Recently, while visiting a sick child in the children's hospital, I came across a most amazing sight. Also visiting the children that day were two very important canine visitors: an adorable border collie and a button-cute snow white toy poodle. The children's faces came alight as they watched the toy poodle perform a series of tricks, somersaults and backward flips. Meanwhile, the border collie cheerfully hopped onto the sicker children's beds for a cuddle, his wide trusting eyes conveying palpable sympathy. It was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary day for the children as they forgot for awhile much of the pain and suffering in their little bodies.
As any animal lover knows, pets have a unique way of bringing unconditional love, companionship and joy into our lives. At some time or another we have all gazed into the soulful eyes of a puppy or met the inscrutable stare of a cat, and wondered: if only they could speak. Well they do communicate; it's more a case of if only we could hear them. Now, Trisha McCagh opens the door to the world of animals with her book Stories from The Animal Whisperer.
Ever since she was a young girl, Trisha has spoken to the animals in her life but wasn't able to hear their stories until a memorable kitten named Beau came into her life. Beau died young and his parting gift to a grieving Trisha was an unquenchable thirst to develop and refine her communication skills with all creatures great and small, wild and domestic. "Animals are the bridge between us and the beauty of all that is natural. They show us what's missing in our lives and how to love ourselves more completely and unconditionally," she writes.
Trisha sees her role as helping to reconnect humans with the natural world. Her accuracy and authenticity have brought her international recognition as an animal communicator and she consults the Taronga, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth zoos. Animals, Trisha emphasises, can teach us many things if we only take the time to listen. For instance, dogs are eternal optimists; they teach us how to play and have fun on a daily basis. Cats are naturally meditative creatures, totally present and engrossed in whatever they're doing in that moment. The Animal Whisperer contains many wonderful stories filled with some real characters. There's Gerald, a farm pig who became disgruntled when his owner stopped their nightly ritual of watching the TV news together and munching on doughnuts! Meet Mr Red, a racehorse who felt most jockeys were morons! And my favourite, Bones, an injured lion cub who was raised on a plantation in Zimbabwe, yet felt the irresistible call of the wild.
Trisha is outspoken against any form of cruelty to animals. Her point of view is that wild animals should be allowed space in their natural habitat rather than becoming our exotic pets, confined in small cages. Losing a beloved pet can be a shattering experience. The Animal Whisperer dedicates an entire chapter to this topic that will comfort anyone who has lost their beloved pet. Trisha writes with beautiful clarity on the afterlife of animals and how bonds of love endure beyond the grave. Animals have a different perspective on death; one dog summarised this for Trisha as: Life is merely a transition, ready for the next adventure!
If you wish to explore the hidden lives of animals, pick up The Animal Whisperer. You're sure to be charmed, entertained and even surprised at what animals have to say. I'm off to start a conversation with my rambunctious puppy!
Nicola Silva is a journalist and writer based in Sydney