Well over a hundred years ago, a Russian physiologist started studying his dog, or “a dog.”

Well over a hundred years ago, a Russian physiologist started studying his dog, or “a dog.” A physiologist studies the functions of living organisms and how they all link up. As we all know, dogs can teach us a lot.

Ivan Pavlov studied the salivation of dogs, which sounds kind of messy. He figured out that dogs didn’t “learn” to salivate when they saw food; it was a reaction that was hard-wired into their brain. Through his research, Pavlov discovered that dogs would begin salivating when they saw or heard anything associated with food.

In his experiment, Pavlov rang a bell every time he gave the dog food. After doing this for a while, he tried just ringing the bell, and of course the dog started drooling all over the place. This slobbering to the bell was and is still called a “conditioned response.”

The bottom line was the dog heard the bell and started thinking about what it meant. He couldn’t control himself and starting watering at the mouth.

Having dogs, I understand this. The pantry door opens and one of my dogs bolts down the stairs. Dogs can hear the pantry door hinges from outside, even if you have just sprayed WD-40 all over them.

People are the same way. My Standard Poodle, Doolittle, is somewhat of a physiologist. Pavlov had his dog, Doolittle has his man. My dog has me conditioned. Anytime he rings or “bangs the bowl” with his paw, I come running to feed him.

You understand this if you’ve been around dogs. What’s interesting is my other little dog will come get Doolittle if she is hungry. She communicates with him and bosses him around. He rings the bowl for her, I put out the food and he watches as she eats.

It is educational to watch a 15 pound female poodle telling a 95 pound male poodle what to do. It is one of those moments that you call your teenaged son into the kitchen and ask him, “Do you understand?”

I won’t go there.

What do sounds and music mean to you?

When I hear the distinctive music of the Ice Cream Truck, it makes me want to immediately run to the street and wave money. I associate the music not only with my favorite ice cream truck treat (The Choco Taco), but also with happy children. I hear the music, I see the truck and I want to climb inside and pass out ice cream sandwiches and popsicles and rocket pops (while eating Choco Tacos).

When we’re sitting in a meeting or around a group of people and we hear a cell phone ring, we all reach for our cell phones. If we are at church and a cell phone goes off, we all quickly hit the off button on our phones and start looking around with the “It’s not mine” look.

These are conditioned responses.

While driving, if we hear a siren, we check our speed and the rearview mirror at the same time. After we conclude the situation is not about us, we are relieved and get out of the way.

Other sounds may be meaningful to you. If you’ve ever heard the sound of cicadas once, you won’t ever forget it. Sounds bring back memories. When you hear the sound, you stop and you think and you have a feeling.

The feeling may be so good that you start drooling like Pavlov’s dog.

When we hear some songs, we want to stand up or we are conditioned to stand up. When we hear the “Bridal Chorus” or “Here Comes the Bride,” we stand up expecting to see the bride walking down the aisle. When we hear “Hail to the Chief,” we stand up and expect to see a President. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” lets us know that it’s the middle of the seventh inning and we should stand up, sing and brush the peanut shells out of our laps.

Music goes a little bit further. Music can take you away. It can take you back to another time; let you see someone you once knew or perhaps just make you happy. Albert Einstein thought that music was the key to his becoming the genius he was. His performance in school was pitiful until his parents bought him a violin. The violin was his “tool” or calculator in deciphering various difficult equations.

The music helped him make sense of it all.

If it worked for Einstein, maybe music can do other things. As we know, it can and does. Researchers have conducted various studies to prove that music not only influences our emotions, but also stimulates our memories. They hook things up to your brain and watch what happens when certain songs and sounds are played.

The research probably involved some sort of colander helmet they put on your head with a lot of wires leading to a Batcave type panel with blinking colorful lights and computer monitors.

Thinking about Batman makes me think about the theme song to the original Batman television show of the 1960’s. I hear the theme song and I want to find a beach towel and a safety pin and put my cape on. It makes me feel happy, younger and maybe a little foolish (with the beach towel cape).

You hear those television show themes and they take you back to a different time, place or simply make you want to sit on the sofa and laugh (or cry).

Think about your favorites.

I love the themes from The Andy Griffith Show, Hawaii Five-0, Gilligan’s Island and Cheers. Hearing the Cheers theme makes you want to sing along and go to a place “where everybody knows your name.”

Some theme songs make us think of our children or being a child. The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Speed Racer all remind me of my childhood. I will sing along with the Mister Rogers Neighborhood theme song and when I hear it I want to put on a red cardigan and blue deck shoes.

On the other hand, when I hear the theme to Barney or Sesame Street, I want to pull my hair. I’m not sure why, it’s just a conditioned response. To this day, I have not been able to, nor will I ever be able to sit through more than 60 seconds of Sesame Street. I just can’t. We all have our preferences.

My favorite theme songs were from the western television shows and movies.

Bonanza, The Big Valley, Rawhide, The Rifleman and High Chaparral all just make my blood pump. When I hear the theme to The Big Valley, I run to the television hoping to get a glimpse of “Audra Barkley.” You may think she is Linda Evans, but she’s not. She is Audra Barkley. The way she tilted her head was just too much for a little boy. Audra will never age.


Why did I start thinking about all of this?

The other morning, I heard the theme to The Magnificent Seven coming from the den. I got excited. I ran into the den hoping to see Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and the other three fellows who made up THE Magnificent Seven. The movie from 1960 is one of my favorite westerns. The theme by Elmer Bernstein gets me pumped up and wanting to put on a simulated leather holster belt and find my cap pistol.

My heart sunk.

It was a sequel with the same theme song. It was about the “Magnificent Seven,” but not THE Magnificent Seven.

My conditioned response was rewarded with disappointment. Pavlov rang the bell, I salivated – but I didn’t get fed. I had to put my cap pistol back in the wooden toy box and put my cowboy boots back in the closet.

This goes to show you that “Just because you hear the music,” sometimes you don’t get what you were expecting.

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