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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pet Psychic Phenomenon or Common Sense Cold Reading?

Image from bizarrocomics.com 
I remember going to a pet fair where they had an animal communicator on the center stage. As she gave her readings, it was apparent that all of her advice was based on the known characteristics of the breed before her and common sense. Perhaps she used psychic routes to get to these answers, but anyone who knew dogs and human nature could have arrived at the same conclusions.

Cold readers, such as psychics who perform for crowds doing mind-reading tricks, are experts at reading human beings: their facial expressions, their movements, and their vocal tones in their responses to probing questions. So how do they cold readers it?

They Make General Statements

Someone in this room is grieving the loss of a loved one. If you take a room of 200 people, someone will be grieving. We define grief on our own terms. Do we still miss our mother three years later? We can consider ourselves grieving. Did our pet die last week? Most people consider their pets loved ones.

A good cold reader will watch the expressions of the people in the room. A shared glance with their partner. Sagging shoulders at the thought of their deceased loved one. A sigh. Once they have confirmation, they can proceed.

They Know Their Statistics

On the blog WaggonsWest , artist and creator Gracey Newstead researched the most common initials I'm getting a name. It begins with a "J". (Followed by a quick peek to see who gasps or smiles.)
in the United States for her craft business. The results showed the most common first initial for both men and women was "J". The most common last initial was "R" followed by "M". Can you hear it?

They Always Leave an Out

In order to avoid being wrong, psychics must always have an out.  The person is an aunt (brief pause to look for a reaction) or cousin. Possibly a sister. 

Audience Member: I have a mother named Jane.
Psychic: Was she an only child?
Audience Member: She had two bothers.
Psychic: (With a smile) Then she was somebody's sister!

So what does this have to do with pets? A cold reader can read the pet parents.

In my first book, Barking Mad at Murder, Frankie Chandler walks into a home appointment with her eyes wide open. She looks for clues and then applies them to the dog's body language, as well as the owners' responses. 

When Buster becomes nervous, he'll begin to yawn. It's a de-stressing move. So is pacing. As the tension increases, he will flatten his ears, drool, and shiver.

When he was afraid of the street noises, he would sit with his back to the street, ears back. That showed real fear, as opposed to "I don't want to walk this particular route."
St. Francis with Lamb from the house of Fontanini of Italy

A tucked tail? Scared. A tail straight up in the air means he's on alert for possible dangers.

It took me a while to discover that raised hackles can simply mean excitement and aren't necessarily a sign that he was on the attack.

So, are there real pet psychics?

That's not for me to say. As my parish priest told me, "We don't really know how St. Francis communicated with the animals."


  1. Really enjoyed this post, Jackie--of course you already know I'm a knee-jerk dog lover! And Buster (mine and yours) are favorites! It doesn't take much to read my dogs (four right now), they're pretty transparent, not at all subtle. I went to WaggonsWest and M was up there to. So I actually started thinking about all the J's and M's I've met (that I can remember) and there are a lot.

  2. I guess the psychic world is a mix of sham and cold-reading, but when someone comes to my home and one of the dogs immediately likes the person or totally dislikes the person, I do take my dog's advice. I dumped a boyfriend that way once. The dog was right.

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