Published in Cipher in February 2015
Admitted Students Day, 2013: a cloudy weekend when I took in all the old buildings that would envelop me for the next four years. Walking down Tejon, my mom pointed to a sign in front of an office building. Alongside the offices of tax lawyers and massage therapists was “Linda Nija Nations, MA: Psychotherapist [and] Animal Communicator.” My mom laughed as I stroked my chin in curiosity. Two years later, I gave Linda a call.
Less than 24 hours after talking on the phone, Linda and I sat down in her wide, musty office in the basement of a little gray house. She wore a big fuzzy jacket with two wolves sewn on both front pockets. She took it off, we shook hands, and I turned on my phone’s voice recorder. All I had seen at this point was her sign on the street and her website; I was worried that she would give me some vanilla account of how she was into therapy animals. That wasn’t the case.
Catherine Sinow: How did all this begin?
Linda Nations: I’ve always had a special relationship with animals. As a child, my grandmother took me out to ride ponies and feed ducks.
In ’97, I was riding my horse and I got thrown off onto a gravel road without a helmet. I was in the hospital for nine days, almost died; they drained the blood gathering inside my skull. I was told I’d never practice as a therapist again. When I came home, I started having unusual encounters with wild animals. The first one, I was driving down Beaver Creek Canyon to find a group of people. I couldn’t find them. Finally, I saw them all coming up the road. They said they had seen a young eagle sitting on the side of the road. The eagle came and flew right over the tops of our heads, went up to a rock and stared us down until we left. When I was driving out by myself, the eagle got right in front of my car, and it guided me halfway out of the canyon. And then a great blue heron came and took over, and he guided me the rest of the way out.
A few weeks later, I stopped to help these two guys whose cow [had gotten] out; they were trying to get it back in the pasture. I said I’d help. So as the cow’s coming down toward the hole in the fence, I said, in my head, “Turn.” And the cow turned into the pasture.
And then, one day, I saw a gorgeous buck that had been splattered all over the highway. I saw him rise up from all of that. I saw his eyes; he was whole. I’m auditorily psychic; I don’t usually see things. But I saw him leave his body. Is this too weird for you?
CS: No, no. Go on.
LN: Once I started practicing [professionally], I heard my first animal: my miniature horse, Jonesy. I was cleaning my big horse’s hooves, and Jonesy had his nose in my butt. And I said, “Don’t you bite my butt! I hear you’re a butt biter!” And I heard, “Well, I only did that once,” in my head. So that really built my confidence [as an animal communicator].
CS: Is it possible to learn animal communication, or does someone have to be gifted like you are?
LN: The reason I am gifted is because I was knocked into present time. I could not operate… after the brain injury. That’s where animals live —in the moment. I teach my students how to get into present time. They practice, and then they go out into the world and they go fast, back into technology.
CS: Do you keep your therapy and animal communication businesses separate?
LN: I used to. But then the animals started telling on their humans. I had a dog tell me his human drinks too much. I had a cat tell me she was not going to stop screaming untilher human calmed down and relaxed. And I had a parrot tell me she wouldn’t stop plucking out her feathers until her human dealt with his issues. “He’s a mess,” she said. Often, they know more about their humans’ needs than the humans themselves.
CS: Any other examples?
LN: One of the things I ask dying animals is, “Are you ready to leave this earth body?” I got a call from some pet owners asking what their dying cat needed. I could hook up long-distance, since I had met the cat. I learned that she was desperate and absolutely wanted help. She couldn’t stand it anymore and she had to go.
CS: Does animal communication tie into your human therapy specialty in PTSD?
LN: Almost all dogs out of puppy mills have PTSD. Curing it is much easier with animals; they don’t have the ego in the way. I have a dog with PTSD. I’m pretty sure he was a puppy mill dog who was abused. When I first got him, I couldn’t even touch his tail. I would just hold my hand on him and say, “Breathe.” Now he loves to have his back rubbed.
CS: How can an ordinary college student implement animal communication into his or her life?
LN: You can send [your pets] mental pictures to tell them how late you’ll be home. For example, send them pictures of dinnertime. They receive communication in words, pictures, feelings and body language. When people hear a voice in their head, they usually just push it away, but you have to listen to it. Once I was riding my horse down Penrose and a big wind comes up. And he says, swear to God, in John Wayne’s voice, “Well we’re just gonna have to get you home little lady.” And he picked up his speed that instant.
CS: Are you vegetarian or vegan?
LN: I grew up on wild game. I do not do well if I don’t have meat. My body does not make protein out of beans and rice. I’ve done a lot of reading about this, I’ve communicated with animals about it, and they don’t mind being used for food. Once I was walking through Penrose and I saw some cows. This cow comes up to me and says to me, “We’re gonna get to be food!” He was so excited about it. I think it has to do with them being honored, as long as they’re not tortured.
Linda has been practicing psychotherapy for forty years. She is currently writing a book with the working title “Messages from the Animal Kingdom: The Book of Change,” a mix between memoir and self-help that she hopes to release sometime this year.