Can We Really Communicate With Pets Who've Passed?
The grief of losing a pet is very real--but is reaching out through an animal communicator a worthwhile way of coping? Our writer finds out. Emma, our 10-year-old Rottweiler/ German Shepherd recently went missing.
She was with two of our other large dogs one moment, barking a conversation in the front yard with my aunt's dogs a quarter mile away.
The next, she was gone.
We taped posters to the cluster of mailboxes at the top of our dirt road and talked to the few neighbors we have in our sparsely populated area. We spent two weeks in the oppressive heat, braving the rough, mountainous terrain extending with chiggers, ticks, and poison ivy for hundreds of acres around our house. Finally, my husband and I gave up the search.
We never heard her barking. We never even found a single hair.
Anyone who has had a pet knows the grief of losing him/her is just as real as when we've lost a human loved one. For pet people, the worst pain is when our pets have wandered off or been stolen.
Added to the initial trauma of grief, it is a very lonely quest to try and find them or what happened to them. There's no help from the police, no large search parties scouring the vicinity of where our pets were last seen. If we're lucky, we might have a neighbor or two willing to help put up posters and search the neighborhood for a short while.
There's no comfort in not knowing.
Three Different Conversations
We needed answers. A friend of mine was commiserating with me when she reminded me of an animal communicator she and I once hired. "Maybe she can help," my friend suggested.
The communicator we saw over a decade before didn't speak to lost animals, but her website referred me to Suzi Dalling, a California-based communicator.
I filled out the form on her website and also called, telling her everything I knew and my fears that Emma might have fallen victim to a wild animal. Dalling took my information and got back to me via email two days later with what she said Emma told her.
Dalling confirmed what I had felt almost from the moment Emma went missing: she was dead.
However, she surprised me when she said that Emma arranged for her demise. "You see the body was worn down inside and I was experiencing bits and pieces of pain with this and that," Dalling recorded for Emma. "Soon there would be trips to the vet and it was all not worth it for me to put you through all of that."
Dalling wrote in a later email: "The animal kingdom does not do predator/prey in the manner the humans believe it to be. When an animal chooses to leave its body and there is another animal looking for food, they have a telepathic exchange and agreement before anything takes place."
A Surprising Take on the Animal Kingdom
In other words, Emma committed suicide by wildlife and she said Emma told her we would never find a body: "It's better for you."
Emma also said she was coming back to us as a cat and we should be on the look out for a kitten. When I asked Dalling why Emma would say this, knowing we cannot have cats due to the coyotes here and that one of our other dogs doesn't do well with cats, she replied, "The animal kingdom does not go around and kill other animals for the sport of it. A wooded location is just a wooded location and has lots of experiences for all types of animals. So if you feel it's impossible then perhaps she will not return to you, I cannot say."
This woman's philosophy on wildlife or the idea that Emma would return to us as a cat was little comfort. It actually would have made our grief worse had we believed. "Has she not ever seen those wildlife documentaries where animals are running in terror from predators?" my husband asked.
Still not satisfied, I looked for other communicators who could connect with our Emma, whether she was still living or not. One communicator declined to do a reading, saying she felt it was a "test" and she "doesn't do tests."
Getting the Message
Carol Gurney, a well-known name in the world of animal communicators and founder of the Gurney Institute of Animal Communication in Agoura, Calif., teaches people to reconnect with animals through what she says is "a natural ability we all have, but have lost." Her institute awards certificates in animal communication after 1 to 2 years of study.
Gurney says she uses several techniques to communicate with lost animals to first, find out if they are still alive; and then, to get pictures of what they are seeing or what they last saw before they passed.
"When we start, I help my clients understand that there is no guarantee, we can be wrong as animals don't see the world as we do," said Gurney. "It can be very complex and can be challenging to find lost animals as sometimes the pictures they are sending are not in real time."
Terri Jay is a Reno, Nevada-based communicator and also believes communicating with animals is a natural ability and says she was a skeptic until 20 years ago when she says she heard a horse speaking to her.
"It shocked me," says Jay. She also teaches a course and has written a manual on animal communication. "When some clients tell me about other readings they've received, I'm shocked about by how horrible the readings are. They seem to be fear-based designed to make people spend more money. They can control the client and I'm sad to see that in our profession."
Both communicators offered to help me connect with Emma.
Unlike the first reading, I didn't express my own fears and I gave fewer details about Emma, only providing her breed, age and to Gurney, a photo. Gurney and Jay also provided the reading via phone, a service Dalling provides for an additional fee (or, she shortens the time saying she is actually communicating with the pet).
Both Gurney and Jay also felt Emma was not "in her body." They both told me they felt Emma was with "something black," or had went to chase something of that color. Gurney said she felt Emma had died after falling ill, next to a fence post, although she said Emma didn't know how far away from home she had wandered. She described a weathered metal building with something she thought was a lamp hanging above the front door.
Jay said she didn't know how Emma had died, but the word, "run-in" kept popping in her mind. She also described a dilapidated building to the left of the back of our home, across some water. There is, in fact, the remnant of an old mountain man's cabin hidden in the woods, across the creek to the left of our house. The building is wooden but has a metal roof and the remains of an old stove pipe hangs precariously above the door.
They both accurately described some of Emma's traits. She was a gentle, loving dog that enjoyed the water.
The Cost of Comfort
The new information about the building and the fence post gave us two different places to concentrate our search efforts, but so far we've still had no luck locating Emma's remains. The information we have is still too vague. As my husband said, "We're still searching for a needle, only in a slightly smaller haystack."
Virginia Bowen, a human/animal studies researcher in Austin, Texas, says that as a skeptic of such communications, she believes most --if not all animal communicators-- are vague because they are only tapping into subtle messages given to them by their clients.
"I think what these people are doing is discounting the innate knowledge they have of people or animals or specific breeds," says Bowen.
She says that she believes many people who call themselves animal communicators really do believe that they are communicating with the animal, and are not intentionally trying to mislead.
"People seek this type of service to receive some comfort," says Bowen. "It might give them some answers and control over things we often do not have control over. Some of these communicators might be able to provide that."
All three communicators urged us, in Emma's words, to feel better, to remember the love we shared and to tell us she enjoyed her life with us. They said Emma wanted us to know that she did not suffer and she is at peace.
We didn't receive our definitive answers. We still don't have our Emma or a body to bury. However, Jay and Gurney's message from Emma did give us some measure of comfort.
Those words reminded us not only of the good life Emma enjoyed with us, but of the fact she made our lives fuller too.
Still, no words can ease the emptiness we feel when we look at her spot on her bed and will never be able to fill the void left in our hearts.
Only time will be able to do that.