[Note: I recently stumbled upon this piece I wrote in 2005. I was living in Washington, just before moving to Idaho, with two female malamutes. I had yet to discover the benefits of dog doors.]
The music flows easily tonight. I didn’t expect it to. Songs I haven’t played in ages, yet my fingers know where to go. Some are my own, living only in my head, others from sheet music and popular song books. I play the song I learned the day after I had to put down my first malamute, Opus, the song that always reminds me of her and makes my throat tighten as I play. I play loud and joyfully on the battered yet much-loved 1888 upright piano I’ve tickled since I was five. It’s my oldest friend, and now as an adult, I play only when no one else is listening. Except my dogs. And they’re not fans.
Damn, there she goes again. I know mom loves that piano. I know it helps calm her and reduce stress. But my ears! Must she play so loudly? This house is too small. I let her know my displeasure with a stare. Focusing intently on her back, sitting two feet behind her, just off to one side, I stare. She turns her head and looks at me, quickly, then turns back to the piano. I know she’s hoping I’ll give up. But I don’t. I keep staring. I can be very determined. I’m a malamute. A smart malamute, as if that needs clarification (although one might wonder, knowing Meadow). She looks over her shoulder again, says my name, just my name, in that tone that pleads with me to stop staring. But I can’t – my ears are hurting. I ratchet the pressure up a notch, adding one high-pitched woof. The woof always works. She stops playing, turns on the bench and returns my stare. But I see a smile on her face. “Oh Maia,” she sighs. Then she starts shooing me out the door onto the deck! I hate that! I don’t want to go out, I want the noise to stop. I was quite comfortable sleeping with my back against the couch and would prefer to simply go back to that activity. I think she would do better to just give me a massage. Everyone knows touching a dog reduces heart rate and stress level. Think of the benefit of a nice long massage. I know I’d enjoy it.
Oh dear, the piano again. Maia hates it more than I do. I can tolerate it, even sleep on mom’s bed while she plays. But it is loud. We malamutes are a quiet breed, not into loud noises. I feel a little disloyal, staying inside while Maia’s been kicked outside for staring and interrupting. I always struggle with what to do, what to do…and usually I’m a couple of minutes slow in making up my mind and asking to go outside to be with Maia. That makes mom impatient, being interrupted yet again, but she always lets me out. Often, after about ten minutes, or twenty, I realize that Maia’s not interested in playing, and it’s boring in the yard, so I ask to come inside, which earns me a sour look from mom. But she lets me in. She’s really good about that, because I frequently want to be two places at once – outside with Maia, in case she needs help cornering a squirrel, or inside with mom in case she needs me. I wish there were two of me. I like making them both laugh and smile, but they aren’t always in the same place. It’s a tough job, keeping the pack together and happy. It’s easier in summer when the door gets left open.
Featured image: Maia (in front) and Meadow basking in the sunshine among forest wildflowers in Idaho, 2007.