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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

headstoneI’ve been pondering reincarnation .  .  .  I often talk to clients whose pets are dying.  I also hear from many who are missing a deceased pet.  In other words, it keeps coming up.  (Get it?  Reincarnation?  Keeps coming up?  Of course you do!  You’re very bright.)

Sometimes people wonder if their beloved might come back to them.  To these people I recommend visualizing that pet, then letting them know that you’d love to have them back.  After that I say, “now all you gotta do is be open, and pay attention.”  Simplistic?  Yeah.  Is it really an answer?

Yes and no.  How much of an answer do you want?

Online I notice an animal communicator who claims you can look at a pet and determine all of its incarnations, past and present, into perpetuity. She identifies the time of incarnation, the breed, color and so on.  While this is fascinating, and I believe her (I don’t sound like I do, do I?), I wonder what to make of it all.

I’m the kind of character who needs some mystery.  I love the magic of going into the Humane Society and seeing who speaks to me.  Last year, one after another, I brought home two cats that didn’t make any sense.  The first one elderly, ill and misshapen and the second, completely unwilling.  They both turned out to be exactly what we needed.

sepia dogI’m not the person I was when Chester and Maggie came into our lives almost 20 years ago.  In my mind, we did our work together and maybe those lessons are over.  Besides, if I’d set out to bring them back and re-create an experience, I’ve have missed out on Skittles, the Ambassador of Love and Gem, the Worst Cat in Probably the Entire World.

I love that we inherited those damn hermit crabs.  Jerry and Mimi are kooky and hilarious and I’m crazy about them.  Did I want them?  Nope.  But they’re doing something for me that I never expected.  It has something to do with being lighter in the world.

Then I think about the importance of having an experience, watching it end, and taking the time to digest it.  I think some folks–not all–are in such a hurry to clone their experience, did they see what they had in the first place?  I mean really see it, the way you do when a much-loved person passes?   Chester and Maggie left me with big, obvious messages that weren’t clear until they had passed.  If I’d gotten right on the phone and arranged for their return, I doubt I’d have integrated what they taught me.

I don’t know if I’m going about this pet reincarnation thing the right way for my clients.  But I do know that my method encourages people to be in the present and tend to what’s on their plates right now.  






Anna was a great dog.  Bossy, gorgeous, youthful.  A talker.  She lived with a single woman, but they’d recently been joined by the woman’s 20-something daughter, who’d returned to the fold after a brief marriage and painful divorce.

I met the dog and found her enchanting.  A canine in charge of her destiny, it seemed to me.  A strong personality: confident, amusing.

My daughter thinks I need another dog, the client told me.  She’s sure of it. Anna and my client had recently seen a second, beloved dog pass.  The daughter thought Anna was lonely and wanted a friend but the client was skeptical.

I don’t want another pet, she told me.  But I want to be sure.  Can you talk to Anna?

I talked to the dog.  She skirted all around the topic; she didn’t even want to talk about it!  On top of it she wouldn’t look at me.  She was avoiding the subject.

An animal companion just didn’t seem necessary but there was something else, something around the edges that asked for my attention.  I waited and soon the picture changed:

There was the daughter, just outside the screen in my head.  She faced the dog; her mom and Anna sat looking in the other direction.   I studied the pair and saw that they were content, self-contained.  There was no sense the picture might be incomplete.

I saw that Anna was very pleased with herself.  She was pleased with her life.

Oops!  There was the daughter’s hand, reaching into the frame.   I watched the girl take the dog and reposition her.  Just a little tweak, but still.  Turned the dog in her direction.  The dog looked annoyed, then shuffled her butt around until she’d reoriented to her person.

Now, my job was to look at the dog and technically we had the answer to the question, does Anna need an animal companion?  But Anna wanted me to see the source of the confusion and there it was.

lonelyI took a very cursory look at the daughter and saw she was lost.  Her movements were restless, distracted.  I could see there was something asking for her consideration but when it arose she’d begin to tinker with the dog once again.

I heard, denial. I remembered the young woman had recently divorced.  Then I saw she was the one who was missing something.

Aha!  Projection!   With some reluctance I contacted the client.  It’s not about Anna, I told her.  Your daughter is lonely and she’s projecting it on the dog.  Anna’s fine, I said.  In fact she likes that the two of you are these strong, confident single ladies together. She’s happy.

The client corroborated this.  I knew it! she told me.  She went on to say, my daughter’s been really sad lately, missing her family on the East Coast. She’d felt that Anna was content being the only pet but she just wanted to be sure she wasn’t missing anything.

Projection. We all do it.  But it can be very hard to see.







I go through entire periods when I have to tell people, this isn’t about your dog, it’s about you.  Sometimes, I get a scenario where it’s both. The dog does have a difficulty–often behavioral–and it interlocks in some way with an issue the human struggles with. Suddenly the pet reading becomes a relationship reading, and my challenge is to help the human understand that they have a part in the play. After all, they called me so I could help their pet change, but what happened?  What do you mean, it’s not about the dog?

Most people can hear me when I say, this is about your life.  Some can’t.  But it’s so common for a pet to call a family’s attention to their own stuff, that it’s worth heeding the words of the incomparable man-dog Cesar Millan.  From his article in the Huffington Post:

Any relationship with a dog needs to be grounded in reality .  .  .  Before you start looking for a dog — or when you start looking at the causes of your dog’s problems — you have to look at yourself first.

And: .  .  .  are there any emotional issues going on? Any family tension can upset a calm assertive balance, and a dog will pick up on such things.

He talks about how hard it can be for some people to understand this.  I think it’s really a reflection of a greater truth: that we attract into our lives what we are teaching and what we need to learn.

Our family members, friends, coworkers and pets all have something to show us, but maybe we really are all one.  Maybe each of these characters is a part of the Self, in need of recognition.

For the full article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cesar-millan/it-isnt-always-about-the-_b_2541801.html







Writer and cat-ologist Anne Rivers Siddons once plucked an enormously fat, stray, “clown-masked” cat out of a parking lot in her hometown, prompting a discussion of cat naming that I’ve never forgotten.  Proving the theory that some things simply name themselves, and from John Chancellor Makes Me Cry:

He was startling to look at, and to this day I get a small, fresh shock when he comes rolling into a room.  He is not a handsome cat.  He is magnificently obese in the Charles Laughton manner.  He has dainty feet and a truly unfortunate, short, ropy, possumlike tail.  His fur is a sort of rough Scotty brindle, so short and spiky that it separates into miniature, serrated Elizabethan ruffs around his short neck when he moves his cantaloupe-shaped head.  The fur sits on thick, loose skin that you can move around, with the result that he looks like something in an ill-fitting cat suit, but we can’t find the zipper.  His face is pretty and poignant, like a Rouault clown. From behind, when he is trotting along on his short, bowed legs and little mincing feet, with his belly swinging, he looks like Babe Ruth trotting around the bases.

I was instantly in his thrall.

Siddons and her beleaguered husband appropriated the enthusiastic stray, and then:









Duo ou Les deux frangins 1948, from www.rouault.org








.  .  .  I have a theory that if you name a newly acquired animal, be he gift or derelict, right away, you have made him yours, and that only a heartless brute would wrest him away from  you and take him to the Humane Society .  .  .  I have, over the years, collected a few names that I consider especially appropriate for the sort of cats we get around here–huge, massive, and epically unadorable-and I trotted them out.  “Wabash?”  I ventured.  “You know, as in Wabash Cannonball.’  Chairman Meow?  Rasputin?”

“Not right,” said Heyward, regarding the depths of his martini as if the name lay there somewhere.  “Try some more.”

“Well, we’ve never used Piedmont.  Palooka looks right, but  .  .  .  Cromwell, maybe.  That weird round head.  Bismarck?  That head was just made for one of those iron helmets with the thing on top of it.”

“No,”  said Heyward.  “Crossroads.  His name has got to be Crossroads and I have no idea why.”

As a clairvoyant, I have information coming in all day, every day.  A lot of it is emotion.  People think they feel their feelings in a vacuum but in reality all that stuff goes somewhere and I’m here to tell you, it’s everywhere.

Nothing rings my bells like being in a crowd:  all those messy feelings drifting around. The worst possible place is the cafeteria at my daughter’s elementary school and this makes perfect sense: kids live almost entirely in their emotional bodies until they are teens. Their feelings aren’t submerged like adults’ are, so the cafeteria is a riot of unrestrained feeling.

Then there are community gatherings–indoor or outdoor, being outside doesn’t necessarily dilute the energies–rock concerts, the company Christmas party, big sporting events and so forth. The common thread is mobs of people, but you can become overwhelmed with random emotional energy when you’re alone. It’s all about managing one’s space.

Just a month ago I learned a new tool, something they didn’t teach in school. Filters. It was introduced in casual conversation, a tool my intuitive friend had just learned.

Huh, I thought. I gotta remember that.

So a couple days later I asked to have filters around my space, that let in only information that was relevant to my life and that was useful. I noticed a difference immediately, a new kind of clarity. Information came in faster.

I realized I’d been sifting through piles of clutter to get to what I needed. Random stuff I didn’t have any use for, but I never knew it was there. It made a lifelong, constant background hum, how could I have known until it was gone?

Filters. A faster way to get to Point B.




Be careful how you interpret the world–it is like that.  Erich Heller

I’ve been thinking a lot about animals and the concepts of innocence and helplessness. Many of us extend ourselves to homeless pets and there’s a certain amount of powerless language involved.

After all, they were “abandoned”. We learn that they were “neglected”, or “abused”.  We “rescue” them. Even if we adopt a loving, carefree dog from the pound it’s easy to ask ourselves, darkly, “What kind of person gives up such a nice animal?”  As if there’s a sub-group of characters whose whole deal is to wander around collecting puppies and treated them poorly.

There are all kinds of reasons that people have to give up pets and why can’t some of them be good?  Our newest cat’s paperwork was matter of fact but it told me her previous person “saw” her.  That she was loved.  That she was an easy cat and circumstances prevented them from keeping her.

As we soon discovered, Gem had licked herself bald in areas and it had been going on since before she was relinquished.  Her fur has filled in and I think, that household was under a lot of stress.  Gem needed to find a new home and may in fact have facilitated that move by making it clear she was unhappy.

Again, there’s the idea that pets have some power over their own lives, which is a theme I examine again and again.

My husband once worked within the wildlife activist community. I happened to notice a sub-group that appeared to believe that humanity was out to destroy nature and even though it was a losing battle, the activists were going to educate the entire planet.  One human at a time.

It wasn’t possible to make small talk about  .  .  .  I don’t know, anything, without the conversation turning to all the terrible choices they assumed I–or anyone for that matter–was making, every day. You couldn’t talk about new babies or the weather without being reminded that we’re all doomed.

Of course these were pretty extreme characters but that was who I had to learn it from. There are calm, balanced animal activists but they had nothing to teach me.

Soon I recognized myself. Even though I felt helpless to intercede and I kept my thoughts to myself, I realized that I too saw the animal kingdom as powerless. Then I began to see the trouble with that mindset: you never run out of Tragic animals! They dart out in front of your car. Your next-door neighbor has one. If you’re really good at this, you have one.

They show up in the paper, busily failing to thrive at the zoo. They show up over there, half-dead in the mouth of a certain badly-behaved dog. DID YOU HEAR? HE WASN’T ON A LEASH. They panic from the bottom of your window well, but only after 5:00 on a Friday.  They forget to migrate.

You glance out the window, just in time to see a crippled animal lurching past. You don’t even have to try; if there’s a way for the Troubled and Tragic to die on your front lawn, they will find it. How do I know? Because when you’re chronically anxious about (fill in the blank), the Universe serves it up everywhere.

Now it wasn’t automatic and it wasn’t easy, but I began to think differently. I regained my sense of humor. I don’t see animals suffering everywhere like I used to. I can visit pets up for adoption and see their power and potential. I can work with clients whose pets are dying, and it’s natural and appropriate instead of an emergency.

You can’t communicate with animals if you can’t be relaxed and neutral–you’ll spend half your time trying to clear your own pain out of the conversation.




Jock Starts Talking

He was pretty easy but after awhile he began to talk.  It wasn’t exactly talking, it was a soft growl. Someone decided he was just communicating and it sure didn’t seem like a threat so things went on like that. I didn’t see him very often so it was of no consequence to me until later.

After awhile his person noticed he was doing that soft growling thing all the time. He did it with his head down in a submissive posture, but still.  Some people would get into his space and give him all kinds of energy when he did it and soon he did it more and more, in response to their coaxing.

After five years or so I began to spend more time with the family. Jock was always glad to see me and I would give him a good scritch, but as usual he growled and one day I decided I’d had enough, Katrina or no.

Hey man, I told him, if you growl at me I’m not going to pet you. I stood up and then I walked away.  He stayed where he was.   He seemed uncertain.

Every time I saw him he’d do the same thing.  Mostly people let him growl or even encouraged him so I knew I was in the minority but I kept after it.  One growl and I was done. Forget it, I’d say. I don’t pet dogs who growl at me.

In the meantime I was also interacting with his dog “sister”, a tiny bichon frise. “Jenny”.  Jenny had some dominance issues and would claim my lap or my foot and soon I was telling her to knock it off, too. She was deeply offended at my reprimands but I noticed she too was always happy to see me come in and I figured, I could either let these characters push me around or we could have a mutually happy relationship.

It took a couple of months before I noticed a difference.  Today I am greeted fondly by both the dogs but I am neither growled at nor dominated. Leaving everyone to enjoy the relationship.







He was big and red, short hair, one blue eye and one brown.  Plucked from the flood in New Orleans in August of 2005, Jock was athletic and impressive. Truly, he viewed like a veterinary anatomy lesson, the week they studied the musculature.

He came to Colorado in a big truck with a bunch of other characters; he was up for adoption in Boulder when my friend came upon him and soon he had a new home.

Shortly thereafter he told me his story:  his person in New Orleans was a young man who owned a salvage yard.  The man had a wife, a couple of kids and another dog that was smaller and black. Jock was meant to be a guard dog but he didn’t have the temperament for it: too congenial. Still, they kept him and he and the little dog became friends.

They had lived outdoors, in a biggish chain-link enclosure outside a modest, worn, one-story white house. Built in the 40’s or 50’s and the roof was green. When the water came Jock jumped onto the roof of a dog house but the little black dog drowned, pretty quick.  Jock missed him but in his dog way he got the magnitude of what was happening all around him; he told me lots of things died. Many people walked away from their pets in New Orleans and to Jock at least, this was unremarkable.

They found him in a tree.  He’d managed to swim a ways after the water cleared his enclosure. There was no shortage of trees in the neighborhood; he showed me how in his lumbering way he came upon a horizontal branch above the water then found there was another branch below the water line that he used to heave himself onto the branch.  If the tree had been smaller it wouldn’t have worked.

Who saved him?  He told me, there was a boat.  They had to coax and then force him; he wasn’t happy about any of it, not even them.  Two men in it and he heard them talking about what they’d seen.  They were happy to rescue him but he said they were sad. One of them kept crying.  

He showed me that they weren’t with a rescue organization.  Just two guys in a boat, trying to help.

Next Up: Jock Starts Talking




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