BY JIM D’VILLE
Steve Conrad of the Ukulele AZ club in Mesa, Arizona, likes ukuleles and dogs. So, when he heard about Maricopa Animal Care and Control starting a program to help comfort dogs during the exploding stresses of the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve he was all in. “Their idea was to have people come in and sit in front of the dogs to help comfort them. People would bring books, treats, dog toys. The woman I teach with, Kehau Kuhi-Leitz, and I decided to bring ukuleles.” In 2019, the second year of the program, Steve had 30 Ukulele AZ members show up on July 4th to comfort the canines during the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air.
The set-lists for these comfort concerts included many dog-themed classics—”Hound Dog,” “Puppy Love,” “How Much is that Doggy in the Window,” and at least one song from Three Dog Night. So how did the dogs react to the impromptu ukulele jam? Steve says, “I think the most fun reaction was during [Warren Zevon’s] ‘Werewolves of London,’ where I would do an extra-long howl in hopes of getting the dogs to howl along.” And Steve did get a pit bull to sing along with him, on pitch.
Maricopa Animal Care and Control, with shelters in Phoenix and Mesa, serves the dogs, cats, and residents of Maricopa County, Arizona. As one of the largest open-admission shelters in the nation, the two shelters take in nearly 30,000 dogs and cats every year. You can bet the members of Ukulele AZ will be back at the shelter next Fourth of July. Conrad adds, “This is something that can easily be duplicated around the country. It’s comforting for the dogs to keep them distracted during the fireworks. And, you know, dogs like music too.” You can find Ukulele AZ on Facebook.