Written by: Ashley Ng (Editor-in-chief, 2018-2019)
Designed by: Joanna Chen (Chief Designer, 2018-2019)
Toby – my 3 year old male maltipoo.
As cute as my beloved Toby may seem, he is notorious for snapping and charging at certain strangers. Having small dog syndrome definitely fuels his sensitive and fearful nature towards his surroundings, which sometimes results in aggression and nipping.
During my recent internship at a vet clinic, one of the vet assistants engaged an animal communicator who diagnosed her cat with depression and gave her tips on how to help her cat cope with the condition. Although she was rambling on and on about how accurate the animal communicator was, I still had my doubts and was apprehensive.
Regardless of my initial hesitation, I was nonetheless intrigued by the idea of an animal communicator and decided to employ the help of animal communicator, Ms Charlene Chua (@charlenechua_ac), to facilitate my understanding of my dear pooch. After a half hour long video chat, I gained a clear overall insight to Toby’s behaviourism.*
To kick start the call, Ms Chua spent a minute to connect with Toby; seeking his approval to communicate with him by muttering under her breath while staring intently at the pictures that I forwarded to her prior to this session.
What occurred throughout the session had cast away any doubts that I had initially. Her analysis had no errors.
From Ms Chua’s first ‘diagnosis’, Toby has anxiety. She elaborated that Toby has his heart in his throat almost everyday which is why he tends to overreact – being overdramatic was what she termed it. She precisely pinpointed that Toby would get sensitive when we brush his hair (which is very accurate) as although combing his hair is a nightly routine, he would often move about and start to pant all of a sudden whenever we whip out his brush. While I always assumed that such behaviours meant that he was excited about his nightly grooming sessions coming to an end, it had never dawned on me that panting was a sign of stress in dogs.
She then went on to correctly identify that when Toby was young, his hair was matted in multiple areas which led to his fear of being brushed (after all, poodles have curly based hair that tangles easily). She had a vision that someone once tried to untangle his matted hair by holding him down while he struggled, resulting in a rather painful and traumatic experience for him. While it sounded extremely concerning, she actually regarded this scenario as normal by providing the analogy that it was, “as if your mom was trying to tie your hair but telling you not to move”.
Reflecting on what Ms Chua had mentioned, I recalled that the home groomer we hired for Toby’s very first grooming session as a puppy was indeed quite forceful and firm with him. In hindsight, we should have brought Toby to a dog grooming salon with a more certified groomer instead. With respect to this incident, Ms Chua recommended that we keep Toby’s hair extremely short and try desensitizing the brushing by giving him treats as reward while keeping each brushing session short.
Toby has a bad habit of barking excessively at strangers when they walk by our house which aggravates us tremendously especially when we are trying to sign a delivered package or merely chatting with our neighbours. Such irritation often translates to fury and exasperation which ultimately forces us to punish Toby into submission or putting him in his ‘naughty corner’.
During the session, Ms Chua precisely identified that Toby is on high alert when strangers stroll past our corridor and gets defensive due to the mentality that someone is trying to harm him, causing him to ark fiercely. She then conveyed to us her candid conversation with Toby concerning his intense barking:
Ms Chua: Your bark is very noisy, what if the neighbours complain?
Toby: I bark to protect them, but they are not appreciative. I’m doing my job. But they scold me and talk bad about me ‘why is he like that, always bark, bark, bark?’
She told us, “After the entire episode, without a single utter of appreciation, you begin to bad-mouth him. Even after chiding him, you still continue to be upset.” On a day-to-day basis, he feels like we are always judging him and realizing my mistake made me feel horrible for not understanding his behaviour.
With the unfortunate combination of anxiety and timidness, Ms Chua explained that the quickest way for Toby to stop someone from doing something he hates is to bite without even a warning growl. This unpredictable nature stems from the fact that he does not know any other way to respond when feeling threatened or annoyed, which is further exacerbated because we often punish him for growling and biting.
All of a sudden, she queried if Toby vomits and has diarrhoea often (Yes! He does). She had felt a slight sensation on Toby’s upper right abdomen for a quick couple of seconds and concluded that his digestive issues could be related to his agitated emotions and suggested that we give him probiotics such as Greek yoghurt or goats milk.
With the intention to assess how legitimate Ms Chua was as an animal communicator, we asked who Toby’s favourite friend was. While she did not mention the breed nor the name, she declared that it was a white/light brown straight haired dog that has a small size and calm demeanour, obviously referring to his girlfriend – Teshe, a pomeranian cross (pronounced ter-she). Out of the many friends that Toby has, Teshe would definitely be his favourite as we often witness the adorable act of them licking each others’ faces, which proved to me that Ms Chua was indeed legitimate.
However, what saddened me the most from the entire video chat was how spot on Ms Chua was when she claimed that, “Toby said you bluff him a lot”. In the three years I had Toby, there were many instances where I used a toy to coax him into standing up for his nightly grooming or pretend to throw his toy but deliberately dropping it behind my back and pointing at random directions to confuse him.
Ms Chua concluded that aside from his family members, Toby has zero respect for everyone and affirmed the presence of a guard dog in our home. Moreover, she reminded us that our mind, words and heart must be aligned to the same intention. Her final conversation with Toby ended something like this:
Ms Chua: Actually you are very cute and handsome, but when you do things like that, its hard for others to think that you are cute and handsome.
Ms Chua: Actually you don’t have to bite people, they will not hurt you.
Toby: But I don’t like
Ms Chua: Then if you do something I don’t like can I bite you?
This whole encounter was nothing short of extraordinary. It was intriguing to understand the world from Toby’s perspective and even more fascinating to watch an animal communicator at work. Just by looking at a recent picture of any pet, Ms Chua is able to communicate and convey the needs and wants of the animals. I have learnt so many new things about Toby and is now able to tailor my habits and training to better suit his needs. Nonetheless, it was regretful that we ran out of time to ask all the 15 questions that we have prepared. Perhaps I might arrange another session to clarify the remaining questions? What do you think? Do you believe in animal communicators? Or would you engage an animal trainer instead?
*For those who may be interested, Ms Chua charges $70 for half an hour of video chat