December 22, 2020

Learning to Speak Dog

Humans have longed to converse with animals audibly as long as they have been bonding with them. Tolstoy wrote a convincing story, “Kholstomeer,” from the animal’s perspective, as if the old gelding named Strider could speak and give voice to his inner thoughts in a first-person narrative. If Tolstoy can translate the animal’s voice, then perhaps we can, too, I thought, when I wished to converse with Brady, my charismatic German Shepherd with soulful eyes.

I squirm in my seat knowing that the reader includes skeptics who consider the concept of telepathic communication between animals and humans preposterous. When an acquaintance first introduced me to the concept of animal telepathy, I cast it aside as pure hoax. When she told me of the extraordinary revelations and behavioral changes in her animal companions, as a result of connecting with them telepathically through a famous animal communicator, I vacillated between curiosity and skepticism for a few months. Sheepishly, I asked for the communicator’s contact information. Meanwhile, I did a little research on the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of telepathy.

The word ‘telepathy’ comes from the Greek terms ‘tele’ or ‘distant,’ and ‘pathe,’ or ‘emotion,’ so as to convey an emotion from a distance. Telepathy was once the topic of serious scholarly inquiry for prominent philosophers and psychologists including William James, Carl Jung, and Jean-Martin Charcot. However, contemporary scholars shy away from conducting research on telepathy the way they would shun writing literary criticism about Harlequin romance novels. I would like to suggest that it is a topic worthy of scholarly inquiry. This is for anyone that has ever loved an animal or theorized about an animal’s faculties.

William James lends credibility to the subject as few could. James was a professor at Harvard University from 1873-1907, bridging the humanities and sciences by teaching physiology, biology, experimental psychology, and philosophy. James was also a founder and president of the American Society for Psychical Research in Manhattan. James argued that an extended empirical investigation in psychical research would validate the concept of telepathy. He wrote in August 1892, “I find myself also suspecting that the thought-transference experiments  […] are the sorts of thing which with the years will tend to establish themselves.”

Little did James know that thought-transference experiments would be conducted empirically between animals and humans in the twenty-first century, but he would have welcomed that. James staked his reputation as a Harvard professor to bring legitimacy to psychical research.

Based on my series of irrefutable conversations with Brady, though, I can no longer avert the subject. In spite of my mortification at the thought of being caught contacting an animal communicator, I made an appointment with Debbie McGillivray. She has written three books on animal communication, including Untamed Voices, and Animal Communication Bootcamp. “I feel very blessed to be able to bridge the gap between animals and humans […] It is through this subtle communication that questions are answered, compromise is achieved, and harmony restored,” she writes on her website. In the testimonials I read, numerous clients described themselves as reformed skeptics, and thanked Debbie for the transformative changes in their animals from behavioral modifications to medical revelations. If anyone was a legitimate animal communicator, it was her.

At the appointed time, I called Debbie with my list of questions that she would pose to Brady, who was sitting next to my desk. I could hear unmistakable Bostonian inflections in her voice as she explained: “I’ll translate Brady’s answers for you, using the tone of his energy in my vocal inflections.”

 We didn’t discuss anything about Brady, about me, or about our circumstances. “What’s his name, breed, gender, and geographical location?” Debbie asked me. And then, with that information, she said: “Just wait as I locate him for you.”

“Oh, he has an effervescent enthusiasm.” Debbie’s voice was upbeat and her tone was down to earth. After admiring his physical appearance and his shining eyes, she conducted a body scan. “His right hip is sore, and his lower lumbar is out at about the fourth disk from the bottom. Can you take him to see a chiropractor?”

Later that day, I made an appointment for the first time with an animal chiropractor, Dr. Kathleen Meenan, at Rippowam Animal Hospital. I didn’t tell her what Debbie had diagnosed, but when we got there, Dr. Meenan scanned Brady and said: “His right hip is out, and his lower disks are out.” I stared at her as if she had said that I had been born on Saturn. This was a revolutionary discovery. It legitimized the intangible science of animal communication, because the veterinarian’s observations corroborated with the communicator’s intangible ones. I realized that the potential for communication between animals and humans is largely untapped. Ever the academic, I went for the doctorate in animal communication. This is what I write about in my memoir (unpublished), Soul Mate Dog: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Dog.