The Dog and the Violin

Bilbo, our much-loved and still somewhat skin-headed Border Collie (he was shorn for summer) is proof that a bit of exposure to something we don’t like produces resilience. Resilience is that almost magical quality which only comes from the school of hard knocks. The first blow might knock you down but after being hit a few times, you stand your ground. It’s that old saying: whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.


Dog breath

Getting back to the dog, he is starting to put up with the violins. He doesn’t hang around all the time but he doesn’t automatically go outside as soon as the violin cases appear these days. Naturally, I’m feeling very proud of his efforts and have given him a few stamps on his star chart.

Until very recently, the dog made it very clear that he didn’t like the violins and he ranked them very high on his list of annoyances, somewhere on par with James (our robotic vacuum cleaner) but not quite up there with the postman or the garbage truck.

No amount of exposure has helped the dog overcome his outright opposition to these long held foes! Jung would probably have something to contribute to this discussion…something about dogs and archetypes perhaps.

Anyway, while he hasn’t overcome these more entrenched phobias, he is slowly overcoming his fear of violins, becoming more resilient.

Perhaps, he’s just getting older and the arthritis is setting in. It hurts him more to move than to put up with the violin.

Another possibility is that our playing has improved and he’s now classified it as “music” and not the final death screeches of a scalded cat.

However, as much as the dog has been slowly overcoming his violin phobia, he had a big setback last weekend when there wasn’t just the usual one or two violins to contend with. There were four violins all at once. That’s a lot for any poor dog to deal with, even when they’re not confronting a serious phobia.



As bad as that sounds and perhaps you’re feeling sorry for the poor dog and think somebody should have taken him on an extended walk, we at least tuned the violins beforehand so it wasn’t a total  assault on his finely-tuned ear.

That said, the dog didn’t hang around. Of course, he fled the scene and was nowhere in sight.

Besides with four violinists, the lounge room was rather overcrowded what with bows going all directions and Bilbo is hardly a small dog. He is still close to the size of two border collies sandwiched together despite cutting back on his snacks, leftovers and treats.

Anyway, I thought I would attempt the impossible and see if Bilbo would pose for a photo with the violin just to get a good visual for the blog. I don’t know how you go with photographing dogs but Bilbo is particularly difficult. I get him to sit down but when I call out his name just to get him to look at the camera, he stands up and comes up for a hug.  He just won’t stay there and flash his pearly whites like he’s supposed to. I usually have to get back up for assistance.

Anyway, I’m home alone today so I’m juggling the camera with one hand and the violin in the other while getting the dog to sit, stay and look at the camera when he just wants to have a pat and a cuddle…or whack me with a huge, sloppy kiss. I might love my dog and I might be desperate to get “the shot” but I neither like nor encourage doggy kisses. Yuck! That’s what his dog friends are for!

I’m going through all of this stress just so I can get one half-decent photo for my blog. How is that for dedication?!! Keen…very keen indeed!

I know I’ve been called a dreamer before but this mission has taken dreaming to another level all together. I’m leaping out of my tree house and almost flying to the moon.

Here goes…

Never work with children or animals!

Never work with children or animals!

By the way, I’m just wondering whether to mention something about having to wash my face or do I leave that bit out? Ha! Only joking. I actually managed to duck.

As good as it gets...

As good as it gets…

xx Rowena

13 thoughts on “The Dog and the Violin

  1. tomsnare1025

    It’s funny to hear about another border collie that doesn’t photograph well. My mom has a border collie named Flash. He hates having his picture taken, it is near impossible to get a shot of him looking at the camera. My mom thinks, in Flash’s case, that it has something to do with the fact she got him from the Amish, and the Amish don’t allow pictures of themselves. Flash also does not appreciate noises of any sort. He’s a very nervous dog. It must be tough to be a high energy anxiety threat. Anyway, thanks for stopping by my page, just thought I’d return the favor. Cheers.

  2. David Brooks

    That’s a fun story. The violin is a beautiful instrument and I’m sure you and your family play well. I’m sure eventually he will appreciate the fact that he is attending free concerts with free food and free lodging. HA!

    I attended a talent show at my daughter’s school where one student played the violin. A teacher introduced the child saying, “…she’s only had 6 months of lessons!” With an endorsement like that, this has to be good! It was awful. I don’t think anyone in that hall could have named that tune. I leaned over to my wife and said, “I can do that and I haven’t had any lessons.”

    BTW- Thanks for the visit and comment!

  3. roweeee Post author

    Hi Tom. I had a really good laugh at this. I mentioned to my husband Geoff that Bilbo would probably love living in an Amish community without his pet nemesis the robotic vacuum cleaner and the camera. There is only one flaw in this. Bilbo loves going for rides in the car.
    I suspect the breed does get a bit nervy. Our first one used to jump over our side gate whenever there were bad storms or fireworks and he was home alone. He was 45 kilos and it wasn’t a small gate so he was very determined.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. You’ve cheered me up on a very wet and rainy day.
    Best wishes,

  4. roweeee Post author

    Yes, Bilbo was named after Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit. At the time we bought him as a tiny pup, we was short and furry…especially compared to our previous dog, Rufus, an Old English Sheepdog. What we hadn’t factored into the equation was how much hobbits love to eat and snack. Of course, I can’t find our copy of The Hobbit as we have too many books but Geoff tells me that hobbits have first breakfast, second breakfast etc.
    Sadly this is what also happened to Bilbo. You see, our kids are poor eaters so he would get his own breakfast, followed by the kids leftovers and the same somehow got repeated each meal time so by the time we took him to the vet for his annual check up, he was getting something like six meals a day.
    Of course, he didn’t complain until he went or should I say, he was put on a diet.
    He was very offended and definitely equated food with love and he certainly wasn’t happy that his food was now being re-distributed into our worm farm or the rubbish bin. Around the same time, I went on a health kick as well and traded in my vegemite sandwiches for green fruit smoothies. The worms were happy and almost singing but not the dog. He was very upset as I walked passed his bowl and gave the scraps to the worms.
    A year down the track, Bilbo hasn’t lost any weight but I am 10 kilos lighter.
    By the way, thanks for visiting my blog, Jeff. It’s been great chatting.
    Best wishes,

  5. roweeee Post author

    Hi David,
    Thank you very much for visiting my blog. I really loved your photos and video clips. I do the photography for the kids’ school and while that is on the small scale, I really enjoy photographing all the kids and seeing how they respond to the camera. It tells me a lot about them as a person, although it’s not the sort of thing I can usually put into words. It’s more of a feeling. I have managed to to photograph a few celebs such as members of the Sydney Swans and a few authors visiting the school, which has been fun. It’s a small thing but it gives me a taste of what it would be like to be a real photographer.
    As for the violin, it is a blessing and a curse. I’ve practiced for hours and yet the thing will still squeak and I’m forever playing two strings at once. I’m still working on a post about when clouds drift across your vision after one very discouraging day of practice.
    I come from a very musical family and my grandmother was a child prodigy pianist who went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. As much as I try to just learn the violin for my own pleasure and as a stress release, I can’t help thinking about playing at the Opera House and becoming a good violinist and in my wildest dreams, becoming the best. This is something that at the very least will take 10,000 hours of practice and at one hour a day, it will take me 28 years. I am now 43 so it’s not looking good.My best hope is that there is a steep improvement at the start and it takes 5,000 hours to progress from very good to excellent.
    In the meantime, I’m sure that I’ve reached my 10,000 of dreaming!
    So if you ever hear about a rickety violinist making their debut concert using a walking frame, you can remember me.
    Best wishes,

  6. David Brooks

    The first time I had heard the concept of 10k hours I was intrigued and thought…, “Well all I have to do is practice for 10K and I will be awesome!” The idea of itemizing or dissecting exceptional ability into something, although enormous, that is potentially tangible with 10K simple steps makes ‘the amazing’ seem possible. But in reality 10K hours is more than a year straight through and as you pointed out any practical person that also has regular responsibilities would have to divide that time with everything else.

    You are hilarious but I applaud you’re commitment to your craft. If someday I see a concert featuring an extremely mature violinist, I will know it is you and declare, “I met her near the beginning of her 10k hour journey! And she made it!”

  7. David Brooks

    And as far as photography. It is an amazing art form… and there is nothing like seeing pictures of your children through ages… simply being the family archivist has it’s own rewards but helping people remember through pictures is priceless. Take pictures of everything, get them printed, put them on the walls and is drawers and in albums. Pictures are instantly memories and memories are very important!

  8. roweeee Post author

    Hi David,
    Thanks for your comments. I am very much the family archivist, not only with the photography but each year I buy a diary for the kids and paste in their little drawings and write in their funny comments as well as writing in what they’ve been up to. Now that they are 9 and 7, I am trying to get them to write in them more and take more ownership. These started out as being a response to my health crisis
    I have a question for you. Over the years, I have taken a lot of photos of my kids, especially my son. Now, I am wondering whether I have inadvertently reinforced his quirky behavior. You know what it’s like a a parent you photograph all those crazy moments like smearing themselves with paint. Climbing up on the roof of the back shed or exploring under the house and putting their pants on their head instead of their legs. If said child gets a whole lot of attention for these more out there forms of self-expression, are you actually encouraging that type of behavior and I am starting to believe that I have. Any thoughts?

  9. roweeee Post author

    Hi David,
    You don’t know how much it meant to me today to be described as “hilarious”. I went to see Les Miserables yesterday and as much as I love it, I felt desperately sad afterwards. It wasn’t just a story for me. I could feel that desperation and that grinding poverty in my bones.
    I read a fabulous book which addressed the whole 10,000 hours thing: Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. Have you read it?
    Hope you are having a great day!
    Best wishes,

  10. David Brooks

    I haven’t seen the most recent version of Les Miserable but I am familiar with the story and the older movie from when I was in grade school. Good movies really have that power to bring us in and makes us feel… I hope to do that eventually in a positive way but on a smaller scale of course. I’m glad I could help add to your day… kind words travel long and far.

    I saw a movie called, ‘The Grey’ and it left me in a dark mood. It’s a good movie, well acted, it makes you feel and ask questions but if you have a tendency towards melancholy and despair this is not the movie for you. I think the overall message of this story is that life is full of pain and heartache and despite your best efforts you cannot save yourself or those around you. Sad for certain.

    But we choose to think on brighter things… I laughed out loud imagining an elderly master of the violin barely able to stand but cranking that violin bow like a piston in an engine, it’s a funny thought!

    I saw an interview with the author but I haven’t read the book… I’m not much of a committed reader… I’m great with short digestible chapters but anything more and I’m sawing logs with the book flat on my chest.

  11. roweeee Post author

    I wouldn’t describe myself as melancholy but I can get a bit “reflective”. With my medical situation, that does go a bit with the territory. I asked my nurse whether she’d seen Les Miserables and she said she only sees comedy. Working in a hospital, you see enough real life.
    I was at work yesterday and I heard about the Tim Tam Bus. So if the thought of a geriatric violinist made you laugh, how about me hijacking the Tim Tam Bus? I thought that was worthy of a post.
    By the way, you don’t really discuss the weather in blog but we’ve had a miserable couple of days of really awful weather with strong winds and heavy rain. Great for working on the blog and sleeping of course but if it doesn’t get better tomorrow, I might have to go ad paint myself a bit of sunshine.

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