What your pet is really trying to tell you

Inside the world of 'animal communicators'

  • Animal communicator Terri Diener with Cosmus, a cat who really, really wanted to be let ouside.
Animal communicator Terri Diener with Cosmus, a cat who really,… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
August 19, 2013|By Kristy MacKaben, For the Baltimore Sun

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About six months ago, Cosmus decided he wanted to be an outdoor cat.

At least, that was the determination of Terri Diener, a pet communicator in Mount Washington who says she had a telepathic chat with the 7-year-old feline. She also was able to suss out that he had previously announced this decision by urinating all over owner Nancy Fox's Linthicum house.

"I was kind of concerned, because letting animals outside is a little dangerous," says Fox, who sought out Diener's help. She pays the animal communicator $60 for a 30-minute session. "But she told him to stay away from cars and off the street."

Diener's work isn't recognized by many mainstream veterinarians. There's no professional association, and no regulatory agency conducts follow-ups with the animals to verify the accuracy of the findings. Yet there are hundreds of animal communicators like her across the country, as well as books, websites, blogs, workshops and courses.

The idea was novel a decade ago, when Animal Planet brought forth its series "The Pet Psychic." Now, practitioners and others say, animal communicators are increasingly common and visible. Just last month, on the Web series #CandidlyNicole, a pet psychic informed Nicole Richie that she and her dog, Iro, had been married in another life.

"I see my job as a clear interpreter for people and animals," Diener says, explaining that animals communicate in images. "They want to be seen and heard as much as we do."

Diener herself was converted after a positive experience with an animal communicator. When Diener's 15-year-old cat was leaving deposits outside the litter box, Philadelphia animal communicator Marlene Sandler told her that it was because he was allergic to Diener's new shampoo. Out went the shampoo — and the litterbox problems. Diener decided to take two workshops led by Sandler. Since then, she has written and self-published a book, "The Pets Speak," and teaches animal communication at the Community College of Baltimore County in Owings Mills.

Diener and other communicators find that animals (including dogs, cats, birds, lizards, horses and even fish) have strong opinions on diet, on territory, even on their names.

Carmine, a cat belonging to Kim Kaleta-Klein of Westminster, was constantly running away.

"This cat, to save my life, would never come to me. I'd call his name, and he'd just run away," Kaleta-Klein says.

She turned to Diener, who sat with Carmine and had a heart-to-heart. The problem? Carmine — named for Kaleta-Klein's favorite Italian restaurant — was not Carmine at all. He disliked the name.

Since changing his name, his owner says, Sam has become "the most responsive cat I've ever had."

No words need to be spoken to communicate with animals, Diener says. She sometimes meets with the animal and its owner at their home, but she also works over the phone. Clients from across the country send her photos of their animals and explain their problems.

"I have the people on the phone and I have a photo of the animal. I have the owners tune into the animal. It's all telepathic. It's like finding the telepathy highway in the atmosphere," Diener says. "The interaction is so internal. You don't have to vocalize words for the animal to get the thought."

The "telepathy highway" heads through the afterlife, too.

Fox was heartbroken three years ago by the death of her boxer, Sasha. So when she and her husband, Bob Fox Sr., adopted a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, she had a request for Diener.

"When Terri talked to the puppy, she asked if Sasha can come in and be part of her being," Fox says. "Abby Rose has all the aspects of Sasha."

If you have a tough time believing this, you're not alone.

Skeptical experts say that, as is the case with psychics, the problem with animal communication is it cannot or has not been proved or disproved. There aren't scientific studies or statistics.

"With animal communicators, it's dicey," says Joe Nickell, a paranormal investigator and senior research fellow for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, which investigates psychic claims. "Let's say there's basically two kinds of pet communicators. There are those who really believe they can do this. Then there are those who are aware they can't, but they are pretending."

In his writings on the subject, Nickell says pet psychics employ the same "cold reading" techniques that fortunetellers use to gather information from a source "while giving the impression it is obtained mystically." These include stating obvious facts, asking questions and making safe or vague statements.

By comparison, animal behaviorists say, communication with animals is accomplished through observation and empathy, not telepathy or psychic abilities.

They observe behaviors and signals, then interpret that information based on science. Understanding and recognizing body language and then rewarding for desired behaviors are key to communicating with animals.

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