Are you there, Fido? Psychics claiming to contact dead pets are cashing in on owners' grief



Perched on a sofa in a typically
middle-class living room in Surrey, Nicola Hart bows her head and wipes
away the tears rolling down her cheeks.


She has been talking about Barney, a dearly departed friend who she lost to cancer, for 15 minutes.

Although
he died 17 years ago, Nicola feels the pain of his loss acutely and has
paid psychic Sarah Gumbrell to contact her soulmate ‘on the other
side’.


‘Let it go. You
need to forgive yourself and move forward. I’m so proud of you,’ is the
message Sarah passes from Barney, at which Nicola nods gratefully.
Barney, it may be hard to believe, was an eight-year-old golden
retriever.





Seeking solace: Nicola Hart, left, asked animal communicator Sarah Gumbrell to help her contact her beloved lost pets



Seeking solace: Nicola Hart, left, asked animal communicator Sarah Gumbrell to help her contact her beloved lost pets


Sarah’s psychic powers are not
infallible — she fails to pick up that Barney was neutered, for example —
but her descriptions of his character are, according to Nicola, spot
on.


‘He still comes to
see you and loves to sit in his sunny spot in the garden, keeping an eye
on everyone, like he did in the old days,’ says Sarah. 


Barney
came into Nicola’s life when she was 19 and recovering from a traumatic
illness; she was on holiday in France when she suffered a ruptured
ovarian cyst which nearly killed her. Unconscious by the time she
reached hospital, she underwent major surgery and it was touch and go
whether she would pull through.


Recuperating
at home, Nicola’s parents bought Barney in the hope he would cheer her
up. ‘He became my best friend,’ says Nicola. ‘He gave me a reason to get
up. When he passed away it was awful. He was covered in lymphomas and
in a lot of pain.





Medium: Sarah said she has received messages from Nicola's pets



Medium: Sarah said she has received messages from Nicola's pets


‘It’s really important to me to know he’s OK. That he realises we loved him.’

Barney isn’t the only pet Nicola, 45, a reflexologist and mother-of-two from Box Hill, Surrey, has spoken to in afterlife.

Nicola
had a border collie called Basil who barely left her side when she was
diagnosed with a brain tumour 13 years ago, for which she underwent
surgery and lost her left eye. She came across Sarah speaking at a
conference about posthumous communication, so decided to give it a try.
The results, she says, were startling.


‘Sarah passed on a message from Basil that my son, Jack, should continue his cartoon drawings.

'That
afternoon we had come back from Portsmouth University where he was
about to begin a degree in animation. People will be sceptical. But it
means the world to me and I believe Sarah is genuine.’


While
Nicola’s experiences may sound ridiculous to some, she is not alone in
her admiration of pet psychics. Britain’s fascination in animal
spiritualists was brought to the fore recently when Coronation Street
actor William Roache appeared on ITV with psychic Jackie Weaver, through
whom he ‘spoke’ to his late Jack Russells, Poppy and Harry.






Missed: Nicola's golden retriever Barney, left, and border collie Basil who she has tried to contact through a pet psychic


Missed: Nicola's golden retriever Barney, left, and border collie Basil who she has tried to contact through a pet psychic




Missed: Nicola's golden retriever Barney, left, and border collie Basil, who she has tried to contact through a pet psychic


This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby struggled to contain their smirks.

‘Animals
are very telepathic,’ Roache told them. ‘With your dogs you know when
they look at you there’s things going on, so I want to know my dogs
better.’


For Nicola,
her experience with an animal psychic has been a huge comfort. ‘I was
very sceptical at first. It still doesn’t make any sense to me,’ she
says. ‘But Sarah told me things she couldn’t possibly have known.


‘The
comment about the cartoons blew me away. Then she talked about the mad
five minutes Basil and Monty, my cat, had every evening. They’d run
around like lunatics — only our family could have told you that.’


That
Sarah, 43, from Caterham, Surrey, is one of hundreds of animal
communicators in the UK speaks volumes about our appetite for
spiritualism. But while many genuinely believe they are helping owners,
and there is no suggestion Sarah is anything other than genuine, others
are not so scrupulous.


A
survey revealed more than half of Britons believe it is possible to
communicate with the dead, and the psychic industry is worth an
estimated £100million a year in the UK — £10million of which is made up
of animal communication.


But
while some pet psychics, like Sarah, truly believe in their vocation,
the industry is riddled with opportunists seeking to make a fast buck. 





Taking advantage? Other pet psychics offer services on premium rate phonelines



Taking advantage? Other pet psychics offer services on premium rate phonelines


The Office of Fair Trading says
Britons are conned out of £40million a year from ‘deceptive psychic
mailings’ (bogus letters promising spiritual enlightenment in return for
cash).


And the
opportunists are catching on to the potential for exploiting animal
lovers. Even the reputable practitioners can take the breath away with
their promotional activities.


Jackie
Weaver’s website is emblazoned with endorsements from celebrities and
media appearances and gives the user countless opportunities to spend
money on books, workshops and consultations.


For £65 she will talk to your pet (alive or dead) with nothing but a photograph to prompt her.

Consultations are done over the phone, for convenience and, one imagines, to reduce overheads.

This
is normal practice for animal communicators, keeping their costs down
and profits up. Sceptics might feel Nicola’s traumatic life experiences
make her susceptible. Yet she maintains the £25 she paid for Sarah’s
services was money well spent.


Other
pet psychics offer services on premium rate phonelines. Russell Grant,
the celebrity astrologer, hosts a ‘call a pet medium’ service for £1.53
per minute ‘plus network add ons’.





Believer: Actor William Roache appeared on This Morning with psychic Jackie Weaver, far right, through whom he 'spoke' to his late Jack Russells, Poppy and Harry



Believer: Actor William Roache appeared on This
Morning with psychic Jackie Weaver, far right, through whom he 'spoke'
to his late Jack Russells, Poppy and Harry


Trusted Psychics offers animal
communication via its ‘cheap psychic credit card service’ at 46p per
minute with the promise it ‘leaves no record of the call on your home
phone bill’. This service is run by LiveLines Ltd, a major adult
chatline operator with assets of millions of pounds.


Its
operators are paid according to how much money they can squeeze out of
clients — the staff training document reads: ‘The longer you keep the
callers on the phone — the more money you earn!’


The
only redress for those who feel ripped off is to take their case to
Trading Standards, though how they can prove an individual does not have
psychic powers is a moot point.





Funeral for a friend

Animal
lovers are forking out £100 million a year on funerals for their pets,
with 200,000 owners paying for ceremonies each year

Another lucrative area is missing pets, which psychics claim to be able to track down using telepathy.

They trawl the internet for appeals for help by traumatised owners and ring up to offer their services.

One
person with first hand experience of the process is Dawn Maw, who was
inundated with calls after she offered a £10,000 reward for the return
of her missing pedigree pointer Angel. ‘I’ve had enough Mystic Megs on
the phone to last a lifetime,’ she says. ‘All they’re after is money and
sometimes they won’t talk until they’ve got it.


‘One
said Angel had been kicked in the ribs, bashed over the head with a
shovel and was slaving away on a puppy farm. Angel is spayed — she has
never had puppies and never will. What does it achieve to tell people
horrible things like that?’


Colin
Butcher, a former policeman who runs the private investigators Pet
Detectives, says psychics contact pet owners in the majority of cases he
deals with.


‘People
who are searching for lost pets are very emotional and extremely
vulnerable,’ he says. ‘They are a prime target for unscrupulous people
claiming they have the power to communicate telepathically.


‘At
one point a client had us searching all the farms in the High Wycombe
area where they milked sheep because a psychic had told them their dog
regularly walked past one of them. We spent two days on that wild goose
chase.’


There is no
doubt many working in this field believe in their vocation. Many more,
however, are out to make maximum financial returns for minimal physical
effort.


It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see there may be trouble ahead.
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