The life of an animal communicator is all about understanding the energy of the creature in question, a woman who has conversed with all kinds of species tells THEO PANAYIDES
Let’s talk of Marmite – not the pungent yeasty spread, but the Jack Russell Terrier who went missing in Walsall some years ago. His owner Nikki (the polite term is “guardian”, apparently) did everything she could to find him: “She hired search dogs, a mini-digger, a JCB digger and a thermal-imaging kit, and couldn’t find him”. Finally, after the dog had been missing for seven days, she turned to Pea Horsley.
Pea was in London, a long way away. Nonetheless, she recalls, sitting in the Elias Beach Hotel a day before she’s due to give a talk at TEDx Limassol, “she emailed me his photo, and I printed it off, and I connected with him using a very simple method –”
She connected with the dog? Over a photo?
That’s right, she says, “I connected with the dog using a really simple method that we all can do – it’s not extra-special just for me, everyone can do it. And he started to give me information: so, images. You perceive them, like, with your inner eye, just like we see pictures when we’re dreaming.”
Marmite showed Pea how he’d woken up his “dad” in the middle of the night so as to be let out the back door, “then gave me pictures of crossing this path in front of him, through wooden fencing, across a field, and there being lots of trees on the left-hand side”. (Nikki later confirmed that the details matched Marmite’s favourite route.) Pea then switched to a more advanced technique where “you move your consciousness out of your body and into the animal’s body”, literally giving her Marmite’s point of view from wherever he was. “I could feel water over my hands, which were essentially his paws… And when I looked out of his eyes, I could see that I was in a small, square-shaped, man-made structure, hard like concrete”. Seeing no landmarks and only a glimmer of daylight, she realised that the dog must be trapped underground. “I’d asked Marmite ‘How far are you from home?’,” she recalls, “and he gave me the words ‘One mile’.”
Wait a minute: dogs know miles?
Animals know distance, she replies: “How they perceive a mile I have no idea – I’m sure it’s to do with quantum physics?”. She ends the sentence as a question, as if to say ‘I’m no expert’. “But they have a sense of how far they are from home.”
Based on the presence of water, Nikki guessed he might be in an old disused canal about a mile from the house. She’d already searched there, but agreed to search again – but, she asked Pea frantically, how would she find Marmite if he was trapped underground? Marmite (unlike every other Jack Russell on the planet) never barked! “So I reconnected with Marmite,” and explained the situation: “This might be your last chance to be found,” she warned him, “so if you hear her calling for you, you need to start barking and keep barking until you can look her in the eyes. And I stressed to him ‘in the eyes’.”
Pea then disconnected, and went off to make her dinner – but within the hour, her phone was ringing “and it was Nikki literally screaming ‘We’ve found him, he’s here!’”. In the background, Pea could hear the sound of a dog barking non-stop. Marmite, it turned out, was trapped down the bottom of a 12-foot-deep canal shaft, so deep that the fire brigade had to be called to haul him out. It took a while for his great escape to be engineered – but he never stopped barking, not till Nikki “picked him up and held him face-to-face”, i.e. till he looked her in the eyes.
This story happened in 2008. It was widely reported, including in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. “Animal psychic ‘finds’ missing dog” was the Telegraph’s headline – but Pea herself isn’t keen on the word ‘psychic’ because “it puts up barriers, and creates separation because people go ‘Well, I’m not psychic’. I don’t think this has anything to do with being psychic. It’s all about intuition. Animal communication” – that’s her preferred term for herself, ‘animal communicator’ – “is based on intuition”.
I know what you’re thinking, I was thinking it too: Can this be real? It’s one thing to ‘communicate’ in the sense of knowing if your pet is sad or happy – but asking specific questions, and getting specific answers? Nor is it just with domestic animals. Pea has communicated with a lion, and even let a python named Dougal wrap himself around her neck, albeit only after getting to know him (“I wouldn’t let any old snake around my neck”). Earlier this year, she spoke with whales and dolphins in Hawaii. Over the years, she’s heard some unusual admissions: “I had a horse tell me that his favourite food was Maltesers!”. Above all, perhaps, she can also converse – “because it’s the spirit you’re communicating with” – with animals who’ve “crossed over”, i.e. died. That’s quite a leap, I point out. “I know it’s a leap,” she admits. “I know it’s a big leap for people”.
It was also a leap for Pea herself, when she ventured down this path a decade ago. At the time, she was working as a top West End stage manager (she’d worked frequently with Harold Pinter, including on his final production Krapp’s Last Tape), her contact with animals limited to being a keen animal lover. She’d just adopted a rescue dog named Morgan, her first dog after a lifetime of living with cats – but Morgan was sad in his new home, as animals often are after a big move, so when the rescue centre emailed her an invitation to an animal-communication workshop “I thought ‘OK, that must be the latest politically-correct way to describe how to read your dog’s body language’, and I thought ‘It’s going to help with Morgan’ so I went along”.
Instead, she discovered the techniques she herself now teaches in her own workshops: how to talk to animals, non-verbally but still very specifically. At first, she recalls, “I was really sceptical, because I’d been working in theatre stage management for 15 years”, a down-to-earth profession with a lot of scheduling and co-ordination. This kind of thinking just wasn’t part of her mindset. But then some interesting things began to happen, as for instance “a complete stranger who got a photo of my gorgeous cat Texas and, just through his photo, she described my hallway – which is really distinctive, it’s a black-and-white tessellated floor – then described how to get to my living-room, the colour of my sofa – the colour that I call it – and his favourite thing to sit on in the back garden.”
The colour that she calls it?
“I call it ‘mocha’,” she explains. “Some people might call it ‘brown’.”
But would Texas know, or care, that she calls her sofa ‘mocha’, so as to pass that word on to the communicator?
Maybe he doesn’t care, replies Pea, but “he has an awareness that I call it ‘mocha’. Because you have to get away from how rigid we are with what we believe language to be,” she adds emphatically. We think of words as words, but in fact they’re a kind of energy: “All these verbalisations, our thought-forms, physical sensations, emotions – it’s all electro-magnetic energy. And I think that’s what animals are perceiving. They’re not perceiving ‘mocha’, like we do as humans – because that’s not part of their world, is it? But what they perceive is the energy, and I think that gets translated into something they comprehend”.
That’s the crux of it: everything is energy, “we ourselves are beings of energy and vibration”. That’s why her technique works on all animals – unless of course the animal is busy or not in the mood to talk, which happens occasionally – because “we’re not talking dog, or cat, or dolphin: we’re talking energy”. All she’s doing is tapping into “the connectedness of life”, she explains, the energy that imbues all living things and can even rub off onto objects and buildings: “You go to buy a house, and you go inside, and you just don’t like the feel of the house”. When that happens, you’re perceiving energy – using your intuitive nature, the side of ourselves we tend to repress and mistrust as we grow older. It’s no accident that children are especially good at animal communication.
Does it really work? Is it just delusion, a projection of feelings, whatever? It’s not my place to judge what Pea Horsley does, especially since it’s not exactly some arcane ritual: she’s written two successful books – Heart to Heart and The Animal Communicator’s Guide Through Life, Loss and Love – and led workshops from Egypt to Australia, teaching hundreds of people from all walks of life. (The only oddity is that 80-90 per cent of them tend to be women. I wonder why so few men, I muse; “Yeah, I wonder why…” she replies with a meaningful sigh, as if to say ‘Don’t get me started on men and their rigid rationalism’.) Playing devil’s advocate, parts of what she said did give me pause, like the idealisation of animals as benign and noble. What do they feel about the abuse they often suffer from humans? Do they ever hate us? “I never sense hatred,” she replies. “What animals are really good at is forgiving”. Yet shouldn’t animal energy also include some unsavoury feelings like hatred and violence, like it does in humans? Above all – speaking of humans – there’s the obvious corollary that we’re energy too, therefore Pea must be able to connect intuitively with people as well, even beyond the grave. “That’s not my thing,” she replies when I ask. “I focus on all the other animals, but not the human animal” – but surely she’d be tempted, assuming (as she does) that it’s possible? Would you really stick to dogs and cats when you can communicate with a dead loved one, or Gandhi, or Hitler?
Then again, why not? It really depends on who ‘you’ are – and Pea doesn’t strike me as the type who’d care about human prattle, all that mental clutter and “monkey-chatter”, when she could be communing with wiser mammals. “We radiate our own unique energy signature, a bit like a channel on a radio,” she says at one point – and her personal channel might be easy-listening with a few discreet spirituals, the radio equivalent of a 45-year-old woman with enormous blue eyes and a patient, never-hectoring manner. “You need to get very quiet and still,” she explains when I ask about the key to intuitive communication. “The stiller we become, the easier it is to connect with an animal”. She trains herself to be stiller, “I remove a lot of noise from my life: I don’t often have the radio on in the car, or the TV on. I spend a lot of time in silence. I also meditate, and just do a lot of stillness in my life. Walking in Nature is also helpful”.
It all sounds very New Age-y – though it’s not, she insists with a laugh. She doesn’t lead a solitary life: “I do go out with my friends, honestly! I go to the pub, I go to the theatre”. She likes cooking, swimming, hanging out with her partner (they’ve been together since her stage-manager days), watching movies, baking bread. There are also glimpses of a prickly side: she refuses point-blank to divulge her birth name (she’s been called ‘Pea’ since theatre school) and doesn’t want to say where she lives, just ‘south-west London’. She has a brother, but they “don’t really talk” (rather ironically, since she talks to so many exotic species); she used to be judgmental about the mistreatment of animals, she says rather sternly, but is “more open-minded towards humans now”. I can see how she might be difficult, just because her beliefs are so singular. Yet the main reason why Pea is convincing – and she is, both with me and the TEDx audience – is because she seems so open and accessible, a woman with a life-changing secret she only wants to share with you.
Shut down? I repeat, vaguely embarrassed.
“Yeah – the veil comes down, and they just look at you as though you’re slightly crazy. Because they don’t have any context that they can draw on, so people question how it can be possible… But I also feel it’s my life’s purpose,” she adds quietly. “I think this is why I’m here – to help people realise how sentient they are, these animals. And how it’s so easy to communicate with them, if we just get our ego and rigid beliefs out of the way and open up a bit more. And how that can really change and enrich our lives, as humans.”
One more thing: we both have a few minutes to spare after the interview, so I suggest taking a walk in the gardens to look for an animal, the better to see her in her element. We meet a cat in the restaurant area, a bedraggled but friendly creature. “You see how trusting they are,” says Pea, sitting down beside it and stroking its fur lovingly. The cat has fleas, she notes sadly, and a nasty-looking wound on its leg; it sneezes violently, and a green globule of snot starts to form in its nostril – yet I’ve never seen an animal get so comfortable so quickly as that cat gets with Pea. Within five minutes, it’s stretched out happily, offering itself to be stroked; within 10, it’s curled up on her lap. I leave them to it, heading off to another appointment – but I happen to pass by a little later and she hasn’t budged at all, sitting by herself in the restaurant area with the ragamuffin cat on her lap. A picture of stillness.