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Talk to the Kitty! part II

b & w kittyLaurie’s kitty was depressed.  Her life had changed dramatically.  To make things worse, one of her humans said disrespectful things about the cat, right in front of her.

Laurie doesn’t know what to do.  Talk to the kitty, I say.  Tell Kitty your husband is just talking.  And while you’re at it, I continue, you might tell him to knock it off.  It’s got her worried.     

Soon it becomes apparent that Laurie needs me to demonstrate.  So I start yapping.  Hey Kitty!  I say.  I notice you’re hiding a lot; you’re picking at yourself and you seem a little depressed.  

There’s more.  There’s so much going on in the house right now.  We moved into this new place but it wasn’t right for us.  All these strange guys are fixing it so it will work for our family.  They’ll be finished soon.  These things are stressful for a kitty!  No wonder you’re not yourself.  

And about my husband Arturo (this is totally a fake name): don’t listen to him.  Arturo says dumb things but he doesn’t mean them.  Besides, I love you and you’re my kitty.  This is your home and it will be for the rest of your life–no matter what. 

Fast forward one week:  Laurie comes into the work room and announces, “I talked to Kitty!”

mousieThe short version is this:  Almost immediately the cat hauled out her toys and began to play, something she hadn’t done in a long time.  She also promptly chucked up a hairball on Arturo’s sweater.

A week later she’s venturing out from under the bed, and her fur is filling in! Overall, Kitty is more cheerful and relaxed.  Arturo is totally skeptical but even he can’t deny, Kitty’s different.

Laurie?  She tells me she talks to Kitty all the time now.  She’s got the kids talking to the cat and last week, when Kitty spit up on something of Laurie’s, Arturo joked, “why don’t you talk to her?”

Laurie’s latest homework is to tell Kitty all the things she loves and admires about the cat.  You need to tell her why she’s so great, I say.  Everyone likes to be appreciated!  


Talk to the Kitty!


I’m at the elementary school, volunteering like I do. In the work room.  No kids. Just moms and dads, and teachers drifting in and out.

Laurie and I get to talking (names changed to protect the innocent).  She’s this great, easy, young mom at school. I learn her house is under a heavy remodel. She has a 16-year-old cat who licks herself bald and barfs a lot.

guy-1-1167030-mThe story goes on.  What with one thing and another I figure out that Mr. Laurie doesn’t like cats, and he doesn’t like barf.  I guess he stepped on one of Kitty’s many hairballs .  .  .  Yeah–so?  I stepped on a gall bladder one time, that used to belong to a mouse.  I was barefoot and hadn’t had my coffee.  Did it hurt me?  It did not.

He says lots of things like, “after the cat dies [fill in with how it’s going to be better“].  He says this in front of the cat.

How rude!

grinning dogNow, I get this.  Many people are not cat people.  There’s a level of Some Things Cannot Be Explained that cats require.  But a cat’s not going to come and ask for your appreciation, while slobbering and grinning.  The act of slobbering and grinning kind of sums up Dog, in my mind.  Who wanders around going, “wow, dogs sure are mysterious!”?  Yeah, no one.  But cats–they’re inscrutable, and some people need to scrute.

But back to our story.  Looking at Laurie’s predicament, I see a resistant husband, a recent move, a bunch of strange guys making dreadful noises and youngish children.  All roads led to licking and hiding under the bed.

These things have to be handled delicately.  So a few volunteer hours tick by and finally it’s time to say, “have you told the cat what’s going on?”  Laurie blinks. She doesn’t know what I mean.  I say to her, ” I mean, have you told the cat what’s going on?”

She says, “How do I do that?”

Next Up:  Talk to the Kitty! Part II







young-men-with-dogs-771203-mAt last Rosie had the right name.  Still, there were a few other things to discuss.

This woman had another dog that was close to her husband.  She’d wanted Rosie to be “her” dog and she was a little anxious about it.  Not only was the dog ignoring her person, she was also physically distant, aloof.

Well I told her, you’ve only had Rosie a month.  I recommended she talk to Rosie, let her know she could take her time and settle in.  You’ve got to give her room to be herself, I said.  You can’t really make her be something for you, I said. Just love her.  Give her time.  Something else occurred to me, though.

Say, I said to the client, don’t you foster dogs?   She did.  Not only did she foster them, but Rosie was a former foster who had proven too irresistible to send back to the pound.  They’d been looking for a companion for their aging border collie, Ray.  This was their choice.

I wondered, had they told Rosie they were keeping her?  That she was in her forever home?

The client seemed surprised.  She didn’t know if she’d said anything or not.  How do I tell her? she kept asking me.  That surprised me.

The kind of people who call me: I tend to assume they natter away at their pets like I do, but everyone has their own style.  Just say it! I told her.  Talk to her like you’d talk to your husband.  Rosie sat up very straight on the screen in my head.  She stared at me, as if she was looking for something.  So I told her.

pound-puppies-1145747-mRosie, I said, did you know Anne and David are planning on keeping you?  You don’t ever have to go back to the Humane Society!  I said. You don’t ever have to go back to the people who couldn’t see you.  This is your home now–

Rosie’s person interrupted me.  “Katie!” she said.  “She’s lying on her back, with all four legs in the air!”

I laughed.  Did she usually do that?  As it turned out, she didn’t.  The client had never seen it.  The dog was completely relaxed, her mouth slack and her eyes rolling back in her copper-colored head.

A few days later I got the big news: not only had Rosie begun to respond to her name, but right after we hung up she started to follow my client around.  She cuddled; she smiled.  Apparently, she was at peace.






red-dog-218510-mShe was a dear dog.  They were dear people.  Adopted at 12 years, she was a good fit for their family but there was just one thing: she didn’t respond to her name.  Ever.  They’d had her a month and wasn’t that long enough for her to get used to it?

In theory it might be but I only knew one way to find out what was going on, and that was to ask.

The pound had named her Rachel.

I introduced myself the day before our appointment.  Her picture revealed a slightly stocky, 40-pound, copper-colored dog of no determinate breed.  She had a kind face. Rachel.  It didn’t seem right; somehow it didn’t fit but was it just me?

The Dog-Who-Wouldn’t-Be-Rachel was matter-of-fact.  “That’s a person’s name,” she said flatly.  “I want the right name.”  Before I even talked to her person, I offered up a few names that weren’t so “person-y”.  Peanut was the winner, though Penny placed.  Betsy was coolly received.  I liked Ladybug but it made her eyebrows go up.  What was that about?

The client wanted to know what the dog’s name was before she went to the pound.  It turned out to be something like Emily, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  It didn’t matter; the dog waved it off.  In her former life she’d lived with a family that was perfectly nice.  She was well cared for as evidenced by her sparkling dental work, close-smile-127380-mbut they didn’t really “see” her.  She was a very specific character, thank you, and if it was all the same she wanted to be called something that fit who she was.  She told me the person at the pound hadn’t even stopped to look.  He just scrawled her name on a paper.

He’d had facial hair.  He was thinking about his plans for the evening.

Hm.  Rachel was out and Emily was out.  She wanted a name that fit, that wasn’t a person’s name.

We fell silent for a bit.

After awhile I asked the client, did she have any idea what she would call this dog, if she’d had no name at all?

The woman produced a name at once:  Rosie.  She went on to say the dog reminded her so much of her friend’s dog when she was a girl, a dog she’d loved very much.  I turned to the dog; would she like to be called Rosie?

This was the biggest hit of all; the dog beamed at me.  She wagged.  She wiggled.  “Rosie it is!” I said to the client.  “Go for it.”

Next Up:  Animal Communication Plays the Name Game, part II





True Love

Oh, Stanley . . .

laughing dogReturning clients needed a touch-up on their 5-ish lab mix.  Stanley.

I skimmed the email and I thought, oh, it’s just a training problem!  I’ll be there 5 minutes  then I’ll give them a referral. 

Now, this is an ego problem.   My ego was “helping” me see I wasn’t really qualified and rather than embarrass myself by doing a bunch of voodoo and failing, I should assume the problem was pack leadership.  I could give them the name of a trainer, then I could get out.

In the clairvoyant realms we call the ego the Analyzer, for those of you that enjoy career-specific terminology.  But for practical purposes we’ll just stick with ego, shall we?  The ego can solve your problem in 5 minutes, just watch!  The ego has seen it all, heard it all and if you’ll just go with it–for God’s sake, are you even listening–?  Focus!  The ego will do all the pedaling!  All you have to do is balance on the handle bars!

It’s a really rickety way to work and it only gets you to Point B about half the time.

Now, I’m not a dog trainer as we will soon discover.   With that in mind, this was the deal:  Stanley greets the family guests with a round of manic barking, garnished with a bit of jumping.  Then he dashes to the sofa, jumps on board and sits waiting for the hapless guest to attend to him.  If the guest doesn’t comply?  More barking, while everybody waits expectantly for the guest to kiss the ring.  Yep.  He barks at the couple that he lives with, too.  Just barks and barks.

dog on couchMy ego provided a diagnosis.  Damn dog, she concluded.  She showed me an obnoxious, entitled, control-freak, slightly stupid pet.  Sure, there could be an initial cause, but really he was barking because he needed to be trained.

I don’t know, I thought.  I furrowed my brow. I remember a nice enough dog.  Interesting, even.  

The ego ignored me. Hair disheveled, pencil behind the ear and furiously poring over a list of the usual causal factors, I watched the ego deconstruct the barking.

Ugh, that list.  It’s got about 4 factors on it:  not enough exercise, someone needs a doctor, food stinks, blahblah neighbor cat.  It’s not an interesting list; I feel kind of snoozy thinking about it.

The ego was satisfied.  She tapped impatiently at her list.  Yep, it’s gonna be one of these things, then training.  The dog needs training.  We’re not trainers, the ego insisted. WE WON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.  Five minutes, the ego said, tossing her hair.  She stalked off.

I wavered, then I told myself: I trust the pet to tell me the truth.

The client?  She wouldn’t have contacted me if I couldn’t help.

So what happened?  We ran a little over our five minutes; I was there an hour and a half.

I walked in and Stanley did his thing.  He jumped, he retreated, he hopped onto the couch.  He barked, insistently.

sitting dog staringI said oh, you gotta be kidding.  I stared at him.  No way am I going to pet a dog that yells at me.  That is not cool.  His mouth clapped shut.  There was a pause. Then, he got off the couch.  He came to me.  He sat.  He waited.

Well!  I stood there, then the client invited me to sit down and read.  It was about halfway through the reading that I looked clairvoyantly at the dog, all expectant and barking on the sofa, I saw the look on his face and I understood about neutrality and the ego.

The dog wasn’t a control freak, nor was he stupid.  What he was doing, was trying to make them laugh.  The look on his face, bless him, was joyful and open and silly; he was trying to lighten everybody up, in a household that could benefit from that!  It was misguided, for sure, but it was honest and sweet and he was giving it all he had.  He barked at his people for other reasons, but his controlling behavior was really meant to be therapeutic.

I talked to the client about the need to control the guest thing. Put the dog in another room, don’t let him out until he stops yelling.  Tell him what you’re doing. Look, I told her, this dog is so smart, you can make up another, more pleasant job and get him going in a different direction.   

Intelligent dogs, and working breeds–if you don’t give them something to do, they’ll often make something up.  More often than not, you won’t like it.

Much of the rest of the reading focused on one of the humans, who needed to make better sense of her self and her role in the family.  As usual, it wasn’t really about the dog, but without neutrality, I wouldn’t have seen it.



teacup poodleI almost missed her.  I was so determined to find a gossip rag and have me a quick catch-up, I almost did.   Then I turned around and there she was.

Nellie was sitting on her human’s lap in the dentist’s office, all tricked out in a service vest.  A teacup poodle, she tipped the scales at just under 4 pounds.  She was a lovely, natural redhead who needed a wee trim around the bangs: there and there.  How the hell did they find a vest that small?

Nellie was smiling at me.  I prepared to squeal with delight–quietly; it was a dentist’s office–but then I stopped short and asked the teenage girl, “I bet you want me to leave her alone, don’t you?”  The girl, shy and sweet and muffled in some kind of orthodontic apparatus, shook her head and said, itth okay so away we went.

children's hospitalHer name was Nellie and she was four pounds of awesome. Right around a year, kind as the day is long and cute cute cute cute cute. She put her paws on my knee and communicated furiously that it was remarkable luck to meet such a high quality person on this day of days.

I’m intuitive; I’m pretty sure she meant it.

While all this was going on she gave me a pretty thorough bath.  That was one tiny tongue.  The perfect amount of saliva.  A soupçon of moisture, who could object?

I admired her hair color and she administered some service.  As much as a service dog on level 2 of like 90 levels can offer.  She was a natural, though. In my head I saw Nellie fully trained.  I saw that she was very proud of her work.

We oogled at each other.  A dental assistant drifted past, smiling. “I already got my therapy,” she announced, airily.  We watched her go by.  I didn’t smile back.  She was interrupting my session.  What kind of —

I looked down at Nellie.  She’d tipped over and was waiting for a belly rub.  It didn’t seem like part of our agreement but as I patted her it became apparent we were still in therapy.

Nellie was meant to be their pet, but then a key player in the family had an accident.  They took her to the hospital for visiting hours and even as a puppy she surprised them by hunkering down next to the Patient and staying still for hours.  This of course was such un-puppy like behavior that they began to consider she might be up for a job.  When we met, Nellie was at the beginning of her training.

Her goal?  Apparently, it’s to lick and cuddle patients at Children’s Hospital in Denver.  A perfect gig for a little peach-colored poodle.

In the meantime, her people are trying to fatten her up so her vest will fit better.





Pet Reincarnation, Redux

st francisMore and more people seek advice for re-connecting with pets who have passed.  Many hope their dog or cat or horse might come back to them, and wonder how to facilitate the reunion.

As my two cats passed in 2010, I spent significant time regaling them with memories from our 16 years together, then told them if they wanted to do it again, we’d be thrilled to have them back.

Some experts claim to know exactly when, where and how an animal will reincarnate.  They might tell you the date, the location and the body to look for.  I’m more likely to tell you to visualize the pet, invite it back and then pay attention.  But after that, I believe it’s really up to the animal.

Years ago I read a metal-colored whippet.  He was eccentric, energetic, opinionated and more likely to give me direction than to take direction from me.  Now and then I get a pet that turns out to be a teacher; this dude was like that.

horse spainAs he was getting ready to pass I told his person, just tell him you’d love to have him back if he was so inclined.  But as we talked he butted in noisily:  he was planning on coming back, thank you, but as a horse.  In Spain.

Another client, a young-ish cat, told me yes, the cancer was distressing but on the other hand he’d accomplished what he came for, and that was to help his person launch an important artistic endeavor.  Once she was off the ground, he told me, he wanted to leave so he could come back–again as a cat–and work with a boy.  Ten years old.  No one his person knew.  He was clear; he would not be coming back into her life and I so I told her that.

I think she found peace with his decision.  She was also comforted to know he wasn’t all that bothered by the cancer, it was really just a way to transition so he could go on to his next project.

Since our cats passed we’ve acquired two others.  One died and now we have Gem, who clearly isn’t Chester.  Nor is she Maggie.  Will we see either one of them again in this lifetime?  Beats me.  I continue to pay attention, but I also know, if they want to come back they are fully capable of finding us.




Fum and Gebra at Play

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