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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Furry friends lure musicians into Madison's recording studios
Pet rock
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Sadie, one of the dogs of DNA Music Labs.
Sadie, one of the dogs of DNA Music Labs.
Credit:Brian Daly

Sadie greets everyone like a rock star.

As singer-songwriter Anthony Lamarr and his crew load into Madison's DNA Music Labs to record, the 3-year-old terrier mix ecstatically jumps into the air and skitters around their feet. She's a superfan. But she's careful not to trip people with armfuls of expensive instruments. She knows better. It comes from being a seasoned studio dog.

Brian Daly, DNA's co-owner, brings Sadie to work just about every day. She's easily the cutest member of the studio team.

"She loves people. It's a good environment for her," says Daly. He says Madison singer Vanessa Tortolano (formerly of Subvocal) and DNA house drummer Scott Beardsley are two of her favorite humans.

Cuteness aside, it seems counterintuitive letting an animal run around a place of business. Pets tend to be a divisive subject, whether it's dogs versus cats, or "I love animals" versus "Get this mangy mutt away from me." Forcing this conflict on customers could hurt the bottom line. But in the tradition of Randy's Recording and its lovable St. Bernard, Beaster, many Madison recording studios thrive thanks, in part, to the stress relief and unconditional love their furry residents provide.

Mike Olson, owner of Madison Music Foundry and Blast House Studios, realizes he's chopped liver next to his beloved dog, Sandy. She's a 7-year-old greyhound mix rescued from Hurricane Katrina. Since Sandy followed when Olson moved his office to Blast House, he's made lots of special trips to the Foundry to make the students and parents happy.

"I still have to pull a shift here and there at the Foundry because Sandy needs to be there," he says with a laugh. "Nobody misses me, but if Sandy's not there, all hell breaks loose."

Olson never wanted a TV in the lobby of the Foundry, so he's relieved Sandy's there to entertain students waiting for lessons. Despite her imposing size, she's a gentle giant who's great with kids. Still, when Sandy started coming to the Foundry, a sign was posted and email notices were sent out to notify folks who may be uneasy about dogs or allergic to them.

The few people who had concerns have grown to love having Sandy around, says Olson.

"It's neat. They got a positive experience with a dog," he says. "So they kind of got rid of that phobia."

Ricky Riemer, who runs local record label and recording studio Science of Sound in the basement of his house, is sometimes startled when his 10-year-old silver tabby, Tito, appears.

"I don't even know how he gets down there half the time," he says.

Though five cats live upstairs, Tito is the only one that ventures into the studio. Once he's there, he essentially runs the place. Riemer keeps him off the mixing board because he tends to make changes without asking permission.

Tito loves music - particularly Les Paul and Doc Severinsen, according to Riemer - but he especially loves people. A super-cuddly guy, he loves to jump up on people's laps. It doesn't matter if they're in the middle of playing.

It's a bit unusual - and not always ideal - for businesses to have pets. But at a recording studio, which can get stressful when many cooks stir just one pot, it's nice to have someone there for moral support.

The pets-at-music-businesses trend stretches beyond recording studios. Spruce Tree Music & Repair has a pair of golden retrievers, Traveler and Piney, who greet customers as they enter. At Resale Records, owner Eric Teisberg's Maltese Westie, Snow, is happy to see people come in. Short of having a band, the pup is the best way for the shop to acquire groupies.

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