By Barbara Hey, Natural Solutions
I am living in a newly blended family consisting of two adults, four children, three cats, and two dogs. All the humans have issues–the adults too numerous to discuss, the teenagers what you’d expect (angst at the constrictions enforced by the parental regime), the younger kids the anxiety of displacement.
But as people we have an outlet for our issues: We talk. When that’s not enough, we turn to the battalion of therapists we see and we get to talk some more.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed that the creatures sharing our space seem out of sorts, too. The animals have been acting out–not by skipping school or piercing body parts, but with an exaggeration of their usual behaviors. One dog has grown clingy, the other withdrawn. Meanwhile, the cats have taken to hunting, leaving the body parts of small animals on the doorstep each morning.
I understand how they must feel with their territorial boundaries in flux, their sleeping spots usurped. But my patience reaches its limit when their distress leads to an unfortunate scent around the home, traceable to what is politely described as “elimination problems.” Something must be done.
In less forgiving times the solution for such unruly pets was to send them to the “farm” (to which my frisky Labrador retriever was dispatched in 1968, never to return). But these days, our pets are as much members of the family as our children are, and there’s no shortage of experts ready to offer advice, from trainers to behaviorists to “animal communicators.”
It’s this last category that intrigues me. I grew up watching Lassie (“I think she’s trying to tell us something”), and I need someone to help me get inside my animals’ heads and figure out what they need from me.
That’s exactly what animal communicators do, says Penelope Smith, who has been one since the 1970s and is the author of Animal Talk and When Animals Speak. “We’re born with the ability to communicate telepathically with animals, but it’s socialized out of us,” she says. Communicators are more tuned in to those abilities than the rest of us. With practice, many say they can hone their skills to the point where they can even work with animals over the phone.
It sounds far-fetched, but I am desperate. So I place a call to Kate Solisti-Mattelon. Based in Boulder, where I live, she and her energy healer husband, Patrice Mattelon, have been communing with animals professionally for nearly a decade. Kate is the author of the Conversations with Dog (and Cat and Horse) series. I ask for a home visit so she can meet the animals face to face.
First, there’s Sherlock the high-strung sheltie, who spends his time alternately sleeping, trying to herd me, or looking at me forlornly, in need of something he can’t articulate. Then there’s Lily, the smooth collie mix from the pound, who’s skittish around doorways, men, and golden retrievers. Lily’s anxiety has escalated to the point where she’ll only rest when she’s by my side. Neither dog will eat or play unless I watch, and both ooze apprehension.
While we’re on the phone, Kate tells me to speak to each animal and tell them, “Kate is coming to talk to you.” Lily listens attentively, Sherlock averts his gaze, the cats ignore me, and the kids think I’m nuts.
If I’m nuts, I tell them, then so was Saint Francis of Assisi, a plastic statue of whom stands in my backyard surrounded by tennis balls and chewed bones, and who is the most well-known animal communicator besides perhaps Dr. Dolittle. “All good animal communicators use telepathy, intuition, sensing, and feeling to understand each animal from the inside out,” Kate says.
I explain to Kate the situation that has five animals and six humans commingling in a small space. I tell her the names, ages, and stories of how each animal came into the family, but I focus on Lily, a dog born in puppy-mill country, fostered as a baby, and adopted, then relinquished within a year for reasons she’s not telling.