“I wish I could stay here with you,” says actor Jessica Raine. Her voice is Caramel Bunny delicious, low and soft. “But you don’t need to worry about that … take the opportunity to chill out, focus on you.” She is not talking to me, though: she is talking to Oscar, my surly whippet, on Spotify’s newly released My Dog’s Favourite Podcast.
There are two episodes, each five hours long, aiming to provide dogs with a relaxing aural comfort blanket when their owners are out. The podcasts combine soothing speech, specially composed ambient music and a background soundscape (birdsong, a washing machine and ironing).
“A lot of dogs are not getting enough rest,” says Alex Benjamin, a psychologist at the University of York who advised the producers. “Dogs should be spending a lot of their day relaxing and sleeping.”
I would estimate 99% of Oscar’s life is rest. Could he possibly relax more? Would that even be safe? When I press play, he is in his usual position: motionless, 98% concealed inside his bed. I poke my phone under a corner of it. The music is reminiscent of an upmarket spa. Raine’s narration is gently undulating, mesmeric, as she lists dog breeds and tells us how “the spirit of the wolf has stayed strong in your heart”. I find it very restful; Oscar’s toes, the only part of him that I can see, appear relaxed.
“It’s the kind of voice you might use if you were encouraging a small child to go to sleep,” explains Benjamin (she is the author of a study on how pooches prefer naturalistic “dog-speak”). “Nothing too squeaky and exciting.”
Episode 2 is voiced by Ralph Ineson: his voice is rasping and deep, like being licked gently by a Bernese mountain dog. I skip forward. “I’m thinking about words like serendipity,” says Ineson. “Susurration. Mellifluous. Embrocation.”
Being an actor is the weirdest job. Oscar hasn’t moved a muscle, but he didn’t move a muscle when I fell downstairs either. I peer into his bed. He stares at me blankly. After a few more minutes, I turn off: Oscar shifts slightly and his head briefly emerges. Does that mean the podcast works? Possibly. I am certainly thinking of using it for my insomnia. I am a good girl.