A former professional violinist from Vienna, Weiss got into dog training accidentally, through owning dogs, including an Irish wolfhound named Salome (after the Strauss opera), whose size, beauty, and manners had made her a bit of a neighborhood celebrity along the walking paths of the West Village. She met Lou Reed and his wife, Laurie Anderson, her first professional clients, through their downstairs neighbor in July 2010, when their beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle, was dying of pancreatic cancer. “She was just lying there,” says Weiss, “and I think everybody was depressed.”
Weiss believes dogs find music soothing and has trained her own briards, Cosi and Petzi, to play piano with their paws and noses. (This practice is based on the philosophy that teaching dogs to touch things builds self-confidence.) The hope was that if Lolabelle could learn to do the same in her moribund state, it might produce endorphins and give her “a passion of sorts,” says Weiss. The first day Weiss came over, she lured Lolabelle to one of the 20 or so keyboards Anderson had lying around the apartment, and the results were so thrilling Reed asked Weiss to come back every day. “I didn’t know who Lou Reed was,” she says. “I only care about the dog.”
Melodic precision is a little much to ask from dogs, but Lolabelle had great rhythm. Soon she’d learned to ring a bell and knock castanets, all while sitting at the keys. “She was a whole one-dog band,” says Weiss. Even when Lolabelle went blind and was placed on oxygen, Weiss says, “she would drag herself to the piano, and she would still want to play.” Lolabelle died around Easter 2011, having lasted more than a year longer than her prognosis. Reed and Anderson gave her a Buddhist funeral.
Making House Calls with NY’s Musical Dog Trainer (via Daily Intel)