Do you have a poster of your family dog?
I was asked this unlikely question a while ago by an even more unlikely source: my children’s piano teacher. Let me explain.
My two daughters have been taking piano lessons from Susan, a very kind and talented musician, for several years. During this period, Susan has become smitten with our family dog, a Yorkshire Terrier named Benny, in part because he scampers through our kitchen with glee every time she arrives. I realized Susan was love-bitten the day she earnestly implored my wife and me to consider moving to California so handsome Benny could be discovered by Hollywood and placed into commercials immediately. (My similarly smitten wife says Benny looks like Brad Pitt, but that is another story.)
One day, Susan revealed that her love of Benny had inspired her to compose an original piece of music in his honor. In fact, she insisted that my youngest daughter add the song to her repertoire for an upcoming piano recital.
To a canine tolerator like me, the passion my daughter’s piano teacher expressed toward our family dog was sweet but also bizarre, since dogs — or any pets, for that matter — have never made music in my mind.
The song is titled “Benjamin O,” and in the recital program Susan listed it as a “World Premiere” performance. She also explained it was written for my daughter “to showcase her prodigious gifts of coordination and her love of fast tempos.” (To me, this was Susan’s nice way of describing my daughter’s impatience with her piano practice.) Her description continued that the song “is a musical portrait of the family’s Yorkshire Terrier, Benjamin Robert O’Keefe, attempting to describe musically his many charming mannerisms.”
Now, perhaps to a dog lover, this story makes perfect sense so far. But a dog tolerator like me considered Susan’s passion sweet but also bizarre, since dogs — or any pets, for that matter — have never made music in my mind.
The most extreme moment of the saga, however, came during the preparation for the recital. After explaining that she would introduce the song’s backstory to the audience, Susan said to me matter-of-factly: “We will need a poster of Benny.”
A what? Who has a poster of their family dog? And who would have the audacity to display such an image on a large easel to a crowd of more than 50 people at a children’s piano recital?
Me, it turns out.
Susan’s energy for this endeavor overwhelmed my intellect. Rather than resist her plan as the crazed idea of an overzealous animal-lover, I became pet-like and simply obeyed. Well, almost. Getting a poster of Benny on short notice was not feasible. I had to settle for an 18-by-24-inch enlarged photograph in a beautiful new frame. Hello, larger-than-life-size Yorkie photo; goodbye, many hard-earned dollars! And some of my dignity at the photo store.
The picture of Benny that my wife and I chose for his big close-up features a pensive, highly civilized pose. Benny lies on our hardwood kitchen floor in a pool of sunlight, the heavenly rays filtering his long hair as he stares wistfully into the distance like a seven-pound sphinx. You could say he’s nearly regal in the shot.
Fortunately, my daughter’s world premiere performance of “Benjamin O” went over well with the crowd. They also seemed to enjoy gazing at Benny’s visage while listening to the composition of light notes that alternately scamper and halt in, I must admit, small-canine fashion.
But then came the post-recital dilemma. What to do with the oversize photo of Benjamin O?
After searching the house, my wife and I found the perfect place: directly above his indoor potty pads. That’s right. In absurd juxtaposition, the corner of our kitchen features Benny at eye-height, a super-sized vision of royal magnificence, holding court above the place where he pees and poops unaccompanied by a soundtrack.