Printer-friendly version


Emily Grossman

Written by
Published: October 24, 2013 at 3:54 AM [UTC]

The sun rides low in the sky these days, and with the lifting of the persistent clouds came a predictable drop in temperatures. It shouldn't have been a shock to me to see the morning's frost still clinging to the brittle brown leaves as I stepped out with the dogs after a long day of teaching. Still, the first day of winter always catches me off guard.

Chewy is five and a half months old now and just lost his last baby tooth. Being the son of our other chocolate lab, Ben, we'd kind of expected him to take after his dad, but the two could not be more opposite in personality. Not that one is better than the other: I love them both equally. It's just fascinating to see how nature embeds these genetic codes in such a particular fashion that each living creature ends up with its own identity, regardless of environmental influence. I'm sure Ben will gladly take credit for producing such a magnificent pup, though. At 75 pounds, he has already grown taller and lankier than his pop, and his feet are still ridiculously too large for him. As we walk to the field to play fetch, he reminds me of a moose--all legs and feet and neck. People will ask if he's part great dane, but as far as I know, he's pure chocolate.

Each day brings new surprises and today, a neighbor's bulldozer rumbled next to their cabin, clearing the ground for a new addition. Having never seen such a powerful orange beast, Chewy stood on tip toes, his fur bristling defensively. Tugging at the leash for a better view, he pranced. I chuckled and watched, curiously. He's a chicken, but a brave, invincible one at that! Ben wouldn't so much as raised an eyebrow, but Chewy's protective instinct is strong, and he paused, transfixed by the way this monster chewed at the soil.

"Woof! Woof!" It was the first time he'd gotten to try out his grown-up voice, the first time I'd ever heard him bark. Well, hello, Chewy! His voice sounded nothing like Ben's. If some dogs yip or yap, and some dogs bawl, Chewy sang bass for Verdi. Deep and smooth and dark, like fudge syrup was his tone--and surprisingly out of place, coming from such a young, gangly juvenile. No, it sounded more like a tall, dark, handsome movie hero. "Get out of here, you pesky dirt-chewing scoundrel!" he threatened, "And stay away from my girl! Or else!" I felt so protected! Never mind he's missing most of his baby teeth, my boy's becoming a man!

I'd liked Chewy well enough since we'd brought him home in June. But I admit, I hadn't really felt much deep affection toward him. I guess we just hadn't really bonded until that moment when he spoke. But from that point on, I felt I knew him finally; I'm in love.

There's something wonderfully unique about the voice, and something even magical about the way it becomes song. I'm reminded of this throughout the day as each student greets me at the door. Little Eve is just three years old, too shy to speak for herself sometimes, but if I'm quiet and don't make any startling moves, she talks and sings and tells me stories using her violin. It's a very private world that she's letting me visit, but for a little space in each week, I'm getting to be a part of something unique and personal to her.

It's sad how we fall prey to this notion of conforming to some sort of perfection that doesn't exist. I well remember fourth grade, how the teacher ridiculed my handwriting, so I forged the handwriting of the girl in front of me, since she always got A's. We all wore the same clothes, liked the same boys, and turned our noses up at the school cafeteria's hamburgers. If I'd had my way, I'd have turned out exactly like all the other girls; I despised the sound of my own voice.

Thank God, we are incapable of erasing our identity. I can teach a dozen students the same piece, and they will all make it sound just a little different, regardless of bowing or tuning. And this is exactly why I will never grow tired of teaching: it never happens the same way twice!

You are irreplaceable. You don't need to be like anyone else. It's your voice, your identity. So Speak!

Good dog.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 24, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Nice blog! Chewy is very cute!!!

A tad of a guardian is cute but too much can be annoying as a dog matures and gets these same traits to the next level. Not telling it will happen, just that it can sometimes :)

We have a lab-pittbull mix and we had to tame her guard instincts at adolescence stage with the help of a trainer. Now she's perfect and non dangerous. She never was dangerous to the point of eating the mailman or the kindergarden children next corner but she would have run aggressivly towards them making a show (growling or barking) and because of her look, these people would have been terrified! We also socialized her with many dogs and people.

Nevertheless, I admit it is cute to have different personalities withing an acceptable range! As for students, that is thrilling to see how different a violin can sound unlike piano students who may be different but is shows less...

Happy your little boy is becoming a growned up and I wish you lots of joy with him!

From marjory lange
Posted on October 24, 2013 at 1:15 PM
Had to chuckle--a 'fudge' voice from a 'chocolate' lab.

He doesn't much trust cameras, does he?

How's Ben doing?

From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 24, 2013 at 5:15 PM
Chewy's a ham for the camera! He was giving his famously irresistible pouty look for that shot.

Ben is still doing great. He was pretty jealous of Chewy at first--really bummed him out that we got another dog. But they are finally starting to be friends. :)

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on October 25, 2013 at 5:21 AM
Your blog struck a chord with me tonight. My 11 year old daughter hadn't practiced the trumpet in a week and tonight she announced that she intended to. When she was done she told me how powerful it made her feel. I told her I loved her and how I loved it when she was being herself. (Sometimes her pre-teenageness gets to her and she's not herself.)

And she'd say "woof" to "Good dog!", too! She's madly in love with her brother's 6.5 month old rottie (who is possibly as big as Chewie, and probably just as "chewy").

From Christina C.
Posted on October 25, 2013 at 1:04 PM

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 25, 2013 at 1:17 PM
Now that he has a grown-up voice, time for voice lessons.
From Jim Hastings
Posted on October 25, 2013 at 2:59 PM
Ah -- the photo. This struck a chord with me right away. Haven't had any pets since I grew up and went out on my own. But I am a pushover for dogs -- ditto for cats and babies. On my daily walks through the neighborhood, some friends of the canine persuasion will come running up to the fence to say hello as I pass by. It brightens my days that much more.

Your blog reinforces what one of my teachers said. When I was a kid, David Oistrakh and Issac Stern were two of my musical role models -- albeit through their vintage recordings. When I told my teacher I hoped to emulate Stern's interpretation of a piece, he said, "Yes, but you've got to be Jim, too."

From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 26, 2013 at 1:47 AM
You should give a dog a try! Just today, when I was feeling toe-curling anxious, I let him crawl up into my lap and dug my fingers into his thick, warm fur--instantly felt better! I think he did, too. :) Labs are really big lap puppies, but they're a perfect fit for me!
From Jim Hastings
Posted on October 27, 2013 at 2:39 AM
Yeah, I know what you mean. I guess the main deterrent for me is the time and care required for these little critters. Have to wonder, too, how they'd take to violin practice. When I was growing up, though, our pets didn't seem to mind.

Still, I get part of what I call my "pet fix" by running my hands through the hair of friends' and neighbors' dogs. My good neighbors right across the street have a lab -- sometimes two labs, when they're taking care of the one their grown son has. These pups are fun to play with.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

The Soraya
The Soraya

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine