Please: NOT His Master’s Voice!

His master’s voice: RCA Victor

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember this image associated with “RCA Victor”. The faithful dog cocks his head in recognition of his master’s voice, such true audio fidelity that Fido thinks the leader of his small pack is inside the fluted speaker of the record player.

You get the sense from this image that, for this dog, the experience of hearing a familiar voice is not unpleasant. He’s obviously attentive, drawn in close , curious.

Well not so our dog. It happens every time he hears my voice coming from the radio (back before WVTF ended its long history of airing contributor essays) or just now, as I was downloading the recorded voice messages to myself off my Olympus DS2 digital recorder.

As soon as I turn up the volume to hear what I said, the dog starts bounding up on his hind legs at the back door, frantic to get as far as he can from his master’s voice. Anybody else have such puppy paranoia to tell of? What do you suppose weirds him out about this?

Back some months ago when I reported a similar canine behavior when high-pitched chat message alarms went off, I thought maybe it was frequency. Maybe it hurt his ears. Now I know I don’t have the most soothing voice in the world, but surely it isn’t physical pain he’s avoiding. What goes on in a dog’s mind–you gotta wonder.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I had a dog long ago (as a child). We could not get the dog to come home unless we yelled “Cookie” or even “Oreo” out the door. Our neighbors thought this was the dog’s name, but it was not.

    Now I have cats. They do as they please but will sometimes show a streak of obedience when it fits their schedule. I try endlessly anyway. Naivity it the cornerstone of my existence.

  2. Our dogs don’t like thunder. They put up with all kinds of weird noises, but thunder? Nope. The cats? They could care less… except our one cat who has a chocolate passion. I used to eat Hostess Cupcakes (individually wrapped) and wherever she was in the house she would SHOOT right up into my face the minute she heard the crinkle of the wrapper!

  3. How loudly do you play your essays? If louder than your normal voice, maybe Tsug’ is having a Pavlovian reaction to your “raised voice”?