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Creature comforters Telepathy: Animal communicators say they understand what terrifies a terrier, humiliates your horse.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

This is weird. Diana Beuchert knows it. I know it. The question is, does Louie know it?

Beuchert and I are game. Louie isn't talking. Louie can't talk. He is an 8-year-old terrier/Schnauzer/who-knows dog with whom Beuchert is attempting to "communicate."

Beuchert is an "animal communicator." And "reaching" animals is something that will be talked about by everyone who sees Robert Redford's much-anticipated movie "The Horse Whisperer."

Technically, says Beuchert, "The Horse Whisperer" is about an "animal behaviorist," not an "animal communicator." But if the movie is anything like the best-seller it was adapted from, there was definitely communicating going on between animal and man. Horse whisperers are said to train horses with a special sensitivity, by reading their body language and whispering to them.

What makes this thing with Louie even stranger is that Beuchert is attempting to communicate with Louie from afar. She and I are in her Mount Airy home. Louie is in his (and my) Owings Mills home.

"It's all telepathic, which really strikes people as strange," Beuchert says. Yep. Louie is at home because Beuchert prefers not to have the dog in front of her. "A dog's body language can be distracting," she says.

So I brought along a photo of Louie sitting alone in his (and my) favorite chair, an overstuffed blue recliner in the family room, which means he's not too far from the kitchen and his treasured stash of pig ears.

Do I have any questions I want to ask about Louie?

OK. Feeling ever so, well, silly, I ask how Louie feels about the impending move he and I are making. Our house is up for sale.

Beuchert looks at Louie's picture. She leans back in her own big comfy recliner, closes her eyes and lets her mind roam. Her two mixed-breed dogs, Thelma and Louise, snuggle at her feet. A couple of very large emu eggs are in a basket not too far away, but more about that later.

Making contact

"Do you refer to yourself as 'Mom' to Louie?" she asks.

Uh, yeah. She pauses. I am perched on the end of her sofa, waiting, I don't know what for.

Beuchert says she has an immediate connection with Louie.

She explains that it feels as if she is spinning while sitting perfectly still. Some animals, she says, don't wish to be bothered. Maybe they are eating or simply don't want to take the time to "talk" telepathically.

Beuchert is quiet for a few minutes, then says, "He knows something is going on."

I say a few pieces of furniture have already been moved out of the house.

Beuchert nods. "He is worried about what is going to happen to him." I nod.

"Is he going to stay with you?" she asks. Absolutely.

"That's what he is worried about. He is an insecure little thing. Maybe he was abandoned when he was very young."

Louie came to me by way of the Baltimore County Animal Shelter. And if pressed to describe Louie's personality, I would say he is adorable, loving, but somewhat on the nervous side.

But, wait. "There is someone else in the house he is terribly worried about," Beuchert says.

Uh-oh. For the last few years, my mother has been living with me but will move in with other relatives once the house is sold.

Louie is attached to her. When she is not home, he positions himself at the living room window and waits patiently until her car pulls into the driveway. Then he practically does back flips.

"He sees you as the one who takes care of him, but he sees himself as taking care of the other person. He is insecure, but he is also a generous little soul because he is very concerned about this person."

I explain that my mother will be well taken care of, as will Louie. Beuchert is quiet, communicating this important information to Louie.

How did he take it, I want to know.

"He's OK, now. Happy to know this," she says. Beuchert is quiet but the connection with Louie is apparently broken. "He's through with me now. He has completely blown me off," she says.

That's my Louie. Able to roll with the punches as long as he is going with the supplier of the pig ears.

She tells me to talk more with Louie, explain things to him. Dogs, she says, understand more than what we might think.

Beuchert says she isn't really hearing "words" from Louie or any animal. "I get the emotion," she says. "If he is scared or tense, I'm scared or tense."

Beuchert's day job is training and breeding Andalusian horses. Some time ago, she was into another venture: raising emus for human consumption.

"The emu thing never quite took off," she says.

Beuchert says that if the emu eggs in her home hatch, the chicks won't be raised for their meat. "I'm no longer into that," she says. "I'm more into the spiritual side of things now."

It was at an awards banquet by her horse dressage club where she first heard a woman speaking about her life as an "animal communicator." Then about six months ago, she went to an animal communication workshop in Pennsylvania and decided this is what she wanted to do.

Developing the ability

"We all have this ability but very few of us bring it out," Beuchart says. "It is the doubt that is a blockage. The workshop I went to helped me to eliminate the doubt."

People can communicate with their pets, says Dr. John Fioramonti, a veterinarian at Towson Veterinary Hospital, but whether people can tell you exactly what the pets are thinking, well, that is another story.

"I do think animals understand a lot more than we think they do," he says, "but if you are asking me if I think people can read a pet's mind, I have a very hard time believing that can be done."

So does Kathy Graninger, a self-employed canine behavior specialist who has a degree in psychology with emphasis on animal sciences. She distinguishes herself from animal communicators.

"I educate people on canine conduct, why they do the things they do. I interpret a dog's behavior. I do not tell people what dogs are thinking. I have never met anyone who can tell me what a dog is thinking."

Beuchert, 38, insists it can be done. "We were skeptics about this at first," says Beuchert. "I was never, ever a New Ager before I got into this."

She says she communicated with animals while growing up. She was raised in Darnestown, in Montgomery County. "My family lived in a development but we had horses nearby."

She says she is not getting rich from being an animal communicator. She charges $20 for 15 minutes worth of communication. She also uses Reiki, a form of spiritual healing that resembles the laying on of hands. She says her communicating business is growing. "I had about a dozen calls last week."

There are about 100 people in the country who call themselves professional "animal communicators" or "animal psychics," and the field is growing, says Anita Curtis of Gilbertsville, Penn., who has two self-published books on the subject.

"I've been giving the workshops for about six years," says Curtis, a retired accountant.

Kathy and Allan Schwartz, owners of the Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Lisbon, in western Howard County, have used animal communicators to calm nervous animals.

"To be perfectly honest, I don't doubt there are communicators who can talk to people and animals -- there are certain gifts that people have," Kathy Schwartz says. "My doubt is that they can be taught to do this."

Schwartz recalls that one communicator, Tari Cahow, of Manassass, Va., warned them that one horse -- whom they thought was doing fine -- "is telling me her back is hurting her." The vet came, and agreed.

"Animals are giving us a gift -- it is the gift of our humanity," says Cahow. "I feel that animals hold the key to who we are. They teach love."

Pig ears are a small price to pay. And Louie? He seems to be a bit calmer. Or maybe it's just me.

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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