Messrs. Bach, Beethoven and Brahms lift pooch's spirit

As a musically challenged oaf, I could never play a toe-tapping fugue or a finger-snapping funk.

It's not that I don't love music. I'm simply a musical klutz. No talent whatsoever.


But I have discovered that music, particularly the classics by Messrs. Mozart and Company, appears to have remarkable healing powers when it comes to our furry friends.

It all began when Alyeska, our Akita/German shepherd mix, suffered a stroke on Dec. 17. Since the old girl is getting long of tooth at 15, the stroke wasn't totally unexpected.

But it's sad to watch a pooch known for her regal bearing reduced to a lurching gait with her head hung low. Even her thick tail that long waved like a proud banner was flagging.

Our hearts hurt at the sight.

When Maureen and I picked her out all those years ago — she selected us, if truth be told — as a pup at the Humane Society of Southern Oregon facility, she had a queenly air that set her apart.

Unfortunately, the little princess wasn't accustomed to riding in a car. Her nibs promptly yarfed, nearly causing me to follow suit.

But Ally grew into a large dog who no doubt would have protected us to the death. When you looked into those warm brown eyes, you knew you had a faithful friend.

With a full name, which is the native word for Alaska, which means "great land," it was only natural she loved to romp with us along mountain trails and across green meadows. She lived for the snow but disdained the rain. In the spring, she loved to stop and sniff the flowers on the paths leading to the high country.

She was the unchallenged alpha animal to our other canines. Her leadership was never questioned by Ona, short for Onomatopoeia, a pleasant pooch found a decade ago as an orphan outside a supermarket. Even young Waldo, a clownish character hailing from the Jackson County Animal Care & Control Center, holds her in high esteem.

But the stroke brought Ally to her knees. Her legs shook when she tried to stand. Her once alert ears drooped. She seemed embarrassed by her physical impairment.

The veterinarian Maureen consulted advised us to make Ally comfortable, try to get her to drink liquids and feed her anything she is willing to eat to boost her strength.

The vet also offered to put Ally to sleep. In other words, kill her.

Call it selfish on our part, but we want her to be able to walk among the spring flowers one more time.

Although listless with no appetite, our old friend was not in pain. Her eyes were still warm and friendly as she rested her gray muzzle on her outstretched paws.

Maureen fluffed up Ally's doggy bed and pampered her with canine snacks and drink. But she would not eat or drink anything. She grew weaker.

One morning before heading to work I turned the radio to KSOR-FM, the Jefferson Public Radio's Classics & News Service at 90.1 on the dial. I figured it would comfort her in her dying days.

That evening I found her lying with her muzzle pointed toward the radio. She had also eaten a bit. Some of the water appeared to be gone.

By Christmas she was walking with more confidence. She is also greeting us again with her old familiar "woof!" And she is once again eating and drinking on a regular basis.

Perhaps it was the rest that brought her back to us. Maybe it was simply her body mending itself.

Knowing full well I am shamelessly anthropomorphizing, I am convinced that the magical music by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms lifted her spirits. I like to think the soothing genius of Handel and Mendelssohn puts Ally in mind of those mountain excursions where the spring air is always fresh and the flowers forever bright.

Indeed, we witnessed the old girl letting out a contented sigh at what the announcer described as the sounds of Mozart's Kyrie Eleison of the Requiem in D minor.

Ally may not make it to spring. Maybe her improving health is only temporary.

But we know her final days will be pleasant, filled with music that has survived the ages.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at

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