Matilija Press
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Published Article
by Patricia Fry

Evolving Woman — 1999

How to Effectively Communicate
With Animals

"That gnat looks confused," whispered Ann, as we watched a small fly-like insect wander around in circles on the table in front of us. "I've been talking to him," I said. "Every time I attempt to communicate with him, he stops and becomes real still."

"Tell him to get up on that orchid lying there in front of you," suggested Ann, "and we'll move him to that big plant over there." Again, I attempted to communicate with the gnat. I told him to get up onto the orchid and we would move him to the large plant where he might find something to eat. "When the workshop is over," I told him, "we'll take you outside where you'll be free."

To our astonishment, the gnat stopped circling and immediately jumped up onto the little orchid. Ann set the orchid in the large pot next to the ficus plant and an hour later, we carried the orchid with the gnat still attached outside and set him free.

On the flight to that workshop in Maui, I'd read J. Allen Boone's book, Kinship With All Life (Harper and Row, 1954). In his book, Boone claims that there was a time when we spoke a universal language which was understood by all animal and human life. He shares many of his successes communicating with animals even including ants and a fly. According to Boone, mutual respect and understanding are at the core of this language link.

I've come to believed that animals communicate in two ways - through body language and using little mind pictures.

One summer, while at the beach with my grandchildren, we were playing in the surf one last time before the sun went down. All of a sudden, a small sea lion appeared in the shallow water. He climbed up on a rock and there he stayed. Most of the onlookers thought there was something wrong with the sea lion - that he was ill and needed help. A resident, however, came to his rescue and told us that he was fine. "His mother just sent him here to wait while she hunts. She'll come back and get him," he said.

Sure enough, before long, a mature sea lion appeared in the surf and the young one swam out to rejoin her.

You've probably witnessed similar communication between your pets. In my household, for example, two cats might simply be walking past one another when, all of a sudden, without so much as a glance at one another, they race off together down the hall at a dead run in gleeful play.

But what about communication between humans and animals? Do you believe that your dog understands the word walk when you say it or is he, perhaps, reading your mind? What about a horse who runs from you when you come out to take him for a ride? Even hiding the halter and rope doesn't seem to help the situation.

Have you ever had to chase a cat all over the house and ultimately drag her out from a dark corner under the bed in order to keep a veterinarian appointment? She may have been sitting happily on the window sill preening herself just moments before. But the instant you walked toward her with thoughts of taking her to the veterinarian's office, she dashes out of sight.

Was she reading your mind?

On one such day, my calico cat , Daisy disappeared under the furniture. I chased her, pleaded with her, cajoled her but she was more cunning and determined than I. Finally, I decided that if she was reacting to what I was thinking, I'd better change my mind. I brought the cat carrier in and set it on the floor and then positioned myself next to it at eye level with Daisy. I looked into her eyes and began creating new pictures in my mind.

I had been seeing visions of my chasing Daisy, eventually catching her and putting her into the carrier against her will and the cat being extremely unhappy during the car ride to the groomer. Now I envisioned Daisy walking into the carrier, my closing the little door behind her and toting the carrier to the car. I pictured the two of us riding quietly and calmly to the groomers where the cat was cleaned, mats trimmed and otherwise pampered. And then I visualized us coming home together where I opened the carrier door and Daisy walked out feeling wonderful and flea-free.

To my astonishment, just as my visual scenario ended, Daisy stood up, walked over to the carrier and went inside. Then, moving to the back of the carrier, she turned her body just enough so that her tail was free of the door and there she lay down. How simple things are, I thought, when one bothers to ask for the animal's cooperation.

When Daisy was eight months old, I brought home Katy, a four month old Himalayan. Daisy disliked Katy on sight and immediately reduced the younger kitten to dust ball status. Every time Katy came out from under a piece of furniture, Daisy chased her under another. The only time I could coax Katy out was when Daisy was sleeping.

I expected the kittens to iron things out in due time, but three weeks later, things were no better.

One night at bedtime, Katy drummed up the courage to join Daisy and me on the bed. Each kitten lay on one side of me growling and yeowling at one another - neither one about to back down. I was glad that the cats were dialoguing, but their timing was pitiful. I had a rare pounding headache that night and was more interested in a peaceful night's sleep than in helping them work out their differences.

I spoke a harsh "Stop it" a couple of times, but the growling and yeowling continued. Finally, I decided to try another tactic. I began visualizing a great abundance of love flowing into each kitten and from one to the other. I envisioned the two of them playing and adventuring together and becoming great companions.

In a matter of 30 to 60 seconds, the growling stopped. I raised up to see each kitten still in place but with their little heads resting on their paws and we all fell asleep.

The next morning when I woke up, the kittens were gone. I expected to find Katy under the sofa and Daisy guarding her escape. But instead, both kittens were together eating kibbles from the same bowl, thus marking the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

A friend tells the story of bringing a boxer puppy home to their cat's extreme dismay. The pup couldn't keep his nose out of the cat's business, which was evidenced by the fresh puncture wounds always around his flat little snout. One day my friend, sat with the two animals and visualized them respecting each other's space and becoming good friends. She did that visualization often during those first few months and today these two are inseparable companions who even snuggle together when sleeping.

Whether you want your pet to change an inappropriate behavior or you hope to establish greater rapport with him, communication is key. Here are some tips:

  • Demonstrate respect for and a genuine desire to understand your pet. View the world through the animal's senses. Try to determine the reasons why your dog chews on your slippers, for example, or the cat claws your favorite chair. Provide suitable alternatives and visualize the animal involved in appropriate behavior.
  • Communication with animals is more effective when both of you are quiet and relaxed.
  • Communicate with animals using clear, concise visualization.
The next time your dog or cat engages in unacceptable behavior or you desire his cooperation, communicate with him using something he can understand. Try talking in mind pictures.

Patricia Fry is the author of Quest for Truth(Matilija Press, 1996).

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