Hotels are offering some pretty creative services these days to attract guests' attention, from surf butlers to in-house tattoo artists to pet psychics. Many of these offerings may be gimmicks, but we couldn't help but wonder -- what do these specialty jobs actually involve? We wanted to hear from the tanning butlers and soap concierges of the world in their own words, so we decided to launch a Q&A series to get the inside scoop.
To kick off the series, we interviewed Catherine Ferguson Ph.D., the pet psychic patronized by the New York City Affinia hotels. For Affinia, a pet psychic service may be a shtick to prove its pet-friendliness (though its Jet Set Pets program should be lauded for its many amenities geared toward four-legged friends). But our interview showed us that those who believe in Dr. Ferguson's abilities seem to get real insight and comfort from her pet communications. Below, find out what a pet psychic really does -- from talking to pets in spirit form to chatting with kimono dragons (who, by the by, don't have a whole lot to say.)
Q: Describe the reasons people might come to you for consultation. What kinds of issues do you help them address with their pets?
A: At least 30 some percent come because they’ve lost a pet and they’re having trouble dealing with the grief. Other people come for strange behavioral problems and frequently that is the result of past abuse before the person adopted the pet. When people move or get married or have a baby they want to know how to handle the pet.
Q: A lot of hotels are offering pet-friendly amenities these days, and pet psychic consultations can be arranged at Affinia hotels and other properties. What are your thoughts on this trend?
A: I think it is a great idea for people who travel with their pets. Being able to arrange pet psychic consultations is another good amenity to offer. Years ago I traveled several hundred miles with my cat because I was taking an eight-week post graduate seminar. I had to check in advance which motels would accept us. It was an emotionally draining experience.
Q: What advice would you give to people traveling with their pets?
A: If people want to take their pets they should talk to the pets in advance about what they’re going to do, that they’re not going to go to the vet, that they’re going to go on a nice little trip. It would be nice if they could travel with the pet a bit in cars before going on say, a plane, just so that the pet can get used to the box that they’re going to use during the travel. I would also use the Bach flower essence Rescue Remedy for shocks to the system.
Q: What do you do when you encounter skepticism about your profession?
A: It doesn’t happen very often fortunately. I don’t think there’s anything that I can do with that kind of encounter because they come with a fixed mindset, so they’ve already labeled me as whatever, so nothing I do is going to change that. It’s like if I tried to convince you to join another church. Your belief system is what it is.
Q: What’s it like to communicate with a pet on the other side?
A: When they’re on the other side frequently I’m contacting them within a week or a month or so of their passing. Frequently they’re resting up and recharging their batteries so they’re not doing much. They don’t have a lot to say to me. They will answer specific questions such as, "Was the timing right for the euthanasia? Was there anything else that I could have done?"
Q: What do pets do on the other side?
A: I get a lot of details of pets doing various kinds of work, mainly with children in hospitals. The children have to be separated from their families for long periods of time and are stuck in a hospital room, and the animals go as spirits. Children can see spirits, until a certain age they can see them pretty easily. So they keep the kids company, and the kids are happy to have them.
Q: What are some of the more exotic pets you've consulted for?
A: Somebody had a mouse. I’ve had a few turtles, horses, a kimono dragon. The main difference I find is that when people come with animals that are not traditional, they don’t say an awful lot. I think that the amount of communication that goes on is highest among the animals that we have a lot of contact with. Cats and dogs sleep in our beds, they’re with us 24/7 if we’re home 24/7. Those are the animals that have a lot to say, whereas the kimono dragon would respond to questions but didn’t have a lot to say. The interaction is minimal; this is an animal that lives in a tank most of the time. One horse had an awful lot to say -- that was an awfully communicative horse, but he really loved his owner.
Q: Is there a consultation where you were particularly proud of the results?
A: This horse. I met the woman in person, she brought his blanket and a few other things he used. I just got such a kick out of him as a personality. He had gone through some bad years before she bought him. I thought he was lovely to see that kind of change in personality and spirit going on.
Q: What materials do you use for the readings?
A: I ask for photos, and more than one, because I sometimes get different information from the different photos and I don’t know why. If people don’t have photos I just work with the description. I also ask if they’re coming to see me that they bring a blanket or a collar that the pet has worn. It’s a matter of the vibrations of the animal being on the blanket or the collar. With the horse it was amazing -- the woman told me she didn’t think her horse was well treated. When I got a hold of his blanket I could feel where he had been abused.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to pet guardians, what would it be?
A: I would like to encourage people to adopt from a shelter, and to avoid the puppy mills. If they absolutely have to have a certain breed, they should go directly to the breeder and see the way those animals are taken care of. The other piece of advice is that I would like people to choose a pet according to the animal’s personality and how it reacts to them and not to its appearance.
*Photo courtesy of Catherine Ferguson