Effective communication can be an elusive ideal, even when involved parties share a common language. And for some pet owners, influenced by a parental attachment to a cherished animal, unconditional love that doesn't require hours of tedious discussion to maintain may not suffice. This desire to "talk to the animals" has created a market for everything from hand-held dog "translators" to self-avowed "pet psychics" like Sonya Fitzpatrick.
But according to Gina Palmer, one of the growing number of animal communications specialists in the United States, her practice is a birthright everyone should develop. Throughout her March 8 lecture, "Animal Communication-A Language of Love," in La Jolla, Palmer repeatedly emphasized that the success of her profession can only be measured by how much she inspires others to discover their own destinies as animal communications specialists.
Palmer told an audience of about 40-almost exclusively women-that she began taking spiritual pilgrimages to scared sites around the world about 20 years ago. One night at an ancient Incan site in Peru, she awoke from a sound sleep to discover a spherical ball of light hovering above her chest. She subsequently traveled to Yucatan, Mexico, to study with a "record keeper in the traditional Mayan tradition"-shaman, artist, poet and "incredible man"-who, among other things, taught his students how to speak to clouds.
Back home in Oregon, Palmer, a Realtor at the time, noticed a new ability to hear trees, plants and animals talking to her. Despite suddenly acquiring a skill most salespeople would do nearly anything to possess (the ability to read the minds of business associates and know when they were "lying through their teeth") Palmer decided to give up a six-figure salary, sell everything she owned, buy a motor home and become "a wanderer" for two years. She also studied "very deeply" with Penelope Smith, a well-known animal communication specialist based in Marin County.
During her time on the road, Palmer traveled with three cats (one, her "master teacher," a Siamese named "Shera Lee O Ma Ras") and a miniature dachshund in tow. "My motto became, "Nowhere to go and all day to get there.' I became a turtle," she said.
Today, Palmer teaches "classes and workshops in basic and advanced skills and animal communication" in Vista. Students can also wander along with Palmer to places like San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja to commune with California gray whales (cost: $2,125, double occupancy). A flyer for the basic, two-day workshop with animals at the Vista facility ($175) promoted "the possibility for connection and increased awareness within all of our relationships."
One "powerful technique" Palmer claimed to employ during consultation sessions enables her to "literally become the animal." It was, however, somewhat disappointing to hear that "this is not Dr. Doolittle, like you saw at the movies. Never, ever, in a million years, expect that you're going to hear an animal talking to you the way that I'm talking to you now."
When Palmer opened the floor to questions, the first was not particularly spiritual in nature: Why do dogs eat grass-and eat so much that they can't digest it and then vomit it up?
"Animals have a relationship [with] the plant kingdom," Palmer replied. "The animal is seeking balance."
An attendee said her cat had helped her get "over having a tendency to have a drink at night" and wanted to know "how to tune in a little better" with the beast, which prompted Palmer to describe nonverbal communication techniques she sometimes uses with a rabbit at her Vista facility.
"I pick him up, and I hold him exactly the same way that I just pictured to him," she explained. Surrounding herself and the hare with a mental vision of "pink and golden light pulsing," Palmer said she "might even start to spin a tetrahedron geometric form around us."
Another woman spoke about walks through the East County hills, where she communed with group of ravens that "called out to her" and flew in a farewell circle around her head when she had to go home. She wondered: Was she putting too much of her own feelings into her interpretation of their behavior, or did they really understand that she was playing hide-and-go-seek with them?
After being instructed to stand up, close her eyes, take hold of her solar plexus power center and relive the experience, the woman decided that whether or not the ravens understood the game, they were having a good time.
"The message from the animals is: lighten up," Palmer instructed. "Have the willingness to have fun and play."
Saying her current vocation is creating the happiest time of her life that she can remember, since the age of 3, Palmer insisted she had nothing to sell to the audience.
"You know everything about everything, and so do the animals," she said. "Truth doesn't need to be sold. It doesn't need to be bought."