Sonya Fitzpatrick, star of Animal Planet's The Pet Psychic, has an amazing ability. An ability perhaps unmatched in history. The talent we refer to, though, is not her alleged skill at reading the minds of animals but her uncanny knack of stating the obvious.
Asked to send Fitzpatrick a picture of a current pet and a history of all past pets owned, I immediately ran into a problem. I don't currently have a pet. But my girlfriend is the proud owner of the World's Greatest Pug, Smokey. So I sent a picture of him. As for the list of past pets I've had, well, I made up all of those -- you know, just to see if the psychic could tell these were fictional pets.
She couldn't. While she didn't say much about past pets, she did focus briefly on one -- a cat named Sneakers.
"Which animal is it you've rescued?" she asked. "Because I feel you've got some rescued animals." Well, yes. I assume she felt that way because I mentioned in my e-mail that the cat had been rescued as a stray. She asked if the cat was now "in the spirit world," and I replied in the affirmative.
"The one that is in the spirit world, the one that you rescued, it says that it was very, very thin when you got it," she continued. Though I had never met the fictionalized cat, I agreed with her -- after all, stray cats are, as a rule, malnourished animals. Having established her psychic credentials by predicting that a stray cat was thin, she moved on to Smokey.
"Let me go back to the pug now," Fitzpatrick stated. "He's adorable." Indeed. Anyone who saw the photo I sent would come to that conclusion -- unless you're a heartless pug-hating bastard.
"Can you walk him more often?" she wondered. "Because he really enjoys it when he goes for his walk."
Unbelievable! She's right! Smokey loves going for walks. But wait... don't most dogs?
Fitzpatrick went on to predict that Smokey loves his doggie treats (right again!) and that he hates getting his nails clipped (damn, she's good). Smokey also apparently wondered about me. Fitzpatrick said that Smokey was brooding about all sorts of things -- predictably, the kinds of topics that cold readers have used for decades if not centuries: Would I be moving soon? When did my routine change? Would I consider taking another job?
In other words, the sort of questions that so-called psychics can ask and be correct about, no matter what the answer is. Yes, I would be moving. Well, Smokey's worried about this move. He likes his home. No, I would not be moving. Good. Smokey feared you might be, and he likes his home. By putting an animal between herself and the mark, Fitzpatrick makes cold reading even easier than it is. I'll give her some credit, though: I believe her love of animals is absolutely real. For the rest of it, though, she uses the same dated techniques that have allowed everyone from Nostradamus to John Edward to fool a gullible public.