Dog day afternoon: Lupot’s life in the musical world
Kay Miller, Star Tribune Richard Tsong-taatarii, Photographer, Star Tribune
It’s so hard to remember. Is this a workday? Lupot, a Brittany spaniel, relies on Andrew Dipper to remind her. And it makes her really anxious if they get all the way to the office without a toy. When it’s time to leave, she rummages through her big box of toys at home and chooses a hedgehog or an elephant. Then she carries it in her teeth to the car — from there to the parking garage, across the street and up a flight of stairs to the instrument repair shop she shares with Dipper. She can bring any toy except the screaming monkey.
The challenge — and Lupot is aware of this — is getting across Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis without being diverted by animal smells or dropping the toy. She owns a rubber double bass. But frankly, it’s a little inelegant for her to drag in a mangled, chewed-up instrument with so many professional string players around.
Dipper may be a man of the world, an Englishman who is fluent in Italian and renowned in Italian musical instrument restoration, but Lupot expects him to stick to an established routine. She gets one treat immediately after they arrive at work, another at tea time.
Nationally, neophytes are just joining in the fifth annual Take Your Dog to Work Day (Friday, June 20). But Dipper has been doing this since Lupot, now 7 (OK, 49 in dog years) was a pup. Back in Italy, he had a dog that rode on his bike to work, balanced between a little platform and the handlebars.
Before the perfume lady around the corner closed her shop and went online, there were five dogs within two city blocks that came to work. Now there are four (including a poodle and a big black lab) in Lupot’s building alone.
Lupot can’t count Lupot is careful not to disrupt Dipper’s pots of stain, delicate tools or wooden instruments that lie in braces on his workbenches. Nor does she bark — most of the time. That would be unseemly in such a dignified business, especially considering that Dipper’s shop flows from Claire Givens Violins (owned by his wife, Claire Givens) with its delicate, expensive instruments in the historic 1907 Handicraft Guild building across from Orchestra Hall. “We call Lupot our Chief of Security,” Dipper said. “She’s very territorial. So anybody who pokes their head in, she’ll bark.” She announces when the UPS man arrives. She loves certain musicians (those who bring treats and toys) and the postman, who’s clearly a dog guy. But she’s chased off a few sketchy characters who had no business in Lupot’s office.
Dipper is working on a cello that he traded for a bow last fall. At the time, the cello was covered with black paint. He planned to use it for experimental repairs. Once the paint was off, however, he discovered two things: It was a good German instrument, and sweeps of blood stained the wooden front and pooled inside — suggesting a violent critique of some cellist’s performance.
Lupot quivers as Dipper moves toward the treat drawer, sticking her muzzle in the air and wailing mournfully: “I want one!” At least that’s what Dipper says she’s saying. To the uninitiated, it sounds more like “Wr-rwhtnn-wnrrrn.” “This is the world’s first talking dog,” Dipper says. “My daughter taught her.” With this, he turns to the dog. “Do you want a yaw-yau now?” Dipper asks, holding a morsel inches from Lupot’s nose. She is nearly beside herself. They’ve been over this. Wouldn’t you think a smart guy like Dipper could grasp a simple sentence? “I want one now,” she apparently answers. Dipper, who delights in these daily give-and-takes, finally drops the scrap into her mouth. “I realized at one point that she couldn’t count,” Dipper said. “I said, ‘Do you want one, two or three?’ She was saying, “I want one, one, one.’ ‘ But he’s counted something like 70 dog words that he says have specific Lupot meanings. “Anything tasty is a yaw-yau. Like birthday cake is a big yaw-yau. It’s a great word. I think we should should add it to the English language.”
After her morning treat, Lupot rushes to the sofa in Given’s elegant, spacious office, where together they listen to classical music. Lupot has a one-of-a-kind relationship with Givens, Dipper and everyone else in the office. She knows who will scratch her neck if she sits on their feet and who requires less provocation. Having a dog around has the effect of calming nerves. Scratching a dog when you’re tense will do that. Forelorn look Rinchen Dorjee, a skilled Tibetan Buddhist icon painter who works with Dipper, reminds him that when people die, they can be reborn as animals. (If so, Dipper quips, Lupot was “a monk gone bad.”) “Rinchen doesn’t say much, but I see him nodding when she talks.” Lupot is too dignified to ask for attention when people are busy. She sighs and retreats to her kennel for a nap. People have a great appreciation for someone with a smile. Straight on, Lupot looks like she’s always grinning. Naturally, when she drags Dipper down the Nicollet Mall, people stop them to chat and offer unsolicited observations. “You know the problem with small dogs?” one said. “They’re afraid they’re going to be eaten.” Lupot certainly wouldn’t dignify that with a comment. But Dipper has speculated on what Lupot would say if completely unfettered. He remembers working way too late one night and looking up to see a forlorn Lupot. “What do you want, Lupot?” he asked. “I want to go hommmme.” Dipper listened hard. He’s certain that’s what Lupot said.