Marilyn Tomlin '74: Music to my (puppy) ears

By Ivey Slowoski

Grady is a beautiful, athletic calico cat with a royal demeanor and a screeching meow that makes nails on chalkboards seem like chamber music. She hates to be picked up. She’d just as soon scratch your nose as look at you most days, but when she’s in the mood, she’ll curl up in your lap and reward you with a quiet purr and a contented smile. My teenage daughter, her alleged owner, adores her. So, for the daughter’s birthday, we had the cat musically immortalized.

Marilyn Tomlin ‘74 wrote an original song about the sovereign hellcat, describing Grady’s quirky charms in an Elton John-like style. Accompanying her own smooth voice on the piano, Tomlin cut the song on a CD and packaged it with a watercolor portrait of our fiery feline, painted by Pat Jackson, Tomlin’s friend and business partner. The whole “kitten”-caboodle was ready in time for my daughter’s birthday celebration.

Tomlin studied piano at Puget Sound and is an experienced musician and performer. An ad exec for KING-FM in Seattle, she learned a deep truth—that people who love their pets need outlets for their affection. And she has turned this discovery into a side business, providing doting humans a way to pay special tribute to their animals, in a country, pop, or over-the-top show tune.

When we first heard Grady’s song, it touched us so much that both my daughter and I cried. Tomlin had captured Grady’s persnickety but lovable personality to a T. It’s one of the things that Tomlin enjoys most about this unique business in which she combines her feelings for animals and her creative talents. “It’s so important to follow your passions and have outlets for self-expression, whether it’s your job or a hobby,” she says. “I love it when people say, ‘You nailed it.’ “

Tomlin looks forward to building her business, named PuppingTunes after her own dog, Gloriana Puppington (Miss August on the 2004 Humane Society Calendar), into a full-time gig. She’s appeared at events such as Canine Fest in Puyallup, where she performed a song she wrote for a featured dog wedding. Recently she’s enjoyed exposure in Seattle magazine, on local TV and radio stations, including KING-5 and KKNW-AM, and several California radio and cable stations.

Although she specializes in pets, Tomlin also does PeopleTunes, usually as gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and special events.
Tomlin says she’s always been able to make rhymes just pop out of her head. After she learns as much as she can about her subject and lets it ruminate a while, the songs usually pour out all at once. Then she’ll run it by the client before recording it in a studio.

To hear Grady’s song and other samples of Tomlin’s work, go to And keep a hanky handy.