Hear Spot talk

Helga, an octogenarian turtle, spoke to Dr. Laurel Davis, an Asheville veterinarian. “It was a lilting voice, and sort of an English accent,” Laurel recalled. When Laurel asked Helga why she wasn’t having babies, the turtle responded, “I haven’t felt like it. Why are you here, anyway?”

Helga told Laurel that she’d like the person she lives with, Charlie Green of Asheville, to give her warmer water. But in general, Helga said, her living conditions are “quite all right,” and she called Charlie a “nice little chap.”

How many times have you wished, if only for an instant, that you could have heart-to-heart conversations with your animal friends?

Not just the gushing, “I love you so much” kind of emotional exchanges, but also the more mundane, practical, “Why did you pee on my shoe?” kind of talks.

Suppose you could take a course to learn to communicate better with animals. Wouldn’t you like to ask your cat what’s making him feel lethargic, or find out why he’s so aggressive around other animals? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make your dog understand that she really can’t be going into the neighbors’ yards?

The idea of animal communication is nothing new. Penelope Smith, who is considered the foremost animal communicator in the United States, published her first book on the subject back in 1954.

But it’s only in recent years that a wider audience has begun taking the idea seriously. A growing number of people, in western North Carolina and elsewhere, have been intrigued enough by the possibility to investigate: The concept may be poppycock, many reason, but what if they really could have two-way conversations with their animals?

Mountain Xpress recently attended a local workshop taught by Cathy Easterbrook of Flat Rock, who makes her living designing houses. She also teaches human/animal communication and helps distraught people find lost pets.

All her life, Easterbrook says, she’s been uncomfortably clairvoyant — aware of people’s thoughts, whether she wants to be or not. But it was her oldest cat, Kitty Kitty, who taught her that she could connect mentally with animals, too.

For nearly 10 years, Easterbrook has been teaching people to communicate better with their animal friends. She contends that all of us are equally able to become telepathic, although some are more open to the idea than others.

Laying the groundwork

Thirteen people are sitting in a circle in the Asheville home of Jan and Calvin Carr, ready for Cathy’s three-day workshop. Some are on the couch, or in chairs; others are perched on stools or camped on the floor.

It’s a varied group, including two vets, a veterinary assistant, a nutritional counselor, a psychotherapist, a chiropractor and a parole officer. Some have New Age tendencies; others are simply animal lovers. Many of the participants have animals who are missing or nearing death; others are mourning animals that recently died. A few people are struggling with the ethics and the timing of euthanasia.

The people in this class are open to the idea of animal communication, though not necessarily convinced that such telepathy is really possible. Only a couple of the participants seem confident that they can learn this new skill themselves.

Cathy explains that, since animals already are reading our minds, it’s just one step further to tap into theirs.

Cathy describes the earth as a place where both animals and humans have life lessons to learn — although animals are naturally connected to the spiritual whole, while humans are separate, disjointed.

“The animals are here to be our teachers and our healers and our guides,” Cathy explains. “Sometimes they have a lot of work — a lot of work.”

To help prepare the group, Cathy leads the circle through guided meditations, helping people find the same mental calmness they’ll need for animal communication. Distracting but somehow appropriate are the occasional chimes and bongs that resonate through the artsy Carr home, which has beads and glass ornaments hanging outside almost every window.

Then Cathy asks the group to pair off for human-to-human telepathic transmissions. Using flash cards, one person tries to “send” the image or words on the card; the partner tries to create a calm mind and “receive” the information.

One participant, Mary Adams of Columbus, N.C., tunes in the clearest and the fastest, saying, “Purple — something to eat — grapes.”

Mary isn’t surprised to receive the image telepathically; she has been meditating for years. But most people in the group fail miserably and quickly grow discouraged.

Meanwhile, Cathy seems to be getting a headache just from being in a room with 13 different people. Because she’s empathic, she explains, she’s picking up on everyone’s thoughts at the same time. “For me, it’s like I have 13 radio stations on at once.”

Plunging ahead

Adding to the confusion are the 13 animals that people have brought to practice talking with.

Participants pair off with animals they’ve never met before, then search for quiet corners in the house to make their connections, facing their animal partners with intently closed eyes. Cathy has given the group specific questions to ask. Meanwhile, the shih-tzu is barking at every dog he sees; the rabbit is scratching furiously against her carrier; a big black cat is hiding under a bed; and Julie, the foxhound, decides to go visiting throughout the house.

Cathy encourages people to keep trying to talk to the animals, whether they’re near them or not. “They don’t have all that mind chatter, so whatever they’re doing, you should be able to connect,” she says.

Hesitantly, the group assembles again to share their impressions. Some people report experiencing images; some say they heard words in their minds; others describe emotions or physical sensations.

Veterinarian Bill Davis of Cleveland expresses a doubt shared by most of his fellow students: How do you know what you’re receiving from the animal and what you’re making up?

The answer is, you don’t. That’s why Cathy encourages people to talk to other people’s animals, especially in the beginning: Other people can give you feedback, saying, “Yes, he does love his red ball,” or “No, he really doesn’t like to go outside.”

As the workshop progresses, people find themselves “hearing” things from the animals that seem to resonate with their owners. They become more confident and are able to hold increasingly complex conversations.

“It’s like, gradually, the door opens,” says Josephine Reid Patton of Brevard.

In the beginning of each workshop, people always worry that they won’t get it, according to Cathy; by the end, she says, everyone always gets it.

But how could people converse telepathically with animals when they failed to receive simple telepathic images from people?

Animals make good telepathic partners, because they already know how to communicate that way, Cathy explains.

Some final words of caution

Before trying to communicate with animals, Cathy emphasizes, there are some important ethical concerns that need to be considered.

First of all, never speak with another person’s animal without permission. It would be like quizzing a small child about what happens at home — you might end up with information that’s none of your business.

Cathy instructs her classes to preface any communication with a statement to the universe, something like, “It is my intention to talk with this animal, as long as it’s good for everyone involved.” Sometimes there are reasons people shouldn’t know too much; in those cases, Cathy says, the conversations are blocked.

Cathy advises people never to lie, never to fabricate animals’ comments, never to judge others, and never to let their own preconceptions interfere with the conversations. (Did that dog really say he doesn’t like his choke collar, or are you the one who doesn’t like it?)

And Cathy also warns people against trying to interfere with animals’ lives. She cites a malnourished dog that people in one of her workshops wanted to rescue; it turned out that the dog chose to stay in an abusive home to look out for two little boys.

During the telepathic conversations, many animals state that they have specific purposes while living with their people (never say “owners,” Cathy notes — it’s degrading). They also list specific ways those people could make their lives more pleasant and fulfilling.

A shih-tzu named Precious, for example, makes it perfectly clear to several people that he doesn’t appreciate his feminine-sounding name. He tells one person that he’d like to be called Hector. But Debra Alsko of Marion expresses a reluctance to change the name of her diminutive dog, and she thinks “Hector” sounds like a particularly bad idea.

Bill reports that Precious suggested the name Jonathan might be OK.

He definitely wants a more masculine-sounding name, Mary confirms later. And “he does not like his haircut, because it takes away from his masculinity.”

“Precious has to overcome his label,” Cathy explains. “That’s why he’s so brave-acting around bigger dogs.”

Laurel hears Precious say, “I really can’t begin to express the gratitude that my mom is learning to communicate better.”

“I’m glad I came to live with her,” Precious tells Lynn Staton of Weaverville. When Lynn asks for more messages for Deb, Precious becomes indignant and responds, “I don’t need to tell you. I’ll tell her myself.”

(Since the workshop, Deb and her husband have agreed to use their dog’s nickname, Buddy, more often. However, they still occasionally call him Precious.)

Cathy Easterbrook will be holding more workshops, in western North Carolina and throughout the country. Call her at 698-8290 for more information.

Another animal communicator, Patty Summers of Evington, Va., occasionally comes to Asheville for private consultations. For more information, call the Asheville Pet Supply at 252-2054, or contact Patty directly at P.O. Box 275, Evington, Va., 24550; (804) 821-3612.

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