Animal communicator Dr. Kim Ogden-Avrutik created a CD of songs just for dogs called "Ask the Animals -- Songs to Make Dogs Happy!" She tells Living on Earth host Steve Curwood how she researched what songs to use and which ones received the canine paw of approval.
[MUSIC: Rex Harrison "Talk to the Animals" Doctor Doolittle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Philips) 1997]
CURWOOD: If we could talk to the animals. Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy, as well, have starred in Hollywood-renditions of a fable about a veterinarian who could talk, even sing, with his furry and feathered friends, sparking the imaginations of many people who wished they could do the same in real life.
Kim Ogden-Avrutik says she can. Dr. Kim, as she prefers to be called, makes her living listening to what animals have to say to help their owners solve their pet problems. She was asked to help put together a CD of music that dogs would like to hear and after a year spent researching and conducting canine-focus groups, she and her producers came up with "Ask the Animals--Songs To Make Dogs Happy!" Dr. Kim, welcome to Living on Earth.
OGDEN: Thank you, Steve, delighted to be here.
CURWOOD: Now, you describe yourself as an animal communicator. What's that?
Dr. Kim interviews a canine participant of a focus group. (Photo courtesy of The Laurel Canyon Animal Company.)
OGDEN: It is a person who talks with animals just like Dr. Doolittle. And, there are three ways that animals communicate. They send me their thoughts, they send me their feelings, and though it may be hard for some people to understand, animals are wonderful at sending mental pictures to me when I focus my attention and my thought on them.
CURWOOD: Can you do this with other people, as well?
OGDEN: Oh, Steve, I don't try on people. My whole life is for animals. I don't know, I don't want to know what the people are thinking. The animals keep me busy enough. Uh-um.
CURWOOD: How did you find out when you were a child that you could communicate with animals?
OGDEN: Oh, I heard them.
CURWOOD: What did they say?
OGDEN: Well, you know, I would hear, I would hear things like I'm hungry, without them actually barking. And I'd look around the room, you know, when I was young and see that, you know, it was only the dog and me. Different things like that. Actually, I went through my whole childhood not letting anybody know that I could do this. I just thought that I was a weird little kid.
CURWOOD: Now, you were instrumental in making the new CD, "Songs to Make Dogs Happy!" What's the need for such a CD?
OGDEN: There are a lot of bored dogs in the United States. And, what happens to these dogs is they almost get frantic when their people leave for work. And, I heard so many situations where dogs were chewing on walls, dogs were pulling down curtains, dogs were eating glass...
CURWOOD: Eating glass?
OGDEN: Eating glass. This is very expensive for their owners, you know, when they eat glass because they need to have operations. So, it began to dawn in my consciousness that these animals needed some kind of help. And, when Skip Haynes and Dana Walden from the Laurel Canyon Animal Company gave me a call to see if I wanted to be an animal communicator for this CD, I immediately jumped at the chance because I knew there was such a need for this type of thing.
CURWOOD: Alright. It's time now to fire up the old CD player here. So, let's play a song from "Songs to Make Dogs Happy!" How about "I Love Food." What will dogs like about this song? Let's hear it first.
[MUSIC WITH LYRICS]: I want some food. I need some food. Don't mean to be rude. I love food. What's for dinner? What's for dinner? Make it a winner. Make it a winner. Make it taste good. Make it taste good. Like good food should. Like good food should. I'm hungry, can't wait. I'm hungry...
CURWOOD: What do dogs like about this song?
OGDEN: Oh, they like a lot of things. They love the mention of food [LAUGHS]. They love that! And, of course, you know, we had the little food sounds in the background. Oh, they like that, they respond to that. You see, it gives them something happy to think about while their owners are gone and then it develops a sense of, you know, anticipation. 'Oh, I'm going to get fed,' you know, by the time their people get home. They like that one.
CURWOOD: And, the dogs have quite a vocabulary. So, words like "winner" dogs understand?
OGDEN: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, Steve, it may be hard for people to believe this but there have actually been words, and I say this in all seriousness now, I've done this for a lot of years and talked with thousands of animals, this is the blow away part. There have been animals that have used words that I, with my doctorate degree, have had to look up in the dictionary.
CURWOOD: [LAUGHS] You're kidding.
OGDEN: No, no, I will never forget, this one word was "homeostasis."
CURWOOD: Excuse me?
OGDEN: I had...yes! yes, homeostasis, I had no idea. I'm like, 'how do they know this? How do they know these words?' And, I have to tell you, I have my own theory on that. I don't know for sure, but this is my theory. Why shouldn't they know that? You know, they say that as humans we use only nine percent of our brain and look what we do; we do marvelous things. We build bridges, we build skyscrapers, we develop communications systems. We must be plugged into a higher mentality somewhere along the line, okay? It can't all just be our brain. So, why shouldn't the animals be plugged into that same higher knowledge, higher source? Why not?
CURWOOD: Now, how did you choose the music for this CD?
OGDEN: It began with interviews with 125 dogs where I asked them what topics they would like to hear in a song. Like say, for being outside. I sent them a picture of an open space with very green grass and trees in full bloom and I said, "would you like to hear a song about being outside?" For hearing that my human loves me, I sent a picture to the dog of their guardian looking down to them and saying, "I love you." For throwing a ball, I showed a guardian tossing a red baseball-sized ball for the dog to fetch or chase.
I selected about 15 of these topics and I asked 125 dogs and you know, we took this very seriously. I got percentages on everything, you know, and hearing that my human loves me, oh that was high, that was like 93 percent. Telling my human I love them was 92 percent. Hearing a song about eating food, that was 87 percent and that blew me away because more dogs wanted to tell their humans that they loved them rather than hearing about food.