Any kind of training or basic understanding starts with communication - even with pets.
But an effective language between animals and humans is often one that is unspoken, even spiritual, according to Walla Walla pet communicator and psychic Shirley Scott.
Take, for example, a homework assignment she gave her class of pet owners. She instructed students to think of their individual pet's name over and over again for about five minutes and get them to respond. One student told her the pet had been asleep but suddenly woke up and walked over.
Scott, who will be teaching a pet communications class Nov. 14, 16 and 17 in Walla Walla, said animals have the ability to communicate in their own world and with humans in four different ways.
One is with sound, such as tone and duration of a bark or cry.
The next is body language: is the dog in a play bow, wanting to frolic, or is it fearful and defending itself, ears down, lips curled?
Another way is with pheromones, substances emitted by an animal or insect that trigger a response in members of the same species, such as signalling fear and alarm, attraction or locating food.
Telepathy, sharing mental images, is another way they communicate.
"They communicate with us, with each other and inter-species," Scott said. "They have to be tougher in the animal world, where weakness means death. A sick or weak animal gives off different pheromones," she said. "A dog can smell that a person is going to go into a diabetic coma five minutes before it starts because they smell the drop in blood sugar."
Students are encouraged to work on consciously using the communication techniques. "Once they understand how simple it is to communicate with them, they can let go of the blocks. Just see how the animal communicates in simple terms. Then they can communicate back in simple terms," she said.
Scott's own spiritual journey intensified in February 2000 when an allergic reaction to sugar almost killed her.
"It's like the universe just drew a curtain," she said. "I really don't remember much of my life before. It was a completely different life and time. The universe picked me up and put me on the rocket and said ‘hang on.'"
She did, and her life radically changed.
"I went from being a regular sales manager for Marie's Salad Dressing to being a psychic, now with thousands of clients around the world."
She said the universe always provides her with the lessons she needs. "It's amazing, when I'm going through my own struggles, the universe brings me a person going through the same things."
That letting go of blocks and to consciously use non-verbal communication can also serve people in finding out more about how animals feel about certain things, including life and death, according to Scott. And that translates to a better understanding of your pet and its needs, as well as providing a mutual pathway to more rewarding relationship with the animal.
Over-intellectualizing it or putting human values on it can be counterproductive.
"We can make anything complicated," said Scott. "... From my own perspective I don't put human emotions on the animals, many people do that. Animals have a lot to teach us about present time; they don't live in the future. And they are very aware and sensitive."
"Living and dying, animals can jump out of their body and see the other side easily," she said. "They accept death as a part of life. In their world one wrong step means death anyway. Death. They smell it. They know it. They'd rather die than suffer."
Although Scott loves animals, there's a difference in communicating between prey and predator. "You can communicate with a predator but you can't reason with them. Their DNA tells them what to do," she said.
Nor does being more aware of ways to communicate with animals mean an end to being practical.
"I wouldn't communicate with a mad bear," she said.
The Pet Communication class will be Nov. 14, 16, 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sessions are held at Carnegie Center, 109 S. Palouse St., offered through the City of Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department. Please do not bring your pet.
You must pre-register for the class at www.wwpr.us or for information call 509-527-4527.