Crystals and sculptures of dragons and dolphins
decorate Terri Diener's office in a small room in the back of her spacious apartment. Her two tabby cats weave in and out of tremendous piles of papers as Diener settles in for her consultation.
Her client Mr. Magoo is a dying 12-year-old Shar-Pei, whose owner, Laura, called Diener to get his last wishes.
Diener has what she calls the gift of "animal telepathic communication"-an innate ability to read the thoughts of animals by delving into their consciousness. She uses a headset to talk with the pet's owner and looks at a picture of the animal, who is not present, to "shift" into its psyche. She describes it as a three-way conversation between the owners, their pets, and herself, acting as the interpreter.
"My goal is to bridge the interspecies gap," Diener says. "Animals communicate in images, feelings, and thoughts."
She's a hybrid of dog whisperer Cesar Millan and
The Long Island Medium
, mixing her telepathic connections with knowledge of animal behavior.
She tells Laura that the dog is ready to die, but not quite yet: Magoo will not die until he has told Lil Whiskers, the cat, how to make sure Laura is OK after he's gone.
Diener was born and raised in Baltimore and studied neurolinguistics and organizational energetics. She worked for years studying and analyzing ways to use communication to resolve conflict and ease psychological strain. She started with human clientele. In 2001, while Martin O'Malley was in the mayoral office, she was hired by the city of Baltimore as a consultant, in which role she introduced the book
Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life,
which became required reading among O'Malley staffers. She also worked as a consultant for the city public schools system ("Cheese Whiz,"
, May 16, 2001).
By the time she began working at city hall, she had already started her career as an animal communicator, a skill she discovered in 1996 after she took an animal communication workshop about the art of receiving telepathic images and creating healing energies. She connected with a dog and she remembers how clear the image was of the dog saying, "I don't want to talk to you." With this gift, she started her business, Petspeak, where she currently charges $60 for a 30-minute pet consultation.
"Once we accept that animals are thinking, feeling, sentient beings who have a lot to teach us about living, dying, relating, and forgiving, we can no longer treat them as anything less. They are different from us-not less than us," she writes in her book
The Pets Speak.
Diener knows animals. Whether she knows them well enough to enter their psychic consciousness or not, she certainly has a knack for dissecting an animal's behavior to understand why it is acting a certain way.
"There are always moments when you're sure you're making it up," she says with cool confidence, "but there's a moment when you have a connection. It's a kinesthetic moment. It's a breakthrough."
Never once does Diener mention skeptics, as if her work is as commonplace as that of a vet.
"Telepathy is encoded in us," she says. "I know that, as cavemen, we had to have had more ways of communicating than just grunts and hand signals."
She believes that telepathy has been put on the backburner as methods of verbal communication have grown. A bookshelf resting against the wall is stuffed with rows of books about animal psychology, tarot-card and chakra reading, and karate manuals. A book titled
Sexual Energy Ecstasy
The intelligence and emotional capacities of animals have been widely debated. Today's doting pet-owners and the multi-billion-dollar industry they support would certainly disagree with the philosopher René Descartes, who believed that animals are mere machines. But it still might be hard for them to go so far as to say that the drooling ball of fur at the foot of the bed is capable of psychic communication. For Diener, though, when the lines between humankind and animal kind are erased, we are left as one species which happens to speak different languages. Diener uses her position as an interspecies polyglot to bridge this language barrier.
As she speaks, Diener idly pets one of her cats who, she says, is the reincarnation of her cat that died a few years prior.
"Animals are always in communication with us, but the only way they can express it is through behavior," she says.
The Pets Speak
was released in 2006, an anthology of her most interesting cases. The book's purpose is to reveal the lessons and stories that our pets are trying to tell us.
After Magoo, Diener has an appointment with Cedar, a misbehaved Yorkie in Canada who refuses to go near the basement and front door. Diener invites Cedar into a meditative state with her. She eventually concludes, by way of Cedar's cosmic energies, that there are cruelly intentioned entities inhabiting the home.
She prefers to hold consultations through phone because she believes that being in the same room as the animal would clutter both of their thoughts. It's not an issue for her: She believes the bond is just as reliable and strong even if the pet is thousands of miles away on the other side of the country.
She presses her headset to her ear and says "the house is an entity wasteland" and then calls to the archangel Michael to cast a protective shield around the house. She mentions sprinkling Epsom salt and alcohol near the offending locations to purge the negative energies that are making Cedar detached and aggressive.
On a wall nearby, Diener has hung a framed quote from naturalist writer Henry Beston's book
The Outermost House
. "For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear."
By hearing those voices, Diener feels that she provides a valuable service to people and the animals they love. A week after the initial interview, Diener speaks to Mr. Magoo once again and says that he has achieved greater peace, though he is still not quite ready to pass on.