My dog Missy, a six-year-old border terrier, is basking in a lozenge of sun on the floor by my feet – but what is she thinking? Beth Lee-Crowther believes she can help with some answers: she is an animal psychic who communes with all creatures great and, as she will imminently demonstrate, small.
That sounds like a pretty unique skill. Yet the 52-year-old is explaining to me not only how she “does” it, but how the rest of us might be able to understand our pets as well.
She turns to my dog, which – in the manner of all border terriers in relaxed mode – is spatchcocked on the floor of this south London flat, facing away from her. But that doesn’t matter.
“I’ve been linking with her since you came in,” says Lee-Crowther, before closing her eyes in concentration. “Does Missy have an intolerance to wheat? She’s telling me she does, and that you might, too.”
We have, of course, long been a nation of animal lovers – but now, post-lockdown, even more so. Surges in pet ownership mean that there are estimated to be 12 million dogs in the UK and 10 million cats. That’s to say nothing of our various rodents, reptiles and avians.
One of the many pleasures of living with animals stems from the fact that we lack a common language but manage to connect nevertheless – be it through simple commands, the tone of our voice or Eskimo kisses. But for Lee-Crowther, author of the new book Everything You Need to Know to Become a Pet Psychicbeing better able to communicate with them can only deepen our bond.
She has been a real-life Dr Dolittle since childhood, she tells I. “Growing up, I’d always known instinctively what my pets were feeling.” How? “They spoke to me.”
Aged 11, she realized her horse had a bad back. “I said to my friend: ‘Is your pony all right?’ But it turned out she wasn’t hearing a voice. Only I was.”
Her ‘gift’ remained with her into adulthood. Although she initially worked in a saddlery, the more that word got around of Lee-Crowther being able to help people improve their relationships with their pets, the greater the demand for her services grew.
This includes locating lost ones. She does by gazing into a photograph of the missing animal, then employing dowsing skills, the divination usually reserved for finding water or metals underground using twigs or rods.
These days she is a full-time pet medium – though she refuses pay. “People come to me when they’ve no other option. I couldn’t possibly charge them.” She explains that her husband runs a business which provides for them both. I’m about to ask what he does when two dogs belonging to Lee-Crowther’s daughter suddenly go for mine. After we’ve calmed them all down, the conversation moves on, with Missy watching out.
Anyone who has seen the Bill Murray film Broken Flowers might be surprised by her willingness to call herself a psychic. Murray’s character meets an ex-girlfriend who explains that she has developed a rare gift, while stroking a wise-looking cat. “To read animals’ minds?” he asks.
“No,” she says firmly. “I’m a communicator… I don’t read animals’ minds, but when they want to communicate, I can hear them – like you and I are talking.”
Lee-Crowther isn’t so fussy about labels and what people make of her. She regularly appears on TV and radio, where she encounters both the enthusiastic and the cynical. “I don’t need to convince anyone about what I do,” she says serenely. “If you’re not interested, that’s fine.”
She believes that all of us would be wise to adopt the Dalai Lama’s attitude to life: “The mind is like a parachute. It works best when it’s open.”
In her book, she writes about how we can all improve our own psychic communication technique, via intense concentration, essentially, and a willingness to “hear”. She recounts stories of the animals that she’s worked with, explaining that pets don’t only alert her to various medical issues, but are psychic themselves.
A horse, for example, told her that its owner would fall in love with a man with a big scar on his leg. A year later, its owner did. Elsewhere, a snake once told her it would one day be cast in a feature film, but the creature is still waiting for its debut.
“The hardest part of what I do”, she says, “is just to have the confidence to relay the messages I get.” I ask whether she isn’t merely conferring human intelligence into the animal brain, and simply imagining it all. “I’m only the messenger,” she reiterates.
With my dog still dozing, Lee-Crowther begins to tune into her wavelength. She says that Missy prefers “human” food to dog food, and that someone somewhere has an ingrowing toenail. She relays that my dog believes I lead a hectic life in which I’m always searching for answers. “She wants you to know that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.”
She mentions names of strangers who will one day mean something to me, and that I’ll be moving house soon. “Missy’s giving me a door with the number 11 on it. She’s up for the move, and you should be, too.” In September, apparently, a woman called Sandra will come into my life with an intriguing work offer.
If little of this resonates for me so far, what she says next really does. Missy tells Lee-Crowther that my teenage daughters should be wary of a friend or nemesis called Clare, possibly Clarence. “I’m seeing the letters ‘C, L, A’. Missy says to be cautious around this person.” The school my daughters attend is on Clarence Road.
“And this is going to sound a little odd, but have you had a bad smell in your car recently? Missy didn’t like it, and knew it was serious.” A month ago, our 18-year-old rust bucket began issuing noxious fumes. It ended up in the scrapyard, and in its place is a new (well, second-hand) car, which each of us have noticed Missy seems much more comfortable in. “She feels it’s more stable.”
Finally, the future. She tells me that Missy, looking into my distant past, knows I’ve been to Niagara Falls. (True.) “You’re going to go back soon. Have you ever trained as a helicopter pilot? I’m seeing you flying above it, and looking down. So I think that’s what you’re going to do.” (Helicopter pilot lessons on a freelancer’s budget? Nope!)
Afterwards, back out on the street, I peer at the dog with which I used to have such an uncomplicated relationship. She looks at once so familiar but now infinitely more mysterious. But then of course she does. I’d walked in with Fido, and came out with David Blaine.
‘Everything You Need to Know to Become a Pet Psychic’ by Beth Lee-Crowther is released on Thursday 14 April (£12.99, Welbeck Publishing)