Fred the Dog Psychic
I encountered Fred, a famous dog psychic some thirty years ago. This is a retelling of the reading I got, taken from extensive notes I wrote after the phone call. It is presented here as one of my first glimpses of the spiritual realm, long before John and Jonpaul passed and the doors to the spiritual realm opened.
A friend enthusiastically recounted a psychic reading by an old man who reads dogs. My family and I love all things canine; the idea proved irresistible. It would, I thought, become a novel; it might help me escape romance writing.
Fred the dog psychic had appeared on a number of TV shows. Apparently you just called him up, he
‘read’ your dog over the phone and then you sent him a check for what you felt the phone call was worth. For a novelist’s reasons I wrote it down word for word the night it happened.
Here it is:
An old woman answered the phone: Hello?
Me: Is Fred there?
No reply. A shuffling sound before an old man’s voice.
Me: Hello? Is this Fred?
Me: Ah, I understand you are a psychic who reads… dogs?
Me: Can you do a reading now?
Fred: Go ahead.
Me: I’m not sure how this works?
Fred: I need your name and the dog’s name.
Me: Oh! Okay. I’m Jennifer—
Fred: Jennifer, Jennifer… I’m getting the image of a tall blonde.
Me: Yes, that’s me.
Fred: Are you a looker?
A looker? The word made me laugh.
Me: I’m as homely as they come.
Fred: That’s not what I am seeing. I’m seeing a looker.
Two things: I am tall, blonde, blue-eyed, but unfortunately, that is where the pleasant adjectives stop and the comedy begins. My face is queerly crooked, giving me a slightly goofy appearance, one that makes people smile on sight, as if I were a cartoon character. Really. Total strangers take a look at me and smile.
Oh! She’s funny looking…
Second, psychic or no, I am suspecting I just called, to use the slang term, a dirty old man.
Me: A photo would set you straight, Fred.
Fred: Okay. What’s the dog’s name?
Fred: Panda… Panda…. Humm. I see she is a black and white puppy…
Fred: She’s too young.
Me: She’s just over a year. A Newfoundland puppy.
Fred: She’s too young. It’s all a mush. I’m not getting anything…
I am disappointed; his check, I think, will only be five dollars.
Fred: But there’s someone else there. I’m getting the picture of a hound type. Looks like a basset hound.
Me: Oh! That’s Sara. Sara Basset, my other dog.
After I picked our first Newfoundland five years earlier, it was John’s turn to choose a dog. To my dismay, he insisted on a basset hound. Before I had one, bassets were, hands down, my last pick in the canine kingdom, but John knew better. “Wait until you see the puppies, Jen. Then you’ll understand.”
John was so right; he was always so right.
Fred: Sara is very loud.
This makes me laugh, too.
Fred: She’s telling me she’s seen nine seasons…
Not even close, I think; I decide to correct him.
Me: Actually, she is only about four. Four and a half.
Fred: Dogs think in seasons. Summer, winter. Nine seasons would be about four and a half.
Fred: She’s showing me she is always on the go. Go, go, go. In the car. You’re always on walks. She’s showing me a lot of hiking…
Me: Well, yeah. I walk them twice a day and I take them everywhere with me.
Fred: She’s telling me she loves you very much. There’s a man, too, she loves—”
Me: My husband John.
Fred: And a little girl. Do you have a little girl?
Me: My daughter Jaime.
Fred: She really loves the little girl. She looks about five.
Me: Yes, Jaime’s five.
Fred: Sara is telling me you don’t feed her enough.
Ridiculously, I am instantly indignant, outraged.
Me: I feed her twice a day! A whole bowl practically, like two cups—
Fred: (Sighs) All the dogs say that. They always want more food. Also, they like variety. Sara is telling me that it is always the same. She hates it. She likes when you put the canned stuff in it. What is that? I can’t tell.
My mind races over this. Canned stuff?
Me: Oh! Tuna juice? From the can.
Like my mom and I and millions of others, John has become a vegetarian since reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, with the sole exception of the occasional tuna sandwich. Sara Basset got the tuna juice from these occasional indulgences.
Fred: Yep. She really likes that. Dogs get tired of the same old dry dog food day after day. They always want something different; they like variety just like people—
Me: Fred, wow, this is so interesting. How do you do it? I mean, how is this information coming to you?
Fred: You say the name and the dog appears in my mind and starts talking.
My heart had begun a slow escalation; I am almost speechless. Still, thinking of my scientist husband and knowing about a blind reading, I think to test him.
Me: Fred, can you read another dog for me?
Fred. Sure. Go ahead.
Me: What about… Bear Dog.
Bear Dog was our first Newfoundland puppy.
She arrived shortly after my dog Kira died. Kira was the worst dog you can imagine; she made Marley of Marley and Me fame seem positively saintly and noble. Among other problems, Kira had a serious case of separation anxiety.
“I think Kira has the dog equivalence of psychosis, Jen,” John diagnosed after she consumed his extensive classical music collection.
“How is it possible?” I asked, dumbstruck by the force of destruction surrounding the sweet looking golden retriever type mixed mutt.
John just sighed. “Demonic possession is a distinct possibility.”
So when Kira died, John urged me to replace the old fashioned means of obtaining a dog with a different philosophy of dog companionship. You see, back then, before the idea of rescue puppies, my family went to the nearest free litter advertised in the newspaper. There was no consideration of breed. I am not sure I was even aware dogs had breeds back then. Mutt was the universal name of dogs for my class.
“Instead of leaving it to chance,” John suggested, “you select a type of dog you admire.”
“I love all dogs!”
“Yes, well, that’s the point. You will love any dog you get, that’s a given, and this means even the worst dog in the world. Kira, for instance. We loved her. So we might as well get the best dog. Isn’t there some breed you admire? That you find especially interesting or compelling?”
“You mean a dog that won’t chew through our life’s possessions?”
“Exactly,” John said.
Before John, I had a passionate love affair with a policeman named Ike Ortiz. Ike taught me many things, one of which was that out of all the professions, policemen have the very best stories. One of Ike’s stories involved answering a burglary-in-progress call. Apparently, the owners came home to find their dog had cornered the culprit in the bathroom. Ike showed up to find… “this huge, two hundred pound dog lying in front of the bathroom door, the burglar trapped inside. The man was terrified. He was so happy to get arrested. Jen, you have to see this dog to believe it! He is gorgeous! More of a bear than a dog. They call them Newfoundlands. His tail thumbed as soon as he saw me, like he knew I was the good guy. Get this, the dog held a football in his mouth!”
I tell John Ike’s story.
John had heard of them. “Newfoundlands are supposed to be one of the best of dogs, I’ve read somewhere. They rescue people in water. The great water rescue dogs.”
“I love the water!”
“They can go with you when you do your ocean swims.”
The newspaper listed Newfoundland puppies for sale in Big Bear, about a two hour drive away. When we called, they said we could come visit them anytime. Suddenly fueled with excitement, we hopped in the car and were off. It was as if I knew something momentous was about to happen. We couldn’t suppress our smiles.
“Jen, I’ve a question,” John said as we drove.
“Will you marry me?”
HA! John had finally accepted that there was no getting rid of me. Poor John had been the victim of my harassment for a year, but back then our age difference scared him. He had never been with a younger woman, especially someone nineteen years and eleven months younger. The obvious assumptions strangers made about different aged couples could embarrass him. (One of his few design flaws, John was susceptible to embarrassment.) People who knew us never thought about it, but strangers occasionally made the wrong assumption: either that John was my father or that he was rich. One time, a maitre’d took one look at our shared height and blue eyes and said, “How nice to see a father and daughter date!”
John melted beneath his embarrassment, but I knew who the emotion belonged to and how to get it there. I answered with a smile, “He is not my father.”
Anyway, John finally acquiesced to the greater feminine understanding of marriage. “Yes!” I answered. “But only if you buy me this puppy.”
(Sidebar: Our marriage ceremony followed shortly after—in case John changed his mind and it was, hands down, the worst marriage ceremony anyone had ever attended. John and I were married in a suite at the Stanford Court in San Francisco. I wore a prairie skirt and boots, a get up my daughter later wore for Halloween. Too late, I stumbled upon a surprising truth the day of our marriage: I only wanted John to want to marry me; I didn’t actually want to be married and I needed two Irish coffees to get through it.
The ‘minister’ appeared as if from a police lineup of Hell’s Angels. We had assigned this detail to my Dad who used the yellow pages to locate the only minister willing to marry people in hot air balloons or while deep sea diving; the Stanford Court was no problem. I spoke to the man briefly on the phone before the ceremony and the conversation rang no alarm bells. He agreed to my request for the simplest ceremony—he does, she does, and presto, we’re married. I explained the one thing that might ruin this happy day for me: no bad poetry. Please, I said, no poems about trees with entwined branches, nothing like that.
The minister arrived late. Crazy windblown hair, a long beard, tattoos, worn Levis and a Nazi helmet that never left his arms. His looks were deceiving as he proceeded with an hour-long sermon, punctuated with another hour of sickly sweet poetry one might find on a Hallmark card. Halfway through I got what used to be called the giggles: unwelcomed, near hysterical, certainly uncontrollable laughter. By the time the minister left, half of us rushed to check his license, uncertain that a marriage had taken place, while the other half listened to my dad’s profuse apologies, these delivered against the backdrop of his laughter.
But it turned out we were married, and happily for thirty-three years.)
Anyway, about the dog. I loved Bear Dog in the nutty, unqualified, unconditional, heart-opening way of all new dog owners. Unfortunately, she contracted a terrible stomach infection that required an emergency vet. This good doctor tried to save her life, but he accidently stitched her intestines together, making a bad situation much worse. She was a very sick puppy, and by the time we got her to her regular vet, he wanted me to euthanize her. The big sleep. I just couldn’t; I couldn’t say good-bye. Instead I put her through what amounted to a three-month stay in the hospital when she was still a young puppy. I later learned this affects a dog’s brain chemistry and from that point on my gentle giant was not so gentle. Newfoundlands are famous for having no aggression and, true, she never attacked other dogs first, but she sent all the wrong messages. Upon greeting another dog, dogs’ communication consists of at least twenty different behaviors, each one sending a different signal. Bear Dog was sending this message to other dogs—I am about to kill you. Every dog, large and small, gentle or otherwise, attacked her upon sight. Attacking a Newfoundland is not a good idea. They are considered the strongest of all canines and at 140-plus pounds, wearing an armor of the thickest of all canine coats, the fiercest of dogs stands no chance.
Like dementia, the problem escalated. One day a neighbor walked in our house without knocking and startled Bear Dog, and Bear Dog bit her, right through a thick ski jacket. All John and I could think was that Jaime and her little friends were constantly running in and out. We finally faced the terrible decision to say good-bye.
Fred: Bear Dog, Bear Dog… Well, Bear Dog is dead, that’s what. She died after eight seasons. She was a beautiful dog. She’s showing me how she died. You took her to the vet and she was gone...
She wants you to know she understands. She’s showing me what happened. She had a problem with her stomach. I am actually seeing green bile here. She was in a cage. She understands why you said good-bye. She loves you, yeah, o, boy, she really loves you. You are very special to her. She wants you to know she is planning on coming back to you.
These last words register so loud in my mind. A buzzing starts in my ears; tears appear in my eyes.
Me: I don’t know how you can know all this? I mean, have you always been able to read dogs?
Fred: I read people too. It is just that I got famous for dogs after the TV appearances.
Me: You read people too?!
Fred: You’re a writer, right?
Me: That is me.
Fred: Are you sure you’re not a looker? I’m seeing a buxom blonde.
The opposite is true. I’m so flat chested, John had to search for them. I think he must be channeling one of my book covers.
Me: Are you… flirting with me?
Fred: Might as well be. Wife is just about useless.
Me: That is too bad. Remember my husband John? I should mention we are happily married.
Fred: Marriage. (He scoffs.) Just a piece of paper.
Me: Sometimes it is backed by a whole lot of love.
Fred: John, Humm…He’s older than you, right? About twenty years, I’m getting. He is fifty or fifty-two, I can’t tell. He’s an only child. He’s telling me he is a professor. He loves teaching. He is a great teacher; I can see that. He is surrounded by students who love him. He… helps people. O, I see he is a shrink, right? He reads a lot, too. Ok, yeah, he’s telling me about all this love for you. He needs to exercise more, okay? He’s got to be careful with his weight.
Fred read my mom and dad. (Your dad is telling me he’s a gambler; plays the ponies. Ah, a bookie, I see. He’s a real character…) He knew my parents’ age, their family sizes, and general health concerns. For instance, he knew my dad was a smoker and my mom had just hurt her knee. He knew my mom was having an affair with a married man and that her lover’s wife was critically ill. I thought he got my grandma’s family size wrong. My grandma always said she came from a family of six; Fred said seven, but later my grandma clarified: “There was another baby, Mary, but she died before she was two and we never count her.”
I begin asking Fred about Fred. When he first realized he had this talent, how it has shaped his life, what his religious ideas were. He believed in reincarnation, that consciousness survives death. He believed the spiritual world interacts with our material world and sometimes in powerful ways. He said his abilities do not work on his own life. This, he said, explained why he was still with his wife.
Interesting, he said he could turn it on and turn it off, that it was a conscious choice, though he always had strong general impressions of people. He said I was unusually easy to read, that my energy was very positive. He adamantly believed we all had this talent, but for various reasons didn’t access it.
Me: What do you think those reasons are, Fred?
Fred: That is a mystery.
I hesitated to ask the last question.
Me: Fred, I have to ask. Do you see my books being successful?
The question received the longest pause. Minutes passed. Finally:
Fred: Yes, yes, you will be successful, but… Okay, I’m getting so many images right now… (Another long pause.) Are you pregnant? I’m seeing a baby on your shoulder.
Me: Yes. Seven months.
Fred: It’s a boy, do you know? Humm. O! He will be very special. (Another long pause.) There is some kind of message here… (Another long pause.)
Fred: Gotta go.
And he hung up.
What did Fred see about Jonpaul?
Read Bill Phillipps and Me to find out.