Beyond the bark - West Dundee woman helps owners understand their pets

by Ed Pilolla, Staff Writer

SOUTH ELGIN -- Patty Pfeiffer wanted to know if her two year-old Shih Tzu, Maggie, liked going to the groomer's.  So she asked the woman across the table at at Anderson Animal Shelter.

The woman across the table, Denise Zak, is a professional animal intuitive.  People across the United States have been asking her what's on their animals' minds for the last 10 years.

"So," Pfeiffer said, "does she like going to the groomer's?"  "She likes the groomer," Zak said, with little Maggie sitting on her lap.  "But when the blow dryer whines, it's that noise that sends her up the wall."

Zak, of West Dundee, isn't a "pet psychic," as she often is called.  She had a rough childhood, she explained, and learned to trust and befriend animals.

Often, Zak looks into the pets' owners' feelings to see what the animals are feeling.  Once in a while, she can't see much, and she tells the owners so.  But usually, Zak can see quite a lot.

Over the years, Zak simply has cultivated a natural intuitive ability, she said.  "When you can look inside someone's heart," she said, "it's the most beautiful place in the world."

On Saturday, Zak saw appointments all day to raise money for the Anderson Animal Shelter, a humane society in South Elgin.

After Pfeiffer and Maggie left, Zak did a 20-minute consultation with a Husky mix and its owner on the shelter's front lawn.  Then Zak came back inside and met Debbie Day of South Elgin and her 100-pound black Labrador, Buster, who "loooooves" the Fisbee, Day said.

"I want to know why he loves Frisbees," Day said.  "You know, he does not let go of it and he knows the release command."  "He doesn't want to," Zak interrupts.  "I don't know what to do," Dayt continues as Buster wanders around the room, sniffing the concrete floor.  "We've had him through three obedience classes."

Buster, Zak explained, considers playing tug-of-war with the Frisbee "part of the game."  "He wants to play the whole game," Zak said.  Then Zak placed her hands on Day's shoulders and told her to relax. 

After a moment of silence, Zak explained that Buster is a very dominant dog.  He doesn't get along with new dogs at first because Buster likes to lay down the rules, and he won't befriend another dog until that dog follows his rules.

"He considers himself your equal," Zak said.  "He's going to consider his options before he decides to follow your suggestion.  He's not some idiot.  He's very confident and secure."

Satisfied, Day and Buster leave, and Sandy Schiller of Streamwood and her daughter's yellow Lab mix, Copper, step inside.  "Why does she pee at night?" Schiller asked.  "Something's scaring her," Zak said.

Zak asked a few questions, and Schiller answered them.  Whatever is scaring Schiller's grandson at night is scaring little Copper, Zak said.  "This does make sense," Schiller said.  Zak hugged Schiller and told her it was OK; Schiller cried.

In five minutes Schiller and Copper leave and the next dog and its owners come in.

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