Interpreter aids meeting of minds for pets, owners

by Patrick Butler, Staff Writer

Five hundred years ago Denise Zak probably would have been tried for witchcraft!

After all, she makes her living communication with people’s pets (both hear and possibly in the hereafter), often doing it just by looking at photos.

But as far as the 46-year-old former cosmetic sales executive/corporate trainer turned “animal intuitive” is concerned, she has no “powers” the rest of us wouldn’t have if we’d only stay in touch with our “gut feelings.”

Didn’t you ever just “know” something wasn’t quite right about someone you met? Or called a friend at the exact moment they’re trying to call you? Or finished someone else’s sentence during a conversation, Zak asked during a recent benefit at the Berlin Nightclub, 954 W. Belmont.

“You knew it was going to happen. That was your intuition: you sensed it; you felt it: you translated the energy. That’s exactly what I do when I communicate with animals,” she explained.

There’s energy flowing between all living things, said Zak, as she had this reporter hold out his hand an inch or two below hers. Call it chemistry. Call it electricity. But something was there.

During what she described as a “difficult childhood,” Zak concluded early on that the only friends she could really trust were her pets. And while she always seemed to have a “way” with animals, it wasn’t until 1991 that she turned it into a second career.

Finding herself unemployed, she stared hanging out at a suburban stable where one of the horses was having a hard time walking despite the best efforts of several vets and blacksmiths. At wits’ end, the owner – noting Zak’s uncanny bond with animals – asked her to look at the horse.

Zak quickly “intuited” that the pain was coming from a stone lodged between the horse’s hoof and the shoe. Sure enough, when the shoe was finally removed, both the stone and a bruise were found. Soon, Zak was spending most of her time answering questions about all kinds of creatures great and small.

It’s a matter of looking into the “minds and hearts” of both the animals and their owners, said Zak, who considers herself more of a “translator” or “interpreter” than a “pet psychic.”

While she doesn’t predict t the future or read minds, “I can take you and your pet to a place of extreme honesty… My readings, given to the owner from the animal’s point of view may be able to give the owner a new perspective” about the relationship, Zak explained. “With permission form the owner, once I am hired I look into the hearts of both the owner and the pet, and let the owner know what I see and hear,” Zak said. Of course, it’s easier with some critters than others, she admits.

“Some animals are very articulate, while others have very limited vocabularies… Some relate through pictures, and there are those who present an overwhelmingly clear feeling” -- who don’t mince words just to be tactful, Zak said.

She has also been called on to lend emotional support to humans having trouble adjusting to the illness or death of a much-loved pet. Sometimes she says she can even relate the animals’ thoughts. Once, for example, a distraught client didn’t know what to do about her terminally-ill dog, Tootles.

“I want to live until I die. I won’t be here for long. I am safe and I am with you. I want to enjoy that as much as I can… It’s OK,” Tootles said through Zak, who admits she has no way of knowing for sure if our pets go to Heaven, but can’t imagine a place of limitless happiness without them.

Even in less traumatic situations, pets want and need a sense of security – and to see their humans as much as possible, said Zak, adding that it’s no secret dogs and even cats develop behavior problems when they fell they’re being neglected or unloved.

Zak recalled how she was once asked for help when a horse began acting strange. The horse was afraid of being sold, said Zak, who later learned that the financially-strapped owner was indeed reluctantly considering finding a new home for the animal.

Zak added that while she can always convey messages to a client’s pet, the client’s participation is vital if the reading is to become a two-way dialogue.

If photos are being used, they should be no more than six months old and include both the owner and the animal, said Zak, who urges clients to spend some time thinking about their questions, which should be numbered in order of importance to the owner.

The most common question Zak gets from owners is whether their pet loves them. Other often-cited concerns revolve around behavior issues; training problems and health concerns. Zak even helped one distraught owner find a parrot that had been lost for 48 hours.

Off-limits questions, she warned, include “circus tricks” or anything designed to “test” her, such as asking the color of the blanket your cat sleeps on. Her time and yours is too precious for those kinds of games, she added.

Zak’s fees range from two “get acquainted” over-the-phone questions for $15 to $50 for an in-person 30-minute session or $100 an hour, said Zak, who can be reached at (847) 426-8134 or

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© 2002 Denise Zak. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any text or photograph is unlawful and will be prosecuted.