October 4, 2010 at 7:29 PM
My dog, Ben, is my worst critic, hands down. I don't even have to play a note before he is set out against me: the very sight of my violin causes him to tense up and retract in disdain. To the tune of Bach, he huffs. With Mozart, he groans. Beethoven? Bah-thoven!
On lesson days, he greets my students with mixed cordiality. If you are waiting for your lesson, he will subtly coax you with his sweet chocolate lab charm, seducing a petting or two. But honestly, when it all comes down, you, the student, exist only to deny him of his daily walk, his daily fun, his daily moment in the sun. Violin lessons will ultimately banish him to confinement on his threadbare, musty bed next to the TV. And there, next to the TV, he resigns himself to begrudging sleep, hoping that his dreams will take him to happy hunting grounds filled with ducks and pheasants, and lots of bouncing balls. And no violins.
Pets feed on your own enthusiasm. Every time you bring home a package from the post office, they join you with the same anticipation and eagerness that you yourself feel: what's inside? Open it! One time, I brought in a very large package indeed, and when I excitedly opened it, Ben paused for a moment in consideration. It was a cello. Having never seen a cello before, it took about three seconds for him to process the concept that violins came in XL. Once it sank in, he literally collapsed and covered his ears with his paws with disgust: will the madness never end? "No," the cello answered in deep, persistent tones.
I always assumed that all dogs are predisposed to animosity toward stringed instruments. After all, strings sound like cats, and cats hate dogs, and vice versa. This is why I was so surprised the day I visited the upstairs neighbors for some evening fiddling. Noah plays guitar, and sometimes the sound of the happy chords filtering through the ceiling remind me that I should play folk music with other people more often. One evening, we finally met upstairs while his wife brought us tea. His dog, Jug, joined us as well. I wondered how long it would take before he would be tucking under the bed to get away from my playing.
With a polite wiggle, the freckled heeler approached me as I warmed up. Cutting him off, Noah directed him to his bed so as to keep him out of the way as we worked out some tunes. I couldn't help but notice his magnetic eyes, all glossy and round, which hadn't left me from the moment I opened my case. Noah explained, "He loves to hear you play. When you practice, he lays his head on the floor over your studio and falls asleep there. He's happy to finally meet you." We continued late into the night, playing bluegrass and blues, while Jug listened ardently until finally, he drifted off, his mouth drawn up slightly into a smile.
Some dogs are my worst critic. But then again, some dogs are my biggest fan.
Nice! I'm sure he can run in wonderful places in Alaska! Hope he has thick fur though... ; )
If my dog is too sleepy to go for a really early walk, I will practice my violin first, and then she is usually awake enough to go walking. I don't know if that is because my playing is so jarring, or so stimulating, though. I suspect the former.
Most of my fiddlin' friends tell me that their dogs can't get out of the room fast enough but my two golden retrievers can't decide if they want to be with me and my violin or my husband and his guitar. Our female golden is very musical. We are friends with an Orthodox Monastery and they chant when they sing. My Truly LOVES to join in, much to my disgrace. Fr Gregory tells me it's ok though. He says she loves to sing and dance and the music moves her. He figures she must be Pentecostal :-)
my violin teacher has two dogs which never leave his side. they are a nice, calming presence.thruout fht lesson. they dont seem to mind the screeching. i even wrote them a poem, which you can find on the blog by scrolling back a few pages. it's called PLAYING TO THE DOGS. i have suggested to my teacher that he teach them to wag in perfect time and act as a metronome, and call the act AARON GOES TO THE DOGS so i am surprised that some dogs dont like violins.
I will never forget the sight of my youngest son, when he was about 8, at one of his cello lessons, one bare foot resting on the back of his teacher's elderly shepherd mix while he played. Sasha stayed there with him for most of the hour-long lesson. He might not have played with perfect, both-feet-flat-on-the-floor, position that afternoon, but the sweetness of that child, dog, and cello is unforgettable.
That is so sweet!
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