What Has 4 Legs and Lives Under Your Piano?

Do you have a furry studio companion?  No, not that forgotten and molding gingerbread house in the corner… I mean a 4-legged friend who co-exists with you during your piano teaching hours.  I’m betting that many (maybe even most!) of you share studio space with a special dog or cat.

When I taught from home, my small dog Mollie was a constant fixture in my piano teaching studio.  She sighed contentedly in an upside-down sprawl in her basket beside the piano as I taught late into the evening, leaping up excitedly with every new student who came through the door.  It was clear in her mind that her job was to greet and then escort each and every child from the front door to the piano bench.  I used her as an incentive with my wiggly boys more than once (“Play this one more time and you can give Mollie a treat!”).  “Where’s Mollie?” was the first question every child would ask if she happened to be out for a walk during lesson time.  She quickly adapted to her role as “Studio Dog” to the point where she would come running whenever she heard the piano being played.

Teaching Piano From Home… It Just Feels Homey!

One of the greatest things about being a piano teacher from home is the authenticity of the experience.  Your students know exactly who you are; your preference in decor, what you just cooked for dinner… who your special pets are.  They form a deep connection with you that comes simply from seeing you in your home environment.   This is something that I did miss when I eventually moved my studio from my home to a leased space.  While I enjoyed the privacy, I did feel as though I had lost a bit of the down-home piano teacher charm.

We Want to Hear About Your Piano Studio Pets

Trevor and I said a very tearful goodbye to Mollie yesterday after her long battle with liver disease eventually took its toll.  And among the memories we cried over, many of them were of her Studio Dog days.  My feet will forever feel lonely now at the piano, but my heart is filled with the memories of the happiness she brought to my students for many years.

So, we need some serious cheering up.  We want to hear about your piano studio pets.  Tell us who shares your studio and why you love (or don’t love!) sharing your teaching time with them by leaving a comment below.  

33 Responses to What Has 4 Legs and Lives Under Your Piano?

  1. Leah Murphy says

    Herbie: my over-sized ginger moggie who accepts all head scratches graciously and mostly sleeps through lessons, just occasionally waking up and wandering over to butt his head against a student’s legs or jump up on the piano stool as if interested in a particular piece – my students love him!

  2. says

    Our cat is Hermione ( named after Shakespear character not Harry Potter)and most of my pupils love her especially a boy I teach with aspergers. He just adores her and more often than not if she hears him she comes in to see him.

  3. Dianne C. says

    I am so sorry to hear about Mollie. I share your deep feelings for her. I have a few kids for lessons and my Great Dane Blaze loves all of them. She is now 12 ! But in her younger years she would bark at each knock and greet the kids with a sniff, a big hearty tail wag and sometimes a big kiss. She mostly is laying down in the room now but still looks forward to her loving from the kids. However every so often she will still come over and put her head in their laps – always making them jump, just needing a pat on the head. She used to be a terrible sock eater and with her huge tongue could eat a sock faster than we could get off the bench to grab it from her. I know – why is there a sock out at all? We would sometimes take off shoes and socks for music games (note twister) and she would be off with it. Now, unfortunately, the main thing we hear from her is the not so quiet “passing gas” although the kids always say “Did Blaze just fart?”. She is still entertaining
    and I am thankful every day that I am blessed to have her. She absolutely loves music and no matter what she is in the room with me laying quietly waiting to hear the music. How much else could one ask for? I love your site and thanks for letting me share my dog love story.

  4. says

    Aww! Sorry to hear about Mollie. I’m a big-time pet lover but have recently developed severe allergies to anything furry, so right now I don’t have a four-legged friend at home.

    I will tell you about Rusky, though, my Peke back home! I used to teach from my parents’ house when I was in high school, and he thought HIS job was to defend the family from all intruders by barking his little head off. Intruders included piano students, of course! They would open the door and then RACE to my bedroom to avoid the dog! Cute but dangerous, they used to say about him 😉

  5. says

    My cat, Minuit, lolls on her back enjoying the music. She has her favorite students who she comes to for petting, and often likes to share the piano bench with a youngster who’s playing. Anything on the floor, which she claims as Her territory, becomes fair game for exploring or laying on: book bags, shoes, music. Sometimes she doesn’t want to let go of a book bag!

  6. Jeannie says

    In my ten+ years, I have always had a dog in the studio. CoCo was a my studio mascot until about a year ago. Students would come early so they could run with her out in the parking lot and would stay late to run and play with her. I never had to buy treats because students always brought treats and new toys. She would lay up on top of the piano — she only weighed 6 lbs — and so soon as their book closed, she was up and at the door. “Oh, boy! It’s play time.” Anytime I needed a babysitter, I had about 30 to choose from. CoCo got hit by a young man cutting through the parking lot. Students brought flowers and it wasn’t long until “Lady” starting stealing the hearts of the students. She’s not as spoiled but she will be!

  7. says

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your Mollie. My husband and I have a dog, Jake, and three cats that love to listen to the music and greet my students. My students love them, too! I hope you can find room in your heart and studio for another little ball of love some day. My thoughts are with you.

  8. Andrea says

    I had a cat named “Buttercup” who loved piano music. She had various perches on the piano–sometimes on the end of the keyboard, sometimes on the bench next to my student, sometimes on the back, peering over the music books. The funniest thing, though, was that her ear would twitch whenever the student would play a note that was obviously wrong!

  9. Beth says

    So sorry to hear you lost Mollie.
    We foster Dog Guides so we always have a pup in the house. Most of the kids love them (with one notable exception). By late evening, the pups are often tired out & willing to sleep. So far, they’ve all enjoyed circling the piano bench a few ties & laying down mostly across the pedals. This week, our 4-month old golden retriever circled the bench as usual, then squatted and peed right in front of the pedals! I was horrified, the 8-year-old student thought it was hilarious & we had to move to a keyboard while my hubby steam-cleaned the area.

    I keep the students informed of the pups that have moved on into full-time training and then full service and I think it brings a lot of empathy & awareness because a pup that they knew, patted, cuddled, and loved is now helping to make someone’s world just a bit brighter.

    It also made for a really memorable recital when I had our first dog back on a “weekend pass”, and I was able to have him at my side leading the recital.

  10. says

    My cat Tikki loves piano lesson days. He has his very favorite people who pat him and let him sleep on their coats and sit on their papers. He also loves to sit besides certain special students to make sure they play the correct notes!

  11. says

    So sorry to hear about Mollie!

    We have 2 studio mascots at our home piano studio. We have 2 dogs, Juneau (age 13) and Alaska (age 3). Juneau is an American Eskimo and yellow lab mix and Alaska is an American Eskimo. We have a partition that keeps the dogs from entering the studio (we have a few allergic students), but they wait right at the partition for all of their favorite students… and believe me they know the schedule!

    Everyone says hello and waves at or pets the dogs and they never forget to say goodbye to them! :) Our “music money” has several denominations named after each pet, including our dear Tripod, who was our 3 legged cat that we lost to a stroke in October.

    Yes, our pets definitely add to the home based piano studio experience!

  12. Holly Kukkonen says

    For many years we had Sisu who would break down any barrier to be able to sit by me as i taught lessons. My piano still bears the scratch marks his claws left as he squeezed between the legs and body of the upright piano. We’ve had other dogs, but Sisu was the one who was my studio companion.

    Man’s best friend, it turns out was an understatement.

  13. Morgan says

    I have a little Maltese named Tornado. She is so adorable and everyone loves her. However, she’s also a problem. She barks way too much. I’ve been trying to come up with a solution, but I’ve tried everything and cannot get her to be quiet. Any suggestions?

    • Nancy says

      Put some small rocks in a soda can and seal it. Whenever she barks, shake the can. Try that for a few days and say,”quiet” to her. After a week or when she stops barking when you make that noise, say “quiet!”. And wait 10 seconds. If she stays quiet, reward her with a treat. Hopefully, you can get her to stop barking when you say the word quiet and she knows she will get a treat.

  14. says

    I’m so sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Losing your animal companion is such a difficult thing. My heartfelt condolences.

    We have 2 cats and my students/parents LOVE them. At one point last year, we had taken in a pregnant stray cat and she had 5 kittens in our home! My students got to watch those kitties grow up, and a few of them went on to live with students’ families! It’s great to have that connection. It feels like extended family!

    One of our cats likes to sit on top of the piano during lessons and periodically starts chewing on the corners of students pages. The kids get a huge kick out of it.

    I love teaching out of our home!

  15. mary aalgaard says

    Great post. I’m right there with you. We had a black & white cat named Matilda who sat by every student (except a few who were allergic). When she died, about two years ago, I had to tell every student and feel the sadness all over again. One boy, who loves animals so much, looked at the empty space next to him on the bench and said, “It will be different coming here, now.” One month later, we got Leo, an all white male cat, from the shelter. He’s not as loving, a little more fiesty, but the kids do like seeing him, and he has also calmed down a few students who have focus issues.
    Hugs to you as you grieve the loss of your special pet. (I still cry when I think of Matilda’s sweet spirit at the piano.)

  16. jan says

    I had two male cats who are now gone, but they were the most interesting cats I ever had. The older cat, Frisky, would sometimes get irritated when the student would sing-a-long while playing and bite them on the back of their pants to get them to stop. The other cat, Prowler, was very lovable and enjoyed being around all the students. He especially liked to edge his way up a students open coat sleeve left on the floor with only his head sticking out and fall asleep. He had several skills he liked showing off to the students. One was jumping from floor to top of upright piano very gracefully, another was showing you how far he could stretch his body while on his back (we measured 45 inches once), and last of all if you lined up several little toys on the piano keys, he would sit on the ledge where the piano music is placed and one by one knock over each toy and watch it fall to the floor. The students got a big kick out of that. I wish he were still around. I feel for your loss. We have a couple new cats that we do love, but all they do is sleep and eat. They don’t care if a students comes or goes. :(

  17. Nancy says

    We puppy raise for a non-profit service dog organization, so my students can’t wait to meet the “new” puppy every few months. The students help with the puppy training as the dogs must learn to wait for permission to greet the students at the door then get to treat the puppy when it performs some of its new skills. We talk about the importance of practice for the puppy to learn new skills and That is incentive for their piano practicing!

  18. Emily Bass says

    One day a little girl jumped off the bench and landed on my dog, Oscar’s head. He nipped her toe in retaliation. The parents became hysterical and took the child immediately to the doctor where my dog was reported as being a vicious dog …to the state. My sweet doggie had to have 2 psych evaluations by a vet and be quaranteened for a month. My dog is a small shih tzu. 75 pounds landing on his head was quite traumatic. I am hyper sensitive now when I have kids around and he is under the bench. lesson learned!

  19. says

    My deepest sympathies for your loss, I can’t imagine teaching without MY Molly lurking on the couch. My ultimate motivational bribe is who gets to take her when I’m on vacation so that’s a win-win all around :)

    She was actually the logo and namesake of my last studio (before relocating). Proved effective marketing-wise. Check out the graphics! (recalcitrant cat student is Smudgely, a whole other story)


  20. says

    Otis the Cockatiel is my assistant piano teacher. He is much pickier than I. The student must excel and play exceptionally great before he will begin to whistle and sing. If they are performing beyond exceptional, he adds vibrato and improvising! My students sit up extra tall when he sings and run home declaring that Otis liked their playing! His cage is about three feet from the piano and he watches on intently. The only problem . . . he is just as picky for me! I can’t be lazy at the piano, or else he won’t sing for my playing. The kids know they are not allowed to poke fingers in the cage, and so far everyone has obeyed. When they arrive for their lessons, they greet Otis and hope today is the day he will sing for them :)

  21. Lisa Latta says

    Oh yes! My daschund ,Samson is my studio mascot! He too escorts students to the studio, waits for some attention and then settles in under the piano until the lesson is over where he then escorts them back to their waiting parents. They all love him and in warmer months he snuggles with moms and siblings on the screened porch. Most of my parents want a picture of him sitting on the bench with their child-he loves piano days!

  22. Virginia Carpenter says

    I’m so sorry to hear about Mollie. We have an Australian Sheep dog named Sammie. She’s a very senior dog that has always been nicknamed Sammie the piano dog. Like Mollie she feels it is her duty to greet all students and then go lie down in her favorite spot and listen. There are 2 students however that she won’t stay and listen to – the ones that have one dynamic sound – FORTE! She greets them but won’t listen to them.

    This Christmas I gave all my students a Christmas ornament with Sammie’s picture on it. I have had a lot of kids tell me that ornament is now hanging up somewhere in their room. They loved it.

  23. Holly Valencia says

    Since I was still teaching out of my parents house, and my mom wasn’t too thrilled about dogs, the next best thing was a small pet. I love betta fish, so I decided to bring one into the studio; a really pretty blue and white one. Fish are so relaxing. :) So I put a little ballot box out and told the kids to drop their name ideas in, and I got some really hilarious ones! Eventually a census on Facebook decided that “Blueberry” would be the perfect name. (May he rest in peace after our house fire). The routine was to feed him a pellet or two on your way out the door. He was fed MOSTLY by my students every week! :)

  24. Lyndell Gore says

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Mollie :(

    I feel blessed to teach at home where the environment is so relaxed. Jipsy (my Bichon Frise) adores all my students and they just love her. I’m sure they’re WAY more excited to see her than me! After Jipsy settles from her initial excitement, she generally sleeps through most lessons.

    There were lots of ‘oohs and ahs’ at a recent (very chilled out) recital when I sat at the piano with Jipsy on my lap. I held her paws and she played “Chopsticks” The kids thought it was awesome and there was lots of cheering 😀

    I’m so happy to hear that so many other teachers love having their treasured pets with them whilst they teach. I think it helps to develop a unique bond with students and parents alike.

    May your special memories bring you comfort xx

  25. Tami says

    When I first read your subject heading I laughed as I have two “critters” who live under my piano. One is only occasionally allowed under there as she can be a pest and that is our dog Lizzie. Lizzy will sometimes resting her head in my students lap which they love but most of the time she is trying to smell them too much which is very distracting.

    The other “criitter”is my 4 yr old son. :o) Under my baby grand piano is his “hunt”. (He keeps putting a n sound in the word “hut”.)

    Both critters are sometimes a distraction and I wonder about eventual conductive hearing loss for my son but I also love knowing he is under there. My son is usually less of a distraction but sometimes he is as bad as the dog but in a different way. He will crawl out and pester me with questions or if I am quizzing the kids on their notes, he will volunteer his answers like “q”. It makes me laugh when my older students actually start listening to him, hoping he can help.

    Little guys are so fun but they are only little for such a short time!

  26. says

    My black cat, Coda, is my studio’s mascot! haha. She is a very friendly, out-going kitty, and all of my students and their parents love seeing her each week. My other cat, Kira, is shy and only comes out to get a drink of water in the kitchen. My students gasp with delight when they are lucky enough to get a glimpse of her. :)

  27. Melinda says

    I love all the animal stories! I used to have an African Gray parrot who was quite entertaining for my students. He was not in the same room as the piano, but would often “sing” along with the music, quite loudly so that we could hear. He enjoyed interacting with the students when their lessons were done, and my students loved hearing stories about his antics.

  28. says

    So sorry for your loss of Mollie. It definitely leaves a huge hole in your heart when these companions must move on, but the memories keep them alive forever. I had two dogs and two cats who would lay under my grand piano when I played. A beautiful piece of music came through me (a gift from God, as it was no work on my part at all)and I titled it “Faithful Friends” after my 4 listening companions. Two of them have “moved on” also, but every time I play that piece I think of them all. It’s so wonderful how music connects to all of life. Hope your Mollie memories bring many smiles and much laughter. Oh, and yes, my students could be bribed with a promise to see Luke (yellow lab) & Kelsey (retriever/border collie) when they finished their lesson!

  29. says

    We have a cat named Xena (“the warrior kitty”). I have never been a cat person, per se. But Xena found her way into my heart….through music. She loves music! Races me to the top of the stairs if she thinks I’m going up there to play the piano. If she doesn’t get up there in time, and the door is already shut, she lays on the top step listening through the door. When I’m playing, she is careful to keep her distance from the piano, so she doesn’t get stepped on. But when I’m not in the room, she frequently sleeps right on the piano bench.

    She isn’t just fond of piano music, though. She also enjoys being in the room when my middle daughter practices her marimba. But she has her limits. The french horn, which my oldest daughter plays, seems to be too much for her ears. She listens from the landing on the stairs, instead of entering the room. And she runs away if she sees the middle daughter going up the stairs with drumsticks in hand. She does not enjoy the snare drum at all!

    And she is very picky…..and so smart. When I was teaching at home, she would quickly identify which students were going to produce pleasant sounds, and which students…….well…. She was very selective about which students she would join in the studio and which ones she would not. (Of course, I never divulged this little secret to my students.)

    I’m glad to not have to deal with things like cat allergies now that I teach in a leased space. But she did add a sweet little element to my teaching day, other than that.

  30. Deb says

    Our cat Scooter loves when my piano students come for their lessons. He waits by the door to greet them and sprawls out on the floor hoping for a tummy rub. He definitely has his favorites students and follows them right into my piano room. He often times plays or lays on their piano bags laying on the floor and seems to enjoy listening to the music. He also has a way of sitting in the chair that is so human like. He sits up and leans one arm on the chair like he leaning and listening. It is quite humorous and my students love when he comes to listen! He definitely adds a whole new dimension to “piano lessons” for my students! 😉

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