Here are Greg and Jimmy and Rusty, the centre of the experiment to coax some music out of the air on a canine receiving set

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 1, 1933.

“There are some things,” said Jimmie Frise, “I can hardly believe.”

“There’s lots like you,” I admitted.

“Now this item,” said Jim, “about the man in Jersey City who claims his dog is a radio receiving set.”

“It’s not long,” said I, “since people wouldn’t believe that even a receiving set was a receiving set. I remember the time The Star put on the first demonstration of radio, and crowds attended a great public meeting to hear radio transmitted ten city blocks.”

“But this guy,” said Jimmie, “his name is Frank G. Kerk. His address is given, too. He lives at 20 Linden Ave., Jersey City. One day he had trouble with his aerial. And he was up fixing it. He had his dog up with him. A Great Dane, named Frederick the Great.”

“A sort of consul model radio,” I said.

“Well, the aerial happened to get in Frederick’s way,” went on Jimmie, “and it touched his collar, which had a lot of metal on it. The dog instantly stiffened. Its hair stood on end. And a far-away look came into its eyes.”

“Maybe the radio was playing ‘Trees’,” I suggested.

“So,” said Jim, “Mr. Kerk, who is an alert man, left the dog standing there in that frozen attitude and got a pair of earphones. He attached the aerial to the dog’s tail and plugged the earphones in on the dog’s collar. And to his astonishment, he heard Amos ‘n’ Andy!”

“I can hear Amos ‘n’ Andy without any attachments at all,” I said. “I can hear it now.”

“To prove it,” said Jimmie, “Mr. Kerk stayed, tuned in, and he heard a whole sequence of programs.”

“I supposed he dialed around by twisting the dog’s tail?” I suggested.

“You don’t seem to realize what this means,” said Jim, a little pettishly. “Can’t you see what a wonderful thing it will be if we can go fishing and take Rusty along, hook piece of wire on his tail and a pair of earphones on to him, and there we sit, fishing to the latest music.”

Rusty is Jimmie’s Irish water spaniel.

“I thought you said you could scarcely believe it?” I said.

“I don’t, but I am going to experiment at once,” said Jim. “This discovery may ruin the radio industry, but it will create a tremendous boom in the dog market. The lonely Eskimo listening in on his husky. The lonely spinster tuned in on her poodle.”

“And the dog shows,” I put in. “Think of the annual dog show, with crowds going along admiring the tone of the different breeds.”

“Every tramp in the country,” said Jim, “with his radio trotting happily along at his heels.”

“It’s a great thing if it’s true,” I said.

“Sure, it’s true,” cried Jim. “This man Kerk demonstrated it before thousands. Engineers and scientists and everybody. From the time of his discovery, poor old Frederick the Great led a dog’s life. Every time there was company, and when the news spread there was plenty of company, the poor old hound was dragged out, plugged in and used for a radio. Can’t you imagine Aunt Emily, at 63, down on the floor with a set of earphones attached to the dog, twisting his tail in an effort to get Rudy Vallee! The only trouble was that every time Frederick would sit down to have a nice comfortable canine scratch, the air was filled with static.

“Kerk,” said Jimmie, “who was an amateur electrical experimenter, having succeeded in getting the dog wired for sound, then turned his attention to human beings. He began to experiment with himself and others, and before long he had himself rigged up so that he could listen to a radio program from, or through, himself. He rigged up an aerial grounded to a lightning arrestor, and brought the waves through a wire which he connected to a tuning coil in his bedroom. Lying on the bed, he found that he could hold a small coil of copper wire in his hand, to which the earphones were attached, and immediately hear a radio program.”

“Everything is getting cheaper,” I said. “But I went through that experimenting stage ten years ago. I’m not going to go fiddling with wires and coils any more. Let the professors do it and then I’ll buy one for a quarter.”

“In Long Island,” said Jimmy, reading from a clipping, “there is a chimney in a house which gives out the programs whenever the station is in operation, while at another home there is a tea kettle, which, when heated to a certain temperature, sings, not in the good old-fashioned tea kettle style, but the latest jazz and vo-do-de-o-do.”

“But about that dog,” I said. “I should think dogs had done enough for man without us dragging them into this modern age of mechanical miracles.”

“The dog,” said Jim, “has got to compete in this modern age, or be left behind. I say it is a great thing for dogs, this discovery. It brings the dog in tune with the times.”

“I can’t see old Rusty running around with an aerial sticking up from his tail,” I said. “Emitting music. It stands to reason that different kinds of dogs will be tuned in on different wave-lengths. What a din with all the dogs in the neighborhood! A wire-haired terrier on CFCA. A Russian wolf hound on a New York station with a soprano squealing along the street. A police dog with one of those detective thrillers!”

Anyway, Jimmie called me after supper to come over while he wired up Rusty.

Rusty is one of those dogs. You know. A hunting breed born to have adventures with a man in the wilds. And imprisoned for the period of his natural life in a city. He has a lot of excess energy which he has never had much opportunity to employ.

Jim had two earphone sets and a coil of aerial wire which we attached to the aerial on Jim’s house. The head-phones we wired to Rusty’s collar the way you fix the electric iron when it wears out. Pare a lot of little copper wires and wrap them around a knob.

We got Rusty to stay still by Jim lying on top of him while I wound the wire around his tail. Then we put his collar on and adjusted the head-phones.

“I hope it’s a good program,” said Jimmie, excitedly.

We listened.

All was silence.

Rusty wagged his tail and yawned.

Neither was transmitted.

“Maybe the connections aren’t perfect,” said Jim, but you could see he was deeply disappointed.

“Maybe Rusty’s hair is too curly,” I said. We tinkered with the wires, re-attached the aerial, the head-phone wires, but nothing was to be heard. Just the deaf feel of head-phones.

“I think,” said Jim, “we ought to plug it into the electric light socket. Let’s go inside and I’ll get the cord for the electric iron.”

He was preparing to rig the cord to Rusty’s collar when the bare end of the wire came in contact with the strings of my headset which, fortunately, I had laid on the floor. There was a flash, Jim and I leaped back, and Rusty let out a wild yell and dashed for the door.

“Jim was preparing to rig the cord to Rusty’s collar, when the base end of the wire came in contact with the strings of my headset. There was a flash and Rusty let out a wild yell and dashed for the door”
“Police!” roared the tall, long-legged lady as Rusty went roaring past

Letting out a whoop at every jump, and with head-phones yanked from our heads, dangling, and half of Jim’s aerial trailing, he headed out the door, down the steps and up the street.

Jim and I followed. It is a respectable neighborhood. Very few people are ever to be seen in it. Nobody ever sits on their front steps. Nevertheless, one elderly lady, with a good deal of gimp in her yet, it seems, was out observing her flowers growing, and as Rusty went tearing past howling, with Jim and me in hot pursuit, this tall and elderly lady let out a hoarse yell and joined in the chase.

“Murder!” she shouted. “Thieves!”

A uniformed chauffeur and two boys on bicycles joined.

“Police!” roared this tall, long-legged lady of one of our choicest residential districts. I think she was of English descent, of the sporting aristocracy or something.

Half a dozen men, boys and a few swift-footed girls joined. Poor old Rusty was half a block ahead, with his head turned to look back reproachfully at us.

It was a hopeless chase. We weakened. The tall, elderly lady caught up to us first. “You brutes!” she said. “Tying cans to a dog’s tail. A boy’s trick. At your age.”

“It’s my dog,” stated Jimmie.

“I’ll see you jailed for this,” said the tall lady fiercely. “I am acquainted with two magistrates.”

The rest of the crowd joined us.

“Lady,” said Jim, “we were simply conducting a scientific experiment.”

“Vivisectionists!” sneered the lady.

The crowd growled their sympathy.

“Why, that’s my dear old hunting dog,” cried Jimmie. “My old Rusty. I wouldn’t hurt him for the world.”

“Indeed,” said the tall lady, with far more feeling than if she had said “Oh yeah.” Try it some time.

We tried to walk off.

“Someone call the police,” said the lady, menacingly.

We heard Rusty going down the next street, so, having our second wind, Jim and I made a break and went down a side drive, vaulted a wire fence and intercepted Rusty by stepping on the aerial which brought him up with a final yelp.

We whipped off the wires, head-phones and aerial. We hid them under our coats. And we scrammed, as they say. With Rusty coming joyously with us once more.

By a roundabout route, we got to my place and hid in the cellar until it was dark.

“You know,” I said to Jim, “that tall, emotional lady was right, though she didn’t know why.”

“I suppose,” said Jim, taking fistfuls of Rusty’s loose hide and hauling it the way good men do with good dogs.

“I mean, what is the good of experiments?” I said. “What the world needs is more dogs and less excitement. It needs a lot more people just sitting doing nothing with a dog.”

“I guess so,” said Jim.

“We’ve got enough,” I concluded. “A man and a dog. Just sitting down anywhere. That’s enough, isn’t it? No music. No speeches or detective dramas. No experiments. No eagerness. No curiosity. No seeking.”

“Just peace,” said Jim.

“Just peace,” said I.

And when it was dark, we went out with Rusty into the garden and sat on barroom chairs where a bed of verbenas lets go a sweety, musty scent in the night.

Editor’s Notes: This is one of the earliest stories, so it is shorter and not does not follow their usual format.

Trees” is likely the song by Eddie Harkness and His Orchestra from 1928.

Amos ‘n’ Andy was a very popular radio program from the United States that aired from 1928 to 1960. It is more known now for racist stereotyping.

Rudy VallĂ©e is considered one of the first “crooners” and popular stars on the radio, thanks to the introduction of the microphone in the mid-1920s which resulted in more natural singing.

“Vo-do-de-o-do” was a meaningless refrain appearing in popular jazz songs of the 1920s and 1930s.