Patricia Schaller was furious after she read about an animal expert who said dogs were only as smart as a 2 1/2-year-old child.
"That is wrong," she said. "They're smart. They're wise. And they're great teachers."
Schaller detailed her experience with Scooter, a dog whose "human" wanted to know if Scooter loved her.
"To the depths of the ocean," Scooter told Schaller.
And when Scooter was dying and his human was upset over the dog's death, Scooter told Schaller his last words.
"This isn't goodbye, it's au revoir," Scooter told her.
No, this isn't the ending to a Disney movie (which Schaller won't watch because "they killed off Bambi, Old Yeller and Lion King's daddy"). This is Schaller's job. Although she has no veterinary or animal behavior training, Schaller says she speaks to animals through her psychic abilities and has been doing so professionally for 30 years.
"When I was a kid, I thought everyone could talk to animals. But I found out not everyone could talk to animals and people think you're crazy if they know. You know the line: 'I see dead people.' "
Through phone and house calls, Schaller communicates with animals, saying that allows owners to learn the story behind their pets' behavioral problems, past lives, needs and wants or simply feelings. And until about two months ago, Patricia worked out of Los Angeles, but when the traffic, prices and people became too much to handle, Patricia Schaller and husband Stuart relocated to Salt Lake City.
"I've always kind of had to prove myself and I've kind of gotten to the point where I don't care what people think," Schaller said. "I still get people who think I'm nuts, but I've proven (I really can talk with animals) over and over again."
Originally a pastor at a Methodist church in New York, Schaller said she found she could best serve God outside the pulpit by helping animals. She works with many shelters and clients with rescue animals who were abused or mistreated.
"There are very few people who can speak to animals," she said. "This is how I serve God best."
When her husband Stuart met Patricia in 1999, at first he thought her psychic powers were "hocus pocus." But he said she seemed genuine and real, traits he rarely saw in L.A., and the two were married in six months.
Stuart, who has doctoral degrees in economics, theoretical physics and mechanical engineering from Cambridge University in England, also found another connection with his wife their professional fields. The two lecture on topics concerning the similarities between science and spirituality. One lecture topic, the science behind psychic phenomena, allows Stuart to provide a simple explanation for Patricia's powers.
"It's kind of like a radio transmission," he said. "Some people just have the physical makeup where they have a greater ability to pick up certain frequencies than others."
"I call him Mr. Wizard," Patricia Schaller said affectionately, adding that everything in the universe is interconnected and she is able to tap into that connection.
Although Schaller keeps most of her A-list clientele confidential, she regularly does readings for celebrities like MAD TV's Debra Wilson ("She loves reptiles"); West Wing's Allison Janny ("She has a dog like a small horse"); Jenny McCarthy and Cary Grant's daughter, Jennifer.
Now in Utah, Schaller is still doing phone readings for clients across the nation and she is starting charity work for the no-kill animal shelter Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. She is hoping to make house calls in the Salt Lake area through her Web site, petreader.com.
Schaller said most pets have past lives as animals, humans or even trees, and says one of her Siamese cats, Topo Gricio, is the reincarnated version of a former Siamese cat she owned, Gandhi.
As Topo wanders around a room, Schaller repeats what Topo is saying. "He's saying 'Hello, I am being Topo. Hello, I am leaving,' " Schaller says in the Indian accent in which she says Topo speaks.
Schaller offers simple advice so pet owners can make sure their companion is happy: "Understand they're animals, not a human. They're not accessories."
Animals hate being dressed up, she said, and especially hate being placed in purses, a trend popular among many small dog owners.
While Schaller deals with all kinds of animals (in L.A., she read many animals at the Santa Barbara zoo,) most commonly she works with dogs and cats. She frequently gets calls about common behavioral problems in the two species: dogs chewing things and cats going to the bathroom outside of their litter box.
As for dogs, Schaller says it's common for a puppy to chew things. But usually, when older dogs are chewing something besides a play toy, it's because the dog forgets the rules.
"The more you talk to your pet, the more they'll understand," she said. Animals communicate in three ways: through pictures, feelings and words, so by sending a dog a mental image of what they shouldn't do, the dog will remember the rules faster.Comment on this story
And when cats aren't using their litter box, "that's always a statement," she said, unless the cat is sick. She gave the example of a woman who called Schaller and wanted to find out why her cat kept going to the bathroom on her bed. Schaller communicated with the feline, she said, and found out he hated the other cat he was living with.
"It's a wonderful, gratifying occupation," she said.Schaller can be reached through her Web site or by calling 801-463-3710. For pet readings, she charges $25 for 15 minutes, $40 for 30 minutes and $75 for 60 minutes.