When the answering machine picks up at my friend Joan’s house you hear, “You have reached the Foster residence where Pugs and Pianos outnumber the people.”
It is an accurate statement. Joan, a former concert pianist and music teacher, has four pianos including her grand and 12 to 14 pugs at present. Thus, my pugs who have come from her, Vader and Waffles, are children of music, raised with the piano ringing through the walls of their home.
Last night a classical song came on the television and I studied Waffles, who shifted from catnap mode to wide awake, cocking her head in rhythm with the music. My other pug, Alfie, didn’t seem to pay much mind, but Waffles was enchanted. While I know there have been studies saying that dogs seem to prefer classical music, I saw in Waffles eyes more than simple appreciation. It was as if this was something she recognized and in all likelihood it was.
My former pug, Mira, who passed away a couple of years ago, was not one of Joan’s pugs and yet, she adored classical music especially Debussy’s Clair de Lune. I would play it on my computer and she would stop mesmerized, head cocked, listening. She would peer in back of the computer as if to see who was producing this magical sound. I imagine her now in her pug glory dancing to just such a heavenly symphony.
Some of Joan’s pugs, her old fawn Mister Egg and her former big black, Tonka, for example, have sat in on her lessons, listening as students learn to make beautiful music of their own. Visit Joan on weekday afternoons and you are likely to hear her students tickling the ivories as her pugs yap their appreciation from the deck. When I’m at Joan’s I often make my way to the living room and sing to the pugs there. From Joan’s bedroom you can hear the radio that’s perpetually on but never quite tuned to a proper station so the static crackles all night long. Dog food bubbles away on the stove and the fire sparks in the wood stove. Outside the snow snaps from the cold. It is music of a different sort.
Perhaps Joan’s answering machine should say something else, “Where Music Rules,” rules, for example, because when you’re at Joan’s it does. She personifies it, whether at the piano or caring for the pugs, she dances to her own tune and when you’re in her world you want to hum along. I wonder if Waffles recalled the echoes of her former life when she heard the classical song last night. All I know is she sat upright, her body alert, but her eyes half closed as if she was listening to something beyond the music, a melody from her former life, the call of home. And, if so, I understand because I have found in this world of pugs a tune to keep loneliness at bay and friends with whom to howl away the night.