Icee is a tan-and-white female Staffordshire terrier mix with a head as sweet and solid as a pound cake. She is lying on the family bed when her owner, Iris, brings her laptop and all of us participating in a Zoom workshop called “Energy Healing for Animals,” into the bedroom with her. Icee licks her lips and yawns. The workshop teacher Joan Ranquet tells us this is a sign of anxiety in dogs.
Ranquet leads the session from her living room in Santa Clarita. In her Zoom background is a tattered cat tree bearing a fat tabby, and a small, black-and-white dog named Penelope, who perches on the back of the couch. Ranquet scratches Penelope’s ears as she explains that we are going to help Icee overcome her “old story,” about being a frightened puppy alone on the streets fighting to survive, and help her to transition into what Ranquet another calls energetic space.
We Zoom attendees put the dog on speaker view as Ranquet begins what we have come here to witness: the EFT (Emotional Focused Therapy) session. Ranquet instructs Iris where to tap on Icee’s face or chest and gives her lines to repeat: “I bark at people because I am scared. I am so confused. I feel so out of control when people are around. I hate that feeling. I can’t stand feeling out of control.”
As Iris taps and speaks, Icee’s body seems to relax; her head drops. Ranquet shifts the script to help Iris gently guide her dog through her troubled past – a past that Ranquet contends is the anticedent to this behavior.
“It reminds me of having to survive on the streets and I didn’t feel safe. I could feel that people were afraid of me. I just don’t know what to do about people. But I don’t like feeling scared. I am so ready to release this.”
Icee lolls onto her side and Iris taps her dog softly and repeats: “I forgive all the people who scared me. I just really want to release this fear. I feel protected. I love feeling safe to just mind my own business. I am lucky to be with people that love me.”
By the time the brief, 10-minute session has concluded, the big, nervous dog has fallen fast asleep.
When animals act out by snarling at other dogs, peeing on our beds, or chewing up our shoes, they are usually trying to tell us something, believes Raquet, who for nearly 30 years has made her living as an animal communicator and energetic healer. If cat or dog or fish or horse is a language, Raquet is the interpreter.
“I come from a long line of crazy cat ladies,” Ranquet says with a chuckle. She grew up in Seattle with her sister and her mother, surrounded by horses, dogs and cats. She moved to New York to pursue an acting career but moved back home when her sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After her sister died in 1986, Ranquet, in deep grief, moved to Los Angeles, ostensibly to continue pursuing her acting and writing career.
This was at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and Ranquet found herself compelled toward the bedside of the sick and dying. “It was like a war zone,” she recalls. “I just held so many hands, with so many people, people who didn’t have family members who accepted them.” It was then that she first wondered why there weren’t hospice services for dying animals.
Ranquet’s great comfort through this time was her beloved horse, Pet One, whom she had brought down from Seattle and boarded at a stable in Atwater Village. An animal communicator came to the barn to work with the horses, and Ranquet recalls following her around, thinking, “Wait, I like this more than what I’m going to go do at the theater on Santa Monica Boulevard tonight.”
The first animal that spoke directly to her was Pony Boy, Pet One’s colt. She describes the moment in her 2007 book, “Communication With All Life.” She had hiked the young horse to the top of a mountain, “and I thought, What if I just slipped onto his back? … I felt that he was just waiting for me to hop on. So, I climbed asteride him. He just stood there…it was the most peaceful moment I’ve ever had. And then as though someone were speaking right into my ear, I clearly heard the words I’ve been waiting for this. I had to look around to make sure that someone wasn’t talking, but there was no other human for miles and miles.”
An experienced meditator, Ranquet learned that if she became very quiet, the voices of animals could assert themselves. She explains it this way: “If you meditate you know your baseline, [and] you know your monkey business, and so if something else came in you would be like, ‘that’s not mine. I know the landscape of my own mind.”’”
Ranquet lives at the end of a long, bumpy dirt road in Santa Clarita in a small house she shares with 10 assorted four-legged animals. She has an expansive catio (a screened-in area for cats to enjoy the outside safely), a stable, a ring for her three horses and a garage that she converted into a classroom for her students.
She holds twice-yearly in-person workshops in animal communication where for $3,000 you can learn to hear your cat say, “I’m really cute!” – which is the first thing most animals say, according to Ranquet. “It’s not an ego thing, they just know who they are. They reveal themselves to us.”
If your budget won’t allow for that, she offers a variety of online workshops and downloadable classes, starting as low as $8.88 and going as high as $15,500 for the full, two-year certification course.
Much of the dynamic between us and animals stems from our own energy, Ranquet believes.
“What we’re thinking about, what we’re feeling, [our pets] are trying to calculate what it all means for them,” Ranquet says, as her three dogs circle, restlessly. Ranquet has a face as serene as Buddha’s and speaks in a creamy alto that would soothe the most savage beast. “If we walk in the house stressed, they’re going to be like, ‘Hey, how can I help you? I can make you feel better! I can sit on you!’ Or they’re going to be like, ‘Oh ****, I’m going to go shred the potato patch.’”
Ranquet studied every kind of energy healing she could find in turn-of-the-century Los Angeles. She took classes in acupressure, animal massage, scalar wave, T-Touch, cranial-sacral therapy, and fascial release therapy – all of these classes were geared toward human healing. Everything she learned on people, she practiced on pets.
“I don’t want to touch anybody. I like to have my hands on animals,” she says, rubbing her dog Priscilla’s tummy.
Once she finally let go of her acting ambitions and committed herself fully to working with animals, everything came together. Ranquet writes, “All the years of studying, acting and writing gave me the ability to dissect a story that an animal told me and separate it from what the human was telling me – it enabled me to objectively take the situation […] apart and put the pieces back together in a way that the person could understand the animal’s behavior and make an adjustment in the household.”
When Ranquet was starting out in the late 1990s, there were many more skeptics adherents than animal communication and energy healing. Ranquet had business cards printed up and took a different route home every day from the stable, dropping them off at the many veterinary offices between Atwater Village and West Hollywood.
“I went into vet offices not realizing just how much vets would make fun of [what I was doing], but the receptionists didn’t make fun of it, and they were the ones giving my phone number out.” She built a client list of pet owners, trainers, barn managers and, eventually, veterinarians.
“Sometimes it’s the Western medicine vets who want an animal communicator’s help more than anything,” Ranquet explains, “because holistic vets have a lot of techniques to diagnose other than bloodwork. If an animal isn’t thriving, the holistic vet will conclude it’s emotional, but for the Western vet, that’s a world of darkness that they don’t know. It’s amazing how, when you’re up against the wall, and you can’t solve it, suddenly you’re open.”
Popular attitudes around animal rights and intelligence have evolved since those early days.
“[Now] We understand the responsibility and the weight of these relationships, and we take the same with them as we would for kids,” Ranquet says. But we have further to go if we want to meet animals where they are.
The main thing animals ask of us is simply to “Be in the moment, because they are. A dog out on a walk might have more reactivity if their person is distracted on their phone. Cats will step all over the keyboard. My cats have posted on Facebook without my knowing it.”
“We need to treat animals with not an anthropomorphized sense of smartness, but their own smartness that fits their rules, because they live in our world doesn’t always work. We need to start blending and learning a little bit more about how their rules work. We’ve got to be a little more flexible.”
In 2009, Ranquet founded CWALU (Communication With All Life University), a certification program for animal communication and energy healing. As for her long-ago vision of animal hospice, she has developed a program to train people to help animals transition peacefully. She also leads wildlife tours in Africa and sees everything she does as part of a larger environmental conservation effort.
Her third book, “Emotional Freedom Technique for Animals,” will be published this spring by Findhorn Press. Ranquet sees EFT as the key to realizing her ultimate dream: emptying the shelters.
“I think of the Humane Society full of cats who peed outside of the box, because maybe they have arthritis, or 9,000 other reasons that nobody’s taking under consideration – they’ll live out their days in that shelter, and that kills me. We’re going to [save animals] through animal communication, EFT and training. Let’s empty every damn cage.”
As for Icee the fretful Pitbull, her mom Iris reports she woke up from her EFT nap in an uncharacteristically frisky mood. “She grabbed her ball. She’s not the most playful dog, but it felt like she was relieved from something and more like a puppy.”
Icee still has a way to go before she will find her footing in the human world, but at least her people are tuned in and willing to change their own behavior in order to help their dog change hers.