucking down three-quarters of a chocolate quinoa cake I’d just taken out of the oven in less than a minute AND turning the gas on when she inhaled a salmon burger out of the frying pan. How did I know? The front half of the pan was licked clean, and I could smell gas. Fortunately for me, she couldn’t quite reach the one at the back. The chocolate cake incident ended in a morphine shot at the vet and a subsequent evacuation. Scavenging, anyone? Food is both her blessing and her curse.
WHAT’S YOUR DOG’S FAVORITE TREAT?
I can’t really pick a favourite: raw bones, apple cores, tomatoes on the vine, anything that comes out of a pocket, salmon bits left behind by fishermen, barnacles, berries off the stems, tomatoes off the vine. She’s a hunter-gatherer.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT A SPECIAL MOMENT YOU’VE SHARED WITH YOUR DOG?
That would have to be when I brought her home knowing she was mine forever and we cuddled on the couch. One of PADS rules is “four on the floor” so she wasn’t allowed on the furniture. Now she spends a fair amount of time beside me on my couch and my bed.
WHAT’S YOUR DOG’S FAVORITE TOY? WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT BEING A DOG PARENT?
“Chuck It” is Skaha’s favourite toy. You know the thing you use to launch the ball across the field? What’s most challenging for me is giving her freedom but making sure she doesn’t get hurt. For example, this weekend we went to a secluded beach where she could run free, and of course she did. But then, she caught a scent on the wind and wouldn’t stop or come back when I called. Not even when I used our safe words: COOKIES! TREATS! I hurried to catch up with her and found her surveying several large seals who were sunbathing on rocks not far out in the low tide. She wanted to play with them, but I could envision an angry seal mama attacking, and what would I be able to do but jump up and down and scream into the wind?
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR DOG HEALTHY AND HAPPY?
Skaha’s on a raw food diet which, I think, helps keep her slim and gives her a lovely soft coat. Daily activity: walk, romp, swim. Regular socializing. She now has a big baby brother sharing the house, so they play constantly. But they also need their time-outs. And of course, she always craves lots of love.
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE BECOMING A DOG PARENT?
I’m never lonely or alone. I’m an introvert, but Skaha gets me outside, exercising and chatting with people in the fresh air, even when I’d rather be sitting in bed writing. When I’m at my desk too long, she bops my hands off the keyboard with her nose. So, I’d say, my life has improved—body, mind, and spirit.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO’S CONSIDERING BECOMING A DOG PARENT?
Do some research into breeds and behaviours. Ask lots of questions of doggy people. Go to off-leash parks and watch all the crazy antics (some good, some not-so-good.) And know that your life will change forever. Being a dog parent is like being a child parent. It’s a huge amount of responsibility but also joyful. The rewards far outweigh the challenges.