I Understand, Whiskers, but You Can't Do That on the Sofa

After Maris Wicker's Welsh corgi Beatrix began attacking her other corgi, Uma, and other dogs, she turned to
After Maris Wicker's Welsh corgi Beatrix began attacking her other corgi, Uma, and other dogs, she turned to "pet communicator" Diane Roadcap for help. (Photos By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)
By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Diane Roadcap stared intently at 2-year-old Beatrix as the Welsh corgi leapt around a Bethesda living room.

"She's showing me a ghost, like Casper the Ghost," Roadcap said. "She's telling me she has a lot of fears. Let me tell her she doesn't have to do that."

Beatrix's owner, Maris Wicker, looked on hopefully. She had tried an obedience class and a private trainer, but nothing had worked. Beatrix kept attacking other dogs, including Wicker's other Welsh corgi, Uma.

Finally, Wicker spent $175 to hire Roadcap, an "animal communicator," or pet psychic, to ask Beatrix why she attacked -- and to tell her to stop. Roadcap stared at the corgi for a few more seconds and then looked up again at Wicker. "She said, okay, she'll be better."

For those whose eyes have begun to roll, consider this: Roadcap is in such demand among Washingtonians convinced that she can speak with their dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets and pot-bellied pigs -- alive, lost or "passed over" into death -- that her weekday schedule is booked for weeks, she said. Want her to speak with your Siamese on a Saturday? You'll have to wait until July.

The American Veterinary Medical Association takes no position on the validity of pet psychics, and there certainly is no shortage of skeptics. One animal behavior expert said she believes that most don't read animal minds as much as the body language of humans hungry for their beloved pets' thoughts.

Television caters to that urge: "Dog whisperer" Cesar Millan "rehabilitates dogs and trains people" on his show on the National Geographic Channel. Animal Planet offers "K9 Karma," featuring doggie yoga, described as "the path to enlightenment for humans and their pets." The Internet abounds with pet psychics offering to do readings over the phone.

Three Washington area veterinarians say Roadcap has helped their patients, and her clients say she knows things only their animals could have told her. They pay a minimum of $145 for an hour-long visit, depending on the number of animals and the distance Roadcap must drive from her Springfield home.

Wicker, 54, a retired lawyer and professional musician, said her husband initially scoffed at hiring a pet psychic. But she said he, too, was struck by what Roadcap knew about Beatrix and Uma, such as the fact that they receive treats of cheese on Sundays.

One week after the appointment, Wicker said, Beatrix's attacks had stopped. "Beatrix has been much, much calmer," Wicker said. "I don't think she's a fake," she said of Roadcap. "I think there's some sense she has that allows animals to try to communicate."

Roadcap, 52, said animals speak to her in symbols. If she sees prison bars, the cat is tired of being cooped up. A suitcase: A trip is coming up. A bottle of beer: Someone in the house is drinking too much. While "speaking" with animals, she often closes her eyes, nods and murmurs "I see" or "I know, sweetie, I know." She doesn't need to meet with animals, she said. Photos have "energy," too.

She said she's known about her psychic powers since she was 5. She was playing near her home in Page County, Va., she said, when Blackie, her Doberman pinscher mix, said, "Move now." When she looked up, she said, the dog was standing between her and two snakes. Her mother chalked up the story to a vivid imagination.

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