Do you wish you could communicate with your beloved pets? Those in the know say it’s possible
ANIMAL STRAP WHISPERERS Ask anyone: if you love your pets, chances are you’d like to know how to improve your communication with them. Animal communicators, or whisperers, say it is possible to talk to animals and understand what they want to tell us. Ale
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise,” warns the Book of Proverbs. And indeed, if you were to stretch your telepathic feelers and listen carefully to what ants and other animals have to say, you could get more than just a lesson in work ethics.
Worldwide, a growing number of people are communicating telepathically with animals and other living beings, and so-called pet psychics get great exposure on television. In 2013, millions of viewers sat glued to their screens watching the documentary The Animal Communicator about controversial Cape animal communicator Anna Breytenbach and her interaction with wild animals.
A tall tale? A ruse? No, say the people within this field: communicating with animals is a natural, innate ability that modern humans, in our artificial environment, have unlearnt.
From sensing to counselling
Antjie Canning-Rogers, an animal communicator from Suurbraak (near Swellendam in the Western Cape), first discovered that animals communicate with her when she was in primary school. “The first time was when my cat, Nugget, contacted me in a dream. He was stuck somewhere and crying because he was in trouble. I was in the school hostel and called my mom that night from a pay phone to ask where Nugget was. She found him the next morning, caught in a trap.”
Antjie specialises in searching for missing animals, a challenge not all communicators would take on. “It’s challenging and emotionally exhausting. I’ve had to learn to distance myself from the owner’s emotions, as I need to be very quiet and in a good ‘space’ in order to communicate with the animal.”
Antjie also performs body scans to sense where animals experience pain or discomfort. Scientists and the man in the street remain sceptical, but more and more people are starting to recognise the possibilities. Antjie has had vets confirm what she perceives in the animals. She cites the example of a horse whose owner thought it was “lazy”. “I did a reading and got a funny feeling in the area of my heart. The next day, the vet confirmed that the horse had a heart murmur.”
Dr Anuska Viljoen is a holistic vet at the Mandala Health Veterinary Hospital in Sedgefield. She considers herself an empath who has always had the ability to feel the emotions of other beings, and uses animal communication as an extra tool in her practice.
“I also use very focused observation and try to connect to the animal in silence. In that way I gain more detailed knowledge than I would have if I simply listened to the owner.”
She communicates mainly with pets needing anaesthesia or who are confused and distressed when they wake up after it’s been administered. “I reassure them, telling them what I’m going to do and how it will feel, how the process will work and what the result will be. I sketch two scenarios: if you sit there quietly and co-operate, it will go faster and be less painful; if you fight against it, it’ll take longer and be awful for everyone. That makes a big difference.” >
Dr Tanya Grantham qualified as a conventional veterinarian and later studied alternative approaches. She opened the Animal Health Solutions Centre in Benoni, which focuses on the physical rehabilitation of dogs and cats after surgery and helps animals suffering from chronic pain through a combination of techniques, including acupuncture, light therapy, massage and hydrotherapy.
Tanya relies on an animal communicator who helps facilitate the transition between life and death. “She counsels the people and makes the transition easier for the animal. Animals don’t necessarily have a medical idea of what’s happening, but they can definitely tell us whether they’re ready to go or not. The more we acknowledge them as beings with feelings, the easier it is to respect their choice.”
In Tanya’s experience, purely scientific people are still not open to complementary or alternative therapies. “Everything must be validated by a specific method of experimentation. We are afraid of what we don’t yet clearly understand or what we can’t yet explain.”
Could everything have awareness?
Sceptics scorn the idea that it’s possible to communicate with an animal telepathically and from a distance. The main bone of contention is that communicators use a technique called cold reading – that they’re simply very skilled observers who can deduce enough from the circumstances and the owners or handlers to take gullible people for a ride with vague, general descriptions.
Unfortunately, the body of research in this field is still small and underfunded, and so-called psi phenomena (such as telepathy, teleportation or extrasensory perception) are very difficult to test in laboratory conditions. However, a recent review in the Parapsychology Journal of all the research to date shows a definite presence of animal psi, although its appearance is small, difficult to repeat and variable.
A possible explanation for telepathy lies in quantum physics and the phenomenon of entanglement, whereby quantum particles can correlate regardless of the physical distance between them. Albert Einstein called this phenomenon “spooky mechanics at a distance” – google it to find out more.
The debate is polarised between the believers and the sceptics, and is based on various assumptions about the capabilities and levels of awareness among animals. As Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Man had always assumed that he was smarter than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.”
Ever more research demonstrates the complexity of social intelligence, emotional awareness and even abstract thought in animals. Of course, it is controversial, because it affects all aspects of our humanity, from how we see ourselves and our place in the universe to how we interact with the environment and other life forms around us.
It’s perhaps thanks to Disney and fairy tales that most people would accept their pets or dolphins, elephants and horses to possess some form of consciousness. But if you start believing that all the pesky buggers like ants, flies, and even the mould on your bread or the dust mites in your mattress have their own specific awareness and wisdom, then you’re opening a hornet’s nest of ethical and moral dilemmas. And it doesn’t end there. Several philosophers and scientists are seriously reconsidering the concept of panpsychism, the idea that literally everything in the universe has awareness – from the thorn in your
shoe to your stubborn smartphone or your car keys that are once again missing. Each form of consciousness would of course differ from our own.
Kate Muller, an animal communicator and artist from Cape Town who also writes and illustrates children’s books with conservation themes, agrees: “You can communicate with anything – everything has awareness. Our interaction is with energy and life, and you can communicate with all of life: the earth, plants, mountains, animals, even species or groups of animals. It’s about finding out how you receive intuitive information as an individual.”
People receive this information in different ways – through visual images, sounds, smells, tastes, through physical observations in their own body, or even by hearing voices. A communicator then interprets this information, much like an interpreter does, to make it understandable to others.
“In her research she has encountered many farmers who communicate telepathically with the various organisms on their farms and are pushing the boundaries by finding creative solutions in harmony with nature.”
Dr Saskia von Diest is a postdoctoral researcher who did her PhD in integrated plant pathology and is now conducting research in intuitive decision-making in agriculture at the University of Stellenbosch. She was very sceptical when she first came across the concept of telepathic communication. “According to my world view at the time, it definitely wasn’t possible – I was very proud of how rational and scientific I was.”
Her first workshop with the internationally renowned animal communicator Anna Breytenbach was a turning point. “I communicated with a cat using a photograph someone brought to the workshop.” She asked the cat about its favourite spot in the house and saw a very clear picture of a broad windowsill with a purple cushion on it next to a pot plant with bright flowers. There was a dusty rosecoloured upright wingback chair with a crocheted blanket on which a tall and slim elderly person was seated, moving his or her one hand – it seemed to her it could be a writer. “I verified all this with the person who brought the photo and they confirmed everything. I was blown away, especially about how accurate the details were.” According to Saskia, the photo works a bit like a phone number for the animal you want >
to talk to – it helps you to tune into their specific frequency.
Saskia believes the main advantage of telepathic communication is that it puts us back in touch with our environment. “After that weekend I never felt alone again. Almost every person, especially those of us living in the Western world, suffers from separation sickness. It’s this separation between ourselves and nature that lies at the root of most of our suffering.”
She recounts how a farmer’s perspective can change when he sees himself as an organism of the farm rather than above and separate from it. In her research she has encountered many farmers who communicate telepathically with the various organisms on their farms and are pushing the boundaries by finding creative solutions in harmony with nature.
Another sticking point for critics is that interspecies communication is based on anthropomorphism – the attribution of human traits and emotions to animals.
Animal communicator and author Jenny Shone says that’s not at all what it’s about. “Animals have their own emotions and wisdom. By thinking they are like people, you do them a disservice.” According to her you learn how to communicate telepathically with animals by first learning to quiet your own mind. “From this quiet space we can learn to feel and recognise how animals feel and what they’re trying to say.”
Jenny always gives her clients some background on how the communication works, as well as practical advice and exercises. “It’s essential to empower people with principles and some techniques so they can work with their animals.”
Kate Muller says people usually ask her for help with the behavioral issues and health of their pets. She also helps animals with transitions, preparing them to move or emigrate, for example, and to come to terms with terminal illness and death.
She stresses that animal communication is not a quick fix but a part of a loving relationship, the same as with people. “Perhaps you as owner also
“If, for example, your dog has run away and you’re angry and anxious while calling him back, you’re not exactly radiating a feeling anyone would want to return to.”
need to work on a few bad habits. In a communication session an animal can raise the issue so you can learn to understand each other better.”
Her advice is to treat your animals with the premise that they can understand you. Also have confidence in what you feel coming from them. “Send a clear message and create the picture in your head, together with the words you say and the emotion you
want to convey. If you’re worried, that will be the main idea you communicate. If, for example, your dog has run away and you’re angry and anxious while calling him back, you’re not exactly radiating a feeling anyone would want to return to.”
An animal communicator is definitely not a substitute for a vet or for good food, exercise, enough attention, discipline and proper training.
Trainer and dog behaviour expert Amanda de Wet of ZimZala K9 Estate outside Stellenbosch believes animal communication is a reality, but it takes practice, like any new skill or language. She tells of her experience with her flatcoated retriever Pastis, who was ill with cancer (at the time not yet diagnosed).
“She’d start trembling sometimes and her teeth would chatter. It got increasingly worse. Then one day I became really still and asked: ‘Paps, what’s wrong; why are you trembling like this?’ I received a clear answer, not verbally, but it conveyed the concept of, ‘I’m afraid.’ I asked what about and again got the answer: ‘Of passing on’.”
Amanda reassured her there was nothing to be afraid of. “She became peaceful, and that was the last time she got so stressed. She then entered a very happy, playful period and we enjoyed a wonderful last few months together.”
How does it work and how much does it cost?
Some animal communicators come to your home in the animal’s natural environment. Most work well over a distance (via email, Skype or the phone) and usually ask you to provide a photograph, the animal’s name and the issues that need to be addressed or the questions you want to ask, for example: Are you happy in our house? Do you have any pain? What do you think of the new baby/dog/cat?
Locally, consultations cost between R500 and R1 000 per session. This includes a pre-session with the client; communication with the animal, which could take anything from 20 minutes up to 2 hours (or longer for missing animals); and feedback, which is also provided by email, Skype or phone.
According to Jenny Shone, the most important characteristic of a good communicator is a strong ethical code. “Every communicator has their own way of working, and the client must feel comfortable with it.”
Tanya Grantham recommends prospective clients do their homework. Ask around, find out about the communicator and get references from other customers. There is talk of a guild or body for South African animal communicators, but one hasn’t been established yet.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to be gullible,” says Anuska Viljoen. “Unfortunately, there are con artists who pretend to be animal communicators – or animal homeopaths or healers – who do it just for the money and not for the right reasons. People should learn to trust their intuition. If something feels right for you and you think it can help, then do it; if it doesn’t feel right, stay away.” She encourages people to check credentials. “A lot of letters after someone’s name doesn’t mean they necessarily have the qualifications and experience in the service for which they’re charging you.”
Amanda de Wet of ZimZala K9 Estate lost two dogs, Pastis and Liquorice, to cancer in a short time. Here she is with Liquorice shortly before her death in March 2016.
Dr Saskia von Diest, photographed on the farm Remeker in the Netherlands after an interview with an intuitive farmer who communicates with his cows. The farm, which recently switched to biodynamic farming, is the only one in the Netherlands that, since...
Jenny Shone and Patricia the alpaca, who was once invited as a guest speaker to one of Jenny’s workshops.
Dr Tanya Grantham with her bullmastiff Arnie.
ABOVE Dr Anuska Viljoen adopted Jessica when her previous owner wanted to have her put down. TOP Antjie Canning-Rogers and her horse Pegasus, which she adopted from Dassenberg Rescue.