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.

Animal Wise: The green-eyed monster

Photo by 9DamnedDogs on Foter.com : CC BY-NC-SA (1)

Got dogs vying for your attention? You’re not imagining it. (Photo by 9DamnedDogs on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA)

A University of California study gives scientific credence to what people who share their lives with dogs have known all along: Dogs get jealous.

The 2014 study by Christine R. Harris and Caroline Prouvost found that when their owners displayed affection toward an animatronic stuffed dog that barked, whined, and wagged its tail, the dogs snapped at and pushed against the stuffed dog and tried to get between it and their human. The 36 dogs were videotaped at their homes while their owners ignored them and interacted with a series of three objects: the stuffed dog, a children’s book, and a plastic jack-o-lantern.

The study looked only at small-breed dogs such as corgis, pugs, and dachshunds, apparently so the dogs would be easier to control if things got out of hand. One of my favorite sayings is, “The smaller the dog, the bigger the attitude,” but I’ve seen dogs of every size, breed, and temperament get their noses out of joint over having to compete for a human’s attention.

The dogs in this study were much more miffed by the stuffed dog, and more specifically the human’s interactions with it, than they were by the person reading aloud from the book or showering attention on the pumpkin. Being ignored in favor of an inanimate object is one thing. It was the social interaction of their owners with something so doglike that its butt had to be sniffed (which 86 percent of the dogs in the study did) that made the difference. The study was published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed online scientific journal.

So, how much of a problem is canine jealousy? Relatively little snapping was reported on the part of the dogs in this study. Since dogs are not inclined to hold grudges, it’s reasonable to assume that the next time you encounter the phrase “jealous rage,” it will not apply to a dog’s behavior.

Still, there is an important reminder here for maintaining a more just and happy household: There’s no substitute for one-on-one time.

If a friend’s dog is staying with us, Molly — our golden retriever/German shepherd/collie rescue with her share of issues — is fine with sharing her space and toys. But if my partner or I pet the guest dog, Molly wedges herself between us. This is when I make sure Molly gets just as much attention and lap time (yes, my 60-pound dog thinks she’s a lapdog) as she normally does. This makes her feel more secure and lets the visitor know where he stands.

It’s also not unusual for animals to feel threatened by the arrival of a new four-legged family member. Every time an animal joins or leaves a household or herd, that small civilization shifts. The rules and hierarchies are reset. This is especially true for cats, whose independence and territorial nature does not preclude forming strong bonds with other animals and humans. Spending some one-on-one time, even if it’s just a few minutes a day of play, walking, or snuggling, with each animal will help everyone (including you) feel fully loved and appreciated.

Of course, thanks to the power of the canine nose, a potential rival need not be present to  merit suspicion. When I go home after an in-person animal Reiki session or my rounds at Summit Equestrian Center, I can count on a thorough sniff-over from Molly. She gathers all kinds of data about where I’ve been and with whom. While she doesn’t entirely approve, generally within a few minutes she’s ready to move on to something else — going outside, angling for a treat, or making sure the UPS man knows the premises are protected. I still make sure she knows that even though I have been out working with other dogs (and cats, horses, pigs, sheep, etc.), I am happy to see her.

Like our previous dog, Ellie, Molly also has a knack for coming into the room and settling beside me when I’m sending distant Reiki energy to an animal, especially another dog. She doesn’t mind … but she doesn’t want to be left out, either. Fortunately, in the Reiki space, there is always enough to go around.