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Animal Psychics Hunting for Inner Pet Peeves

ASSOCIATED PRESS

When Tracy L’Herisson’s champion llama, Copper Penny, got sick last fall, so sick his eyes were glazed and he refused to get up, she made two phone calls.

One was to her veterinarian. The next was to an animal psychic.

From her home in Eagle, Idaho, L’Herisson called Dawn Haman in Clinton, N.Y., and asked for help.

Through Haman, the ailing llama was able to “tell” his owner his troubles, or so L’Herisson believes.

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“Copper Penny said, ‘I was eating something I’ve always eaten with leaves on it. But right after, there was a lot of pain in my stomach and it hurt to walk and I feel very weak now,’ ” L’Herisson said.

The llama’s problem turned out to be life-threatening colic, a diagnosis the vet reached with Haman’s help and was able to treat, L’Herisson said.

Hard to believe?

According to L’Herisson, an interior designer who has used psychics for a decade to talk to her llamas, dogs and cats, Haman has been correct too many times to disbelieve her.

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“We’ve had enough situations that have been so accurate . . . that it doesn’t behoove you to doubt anymore,” she said.

Haman is one of a few dozen people, mostly women, who profess an ability to probe the psyche of any animal--canine, feline, equine, porcine, bovine--even a bird or fish.

They call themselves animal psychics or animal communicators.

“People hear ‘psychic’ and they want to know who’s going to win the horse race,” Haman said with a laugh. “But the horses have no idea. They can say they feel good, but they don’t know who’s going to win.”

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Psychics have been consulted to deal with human problems for years. New York City police have asked a psychic in New Jersey for help, and even the FBI has occasionally used psychics.

But Matt Nisbett, of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, noted that military intelligence officials experimented for two decades on practical uses for purported psychic ability and produced “no meaningful results and they dropped the program in 1995.”

He warned against practitioners with a profit motive. The psychic industry in the United States, where a poll found 26% believing in clairvoyance, will soon be worth $2 billion a year, according to reports he quoted.

“They feed on the credulousness and gullibility of the American people,” Nisbett said.

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An estimated 50 people in this country are professional animal communicators, said Penelope Smith of Point Reyes, Calif., who maintains an informal listing.

Their fees range from $15 to $25 for a 15-minute session with one animal and up to $100 for an hour session involving multiple animals.

And their claimed accuracy rates?

“Seven out of 10 times I will have something really strong and earth-shattering for the owner. And every time that happens I say, ‘Wow, this is really cool,’ ” said Diana Beuchert, a psychic from Mount Airy, Md.

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Psychics cannot explain the process.

“I can’t tell you how it happens,” said Haman, who also runs a nonprofit sanctuary for about 200 animals. “I am constantly amazed and in awe of it.”

Psychic Nancy Marsh of Hartford, Conn., said animals are “purer in their actions and thoughts” than humans, and this helps.

“When an animal eats, it eats; when it sleeps, it sleeps; when it plays, it plays,” she said.

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Still, to hear the psychics talk, animals have the same kinds of hang-ups, idiosyncrasies, petty jealousies and desires as humans. They have favorite colors, best friends and, well, attitudes.

One horse, when asked why he once kicked his owner, refused to answer, according to Smith. She translated the animal’s comment: “I’ve been asked this again and again and I’m getting tired of it.”

Some psychics mediate disputes between an animal and its owner. A few specialize in finding lost animals.

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, said the ability to “read” an animal’s mind may be nothing more than astuteness about animal behavior. That is a theme of the novel and new film “The Horse Whisperer.”

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“I’m not saying there is or isn’t psychic ability,” she said. “There are people who are perceptive. And some of it is a bunch of hocus-pocus--people watching body language and listening very closely to what the owner is saying.”

Beaver’s main concern is that psychics may be dispensing medical advice that may harm the animal.

“If there are 437 things that can cause a dog to urinate on the floor, the psychic may think of the main one or two,” Beaver said. “But what if the dog has No. 432?”

Carol Stonis said she threw her money away when she called a psychic about her horse.

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“I would never pay her another dollar,” said Stonis, of suburban Pittsburgh.

“She said, ‘Have your horse’s teeth checked.’ But the equine dentist had just been there. She said, ‘You should buy a red blanket for your horse.’ I said, ‘Oh God.’ Eighty dollars an hour and she says I should buy a red blanket! I thought she was a slick talker,” Stonis said.

On the other hand, Glenn Perry, an accountant in Greenwich, Conn., has happily consulted animal psychics for the last six years, though he started as “a pretty extreme skeptic.”

Perry said the psychic was especially helpful in mediating a dispute between his Staffordshire bull terrier and his new wife and her dogs. His dog, it seemed, would urinate on the living room rug only when his wife was near.

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The psychic worked like an arbitrator, passing back and forth the dog’s “comments” to Perry and his wife, the couple’s comments to the dog, and so on until each understood the others.

“After that, the peeing stopped, period,” Perry said.

Perry has gotten his share of teasing from friends and colleagues, especially when he has told them of his own desire to develop the listening skills he calls “very minimal and monumental at the same time.”

“For people who have no connection with animals or think of them as objects, this may be very strange. But animal lovers will tell you about all kinds of experiences with their animals that the culture doesn’t acknowledge,” said Smith, who’s part of a group of animal communicators teaching the skill.

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If you do talk with your pets, watch your tongue. Avoid language that’s off-color or insulting.

“Don’t think they don’t listen to that. They do,” said psychic Lydia Hiby of Winchester, Calif. “And they understand.”


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