My Dog and the Sounds of Silence


When I realised that I had placed “dog” first in my required list of what was important to me, I was alarmed that a mere animal had taken precedence over family, grandchildren and the other wonderful people and things in my life.

But pondering my home I now realise that hasty choice signified much more than that my dog is my only companion in my daily activities. She embodies the wonderful sound of silence I now enjoy for the first time ever in my own home.

This house in which I live now I have called home longer than any other. I did not raise my children here and have very fond memories of the home we had then – a joyous house, and like this one,with a bushland outlook.

I realise, with surprise, that I remember my life in sounds. I grew up with a musical mother. Every time I hear a Beethoven piano sonata I remember my mother at her piano (a piano my youngest daughter has now in her home). My father was always making things, hammering or sawing.

My late husband and his brother were lovers of music. Not only was music played on multiple devices available such as radio, TV and gramophones, sometimes simultaneously, but the animated discussion of such sometimes overrode the beauty of the music. They both did agree that the slow movement of the Bach Double Violin Concerto was “music to die to”. They both managed to do so in their own ways in the years that have passed.

Having young children slowly growing older was a wonderful period of my life. I loved their their joyous laughter, their loud shouting, their occasional weeping and then their music. The piano we bought rang with music, violins and violas played – only to be drowned out by flutes and a piccolo. And the singing!

Three of my children became professional musicians and the one who did not study music at University now has two children who play and sing when they visit.

We left Sydney and our lovely family home there. It was a very sad and tumultuous period of my life. I managed to buy my current home on the Coast twenty four years ago when I realised
my life had changed for evermore. It is very dear to me. It has provided security, a gentle refuge and harmony.

This home was noisy at first with my husband playing his sound devices of all kinds – mostly simultaneously and still having friendly debates with his brother who had moved to live nearby. My younger daughter taught music students from this home for several years. A wall of the room in which she taught still has a display of her pictures some in musical symbols, animals playing various instruments and others to delight young aspiring musicians.

My brother in law and his wife, who was a working member of the RSPCA, had multiple dogs at all times. One, Dolly, would sing as soon as this daughter brought out sheet music. All the dog “cousins” visited one another regularly. But there has been no one left from that family for some years. The two adults and all the dogs have gone to their maker.

My husband had poodles who adored him. They were excited dogs who followed him to the end of the world and back and cried when he was absent. They tolerated me as the feeder and provider of necessities of life. My husband died over ten years ago – a slow and painful death – but it was in this home and he was comforted by the attention and devotion of these little poodles.

After his death each of them also, one by one, reached the end of their lives, the last one remembered by the Bach Double Violin Concerto just like her father and uncle!

I was left alone, but with that came a wonderful silence.

I have many visitors. I have a grandson who brings his cello when he visits and we hear haunting sounds when he practises, as if Jacqueline du Pres were visiting the Central Coast.

My home still reverberates with sound when my family members visit with their younger children and dogs. They play my piano (usually the dogs don’t), sing and sometimes bring their other instruments. I also have visits from “The Angry Queen” when my operatic, contralto daughter is here. Her children, to some extent, and their cousins, completely, delight at and demand this persona from her following her creating it as a joke some years ago.

But in my day to day life I listen to the sounds of silence, of which I have had little time to do until now.

I bought a dog for myself after the last poodle died. She is a reflective creature. She has, as a Shnauzer, a Germanic and pragmatic nature.

Together we can hear the sounds of insects, the cicadas and bees of summer, the hum of other insects as yet unknown at other times. She can hear the sounds of lizards. I listen but only hear their silence. Surrounded as we are by bushland we are awakened by the early morning kookaburras and sometimes by the chirping of other little birds welcoming the sunrise. We can hear the faint rustle as they land in the trees and drink nectar from the native grevillea that abounds in the garden.

We can hear the wind in the branches of the trees. Just now, as I write, the branches are very still and there is not a sound from them. But I can almost hear the mist as it closes in upon us.

I do not feel alone in this wonderful sound of silence. My dog, sitting at my feet as I write has just let out a sigh of contentment – nothing more, really, than an quiet and slow expulsion of air.

I talk to her quite often. She is an undemanding conversationalist. She responds with a silent wag of her tail – the enthusiasm of such wag depending largely on what I have suggested.

I listen to the almost silent patter of her feet as she walks on the wooden floors to check on me and then the light scratch of paws on the carpet beside me.

She is part of the sound of silence that I am now loving.

Next weekend, with great enthusiasm, I am travelling far afield to see and hear my daughter and my granddaughter singing in and my son in law playing in a Remembrance Day concert.

Then enriched by the music I will return, with my dog, to my familiar, quiet and much appreciated home to listen to more of the wonderful sound of silence.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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