You’re feeling very, very… catty

Pet psychic's new life is calmer than her old one

My goldfish is a philosopher. His or her name is Marigold, regardless of gender. Gender-bending Marigold is a fish of few needs, though he or she does have a purpose: to keep me on my path of silence. Or that’s what Rochelle Gai Rodney tells me.

“Marigold has a deep understanding of life. She’s a deep thinker. Very serious, very mellow,” Rodney, a self-described animal communications specialist, says of my fish. She’s come to my home for a visit and is standing, calm and observant, in my living room while I clean the green gunk off the inside walls of the tank.

Rodney is one of a handful of self-described animal communications specialists in Canada. Soft spoken and self aware, she’s something of a Pied Piper or St Francis Assisi. Though she admits what she is [she’s gay, she’s Jewish, she’s a woman and she’s short at five-foot-one), it never limits her. In one of her past lives, she helped build the Taj Mahal. In this life, for $50 per half hour, Rodney works with “subtle energy medicine” which extends beyond our five senses. (Her website is

Whatever it’s called, I wanted to find out what was keeping my mute cat Spooky from meowing.

Spooky seemed to open up to Rodney by rubbing against her outstretched leg. Strange thing, because Spooky usually runs away from people. Rodney takes a moment to introduce herself by petting her and talking to her in a cutesy, baby-talk voice. They engage in an intense staring match. My guess is that this is when Rodney tunes into Spooky’s thoughts and translates them for me, though she says she can also do it over the phone.

Some might call Rodney’s gift telepathy, others might claim she’s making it all up. But I was willing to open up anything that might help gain insight into Spooky’s difficulty meowing.

“We’ve lost sight that telepathy is a universal language,” Rodney tells me as I make sandwiches.

Looking back on her life, her bond with animals was sometimes deeper than with the rest of her family. Her father wasn’t a big animal lover. Her mother wanted to send Rochelle to psychiatrists when she discovered her daughter was a lesbian. She and her identical twin sister did not get along.

“I grew up thinking I loved animals more than people, thinking I didn’t care for people,” Rodney says.

Rodney left her government job a year ago in order to escape a stifling environment. Before that, she trained with the likes of Dawn Haymen and Penelope Smith, who in 1971 originated this style of animal communications-type work. It’s different from animal behaviour, in that its practitioners claim to use the telepathic process and intuition to connect with animals, rather than scientific observation.


The first time Rodney consciously communicated with animals was about five years ago at Spring Farm Cares in Clinton, New York. She walked into the barn and heard the animals talking in her head all at once.

“It was overwhelming: the ducks were talking about going for a walk. There were horses, goats, hens, cats. I heard all these different voices, then I shut down. I hear them speaking as my voice, because I translate.”

Now, pick up the latest copy of Vitality magazine and you’ll see Rodney’s ad sandwiched somewhere between holistic health practitioners and Reiki specialists. She finds the new age community weird. But she sees it as a happy alternative to her previously chaotic life. When she came out as a lesbian in the mid-’70s, she found herself in awe.

“For me it was like an oh my God! This is real! kind of thing,” Rodney explains while taking bites of a cheddar cheese sandwich. “I saw two women kissing and my stomach got queasy and felt nauseous because of the sex and drugs…. The first three years I was out of control. But I knew that, intuitively, it was building my character. I bounce back very quickly. Numbed for the next 20 years, I went through stuff I couldn’t deal with and blocked out memories. (Then) I started on the road to healing.”

But what about my pets? Although Morris, my second cat, is fast asleep under the safety and warmth of a wool blanket, Rodney manages to determine that he’s a pacifist, has a good life and belongs here.

As for Spooky, she has a great sense of humour and enjoys astral travels to England, where she likes the dampness and the dry English wit. Rodney says she needs time to trust me before opening up. Through Rodney, Spooky tells me I was on probation for a while.

Two sandwiches later, the session is over.

Morris is still sleeping. Spooky is still enamoured and gender-bending Marigold is still alive to keep me on my spiritual path. Thank goodness for the fish.

Read More About:
Culture, Toronto

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