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Conversations with Dog

by Dawne Belloise

“Try to be the person your dog thinks you are …”

Dogs … our best friends, givers of unconditional love and loyalty, benevolent protectors and part of the family. But no matter what you do, your dog still tears up your furniture, messes the carpet and snarls at you. Your pet could be trying to tell you something, but if you don’t speak “dogese” there are people who can help … interspecies telepathic communicators. Lisa Mapes, pet counselor and psychologist in Gunnison knows.

Photo by Dawne Belloise

“People are skeptical but they come to me. Dogs are more open than their owners. I try to use tact as best I can and take my cues from the dog.” The concerns can verge on the humorous – especially when she has an owner tell her the dog just won’t sit and the dog will say, “She’s so hung up on that.” Or matters can be as serious as the dog’s concern about a client’s abusive boyfriend. Lisa deals with behavioral problems and training. People will come to her to find out why their pet is suddenly acting strangely or to try to locate their missing pet.

Most people will consult an animal interpreter because they love their pets and want to help. There’s relief when it clicks and the problem is exposed. “In general, animals think their families are great and are concerned about them.” Dogs communicate with body language, not verbally, so when we scream commands at them for poor behavior it only confuses the dog and frustrates you as the owner. Dogs think and respond to pack mentality, and more than likely it’s the human that needs training or adjustment.

Lisa explains her gift of communication as not a gift at all, “I don’t look at it as a gift. I just think it’s slowing down and paying attention. It’s about getting out of our boxes. We’re taught linear thinking but it’s all around us. We just tune it out.”

Many animal communicators feel humans can’t hear what’s going on around them, being preoccupied with the everyday drama of life – what’s the weather going to do, what’s on at the movies, how do I pay my bills, oh no, there’s not enough powder to ski. So we’re not aware that it’s an every moment, normal occurrence when someone we were just thinking of calls us. “It’s not odd that person’s sending messages and you picked it,” she laughs. “(But) now we’re so bombarded with … messages to hurry up and get things done quickly,” and truly communicating with your dog or pet requires you to be present, slower and to pay attention. “We knew it as kids but we’re blocked now.”

In her years of work helping people to understand their dogs’ problems, “I have to tell the people what I’m getting (from the dog). If it sounds different or unfamiliar to them, then I have to think if I’m reading my words into what the dog is telling me,” Lisa sometimes has doubts about what she may be picking up from the animal. “I recently had a lady ask certain questions about a dog she’s had for years. During the questions, I kept getting a white cat coming in and I was trying to ignore it because I was thinking it was my imagination.” But after the cat’s insistence Lisa finally gave in to her intuition and told the woman, “This cat wants you to know she‘s fine and that it was not your fault,” at which point the woman became teary-eyed and related a childhood story: the family white cat was traumatically lost in a move. Lisa’s lesson was, “I have to learn to trust what I’m hearing. I was afraid to say anything.” The woman, who had not forgotten the sadness of losing her cat as a kid, was moving but couldn’t take her dog with her immediately and needed to know who best to temporarily leave the bowser with. “This older, grey haired man popped into my mind. I told her that the dog wants to be with this man, and she exclaimed ‘Oh my god! That’s my dad!’” … who lived in a different state, all the way across the continent.

Dogs, and animals, are fine with anything that’s happening because they’re so present-focused, according to Lisa’s conversations with them. They don’t carry the baggage that we humans create for ourselves, “Even if they’ve been run over, lost, or things like that, they don’t sit there and say, ‘That’s awful! Oh, I can’t believe that’s happened to me; that shouldn’t have happened!’ We put that on ourselves.“ Apparently our pets live in the moment far better than we do as a species.

At one point in the interview, Lisa asked if I had once had a black and white dog with a “j” in the name. Caught off guard, I confessed that my still much missed black and white border collie, Benjamin, passed away in 1986 at the ripe age of fourteen.

“Yes, and he wants to know why you don’t want another dog,” she queried for my long departed fuzzed-faced friend. “He knows you have to travel and is willing to come back as a small breed so he can go anywhere with you.” After trying to justify my independence to a long dead dog, whose love and unconditional devotion refused to leave me unprotected in the world, I finally gave in to the thought that perhaps my fiercely proud canine was actually waiting, ready to come back even as a lap dog just to be with me. I thought of the old adage, but from my dog’s perspective, “Love me, love my dog,” – an old proverb that if you love someone, you must accept everything about them, even their faults and weaknesses. Maybe our old dogs can teach us a few new tricks …

Lisa Mapes, who resides in Gunnison, works mostly from word of mouth references. You can call her at 970-641-0529. She is also a backcountry dogsled guide found at

Dawne Belloise is a published freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living with a large cat in a tiny cottage on an alley at the end of the road in Crested Butte’s paradise. Contact, website: