You'd have to be a psychic to answer some of the questions on the minds of pet owners.
"I have a friend who is in a miserable situation with her cat. She inherited it from a man who's now in jail and shejust can't seem to get along with it," says one woman. "What should she do?"
Another man asks, "We have a Siamese cat that's been diagnosed ashaving the HIV virus. What can we do to help?"
Others ask why their kitten is afraid of the veterinarian and why their dogs eat their own "stools."
And perhaps a paramount question for any animal owner: "Do they mind being spayed?"
For Lydia Hiby, an "animal psychic" from Riverside, Calif., who spoke to about 80 people Friday at the Howard Community College auditorium, the questions are not new or even unusual.
At some time or another, she's had to ask them of everyTom, Dick and canary.
"I've talked to a lobster, a tarantula, a boa constrictor and a butterfly in England," Hiby said in an interviewbefore her lecture.
"I even tried to talk to ants once, although they didn't have a lot to say."
Hiby professes to use ESP to communicate with animals ranging from killer whales to birds to horses, anunusual talent that has put her in demand throughout the country.
More than 20 pet owners visited her Sunday at the home of a wildliferefuge member to ask her to communicate with their animals.
Hiby gave Friday's lecture at the invitation of the Columbia-based CamelotWildlife Refuge, which provides care for Maryland's sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
"We had to turn people away on Sunday," said Vicki Vaughan, who helped coordinate Hiby's visit to the area. "She just didn't have enough time to talk to every animal that showed up."
Hiby, 33, a former animal health technician, said her approach to animal communication is a simple one that focuses on pictures rather than words.
For instance, when asking a dog what its favorite foodis, "I try to picture them with an empty bowl in front of them, and I ask in a very enthusiastic way, 'What's your favorite thing to eat?' and I'll get a picture or pictures in my head," Hiby said.
"It'slike a movie going on in your own mind."
Most dogs, she said, don't say they're crazy about dog food. A lot of them say they like pizza, Hiby said.
Friday's program was originally scheduled to be at the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Columbia, but the location was changed to accommodate a larger-than-expected crowd.
Ironically,most animals had to be excluded because the change was made at the last minute and no one was sure if the pets would be allowed in HCC campus buildings.
Hiby did put on a brief demonstration using an assist dog that had accompanied a disabled woman to the program.
"She(the dog) loves ice cream and she says you have plans to go on a bigtrip," Hiby said after looking at the dog for a few seconds.
Right on both counts, said the black Labrador's owner, who expects to visit her brother out of state next month.
"Anyone can do this. We'reall blessed with this gift," said Hiby, who also uses ESP in an attempt to communicate with coma patients and autistic children.
She also teaches classes for those interested in trying to learn the ESP technique.
As for the commonly asked questions about animals, Hiby doesn't hedge about giving specific answers.
Most horse owners askher whether horses enjoy being ridden by humans, and Hiby said 95 percent of those she has spoken to "say they love to be ridden by theirowners."
Animals frequently will eat their own stools because they can't differentiate between them and normal sugar.
Also, there is a sense of, "I just want to be bad," said Hiby with a laugh.
Andfor those who are worried about having their animals spayed, Hiby gave this advice:
"They tell me that they really don't mind it. It seems they don't need all that extra hormonal activity, because they really don't understand what it is."