Intelligent species can learn to communicate.
Talking to animals is a dream, I imagine, for many children. When we were young, some of us could hear what animals were saying. Children learn early to hide their insights because they make adults uncomfortable, and they dismiss it as imagination. But the communication abilities experienced when young might have been real. According to Karen Dendy-Smith, president of The Animal Communication Collective, animal communication is listening on another plane of existence. I met Karen virtually on a Zoom workshop sponsored by Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary in Erie. After the session, I was still not completely convinced, but I really wanted to know what my dog, Tiny Tim, was thinking.
After the consultation I was convinced. Karen was able to ask questions of my dog, and I was amazed at the things she was able to tell me. One of the reasons I knew it was accurate was because some of the information wasn’t pleasant or what I wanted to hear. Charlatans tell you things that fit with your worldview. Karen knew things that she could not have known on her own. I was impressed. Some people are disturbed by the unknown or unusual. However, the world holds surprises “not dreamt of in our philosophy.” We tend to think that the comfortable realities of yesterday are the realities of tomorrow despite all evidence to the contrary. If we are open to new ways of listening to our fellow animals, it can define our relationships with them. It makes sense to concentrate on dogs because their communication with humans is studied extensively. There are magazines, podcasts, articles, and books about scientific findings about every aspect of human-canine communication.
Most of human-canine communication takes place in the physical world. Dogs can be taught verbal and physical commands easily. They catch on quickly, especially when treats are involved. But, what about their emotional and perceptive abilities? Could there be intangible ways of knowing and understanding our dogs?
Rupert Sheldrake in his book, “Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home,” discusses three types of a dog’s unexplained perceptiveness. The first is “telepathy.” Dogs can anticipate their owner’s arrival, even at random times, and in unfamiliar vehicles. My childhood dog, Gretchen, would hop on her stool to look out the window every weekday at 3:15 to watch me come home from school. On weekends, even if I was not at home, she didn’t engage in this behavior.
Telepathic communication is more prevalent when the dog and guardian are bonded. “I suggest that telepathic communication depends on the bond between people and animals — bonds that are not mere metaphors but actual connections … They are connected by morphic fields,” writes Shelldrake. A morphic field is an invisible, non-material structure that influences the being of all organisms and systems. It is everything, everywhere, all at once. Traditional science questions the existence of morphic fields. These concepts are difficult to study and call into question many of the rules of physics. Many of us have experienced events that are unexplainable by the time-tested rules of the game. We have a sense that there is something we see out of the corner of our eyes. I believe that dogs see and understand those things clearly.
The second perceptiveness is the “sense of direction.” Some dogs have a good sense of direction. This has been celebrated in films for years. We have seen the incredible lengths some animals will go in order to return to a place or person that they love. “Animals seem to be drawn toward their destination as if by an invisible elastic band that attaches them to that place,” says Sheldrake. Dogs return to places, but they also return to people. These abilities can be explained by morphic fields linking animals to places or humans and other animals.
The third is “premonitions.” Dogs without any training will alert owners of impending epileptic seizures. Many become nervous before storms or earthquakes. My dog, Charlie, saved my life. I hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of weeks — nothing particular, just some aches, pains, and fatigue. I was sitting at the table when Charlie began nuzzling me. The nuzzling became more aggressive, and he finally put my arm in his mouth. I felt poorly that morning, and Charlie’s frantic behavior led me to go to the emergency room. Two days later I was undergoing open heart surgery to replace all four of my arteries. He knew I was ignoring something bad, and he did his best to tell me. Dogs seem to know more on the extrasensory plane than we do. It may be that their paranormal abilities are simply reality on a different wavelength.
The idea that we are all connected to each other and the rest of the universe is being examined by a small group of physicists on the outer edge of their profession. If these theories are to be believed, suddenly humans would not be the most important species on the planet, just a piece in an incredibly complex and infinite jigsaw puzzle.
In her book, “The Field,” Lynne McTaggart explains the concept of the Zero Point Field — energy that connects everything. I do not understand most of this theory, but my experience tells me that it may be a roadmap to a deeper understanding of our place in the universe. Our dogs may be the teachers we need to guide us into this realm … if we can only take the time to listen.
In his book, “Canine Confidential,” Marc Bekoff comments on the emotions of dogs. “They publish their emotional lives, and it’s clear from all sides — evolutionary theory, detailed scientific data, and common sense — that dogs are not mindless machines but, rather, smart, thinking, and feeling beings who experience a wide range of emotions similar to our own.” He goes on to say that emotions vary from being to being, and dogs don’t feel exactly what we feel. “Rather, one basic truth about evolution is that all species retain certain similarities and develop certain differences, and we should be careful not to fall into the trap of regarding humans as the sole template for comparisons and for understanding other species.” If we want to communicate with our canine companions, we need to dig a lot deeper.
It is a gift to hear what an animal is telling you and to communicate back. The Animal Communication Collective is a group of women dedicated to improving the lives of guardians and their companion animals. I asked Karen why so many communicators are women. “Women are not afraid of emotion. They come to [the idea of] communication with animals from a softer and more passive state. All the women in the collective are over 40. Many have come from being therapists or nurses,” Karen said. “Not that there aren’t some great male communicators. They tend to be more performance oriented.”
In her book, “The Beginner’s Guide to Animal Communication,” Carol Gurney says that animal communication is attainable by anyone. In fact, Carol was the worst student in her training classes and bemoaned her inability to connect. She was persistent and now is one of the foremost communicators in the world. Her experiences in becoming a communicator were difficult. “The path for me was one of search, struggle, stop, search, and solution.”
We are fortunate to have animals that we love, ones that we cherish as members of our families. Dogs fill a void in life that is challenging to understand. Often people say, “She provides me with unconditional love.” What about our learning to give unconditional love? Learning that lesson could change your life. Companion animals have chosen us. Unlike other domesticated animals, they offered themselves to humans. They are here to be our teachers. They desperately want to bond with us in a deep and transformative way.
The first step is to find time to be peaceful, quiet, and simply be with your dog. Given time, your dog will respond to your openness. We expect our dogs to learn our language, but often we don’t try to understand their form of communication. In addition to their extraordinary gifts like their sense of smell, their protective instincts, their deep loyalty — all of which make them useful to humans in a variety of ways — dogs live a rich emotional life. “When we strip away our human perception of the ‘animal’ façade, we communicate as peers, at a soul level,” said Karen “Our animal companions are trying to help us.”
Our dogs feel things deeply. Dogs try hard to understand us. We have an obligation to return the favor. Allowing yourself to be with your dog — keeping a soft heart and a peaceful soul — will open the vast world curled up on the couch beside you.
Kate is the founder of Speaking of Animals Outreach www.speakingofanimalsoutreach.org.