Animal communication: too much to believe?

pixabay woman & dog water's edge
(Image by coffy from Pixabay)

As a practicing animal communicator who is also a longtime skeptical journalist, I get it. To believe we can communicate telepathically with animals can be a stretch. To believe it can happen at a distance, without benefit of phone or WiFi, is even more challenging.

In an age of science, and when we have to be careful who we trust, is this not appropriate? I say it’s very appropriate.

So why would anyone even consider that communicating with animals is possible … or work with an animal communicator in order to help a pet?

It comes down to why we believe in anything: our lived experience, the credible evidence we see, and what we stand to gain.

1976 Garlocks' lake home w Lassie & Mugsy the kitten I found
This is me at age 9 with a friend’s collie, Lassie; and a tiger kitten who’d happened by that morning. I called her Mugsy. Though I don’t remember specifics, I know I talked with both of them. Mugsy followed me around for the rest of the day.

Been there, done that

As a young person, I spent a lot of energy hiding — or shutting down — my sensitivity. I did so in order to survive bullying and generally function in the world. I still communicated with animals, but knew better than to call it that.

Like most journalists of my generation, I learned to seek reliable sources and verify everything. “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” was the motto. I prided myself on getting the facts right, spelled correctly, and presented with perfect grammar and Associated Press style. (I still do.)

When I was about 40, my cat Idgie developed inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism, and crippling anxiety. She received good veterinary care, but at the same time, my intuition was beginning to open back up. I knew there had to be more I could do.

There were “pet psychics” on TV, but I never thought much about them. Then I heard about someone in my own small Midwestern city who did intuitive work with animals — an animal communicator, she was called. Almost before I knew what was happening, I’d emailed her about my cat and signed up for the next class.

We learned. We practiced sending and receiving information telepathically with one another. Each of us then did a distant communication with an animal whose species, age, and gender we were told, with a specific question to be addressed. 

I was stunned at the accuracy of the information I received. Holy crap, I knew this was real, but now it was tried-and-tested-real.

My cat and I began some tentative, yet heartening talks about trust, needed changes, and giving ourselves a chance. Her physical challenges continued, but there was a profound shift in the way we both viewed them. She felt heard in a new way, and we were able to move forward with more faith and less fear.

I moved through the intermediate and advanced animal communication classes over the next couple of years. We brought in photos and communicated with one another’s animal companions. We did an in-person communication with a dog our instructor brought in. Afterward, on my own, I practiced connecting with other animals.

This discipline is much more “practice” than “woo,” I discovered. I had this natural ability, but I had to use and develop it in order to truly help animals and their people. Which, I increasingly realized, was something I very much wanted to do.

Tell me something good

Most of my clients are referred by others who have worked with me and found it helpful. Credible word of mouth beats Yelp any day. 

Show me the science, you say? Here are a few relatively recent studies indicating there’s more to interspecies communication than previously thought. As always, judge for yourself. Also recognize that we may be just scratching the surface in this field.

Dogs understand what we say and how we say it, Hungarian scientists found. They trained a group of family dogs to enter an MRI machine and scanned the way their brains responded to not only words but their tone. 

Two books reviewed in the Christian Science Monitor further delve into research on how attuned our canine companions are to our emotions, speech, and behavior. 

Cats react to the sound of their names, according to a group of Japanese scientists. 

Goats prefer positive human facial expressions, says a UK-based study. 

• Not to be outdone, 23 horses were taught by Norwegian researchers to express their needs using symbol boards.

What use is this?

In a training session at one of the newspapers where I worked, the presenter said the WGASA principle must be considered in every story we write or publish. WGASA stands for (and I am paraphrasing here): Who gives a shilling, anyway? In other words, the information we gather and present has to be relevant and useful to our readers.

It’s the same with animal communication. Maybe your animal friend has a seemingly intractable behavior problem, or you are facing a gut-wrenching end-of-life decision. An animal communicator should, at the very least, provide a compassionate “second set of eyes” on the issue.

Moreover, if you’ve chosen a reputable animal communicator whose approach resonates with you, chances are good you’ll gain something useful. It might be a tip you can act on immediately, such as moving the litter box or taking five minutes after dinner every night to toss a tennis ball for your dog. Working with an animal communicator can also yield insights about whether your dog feels a proposed surgery would help, or why your cat doesn’t like your new gentleman caller. 

All of these things help you to have a better understanding of your animal friend, and vice versa. The result is less frustration and anxiety, and more peace of mind for all.

Is talking with animals too much to believe? You decide.

When life doesn’t make sense, bees do

When your mom hauls you across the country to live with your grandparents, then takes to her bed, not a lot in life makes sense. Fortunately, Meredith May’s eccentric and wise grandfather introduced her to a world that did: his honeybee hives.

img_0109San Francisco journalist and fifth-generation beekeeper May weaves these worlds together in The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees (Park Row Books, 2019).

May arrived at her grandparents’ Carmel Valley, California home with her mother and younger brother at age five after her parents’ abrupt separation in the 1970s. From the moment they arrived, the honey bus — a rusty old military bus where Grandpa made honey — was an object of fascination, then solace and inspiration for young Meredith. The more she learned about bees, the more she admired their social intelligence.

Bees could see a problem coming and start making a change before it became serious and they perished. If their hive became overcrowded or unsafe, they took initiative to move to someplace better. … Bees had enough brainpower to envision a better life, and then go out and get it.

As the months turned into years, Mom remained in bed, emerging just long enough to rain generations’ worth of emotional and physical abuse on her daughter. Grandma and Grandpa took up the slack of raising two children. As far as the reader knows, Grandma rarely held Mom accountable for anything and never encouraged her to get treatment for what was obviously crippling mental illness. (Granted, a doctor in the 1970s may have prescribed tranquilizers and called it a day.)

Grandpa, who seemed to see the situation more accurately than anyone else in the house, advised May to stay out of her mother’s way and forge her own path. This she did, helping her grandfather tend his many hives and make honey while excelling in school and discovering what she could do. Only as May was about to leave for college did her mother offer a glimpse of context for what she had endured.

While I couldn’t help feeling sad and frustrated about the behavior of many of the adults, May’s journalistic acumen and the bees keep this from being just another dysfunctional family memoir. Grandpa used the bees as examples of a more constructive way to behave — through caring, shared decision making, and commitment to community.

He reminded us that bees live for a purpose far grander than themselves, each of their small contributions combining to create collective strength. Rather than withdrawing from the daunting task of living, as our mother had done, honeybees make themselves essential through their generosity.

This worthwhile memoir sheds a personal and cultural light on honeybees today as we consider how to treat them, and one another, with more generosity.

Four things to know before hiring an animal communicator

1996 Idgie - yes, I knocked it over copy

A mischievous kitten might have some valuable insights for you. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

Most people who contact me for an animal communication session are trying to solve a problem — a seemingly intractable behavior issue, adjustment to change, or painful end-of-life concerns. I’m sure many of them never thought they’d consult an animal communicator — what is animal communication, anyway? — but here we are.

It’s hard to make decisions when you’re upset, dealing with a million other things, or both … so here are a few points to consider.

1. You’re already on the right track.

Considering a discipline based on listening to the animal and his or her needs means you are willing to listen and learn. Maybe animal communication is a new concept, but you love your animal. You’re willing to at least think “outside the box” in order to help.

Even if you decide working with an animal communicator is not the right move at this time, you’ll be closer to finding what will help. So stop, take a breath, and give yourself credit for this alone. 

2. Do your homework AND trust your gut.

Referrals from people and businesses you trust are time-honored for a reason. You can also contact local metaphysical shops. Some, like Catalpa Tree Shops in northeast Indiana, maintain directories of healing arts practitioners. A worldwide directory of animal communicators, with paid listings and ads, is on Penelope Smith’s Animal Talk website.  (I am not currently listed here, as I did not find it especially helpful before, but you never know.)

Whether you get an animal communicator’s name from a friend, directory, or random Google search, spend some time on his or her website and/or social media pages. Pay attention to how you feel as you read. Are you calmer, or more anxious? Clearer or more confused? Does the person follow the Code of Ethics for Interspecies Telepathic Communicators, or any other code of ethics or guiding principles?

3. No one is 100 percent accurate.

I am human and can’t do everything perfectly. With God’s guidance and my own self-care, I can be present, clear, and helpful to the animal and his or her family. Any animal communicator claiming 100 percent accuracy is probably best avoided.

4. What you can learn will almost certainly be worth the investment.

There are no guarantees in this line of work. However, if you’ve chosen a communicator with whom you feel comfortable, chances are very good that you’ll find a valuable takeaway. It could be information you can act on immediately, such as moving the litter box to a quieter place or telling your horse where you’re going as you’re loading. It could be insight into how your animal views her place in your household, or his feelings and needs as his life on earth is drawing to a close.

Animals see our gifts and struggles in a way that even the humans closest to us cannot, so you may even learn something about yourself. Nothing is ever lost by listening.