What We Talk About When We Talk About Talking With Animals (or, I wrote something for 'The Wagazine')
Around four years ago, maybe even longer, I was misquoted in the pages of The Wagazine in a story about companion rabbits. An acquaintance of mine had mentioned to me the publication was looking to interview folks who lived with rabbits, so I reached out and was put in touch with the gal writing the piece. The interview was conducted over email, and it wasn't so much an interview as it was me sending this woman more information than she needed. Only a little bit of what I gave her ended up in the piece, and two details were incorrect.
At the time, I was a little like, "Hey. What the hell?" but after working for a newspaper for two years, I understand how removing a quote from context, or misquoting, or botching details, can happen.
At the time I was interviewed, I had explained to the editor of The Wagazine that I was a fledgling writer, and interested in contributing, though nothing came of it then, and when I worked for the paper, I found out pretty quickly that it would be tough to make time for additional writing.
Late last year, I reached out again, and was provided with a list of possible story ideas for some of the 2018 issues. And because I had already had minor experiences speaking with an animal communicator, I signed up for this piece, to run in the summer issue.
I was originally told, like, 600 to 800 words, and I kind of laughed and wondered if the editor of the magazine had looked into any of my work before. I told her I could do 800 to 1,000, and then I wound up going over in what I submitted.
You can read the print version here, or continue below for the unedited version. Thanks again to Ellie Starks and The Wagazine for the opportunity.
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My companion rabbit is not particularly fond of what we commonly refer to as “cooking sounds.”
My wife and I aren’t sure why this is, and for the past six years, we’ve been assuring our rabbit, Annabell, that she isn’t in danger—I mean, she doesn’t even venture out into the kitchen. But from the safety of the living room, if she hears the pre-heated oven beep or the heating element click when the temperature fluctuates; if she hears vegetables sizzling in a pan (even if it’s covered with a lid); and sometimes if someone is chopping an onion a little too loudly, she becomes terribly frightened—so much so that while she’s hiding from these sounds, I worry she’s going to call Homeland Security and report us as being “domestic terrorists.”
If you’ve lived with a companion animal for a long enough period of time, you more than likely have developed a rapport with them. They understand when it’s time to go for a walk, time for a treat, or time to turn in for the night; you try your hardest to understand why they’re upset, your intuition kicks in if they aren’t feeling well, and you can’t help but smile when you see them excited about something.
What happens when your companion animal is telling you something that you are having a hard time understanding?
The concept of “animal communication” is exactly what it sounds like, and Kathy Van Guilder, Dawn Huebner, and Erica Pointer Kobett are among those working around the Twin Cities area as Animal Communicators.
All three women say they’ve been aware of their deeper connection with animals since they were young. “My first communication experience was with a bird in my backyard who was watching me dig up worms,” Huebner recalled. “I was so excited, I ran into the house to tell my mom all about it, and she lovingly responded, ‘We don’t talk about those things.’”
Huebner said she remained quiet about her experiences, thinking it was something everyone could do, but simply didn’t discuss.
Van Guilder had a similar childhood experience, coming from a family she described as not being open to anything that was “beyond the physical.” “It was not acceptable to be sensitive to an animal’s feelings and thoughts,” she said.
Those early instances eventually led to lengthy careers in this field—Pointer Kobett has been a professional communicator for six years, Huebner 12 years, and Van Guilder for over 15—however, each took a different path to arrive to this point.
Huebner has a background in counseling, and discovered animal communication after looking into holistic treatments for a diabetic cat; Van Guilder spent a decade working in healthcare, but changed pace because she felt unfulfilled.
“I lost my passion for the work I was doing,” she said.
There is more to animal communication than esoteric childhood experiences and a fondness for animals; both Pointer Kobett and Huebner enrolled in either classes or training programs to, as they put it, validate and verify their work.
“It gave me the courage to actually ‘claim’ to be able to communicate with animals,” Pointer Kobett said on her success within the class.
So how does this work, exactly?
Huebner believes animal communication is much like any other skill or talent.
“Anyone can learn to communicate with animals,” she said. “Yet to do it professionally, one needs to have a natural gift along with many, many hours of practice.”
Pointer Kobett described it as being about listening, first and foremost, then asking questions and making sure the connection to the animal sits well within her.
“It’s like a ‘chat’ with the animal’s ‘higher self,’” she added.
Van Guilder, Pointer Kobett, and Huebner all use a mixture of in-person, face-to-face work, as well as over the phone and through email to communicate with their respective clients—many of which are located within the Twin Cities area, but some are out of state. Photographs, along with as much as information as possible about the animal’s past and personality are helpful when communicating via email or the phone.
The animal’s “energy” also is important to the communication process—Van Guilder said early in her process to becoming an Animal Communicator, she worked with intuitive energy healers.
“I learned more about myself, and the idea that everything and everyone is connected,” she said.
“Consider how cell phones work,” she said. “With signals you can’t hear, see, or feel, that travel over vast distances in seconds. With animal communication, it’s an energy connection that works in a similar way, yet instead of a phone number, I use an animal’s photo to make the connection.”
All three communicators have experienced myriad situations and circumstances when working with clients—behavioral problems and end of life issues are among the most common and difficult.
“I had to pass along the message that a very old, very loved bunny had come to the end of its 11 year journey,” explained Pointer Kobett. “She just wanted her humans to be okay—so often, it’s about their fear of leaving their loved people behind to grieve. [The animals] just need to know it is okay to leave.”
Van Guilder found an animal’s behavioral issue is often be a mirror back to something its human is going through.
“A woman’s cat recently told me that she didn’t like her human’s boss, and that her human needed to look for new work,” she said. “The cat was so upset that her human was being mistreated, and the client confirmed her work situation was not positive and that her boss was disrespectful. But her response to her cat’s message was that she couldn’t possibly know anything about her work life because she had never been to her work, or met her boss.”
Missing or lost animal cases are also common, and Huebner said those are her most challenging to work with.
“Emotions run high, they’re very time consuming, and have no guarantee of success,” she said. “As a result only a small percentage of animal communicators handle them, yet I’ve had a lot of success with these cases.”
Pointer Kobett said that through her communication work, she can be “overwhelmed by each little soul,” adding she is honored to be able to speak with her clients and learn from them.
“There is a connection between all of us,” she said. “If I can help build a deeper connection full of joy and gratitude between an animal and their human, then I, too, am grateful.”
Both Huebner and Van Guilder echoed those sentiments.
“I continue to do this work because animals need a voice, and quite often, their life depends on it,” stressed Huebner. “Healthy animals are being rehomed, abandoned, and euthanized at alarming rates, often because of behavior or health issues, and lack of understanding between animals and humans.”
“Pets want so much for their needs, desires, and wisdom to be heard,” added Van Guilder. “It is very difficult for them when the human doesn’t want to hear it.”