- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Paula wanted Donna Rosen to know that she didn’t blame her for her death. But being a dog, Paula was unable to communicate through words. And since her death, barking wasn’t even an option, so she spoke through animal communicator Sonya Fitzpatrick. Or so some say.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick, a British-born animal lover who has lived in the Houston area for the last 10 years, is the TV host of “The Pet Psychic,” which first aired on the Animal Planet cable channel in June 2002. But for years before the show’s inception, she offered her services via telephone. She also has written two books to share her trade secrets.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick is now on the road as part of her first national tour. The show comes to the District’s Warner Theater at 8 p.m. tomorrow night. Tickets are $40.

Ms. Rosen of Olney appeared on one of the initial episodes of “The Pet Psychic.” Although she found some of Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s advice and questions generic, she was surprised that not all of her words of wisdom could be attributed to chance, such as information about an extended period of separation and an intercontinental trip.

“These were the kind of unique circumstances that couldn’t be explained by a lucky guess,” she said.

And the clincher? Mrs. Fitzpatrick sensed Ms. Rosen’s guilt that she had not realized early enough that Paula was sick.

“Get over it, Mom,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said to Ms. Rosen on Paula’s behalf.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick offered The Washington Times a pet reading. Prior to the interview, religion reporter Julia Duin e-mailed a brief biography and a photo of her cat, Serenity, per Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s request.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Miss Duin discussed Serenity’s problems for roughly half an hour. Miss Duin was frustrated because Serenity had several behavioral problems: gnawing her stomach, not using the litter box and vomiting all over the house.

Serenity is a “very severe case,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said in her charming British accent.

“This one feels,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick began and then paused. “She knows she’s a problem. She knows she’s disrupting your household. She knows she takes a lot of understanding.”

Mrs. Fitzpatrick communicates with animals, “kind of like a radio transmitter,” she said. She forges a connection with the animal, transmitting and receiving signals.

But animals obviously don’t speak. Instead they communicate through “pictures, feelings, emotions and senses,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said. “I use my emotional body. I become the cat or dog — whoever I’m speaking to.”

Mrs. Fitzpatrick then takes the pictures and emotions she is feeling and translates them into words for the pet owner.

To help Serenity keep her food down, Mrs. Fitzpatrick suggested changing Serenity’s diet and recommended a herbalist in Santa Monica, Calif. She also suggested putting citrus on Serenity’s stomach so she will quit chewing around the area.

Making the cat use the litter box could be trickier.

Because animals pick up on picture images, Mrs. Fitzpatrick said Miss Duin should visualize Serenity using the litter box. But that was as far as the interview progressed before both parties became frustrated with the other.

Miss Duin was resistant to the idea of animal communication, Mrs. Fitzpatrick said, and was difficult to work with.

At first, Miss Duin said she was interested in Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s counsel, but then Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s advice became repetitive.

“Most of the stuff she said, you could have deduced from [the bio] I sent,” Miss Duin said.

When Ms. Rosen appeared on the passing-over segment of the “The Pet Psychic,” however, she says she brought merely a photo of her dog.

“The producers told me not to tell them anything because they didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the show,” Ms. Rosen said.

And she doesn’t even always work with photos, said Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who first discovered her “gift” when she was a child growing up in England.

But Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s skeptics extend beyond Miss Duin.

Larry Myers, an associate professor of veterinary medicine at Auburn University who also has a private practice limited to behavior studies, is not a believer.

He has seen the show only once, for a brief period, but he describes his reaction as negative.

“I don’t object to it in terms of entertainment value; there are a lot of things in it that are fine,” Mr. Myers said. “But with the current ignorance of science in so much of the population, unfortunately there are a lot of people who believe in this. This is what bothers me.”

Animals send standard signals and exhibit some known behavior patterns, Mr. Myers said. Both facial expressions and body postures are associated with certain emotional responses, such as fear and anger, or submission and dominance.

“Once one becomes fairly sensitive to these [signals] within a given species, you can read a little about what’s going on with that animal,” Mr. Myers said.

Both Mr. Myers and Mrs. Fitzpatrick agree that pet owners can become adept at interpreting their animals’ behavior, with or without psychic assistance.

Fans of the show say it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not.

“If someone is completely cynical then it is probably a waste of [their] time,” Ms. Rosen said. “But if someone is open to the possibility that there might be some truth, it could be beneficial. It doesn’t matter if it’s fake or not, as long as the person hearing it finds some sort of help in it.”

No one can determine whether it’s real, she said.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick said she wants to share her gift with other people so they will have a better understanding of animals.

“Animals can teach us so much if we care to learn from them,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said. “They teach us love and loyalty.”

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