WATCH | Not everyone has the kind of professional epiphany that "Songs to Make Dogs Happy" co-creator Skip Haynes did while dining with musical collaborator Dana Walden in 1999.
"We were looking for a way to create music that was different and was fun," Haynes, the CEO of the Laurel Canyon Animal Company, told Circa. "And while we were sitting at the table, one of the locals' dogs looked at us, lifted his leg and peed on our table leg. And we both went, 'Music for dog lovers!'"
No strangers to the music industry
As silly as their concept may be, Haynes and Walden are music industry vets. An alum of the '70s rock trio Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, Haynes wrote their homage to a popular Chicago highway: "Lake Shore Drive."
Walden's no slouch, either
And Walden, a keyboardist for the band Champaign, penned the hit "How 'Bout Us," which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 6, 1981.
So, when the duo teamed up for "Songs to Make Dogs Happy," they wanted the help of what Haynes called a "real-life Dr. Doolittle." Haynes said he contacted self-described "animal communicator" Kim Ogden Avrutik after he'd seen her on ABC's "World News Tonight."
Admitting the songwriters "had no idea what we were doing" before (and perhaps during) the recording of that album for dogs, Haynes deferred in part to Ogden Avrutik, who he said presented early track demos to some 200 dogs.
"She put focus groups of dogs together to listen to the music," recalled Haynes, who's since worked with about a dozen more people who consider themselves animal communicators. "Based on the dogs’ responses, we created 'Songs to Make Dogs Happy.'"
The one comment that I remember from a dog at that session was 'I've heard better.' And I was like, 'Excuse me?'
According to Haynes, Ogden Avrutik said not every dog was a fan in the early going.
The songwriters were undaunted: "The basic rule that we got from the communicator was 'Dogs like happy,' so it's the happiest frickin' album we have ever done. It’s just, like, all grins."
WATCH | Arguably the biggest hit from "Songs to Make Dogs Happy" is "Squeaky Deaky." Making repeated use of a squeaky toy, the authorized upload of the song has more than 277,000 YouTube videos.
Spawning a YouTube trend
The song has inspired some YouTube users to upload videos of their listening dogs, several of whom appear to be hypnotized by the refrain (or at least the squeaks). This husky's head tilt may be telling.
This dog named Dylan may be wondering how a squeak toy fits inside that computer frame.
And this Havanese named Toby might be "Squeaky Deaky's" biggest fan of all.
"Fifty percent or more of the dogs that hear this song will react to it to the point where their owners are like, 'Wow!'" Haynes said. "This is like a call to action for dogs."
While some may consider the songs a novelty, sales aren't a joke. Haynes said he's sold 60,000 copies of "Songs to Make Dogs Happy" and grossed $150,000 along the way.
But the responses from dogs and their owners, he said, have been priceless.
Owners, veterinarians and shelter staffers rave
"We started getting letters and emails from people telling us, 'My dog was afraid of thunder ... This helps, you know, with being afraid of thunder' [and] 'My dog didn’t like to ride in the car, and now they don’t mind,'" Haynes said. "And we got people who tell us about how it helps separation anxiety. Then we started getting letters from shelters, because shelters all over the country use it to calm the [dogs]. We even got letters from vets, telling us it was helping dogs in recovery. So, we were, like, totally amazed."
Collaborating with Koko the gorilla
Laurel Canyon Animal Company also sells albums for birds, cats, dolphins and gorillas. Haynes said he was especially floored to collaborate with Koko, the western lowland gorilla who can communicate with humans through sign language, for the album "Fine Animal Gorilla." Noted Haynes, "That was like 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' for real."
So, when Koko signed a speech in December 2015 for the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, it inspired another song.
WATCH | "They asked [Koko] what her opinion was of man and climate change, and, now I'm paraphrasing her, [she replied], 'Koko man love, but man stupid,'" Haynes said. "So, we have a new song out called 'Man Stupid,' and it's about climate change."
The 'stupidest thing we've ever done'
More animal tunes are on the way. Haynes said the next release, slated for April, is likely a cat-friendly song, whose working title is "Lap It Up." Haynes admitted the whole gig is kind of absurd, but he finds beauty in that.
"When we’re doing albums like this, if my partner and I don't look at each other and start laughing uncontrollably, and go, 'Is this the stupidest thing we’ve ever done?', we don’t consider it a successful song."
WATCH | In New York, perhaps in search of another way to make dogs (and their owners) happy, BarkBox stages a monthly, canine-friendly comedy show called Open Bark Night.
WATCH | These dogs from the 2017 Westminster Dog Show possibly could have used "Songs to Make Dogs Happy" to stop them from yawning between competitions.
WATCH | In other Weird Jobs news, check out Circa's profile of food stylist Nir Adar, who's responsible for making some of the foods you see in ads look as delicious as possible.