There was a delightful little animal boutique on Lark Street (Albany’s “Greenwich Village”—I think every city has one) called Barks on Lark. Cara, its owner, had a loyal following, and she was enthusiastic about having me come spend a Sunday talking with her customers and their dogs. The Lark Street area is full of old apartment buildings, and people can be found walking their dogs at all hours of the day or night. We set up an eight-hour visit for me to see twenty-two people in a row, and despite some concern about getting tired, I was enthusiastic. So often public events are held in hotel ballrooms or other locations which won’t allow animals, and I don’t have as many opportunities to interact in person with dogs as I’d like to.
The First Visit
My first visit was scheduled with two women and their chihuahua. A young woman who seemed uncomfortable arrived with the dog, letting me know that her partner was in Europe and wouldn’t be attending. She sat holding the dog under her coat, as I asked a few customary questions, for example, the dog’s age and how long she’d been with them. I added a couple more questions to make conversation, hoping to relax the atmosphere, which was feeling increasingly awkward. “Where’d he come from?” I asked innocently. “Binghamton”, she replied. “Was he in a shelter there?” “I’m not telling you THAT!” she answered, indignantly. I shrugged and mumbled something about just making conversation, and we continued, the atmosphere turning even more awkward. We talked about their dog’s behavior, and her and her partner’s concerns, and her responses were so spare and reluctantly given that I was becoming exasperated, ready to end the session, tell her it wasn’t working for me, see that she got her money back, and send her on her way. Then we got to talking about the dog’s behavior in the kitchen of their apartment, and what was going on with her emotionally, and the woman exclaimed, “Oh, so you’re not a fake!” I was stunned but amused rather than offended. “You thought I was a fake?” I was smiling by now. “Well, yeah,” she replied, implying her disbelief was to be expected. “I just figure all psychics are.” I was becoming more amused, my ego not threatened at all (surprise!) and I asked the obvious next question. “You paid money to see if I was a fake?” “My mom signed me up”, she replied.
The “Real Deal”
With that boulder out of the way, we finished our session. She and her dog left, and I moved on. Despite the awkwardness, there was a surprisingly happy ending. When I returned home that evening, Cara had shared with me responses she’d received from some of the people I’d spent time with that day. There was a message from my skeptical first client, which she’d posted on Facebook. It included a photograph of my brochure, and commentary describing the woman’s general disbelief in the authenticity of psychics. She continued, to say that I was the “real deal,” that I had given her information I couldn’t possibly have known, and that her sweet chihuahua had given me a “Four Paws Up” rating! It was a pleasant and unexpected response, and another person converted to believing that her dog talks and people can hear her.
I was at the home of a client in the late afternoon of a workday. My client breeds corgis, and there were a few that I spoke with, including a lovely female, whose name is Bloom. So, there was a long wooden bench with pretty thin-looking padding, but Bloom wanted to jump up on it. She’d go over to the bench and put her front paws on it, but that’s as far as she’d get. She didn’t know how to get her long corgi body to follow her front paws.
So, I communicated with her, making a little telepathic movie in my head, and showing it to her while describing the process she’d need to go through in order to get up on that bench.
I showed the movie and indicated what I was describing by showing her what to do. She needed to back up a few feet, move to the bench with some speed, and lift her front and back end simultaneously so all four paws landed on the bench, the rear ones following the front.
Later that evening, my client texted me a photo of Bloom sitting next to the client’s husband, at the far end of the sofa, actually. (Much more comfortable than the bench.) She told me that her girl had been jumping on and off the sofa like a child. When I told this story to a friend, she suggested that Bloom was practicing. I am more inclined to think that she was so excited by what she could do now that she was having a lot of fun doing it! It could be a bit of both.
She’s out in Arizona now, and she adopted a dog a few months ago who has turned out to be a handful. His name is Duke, and that’s the name he came with. I had a few sessions with him early on, and he’d settle down for a bit, but it never seemed to stick. Terrifying the cat, leaping over the gate and escaping, generally turning the household upside down. Annette hired a trainer, which was a good idea since the communication wasn’t enough to settle him down. Lots of great ideas, which met with a mixed response from Duke. So, Annette asked me to check in and see how he feels about the training. We set up an appointment, and all day before our phone call I kept getting this message that Duke needs a different name, that his name was too macho, and a contributing factor to his behavior. I was thinking of Teddy, something softer, like that. Annette says “How about Bennie? That was my Dad’s name.”
Well, we hung up the phone, and she texted me a few minutes later. She was in the kitchen and she called out “Bennie!, and doesn’t he come right to her from the living room! “Duke” had never been called Bennie before, yet he answered to it right away! She’s told me that the name change has resulted in changes in his behavior.
I had an interesting exchange the other day with a client regarding the words we animal caretakers use for euthanizing our beloved companions. She lamented the routine use of phrases such as “put him/her down,” and she asked me if I had any alternatives that sounded less harsh.
In writing a book about my experiences with animals over the last twenty years, I’ve had to give some thought to this question. The need for the use of a term comes up frequently when dealing with the question of whether an animal prefers to have assistance with his/her passing, or prefers to pass naturally on his/her own.
Phrases I prefer are of this nature:
Help her to leave her body.
Help him to let go of his body.
Help him to transition.
Assist them with letting go.
Helping to release them from their bodies.
These phrases mostly imply that there’s somewhere they will be going, which is consistent with my belief in an afterlife, for animals as well as humans.
And sometimes in my writing, I just use the formal word “euthanize,” for the sake of variety.
This is Roxanne. She belonged to an elementary school teacher and her husband. I met her in the summer when she had just a few months to live. Her family wanted to know how she was feeling, and what they could do to make her last days happy and comfortable. Kathy, Roxanne’s owner, had a lot of questions.
A: Doesn’t she want to go in the swimming pool anymore?
Q: Roxanne showed me that she wasn’t strong enough to get out of the pool, as the water would rush to her back legs and make them too heavy. She showed me the sprinkler, instead.
Q: Yes, we did that yesterday. She liked it! What about the boat? Would she like to go on the boat again?
A: Yes, Roxanne told me, she’d like to go on the boat one last time.
Q: What about our walks? She and I love to walk in the woods behind the house. Does she still want to do that?
A: She does want to go for walks, Roxanne told me, but she would rather go in front of the house, on the street, so she could see the people and the dogs that she knows in the neighborhood. And lastly:
Q: She’s been such a good friend to me. What else can I do for her now?
A: Roxanne’s answer was simple, and it was one I’ve heard before. Just be with me. Spend time with me. Hang out. Let’s just enjoy each other’s company and remember all the good times we had.
I wanted to thank you again for coming to my house and helping me with my dog. On Monday Roxanne passed away at our home in my arms. Luckily, she was doing ok up until Sunday night. Being the kind of dog/friend she was, she knew we could not have taken her to the vet; she did it on her own. As you had said, she just wanted to spend as much time as she could with me and that’s exactly what I did this summer. I took her for a short walk, brought her on our boat with my husband; hugged her, and gave her a LOT of love. I just wanted to let you know your thoughts really helped me this summer, and now in my sadness, they comfort me.
Some years ago I went to visit a client in Vermont. They had a dozen cats and one very sweet, older dog. They were concerned that the dog became really anxious during thunderstorms.
He showed me that the noise of the rain hitting the roof made him afraid that the roof was actually going to come off. I told him that it was very unlikely. I couldn’t say never; they lived in a trailer. I found myself telling him “It’s just nature expressing its power. You can express your power. Next time it rains, just go to the window, bark a couple of times, then go lay down and relax.”
So his mom contacted me some time after, and she told me that the next time it rained, he went to the window, barked a couple of times, then went and lay down. And he’s no longer afraid of thunderstorms.
At the end of August 2001, we moved to the woods at the top of a mountain. One day I was stacking wood and I saw a porcupine waddling down the trail in front of our house. I immediately went to an ecstatic place: I closed my eyes, connected, and said, ”Thank you for showing yourself to me. I’ve never seen a porcupine up close before.”
When I opened my eyes, the porcupine pivoted 90 degrees and started heading right up the entrance to our property, right toward me. He kept coming until he was about 30 feet from me, then veered off into the brush in front of our house. Although I didn’t experience communication in words, I felt he was telling me, “You’re welcome. I’ll come as close to you as I feel comfortable.” I never once felt fear of being harmed in any way.