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Animals Give Her the Big Picture

September 01, 1998|BARBARA J. CHUCK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you could talk to the animals, what would you say? Or better yet, what would they say?

If you were Lydia Hiby or had her skills, you'd know. Hiby has been an animal communicator for 15 years. She relates in her new book, "Conversations With Animals: Cherished Messages and Memories as Told by an Animal Communicator" (with Bonnie S. Weintraub, NewSage Press), those discussions and how she accomplishes "this wonder."

It's through nonverbal communication, Hiby says, through which she interprets the pictures and puts them into words.

" 'Picture talking' is the natural form of communication we instinctively use from the time we are born until we begin speaking verbally," she writes. "But this ability deteriorates once a child enters school. I believe that with an open mind, and practice, it is not difficult to reclaim this ability and hone it into a skill."

As a very young child in rural Connecticut, Hiby and her mother took daily walks on which Hiby indulged in a favorite activity: chattering with the horses, the donkeys, the cows and the occasional dog.

"With my limited vocabulary, I called out to them and asked, 'Are you happy?' 'How are you feeling?' " The responses she got, she says, "were neither words that they spoke, nor words that I heard in my head. Instead, I felt in my body a singular, intense emotion equivalent to 'I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm hungry.' "

Later, Hiby took jobs that involved working with animals. It was at a horse barn that she met Beatrice Lydecker, animal communicator, who became her teacher. Hiby was skeptical at first when she heard a woman was coming to talk to the animals. "Right, I don't think so."

But Lydecker's nail-on-the head "reading" of a horse at the barn (Lydecker said the horse was frightened by blankets; indeed, covering him had become a nightly two-hour ordeal) caught Hiby off guard and she "felt uneasy, almost scared." When Lydecker gave details about Hiby's dog Ginger, her family and their relationship to Ginger, Hiby was stunned. Eventually, Lydecker convinced Hiby that she too was communicating with animals. Soon after, Hiby became a student of Lydecker's.

Among Hiby's experiences:

* Entering the stall of a horse named Daniel, Hiby says, she "felt a wave of remorse and grief" sweep over her. She asked him what was wrong and eventually got back, "My life is over!" Daniel was grieving, but for whom? Hiby told the trainer-groom, "Someone has died." In fact, Daniel's owner had died two days earlier.

* Upon meeting Lady, one of a three-dog family, Hiby said, "Hello, Lady." Lady responded, "Lady Bad Dog--that's my name." "She showed me 'pictures' of herself knocking garbage cans over, swallowing a balloon and eating an apple pie!" The owners confirmed all of it.

* Sabala, a black standard poodle, sent visual images of a "magnificent white standard poodle." Not knowing who the white poodle was, Hiby asked the owner, "Sabala wants to know what happened to the big white poodle." The owner was emotional as she told Hiby about Iwa, her white standard, who was put to sleep two years earlier.

How does Hiby feel about skeptics?

"I actually welcome skeptics, having been a doubter myself. I encourage people to be skeptical. . . . And most of all listen to that inner voice."

What does your inner voice tell you? Is Hiby's "communication" to be believed? Should it be taken on a leap of faith? To paraphrase one client of hers, believing her would be no leap of faith because she proves herself all the time.

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