Music students recently welcomed a new addition to their Conservatory with hugs, caresses and babytalk. He’s friendly, chill, a Frisbee enthusiast and, like anyone who’s relevant in today’s world, a Facebook user.Zeek “The Con Dog” is a five-year-old Australian Cattle Dog. He carpools into work with his owner, Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl, where he walks the halls, greets students, naps, relieves stress, and acts as a “living teddy bear.”
I met with Zeek in Dean Pertl’s office. Although I am normally terrified of dogs, I found Zeek both adorable and cuddly. Even when he cleaned my shoe with his tongue, it was far more charming than horrifying. However, Zeek did sleep for most of our interview, which was very unprofessional.
Zeek works with Pertl almost every day, staying home only when Pertl’s schedule draws him outside of the Conservatory. “Zeek is very disappointed when I have meetings with the president,” Pertl said.
Zeek is a dog with several important career hats, primarily that of a “surrogate dog” for students who miss their pets from home. He makes the Conservatory a homier place. “More people come into my office to say ‘hi’ to Zeek than to see me,” Pertl claimed, although I suspect students jump at any chance to peek into Pertl’s office and see his nice collection of didgeridoos.
Another important function Zeek performs is that of an icebreaker. Last Saturday was one of the largest audition days in Conservatory history, bringing 120 frazzled students into the Con. Pertl and Zeek greeted the prospective students and their families for about five hours, demonstrating that the Conservatory “isn’t up tight or high strung.” Zeek helped ease the stress of these auditioning students, although they were warned that “Zeek makes all final admissions decisions.”
Finally, Zeek is a great wellness mascot. Zeek reflects a larger campus trend focusing on the health of Con students; a recently formed subgroup of the Wellness Committee which focuses on prevention of playing-related injuries.
“Zeek is a great example of how to be laid back,” Pertl explained. In addition, pets relieve stress and are known to alleviate feelings of depression or loneliness.
Shockingly, a sordid past hides behind Zeek’s sunny exterior.
Zeek is a “reformed arson,” who burnt down Pertl’s Seattle home a mere three days after he was officially adopted. While the family was out to dinner Zeek chewed through an orange extension cord on their wooden deck. The home’s structure remained standing, but its interior was absolutely destroyed. It took two years to rebuild.
The family kept the dog. Zeek never burned down another house, but he did stick his tongue in a light socket, his “last foray into electrical fun and games.” Pertl is confident Zeek’s days of arson have drawn to a close. Pertl doubts “he’ll start the Conservatory on fire,” although Zeek does continue offering “important life lessons.”
Despite his questionable background, Zeek is a marvelous addition to the Conservatory, whether hanging out in practice rooms, being petted by students or napping “like a bearskin rug” in Dean Pertl’s office.