I was interviewed for the New York magazine The Cut this week. Just in time for Hallow'een!
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images/Getty Images
Can Pets See Ghosts?By Madeleine Aggeler
I love my dog, Cleo, so much, but she’s not exactly a canine rocket scientist or anything. So I didn’t think it was that odd when, one night a couple of years ago, she started intently staring into an empty corner of my apartment. As my roommate and I stood in the kitchen watching her — her small body fully alert in front of an empty wall — I felt a great fondness for my sweet, simple little mutt. “That’s my girl,” I thought. “Firing on all cylinders.”
“You know what it means when an animal stares into an empty corner like that?” my roommate said. “It means there’s a ghost in that corner, and she can see it.”
“Oh,” I said, and didn’t question the statement further.
Over time, my roommate’s comment calcified into fact in my mind, and every time I’d see my dog staring at nothing I’d think “Hm, must be a ghost.” It never spooked me. Their business seemed to be with Cleo, not me.
Now, though, with Halloween upon us, I decided to investigate this claim further. Can pets see ghosts? Can they communicate with them? Are some pets better at this than others? What is my dog talking about with them, and do they know if she loves me as much as I love her?
The answers to the first three questions, I discovered, depended on a couple of things. First, whether the experts themselves believed in ghosts in the first place, and second, whether they would answer my emails. For example, there is one extremely famous dog trainer — let’s call him Geezer Gillan — whose team did not respond to my multiple requests for comment, across multiple platforms, even though I once saw with my own two eyes an episode of E!’s Hollywood Medium where he connected with one of his deceased dogs.
Oh well. Fortunately, Jackson Galaxy, a cat behavior and wellness expert, and the host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell was willing to talk with me, and told me that he himself is a believer in the supernatural.
“Everybody has their leaning one way or another. I am a believer in the spirit world. I’ve had many experiences. And that colors my perception a little bit,” he said when we spoke over Zoom one afternoon. From just a purely evolutionary standpoint, he explains, cats have evolved to sense things that we, as humans, can’t. Their eyes can see perfectly with the smallest bit of light, they can hear six to eight times better than we can, and their whiskers are designed to detect everything from temperature changes to air current changes.
Does this mean that cats can see ghosts, though? Galaxy concedes that skeptics might argue that, if you catch your cat staring at an empty wall, it’s just because they happened to hear a mouse inside of it, or a piece of plaster fell, or something else happened that we didn’t sense but our cat did. But Galaxy believes it could be more. His own cats, he says, are always picking up energies in his house. “I start from a place of saying there’s no way we’re the only sentient beings in the universe. I think it’s hubris to think of us as the only beings in an inhabitable, spiritual, energetic world.” So, in other words: Maybe … ?
Energized by the tentative yes I got from an Animal Planet star, I decided to dig deeper into the question, and talk to someone who’s an expert in both pets and ghosts. But, when several pet psychics ignored my emails, I began to lose hope. Perhaps I would never know if Cleo was really seeing ghosts. Still, this uncertainty did not stop me from warning several friends with new puppies that if they ever caught their dogs staring into an empty corner, they’re probably locking eyes with a supernatural being. Yes, my information was unconfirmed, but best to keep them on their toes, I figured.
Then, Katherine Bozzi got back to me. Bozzi is an animal communicator who lives in British Columbia, and who uses meditation to communicate with animals who are both alive and dead. Bozzi, of course, believes animals can see spirits. (It would be unusual to find an animal communicator who didn’t, I suppose, but I can’t be sure because, as I mentioned before, so many of them ignored my emails.) She says horses are the best at connecting with ghosts, because they’re herd animals, so their bonds are very strong, and they’re very emotional. Still, a dog or a cat definitely could connect with a spirit as well, in her professional opinion. Animals in general are more open to experiencing spiritual connections than humans, she said, because they’re not culturally conditioned to dismiss these moments as pure imagination.
“We’re all sentient beings, and we’re all souls in a body on Earth at this moment,” she explained. “We can feel that connection if we’re open to it.”
Selfishly, though, I wanted to know more about dogs. What was my Cleo experiencing? I reached out to Grisha Stewart, a dog trainer, author, and speaker based in Oregon. Stewart told me that many people have shared with her stories about their animals seeming to pick up on something spiritual. In one spooky instance, a fellow trainer told her about a dog they had worked with who refused to go down into the basement of the family’s home. The trainer couldn’t coax the dog downstairs, and eventually, the family hired a medium to come cleanse and exorcise the energy in the basement. Immediately after, she says, the dog had no problem going down there.
“Things like that make me think,” says Stewart, who admits that she’s always looking for a more rational reason for unusual animal behavior. Ultimately, though, she believes that if thinking that your pets can see and connect with spirits is helpful to you, or gives you a sense of reassurance, then that’s great. Why not hold on to that?
“My husband died a year and a half ago,” Stewart told me in September. “One of the things that I did when my husband died was to deliberately suspend this disbelief in the idea that he could reach me, because I knew it would be soothing to me.”
Stewart recounted the story of one woman who reached out to her. The woman’s father had died, and she had taken over caring for his dog, and every once in a while, the dog would stand up and wag excitedly, like someone was in the room.
“I’m going to take that with a grain of salt and say, well maybe it was hearing the UPS truck, or some sound outside,” she says, before adding: “But it feels really good to say maybe that was [her father]. And who are we to say it wasn’t?”
Our local large animal vet has recently closed their doors. That means that the closest vet is about 1.5 hours away. She is a great vet but if there is an emergency, a horse needs immediate care. So I decided to take the standard first aid course with Equi-life Canada. I knew some basics already and I learned a lot of new things. I especially look forward to taking Wilderness First Aid in September.
I was expecting to learn how to dress wounds and I learned that and much more. I was most impressed with learning the Sulis Method. This method was developed by the Scottish military to assess pain in horses and treat it with massage and stretches. I am really excited about this because Toby often has a sore back and this will help me assess how he is feeling before riding and help him feel better in his body.
Teddy and Toby have been amazing in the last couple of weeks. My daughter decided she wanted to ride Toby for a week-end clinic instead of share Teddy with me. Toby has been off for 2 months due to throwing his hip out. He is still young and reckless with his body. So, he has been getting PEMF and myofacial release treatments. I am also keeping him confined to his paddock with no play area anymore. There are too many trees and the space is very large. He seems to hurt himself when he is unsupervised with too much freedom. He has been doing great with the time off and doesn't seem to mind not going in the play area anymore. So my daughter started riding him and he has been a perfect gentlemen. When I lunge him first, I double check that he is feeling good in his body and can pick up the canter leads in both directions. He has consistently shown he can! This is a relief because I believe he bucked my daughter off two months ago because he picked up the right canter lead and was in pain due to his hip/pelvis issue. We are so glad he is feeling good again and he is willing and keen to partner with my daughter. Teddy, of course continues, to be a cross country machine, brave and bold over (most) jumps and excited for more.
We are so proud of Teddy at our first Eventing Derby in Kelowna this last week-end. It is amazing that my 10 year old daughter and I can ride him at different levels. He was so gentle, brave and willing through it all.
We offered a Mountain Trail Clinic for the Pony Club kids this week-end. It was really interesting. It is a Western discipline so a little different from what the kids have been learning. We have typically offered dressage, jumping and cross country. It was a wonderful experience for the kids and the horses. Teddy was very engaged once he understood what his new job was. He had to go up and down a sand bank, open a gate, walk along a teeter totter, over logs and through a water feature. He loved it!
Teddy was amazing in cross country again today. We tried several new jumps and he was very brave going over them. I still feel a little nervous about cantering over a jump and landing on the down hill while cantering away. He is so heavy on the forehand that I am worried he will torpedo down the hill. But the next step in our training is to get him on his haunches so he is controlled and balanced in a down hill approach to a jump and on the landing. I also had a very sweet trail ride with Toby.
All the training and hard work over the last four years is really becoming apparent. He was incredible today. We were tuned into each other and rode the course effortlessly.
It came to my attention from my accountant that I need to charge GST to Canadian clients (7%). US clients are charged 0%. In order to differentiate between US and Canadian clients, I needed to create two different websites. Katherinebozzi.com is for US clients and katherinebozzi.ca if for Canadian clients. This website will charge US dollars to US clients. This will save you conversion fees from US to Canadian currency. However, the US dollar is strong right now. To compensate you for the change, the $45 minute Varied Consultation is on sale. This covers any topic: lost animals, health challenges, behavioral challenges, end of life and deceased.
The boys got their teeth floated this week. It had been about 18 months for Teddy. He had a hook on the lower left side. He will be done again in 12 months to ensure hooks do not develop again. As horses grind their teeth from side to side, this can create waves and/or sharp hooks in their teeth. This can make it uncomfortable for them to eat and create ulcers on their cheeks. Their teeth grow continuously so it's important to have regular floats.
Toby had his teeth floated about 12 months ago. The vet found he had waves in his teeth, so it was recommend he have another float sooner than later. His teeth looked great with no waives or hooks. It is worthwhile to be proactive with maintenance!
The horses are give an injection to make them sleepy and then their heads are put in a harness and raised up. The vet pries open their mouths and grinds down the teeth with a Dremel like tool so their teeth are flat, even and symmetrical.
I have been a Professional Animal Communicator since January 2016. I have been an animal lover and admirer for a very, very long time.