Posted: Thursday April 6, 2006 4:37PM; Updated: Friday April 7, 2006 10:57AM
Krista Cantrell, shown here with Jay, has a rare gift.
Remember the Far Side cartoon in which a dog owner gives a wordy obedience lecture to his pooch, Ginger? All the dog understands is, "Blah, blah, blah, Ginger." Well, when Krista Cantrell chats with a mutt, it not only comprehends what she says, but chats back.
The Arizona-based animal trainer claims she can talk telepathically to beasties. She has been hounded by humans -- mostly owners of racehorses and show dogs -- ever since word got out that she could mediate between critters and their masters, help diagnose ailments and reveal a pet's pet peeves. "Krista has a true gift," says Roxanne Gustitis, one of the hundreds of Phoenix-area dog owners who paw out $100 for a half-hour office visit. "She's definitely authentic."
And convincing. "If I didn't have the stats to back up her claims, I wouldn't be talking to you," says Vince Francia, marketing director at Turf Paradise, the Phoenix oval. Once a hardcore skeptic, Francia charted the performances of 11 also-ran thoroughbreds who neighed in with Cantrell in 1995. In their next outings, he says, seven finished first, three second, and the other third. "Trainers may not believe in Krista's powers," he says, "but they believe in her results."
Lynn Posen was a nonbeliever until she hired Cantrell in a last-ditch attempt to save a horse a trio of veterinarians had given up on. "I thought, What the hell," says the former trainer. "It would be no worse than putting my money on a table, dousing it with lighter fluid and lighting a match." Cantrell, she recalls, gazed fixedly at the animal and slowly traced her hands above its body without touching. Posen remembers her saying, "There's something in the intestinal area -- a gray film -- affecting this horse's heart."
Though the vets on hand sniggered, Cantrell advised tubing the horse with buttermilk, yogurt and aloe vera. "We did," Posen reports, "and the horse not only got better overnight but almost won its next race." As it turned out, the horse had been overmedicated and couldn't digest its food. "Krista's remarkable," says Posen, who now swears by her. "What she does is like magic or voodoo."
Cantrell says she can get inside the head of just about any animal, and has had "valid conversations" with everything from fractious stallions to finicky spiders. She plugs into their wavelengths in English. "I don't have an ear for any other language," she says. "Animals pick that up right away. They know I'm a lost cause." She doesn't actually "speak" to them, instead communicating through paranormal powers she says she was born with. "To understand dog behavior," she writes in Catch Your Dog Doing Something Right, one of her three canine counseling guides, "you need to look through their eyes."