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Metro Detroit

July 9, 2014

Animal behaviors could stem from complicated emotions

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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METRO DETROIT — Sometimes, when Fido just can’t seem to grasp the concept of sit, stay or “Good grief! Hold it until you get outside,” it’s time to call in an expert.

Pet trainers and obedience professionals have been proven to make a world of difference with countless furry hellraisers. There are cases, however, where it takes more to get into the mind of a pet and make a meaningful behavior transformation.

That’s part of what Leslie Cirinesi does. It might sound unorthodoxed to some, but the owner of Advanced Energy Therapy in Clarkston is a Reiki master teacher and also works as an animal communicator — yep, a pet psychic.

She gives about 30 consultations a month to pet parents who are looking to get answers to any number of questions with their animal, from more lighthearted inquiries like “why don’t you like your toys” to more serious matters like end-of-life decisions.

“It’s usually behavioral issues people want to understand or resolve, or health issues. A lot of times, people who have older pets who are sick and need to help them transition — that’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of guilt. It’s very helpful for them to hear from the pet, ‘Yes, it’s time to go,’ or ‘No, I’ll let you know.’”

To do her work, interestingly enough, Cirinesi said she doesn’t need to be in front of an animal in order to communicate with it. She said she can get a good idea of what’s going on over the phone or even with a photo. The client will describe the issue going on with their animal, and Cirinesi does her best to tune in to what the animal is feeling.

“Sometimes, it’s separation anxiety, and the dog can tell me what will make them feel better. They can say, ‘Maybe tell me where you’re going or how long you’re going to be gone.’ Or, ‘Leave a T-shirt that smells like you with me,’” said Cirinesi. “Sometimes, they have very logical reasons for why they do odd things, and trying to understand why they do those odd things really helps. It’s really simple.”

It’s a simple concept, but getting to the root problem of a pet’s unusual behavior could be tricky. Christine Fox, of Wag ‘N’ Tails, knows a thing or two about that. Her business offers training and group obedience classes at its Shelby Township location. But when she sets out to meet a new client for a private behavior consolation — perhaps because the animal could be anxious, overstimulated or even aggressive in a group class setting — she gives pet parents a bit of their own homework.

“I give clients a detailed questionnaire because it kind of enables me to get into the head of the dog and get a feeling of where the dog is coming from,” said Fox. “Because I don’t live with the client, I ask a long series of questions to get to know the client’s routine and how it involves the dog.”

Sometimes, after finding out a bit more about that routine, she gets to work. She’ll decide whether she thinks the problem is with obedience or behavior — and, boy, is there a difference — and she employs training and counseling afterward to that end. Yes, counseling. Just like their owners, pets might be acting out because of an emotional issue.

“A lot of times, you find out something is going on at home — divorce, loss, a kid going off to college. There are a lot of things going on underneath all these layers of behavior problems,” she said.

Fox also said she often finds that behavior issues aren’t always an animal problem, they’re a symptom of a problematic human-pet relationship.

“There’s often a breakthrough session, and many times, people are in tears by the time we’re done with their lessons and they tell me they’ve never realized their dog could be affected this way by something,” she said. “It’s a very, very rewarding career.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.