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Talking with Animals

Pet Psychics (And Why We Hire Them)

by Shannon Devy 

The first pet psychic I hired was a gruff woman called Diane. I booked her because a good friend of mine who works for a respected Cape Town rescue organization told me a story that I found completely irresistible.


It goes like this: A family had to emigrate, and for whatever reason, they couldn’t take their male dog with them. He went to stay with his grandparents, whom he loved. But for months after he arrived, despite being surrounded by people whom he trusted and adored and having all the treats, love and toys he could hope for, he seemed very depressed and refused to respond to even the simplest commands.

Diane was called to the scene. After a quick consultation with the dog, she asked “Where’s his toy with the one big eye?” The grandparents, of course, had never heard of it, but they remembered that their son had left a box of the dog’s things in a cupboard in the spare room. They retrieved the box and – lo and behold – inside they found a stuffed squid toy, with an enormous big eye. The pup perked right up when he saw it. He told Diane he didn’t necessarily want to play with the squid toy, but he did want to be able to look at it when he wanted to. So, they placed it carefully on a shelf at his eye level, and every day from then on, they’d catch him sitting in front of it for a few minutes. Almost immediately, he was back to his boisterous, happy self.

Diane had a simple explanation for his refusal to respond to simple commands, too: the dog, she said, was Afrikaans.

Diane arrived at our house one evening with a toolbox full of essential oils and a very business-like manner. By then, we had two young dogs: Edie – extremely anxious, with big feelings and a long list of things that frightened her (including but not limited to, the wind, the vacuum cleaner, washing baskets, and her food bowl), and Maggie – confident and self-centric, with a palpable devil-may-care attitude. We all gathered in the living room, my partner, our two dogs Maggie and Edie, and Diane, and our session began.


Edie had some concerns she wanted to address. Were we going to send her away? Is the train she could hear nearby following her? Why do humans like going in cars so much? She also mentioned that one of our mutual friends murdered her in a past life, which was why she barked so fiercely at her whenever she came to visit.

Maggie, on the other hand, wanted to know when we were going to get her some chickens. She’d heard from the neighbourhood dogs that the pigeons turned into chickens when they grew up, but she had never seen one, and she wanted a chicken of her own, please, and soon. Also, could she please have a strawberry cupcake, and next time we get wood-fired pizza, could she please have a slice?


Years later, I found myself in need of a pet psychic once more. By this stage, I had broken up with my partner, and was well into a serious relationship with the friend Edie claimed to have been murdered by in a past life. Edie was in incredible distress whenever my partner was around. Such was her intense and continued fear, I moved her in with my parents, whom she adored. In the calm, murderer-free routine of my parent’s home, she flourished. But one day, she had a small scuffle with one of my Mom’s dogs – a dominant but otherwise lovely leggy rescue called Holly, who had a big personality and didn’t like to share. Despite being the best of friends, a full-blown fight broke out between them the next day. My mother was bitten so badly trying to separate them she needed surgery on her hand, and both dogs needed urgent medical care. We kept the dogs apart and hired a top behaviourist to try and help us reintroduce them, but while Edie appeared to have forgotten the whole thing, Holly would lunge, growl and snap in Edie’s direction whenever she saw her, hackles up, for weeks after the incident. It was a heartbreaking (and very serious) situation, which put the family under incredible strain. Out of options, we reached out to an old family friend – an animal communicator called Claire.


Claire arrived one Saturday morning, and when the session began, I was still a skeptic. By the end, I was sold. Claire simply knew things she had no way of knowing. Her messages from each of the dogs reflected so closely each dog’s unique personality – something you really only come to know living with them – and the various little private details of family life in the household, it was nothing short of uncanny. Holly, Claire said, was fascinated by men with beards. She says it’s like they have forests on their face (what Claire couldn’t have known is that Holly has an obvious and well-established affinity for men with beards, following them on walks). Nina the collie hated that her dad was on the phone all the time (what Claire couldn’t have known is that my stepdad Ian is constantly, relentlessly on his cell phone). Sassy, the old, slower golden retriever, loves the place with the big trees and the pine needles, but she wants more sniffing and less marching on walks (a perfect description of our regular forest walks, and Sassy’s attitude toward them). My mother’s Siamese cat, Tao, who had recently and upsettingly absconded to a neighbour’s house, was staying there because the neighbour needed her. He’d been ill, Tao said – something to do with his chest (what Claire couldn’t have known is that the neighbour had suffered a heart attack). Edie, Claire said, was the most anxious dog she had ever connected with, but she loved it when I held her face, looked into her eyes and told her how special she was – a secret ritual between Edie and I which nobody else had ever witnessed.  

I’ve relayed my experiences with pet psychics to many people, including friends, family, colleagues and strangers in bars, and without fail, whoever I’m talking to asks for a number so they can arrange their own consultation. What makes the prospect of talking to our animals so appealing? The same impulse driving the global pet industry to almost $500 billion by 2030: love. 

We want our pets to be happy, we want what’s best for them, and we want to love them well, at whatever cost. Cats, dogs, birds and beyond – how strange it is, how wonderful, that we can love and be loved so deeply, in a language without words, but never without meaning.


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