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Miss January 2014 - Tiani
Audience of One

ix days a week, Larry Suvak opens a padded case on his sailboat. He takes out a musical instrument and his dog Tiani jumps on the berth across from him. At 9:30a he begins playing. “I go to work” he says, “and Tiani goes to sleep.” For knowing how to soak up a good shipboard jam session – be it saxophone, clarinet or flute – TownDock.net names Tiani Pet of the Month for January.

tiani pet of month
Tiani. Her name is pronounced “chya nee”, emphasis on the first syllable. Larry says “tian” means velvet in Chinese. He added the “i” to the end saying it makes the name easier to hear when called.
larry suvak sax tiani
Larry taught at the Berklee College of Music. He plays his instruments Monday through Saturday but takes the Sabbath off because, “you’re not supposed to work on Sunday.”

Tiani is a Shar Pei, a Chinese breed. Young dogs, before they grow in to their skin, are known for the furry folds that cover their face. Tiani is 2 1/2 years old. Her wrinkles have smoothed out. These days its her radiant yellow eyes and triangular ears – not baggy skin – that dominate her face.

Those ears have heard a lot of music.

larry suvak tiani catalina dragonfly
Home sweet boat – Larry’s Catalina 32 Dragonfly. He’s owned the sloop since 2007.

Larry is a theater musician. He has worked with artists including Jerry Lewis, Lou Rawls and Aretha Franklin. His specialty is woodwinds. He plays almost daily to keep in practice.

Tiani is his audience.

Playing an instrument in a marina – especially an alto saxophone – poses acoustic challenges. Rather than wake fellow boaters with an early morning blast, Larry and Tiani have adopted a routine that combines caffeine, strolls and scales – all in the name of musical and maritime peace.

Larry says Tiani has an amazing inner clock. After a good night’s rest, she is ready to get under way. Most days start like this. “We get up. Have coffee. Go to the bathroom. Then we go for a walk.”

From Sailcraft Marina, where they live, Larry and Tiani often stroll to the town beach. They might swing by the Bean. Or circle back along the river to the Marina. Which ever route they choose, they need to back at the boat by 9a. That’s when the jam session starts.

larry suvak holds tiani sax
Unlike most dogs, which don’t like to be lifted, Tiani is happy as a sax to be hoisted. Larry says, “if there was a picture of the word trust, this is it.”
tiani pet of month
Close-up of Larry’s Selmer alto sax. He says, “It’s older than I am. I think it was made in 1939.”

Tiani lives aboard with 9 instruments. Larry practices the clarinet, saxophone and flute most often. Getting Tiani to appreciate his largest instrument took a while.

Larry says, “When I first started playing the sax, she would go to the bedroom.” – the sailboat’s aft cabin. He thinks the sound may have hurt her ears. Or maybe she just wasn’t used to it. After a while, it bothered her less. She took to curling up on the berth opposite him and went to sleep.

There’s still one instrument Tiani isn’t fond of. “She doesn’t like the piccolo,” Larry says. “It’s an octave higher than the flute.” The high sound might be displeasing to her ears.

tiani pet of month
Tiani’s favorite seat in the house – er, sailboat – is the starboard berth. For the most part she sleeps through the music, raising her head only if she hears a strange noise.

Larry’s musical sessions usually last about an hour during which Tiani, “get’s bombarded with 3 or 4 instruments.” He may play the sax a while. Then put it away to practice the clarinet. He plays the flute most days because, “it’s an instrument you have to play every day or it doesn’t work.”

“When she hears the music stop,” he says, “she’ll lift her head to see what I’m doing.” If he’s hungry, Larry eats a banana. If the weather’s nice, Tiani goes on deck.

Afternoons, Tiani enjoys socializing with folks visiting the marina. The bow pulpit makes an especially vantage point. She’s a big fan of Mungo the cat who lives with Chris and Sue Loprete aboard “Nereus”, a nearby Heritage 46 sloop. She also enjoys visiting TownDock.net Pet of the Month Sadie aboard the houseboat Island Time.

larry suvak holds tiani sax
In hot weather, Tiani enjoys lounging in the shade of the dodger. When it’s cold, if it’s calm and the sun’s shining, she luxuriates on the sloop’s side deck. Here, she’s in greeter mode at the bow.

It’s an unusual mix for sure – a dog, a boat and a saxophone. But on a quiet morning up Whitaker Creek you might hear it. A jazzy riff drifting from a sleek white sloop. Followed by a bark.

To listen to Larry playing Tiani a tune on his sax – complete with creaking boat noise – click on the audio player.

Tiani’s Bio

Celebrity Pet Most Resembles: Charlie Parker
Wants for her birthday: a Powell gold flute with open holes and a B-foot
Favorite snack: sliced turkey hot dogs
Makes Larry cranky when: she puts her sandy paws on the starboard berth

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Know a pet that is a standout? Send in some details and a photo to pet@towndock.net. Tell why that pet deserves the coveted TownDock.net Pet of the Month Prize Package --- accolades, a pat on the head (snakes excluded) and a box of Milk Bones ( or snack suitable for the species).

We regret that we cannot offer a college scholarship to Pet Of The Month winners.

Animals caught near the HarborCam attempting to suck up to the judges will be disqualified.