Musician Sam Evian’s Dog Jan Gave Him A Reason To Melt
“I started learning piano pieces during quarantine, and she would hear the music and come scooting into the room and lie down, lounge, and listen to it... She likes music!”
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Even for casual listeners, it’s easy to tell that musician Sam Evian is a dog lover. The cover of Time to Melt, his most recent album, feels almost otherworldly, with its green sky and purple glowing pavement, but in the center stands his rescue dog, Jan, staring into the lens and bringing the photo back down to earth. It’s not only the album cover that Jan figures prominently on, though — earlier this year, Evian released a T-shirt that featured a drawing of her.
Evian’s funky laidback record was largely inspired by his lifestyle change after moving from Brooklyn up to the much calmer Catskills. The upstate digs have given Evian more room, both mentally and physically, to focus on producing and writing music, but it’s also lent itself quite well to pup parenthood. Jan, who just recently turned two, has been able to enjoy an off-leash life that would be the envy of any metropolitan dog. We talked to the musician about raising a dog who was rescued from Russia and how life with Jan has changed his approach to music.
How did Jan come into your life?
We found her on PetFinder in March of 2020. Lockdown had started, but we had been looking for a dog for a couple of months. Jan popped up on the radar and was only a couple of hours away. She was being fostered by this woman who works with a rescue group, Sochi Dogs, who rescue dogs in Russia. I think honestly if I’d known she was from Russia when we first inquired, I probably would have looked for dogs that were more local, but we had already fallen in love with her.
Yeah, Jan’s a street dog so she was really traumatized when she showed up. She was very scared and had a hard time trusting anyone — men in particular. She’s scared of feet so I think that maybe she was kicked or something. But she’s so darling and it didn’t take long before she had melted into our lives.
Had you had a dog before?
When I was a kid I had two dogs — we had Cocker Spaniels. They were terrible. Jan is like a poster dog for adopting rescues because she’s so smart. She’s just got all this intellect and her instincts are amazing. First of all, she’s a major athlete. I worked with her in the beginning to get her to catch a frisbee, but now she can catch super long tosses. I can throw a ball overhand and she’ll catch it. It’s crazy, she’s so talented.
She’s a Russian Olympian.
Truly, she’s a Sochi dog! It’s kind of amazing because our Cocker Spaniels, they just could never learn. Jan: the only thing that she has to learn is communication and trust. She’s got all these amazing instincts, in terms of eating and being obedient — she’s like a task oriented kind of dog.
Do you have certain spots that you bring Jan to or do you have a lot of outdoor space where you live?
Yeah, we live in dog paradise. We live on the side of a mountain, we have a stream that runs around our property, and a meadow. She’s just off leash all day and kind of has the run of the mill. She can do whatever she wants.
That is so great. Does she go into the stream at all?
Oh, yeah, we taught her how to swim. She was scared — she was terrified — but she got into it eventually. It took her about a year to get into swimming but now she loves it. We taught Jan to swim at the Ashokan Reservoir. It’s really calm and we would just throw a stick in a little further each time.
Definitely sounds like dog heaven.
Totally. She’s got a lot of dog neighbors that she pals around with. We always joke that she pulled the right cards, you know? Can you imagine being on the streets in Sochi, Russia, then ending up here with us in the Catskills?!
Did you name her?
She was named Janice and she already knew her name. We just felt like Jan sounded appropriate and we didn’t want to change anything more than we needed to — she was already traumatized.
Was it a long process getting her to feel comfortable?
It was just time and trust, and you know, taking her on adventures together. The first night was really funny because she was really wary of us and kind of skulking around, cowering, and looking very sad because she really liked her foster mom. She was kind of panicky, but she still slept in bed with us on the first night. I think she’s got some Belgian Malinois in her — she kind of has the markings on her face, she’s got the instincts, and she’s just so smart and people oriented. She doesn’t care about other dogs — she kind of just sticks to us like Velcro. I’ve seen Malinois videos and they’re a lot like her. They’re really talented athletes, very smart, and very attached to their people.
What a crazy life she’s had.
I know. Everybody’s always really amazed by her. We took her on tour for a couple of shows and she just slept in the van for all the rides, didn’t make a big deal out of it.
I was going to ask you if you brought her on tour.
She came along to a couple of shows. She really liked going to Vermont. It’s beautiful up there and felt very nice. But she really didn’t like Connecticut. We were near New Haven and it was just so much concrete. She doesn’t know concrete — her world is all trees and grass so I think she was pretty confused. She’s also protective of us, like, if someone walks into the green room unannounced, she’ll bark at them.
Did she see you on stage or was she always in the green room?
She was in the green room. We took her to a festival earlier this fall and our friend who knows Jan was there, so Jan actually came on stage when we were playing.
How did she react?
She’s tolerant of it, she just wants to be near me. She’s a great studio dog — when I play piano, she’ll just come lay down under the piano. You can tell she just really loves it. When someone’s playing drums she does not care, she lies down next to the drums. She likes music!
Was there ever any reaction from her and she just got used to it?
No, I don’t know why but she is drawn to it. Seriously, I started learning piano pieces during quarantine and she would just hear the music and come scooting into the room and lie down, lounge, and listen to it. We have this funny thing where I’ll be like, “Jan, it’s time to go to work,” and she looks at me like, “Okay, okay, let’s go to work” and she comes up to my studio room and lies down under the mixing console and stays there all day when I’m working. It’s so sweet.
Do you feel like she has inspired your music in any direct way or changed your music practice?
Yeah, she’s kind of changed my whole life. She’s my therapy dog for real. She makes the house a home, she brings so much comfort to everyday life. She makes me a little more accountable. I’m an insomniac and I’ll stay up late, but if she’s around she’ll just come and snuggle up next to me and helps me sleep. She’s just changed my whole situation. I go on walks with her, whereas normally I’d just be sitting in front of a computer working. I’ll take a break during a recording session to be like, “Alright, let’s go walk, Jan. Let’s get out in the woods for a little bit.” She has such a positive effect on the whole situation.
“She’s been to my shows where I was trying to focus on my witchy mood, but I also wanted to just laugh because she was doing her head tilt.”
The dream-pop musician on how her speckled rescue pup got her through the pandemic.
Rachel Davies is a writer who has written for numerous publications including Vox, Wall Street Journal, and Architectural Digest and the parent of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel mix named Thea.