Pup Music

Fifty and counting: Why does Robbie Long write (so many) dog songs?
By Lisa Wogan, August 2009

I’m feeling good—tapping my toes and singing aloud—because I’ve spent most of the morning listening to What Kind of Dog Am I?, a CD of songs from a dog’s point of view written and performed by Robbie Long.

Songs like “Green Tennis Ball,”
   You might see me scratch-n-sniffin’ with my tongue hanging loose.
   You might think I need a bath and that I have no use.
   But in a snap I’m a hero-daredevil-acrobat,
   I leap any crowded highway just to bring it back—that green tennis ball.

Long sings, barks and howls in his approximation of a doggie voice, which he describes as sounding like “Mark Twain took a long walk with the Muppets.” As strange as that sounds, his funny, smart lyrics and sweet melodies capture dogs’ infinite variety and trigger my sing-along switch.

“I went to the dogs, happily,” Long told me when I called about his CD. A self-described “old hippy,” who lives between Berkeley and Venice Beach, Calif., Long is a veteran of the music biz, including seriously non-canine gigs writing songs for Kenny Rogers and Whitney Houston. He’s also a cartoonist, and a featured artist for Recycled Greetings.

Long has always loved dogs (his father wrote dozens of “Lassie” episodes), but it was when he hit a rough patch in his life that dogs became creative fuel. Long says he was helped out of a blue period by Brutus, a gentle and powerful Lab-Pit Bull mix, who belonged to Long’s good friend and collaborator on two songs for the current CD, Bruce Langhorne. (Langhorne played guitar on some early Bob Dylan records, and Dylan has written that he was the starting point inspiration for the song "Mr. Tamborine Man").

“Brutus was the Einstein of dogs,” Long says. “He had complete concentration and deadpan looks. We took long walks and long sits. I checked out his world. I have never rescued a dog but a dog rescued me. I really mean that. Dogs remind me to be alive, truthful and good.”

Inspired by his mutty muse, Long started writing dog-themed songs. “It really lifted my spirit. I did it for the joy of it,” he says. “I wasn’t intending to write all these songs, but once I got started I didn’t want to stop.” With fifty complete, there’s no end in sight. Some of the songs on What Kind of Do Am I? are included in Long’s musical play, Keep on Waggin’! He’s also working on a cartoon book with the same title, and he just finished mixing a HOWLALUYA CHORUS, which he would love to see get a not-so-serious concert hall debut.

“My hope with this music is it will create some kind of joy and connection between people,” he says. He wants good things to happen for others, and “I want our canine pals to get their due.” He contributes his talents to animal welfare charities, such as Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. Watch the Best Friends’ “What Kind of Dog Am I?” video.

While he’s thrilled by what the songs mean for him, Long concedes Brutus might have a different reaction: “If he came back, he’d say, ‘You don’t have a clue. Don’t even play these for me.’”

I’m not so sure about that.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

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