Analyst Lydia Hiby tells of a conversation with a young patient named Charlie about his first venture out of a very sheltered existence.
He met three co-eds and one screamed, “Oh, my God! A snake!”
Perhaps a normal reaction to an unexpected meeting with a 5-foot boa constrictor, but still very unsettling to Charlie.
Until that time, you see, Charlie said he was unaware he was a snake or, for that matter, even what a snake was.
“His owner didn’t treat him like a snake,” Hiby said. “He lived in her room, slept in her bed and she took him everywhere in her handbag.
“So, naturally Charlie was confused about his identity,” Hiby said.
“Sounds incredible doesn’t it? But that’s what he told me.”
That’s what he told her? Lydia Hiby talks to snakes and they talk back?
Sure, she said, snakes and a lot of other animals, both wild and domestic. Hiby, 31, is an animal analyst and explained that these conversations don’t take place in what we would consider the conventional form (you know, with lips moving and hands gesturing), but rather through mental images, or ESP if you will.
And before you start thinking that Hiby is riding through life without stirrups, understand that a number of veterinarians call on her to help them with diagnoses.
“She’s no hoax,” said veterinarian Bob Anderson of the Polk Veterinary Clinic near Salem, Ore. “She has a definite ability to communicate with animals.”
Even veterinarians who are basically skeptical are hard put to explain her accomplishments. V.G. Keating of the Mount Hood Veterinary Hospital in Oregon, for example. “I’m of the modern Western (medical-technological) mind set,” he said, “and from that point of view (her talking with animals) is hard to prove. On the other hand, I’ve treated animals that she has diagnosed and the diagnosis was clearly accurate.”
Hiby, a licensed animal health technician, emphasizes that her role as a diagnostician is supplementary to--and never a substitute for--a good veterinarian. In lectures and personal dealings with animal owners, she always stresses that having a good animal doctor on call is as important to pets as having a good family doctor is to humans.
Hiby has been close to animals since her childhood in New York, and while she said she had early on practiced her gift of communicating with them, it wasn’t until a few years ago that she realized its implications and turned it into a career.
“My mother says that as a child I would come to her and say, ‘The dog says . . . ' or ‘The cat says. . . .’ She never said that wasn’t possible or discouraged me in any way,” Hiby recalled.
After receiving her associate degree in animal science from New York State University, she took a job as a groom at Four Seasons horse farm in New Jersey and met the person who would change her life--Beatrice Lydecker, the internationally known author of “What the Animals Tell Me” and “Stories the Animals Tell Me.”
Lydecker had been hired to work her nonverbal, mental-image training techniques on the 48 horses stabled at Four Seasons.
“I remained in the background, very skeptical,” Hiby said. “I thought she was a real con artist.
“But after the readings, Beatrice took me aside and said, ‘You still don’t believe me, do you?’ She then proceeded to pick out the 11 horses I personally cared for and told me things about them she couldn’t have known.
“While I was still skeptical, I decided to attend some of her classes and it was there I realized I had always had the (ability) myself to communicate with animals.”
Lydecker was so impressed with Hiby that she asked her to become an associate, and the two traveled around the world for about 3 years lecturing, consulting and teaching classes. They appeared on a number of television and radio programs, both here and in Europe, including the David Letterman show.
The partnership ended last year after several years of living and working in Oregon. Lydecker became interested in helping autistic children, and Hiby decided to move to Southern California and continue working with animals. Although she now resides in Riverside, much of her work is done in Orange County, and she said she is planning to open a consulting service here. She also lectures extensively in the county.
Hiby believes everyone is born with the ability to communicate with animals--that it’s a lot like mother’s intuition--and that if you nurture it, in no time at all, “You start to experience the animal’s feelings.”
And, she said, it’s the feelings to which you must be sensitive. Don’t expect to hear words. “Everything is in mental images,” she said, “and you must interpret the visualizations from their perspective.” A toy poodle, she said, definitely will see things differently than would a horse.
“Sometimes the mental images I receive are so incongruous with the animal that I think I must have misunderstood,” she said.
For example: “Once I was working with a horse and kept getting a visualization of him sitting on a sofa in a living room. Well, of course, that wasn’t possible, and I didn’t tell the owners because they would think I was nuts. But the image was so clear that I finally mentioned it to the owners and learned that when he was just a foal, they had brought him into the house, placed him on the sofa and taken joke pictures.”
Usually, Hiby’s clients are brought to her because of behavioral problems. That was the case with Charlie, the mixed-up boa constrictor. It had lost its appetite, and its owners were concerned that it would starve to death.
“With Charlie, I got a strong mental image of an aquarium with a large painted rock in it, a rock that gave off a strong smell of paint,” Hiby said. “The owner confirmed that such a rock existed and that she had painted it shortly before Charlie’s loss of appetite. Once the rock was removed, he began eating again.”
One Hiby case sounds like something that came out of a midnight scouting game where campers try to outdo one another with scary stories, but she insists the tale is true.
“I was contacted by a woman in Mollala, Ore., whose 9-year-old collie was acting very strangely. He’d try to squeeze himself into the teeniest hiding place,” she said. “He’d hide in the closet or the bathtub. The owner was afraid he had a brain tumor or something.
“I spent some time with him and learned that he had witnessed the murder of a woman. He had seen her stabbed and dragged into a pickup truck . . . and he was (suffering from) terrible guilt at not being able to help her.”
Hiby advised soothing sessions between the owner and her collie and the condition eased, but the woman also learned of the discovery of a body nearby--a woman who had been stabbed to death--and called the police.
Hiby said she was contacted by the police and was able to provide them with the dog’s description of the attacker and of the vehicle. She said she is unable to discuss the case in more detail because the investigation is continuing and no arrests have yet been made.
A more amusing sidelight of her work--and of potential concern to the owners of her clients--is the personal, even intimate, information that animals share about their masters and mistresses.
Hiby said a terrier, for example, told her about an experience involving red and blue flashing lights while on a ride with its teen-age owner. It turned out, she said, that the boy had received a speeding ticket and neglected to tell his parents.
Another time, she said, a horse told her it enjoyed its morning mocha coffee, an item definitely not on the menu laid out by the animal’s trainer. Armed with the horse’s testimony, Hiby said the trainer confronted the groom, who admitted that he provided a daily cup from his thermos.
And while she doesn’t advocate that you shove the dog out the door or cover the parrot cage should you decide to violate your diet by pigging out on a quart of ice cream, she does suggest that you be aware that animals are aware of your actions.
And that they have feelings they can communicate--if you will only listen.
“My goal,” said Hiby, “is to help animals owners understand their pets and their needs so that both pets and owners can enjoy a more rewarding life together.