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Cam Marston on Doing the Dog Voice

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On today's Keepin' It Real, Cam Marston shares with us a ridiculous question he asks when he and his wife make new friends to help him get a feel for who they are.

When my wife and I meet new couples, there’s always a series of get to know you questions. “How did you two meet?” is a standard one. “Tell me about your children” is another, but a question I enjoy asking that tells me most of what I want to know about a couple is this: “Do you change your voice when you talk to your dog?” “Do you have a dog voice?”

If the couple says that they don’t have a dog, or that they only have cats, or that they don’t have a dog voice, I’m going to be on the fence about whether these people are worth getting to know. And I understand if you feel my position is an extreme rush to judgement over a silly “get to know you” question, and you’re right. It is. But there’s something about dog people and their admission to having a dog-voice that makes me think, “These people are just the right kind of crazy.”

I can tell when any member of my family is talking to our dog, Lucy. Each one of us has a distinct “Lucy-voice” and no two are the same. Lucy, of course, does not care what voice anyone uses so long as it leads to attention or a scratch or food or a walk.

A well-known part of Presidential polling is that Presidents, or Presidential candidates who have a dog, get increased favorability ratings because of the dog. People tend to like Presidents who have dogs. Remember the number of times Joe Biden was pictured with his beautiful German Shephard, Champ, during his campaign? Those two were all over the media, and that was no mistake. Champ got votes for Biden. According to an article on the Huffington Post, dogs make voters think, “He seems like a guy I could have a beer with,” and there’s probably some truth to that.

According to that same article, the first president in over 150 years who did not have a dog was the same guy who orders his steaks cooked well-done and then covers them in ketchup. You can guess who I’m talking about. Amazing what these preferences tell us about people, myself included.

At dinner the other night, I asked my dog voice question to a couple we’ve been friends with for a while. They did not answer “Yes” to the dog voice question, they immediately began talking in their dog voices about their dog. They didn’t think about it, they didn’t hesitate, they instantly replied in their dog voices and begin telling us about their English bulldog, Louise, and how they talk to her and how they treat her and on and on.

My wife joined in talking about our dog, Lucy, using her dog-voice, and the three of them talked for a while about their dogs, using their dog voices the whole time.

I observed, I said nothing, and I thought, “Now these people – including my wife – might just be on the other side of crazy.”

I’m Cam Marston, and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.