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television: Double Talk 

A real life Dr. Doolittle, Animal Planet's "Pet Psychic" claims to talk to the animals.

Except that Dr. Doolittle was a fictional character, one created, in fact, to entertain children. And Sonya, who is herself real (or appears to be), professes that the telepathic talents she says she has are real. And so far this season she's "talked" and "listened" to sheep, ferrets, tigers, a wallaby, a horse, a pig, a parrot, a llama, a zebra, bats, an iguana, a myna and, of course, myriad dogs and cats.

She's even "communicated" with pets who have gone on to their final reward, reassuring their owners that their pets and livestock were grateful for their love and are waiting for them "in the spirit world."

The owners — of both the quick and the dead — are of course immensely grateful to Sonya. They believe in what she purports to do. That's some payoff.

Hey, is this a great country or what?

In recent episodes, Sonya has acted as intermediary between a handful of ferrets and their owner, explaining that the mother ferret's cough is due to the cleaning solution the owner is using on her floors. "From now on, use just vinegar and water to clean," she advises. Three months later, the owner's house smells like a pickle jar, but the ferret's cough is gone. Then there were the Bengal tigers who refused to mate. The male tiger told Sonya it wasn't his fault. The female owned up: Sonya says the tigress claims she was painfully assaulted in a previous relationship and deliberately makes things difficult for her new mate.

Hmmmm.

So who is this woman and how did she come by her "talent?" Fitzpatrick was born in central England, she says, and because of a profound hearing loss she finds it easy to communicate with animals. (The hearing loss seems not to interfere with her ability to listen to pet owners on the show.) Once she mastered her skill as a young girl, she says she did what anybody would do: She gossiped with pets about their owners. Now, following a "spiritual experience in 1994," she has refined her talent and has helped "more than 3,000" animals worldwide communicate with those who love them. Plus, she's got her own show on Animal Planet.

There's no doubt that Fitzpatrick is a sensitive animal lover, and there's no doubt that her shtick is somewhat entertaining. (Nor does her British accent hurt. It's amazing how much credibility those of us here in the Colonies will give to anybody with a British accent.)

But is it a scam? Of course it is. Or I hope it is, anyway. "If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages, think of all the things we could discuss," Dr. Doolittle says.

Maybe that's what scares me. I don't want to buy into Sonya's shtick. My two cats and my dog know too much. And a man's got to have his privacy, you know? S



"Pet Psychic" airs Mondays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. on Animal Planet.

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