KIRTLAND, Ohio-- They call themselves animal communicators, pet psychics and sometimes seers.
And just like the fictional character, Dr. Doolittle, they claim to talk to the animals.
“I hear the animals talk and I can feel and sense their pain,” said a Kirtland woman named Doris Straka.
Doris describes herself as “strange” and prefers to be called an “animal communicator,” because she says that’s exactly what she does.
“There are times I truly hear them just as if we’re speaking,” said Straka.
She says, it’s an inherent ability that was first discovered when she was a little girl.
Her mother thought she just had an active imagination, but her Native American grandmother recognized the gift and encouraged Doris to communicate with all sorts of critters.
She says the animals can be funny at times but humans remain her toughest critics.
“Some people go 'hmmmm,'” she chuckles. "And I don’t know if it didn’t happen to me, I might be right there with them.”
But Doris says she’s helped locate many lost pets and even assisted with criminal investigations.
FOX 8 News Reporter Suzanne Stratford met with Doris at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark to see her skills in action.
The farm park in Kirtland houses a number of interesting animals, including a seven-year-old Dutch Bred Friesian named Thiadrik.
Susan Townsend is his caretaker. She said, “He’s a very curious young man.”
And Thiadrik definitely seemed interested in Doris during their interaction, as he nudged her with a playful snort and nay.
For 15 minutes, Doris touched and talked to Thiadrik, nodding her head and thanking him from time to time.
Then she told Susan what Thiadrik had told her.
Some things seemed a bit off, like the story of him running into a fence while he was watching a cow, when he was very young.
“As far as I know he’s never interacted with cows,” said Susan although she admitted that it could’ve happened on the farm where he was bred before he came into her care.
But other comments about children rang true.
“I knew he liked kids and when she said that I see it every day,” said Susan.
And when Doris mentioned an eyesight issue it seemed to really get Susan’s attention.
Doris explained that “as she looked through his eyes,” she had trouble seeing things far away, because they became distorted.
Susan responded, “He’s always acted funny-looking at certain things and reacts to certain things, so it makes sense that he can’t see some things further off.”
Doris also hit on a few concerns regarding a pony named Ruthie and a chicken named LaFonda.
Susan said, “Is it really true? I don’t know; it’s just interesting to hear what Doris has to say about the animals.”
Susan may not be able to say that she entirely believes in animal communication, but there are people who swear-by Doris’ abilities including a woman named Gaye Bricker who rescues Britney Spaniels with the National Britney Rescue and Adoption Network.
“Doris is an amazing woman,” said Gaye.
Although Gaye admits she didn’t always support Doris. In fact when she first heard Doris speak at a rescue seminar, Gaye rolled her eyes and said, "Yea right!”
Until one night when one of Gaye’s rescued dogs was writhing and screaming out in pain.
Gaye says when her veterinarian wasn’t sure what was wrong with the dog, she broke down and called Doris.
Gaye called Doris on the telephone and gave her very little information about the dog, but she says Doris immediately seemed to know what was happening. “That dog was hit by a car.”
And she was right. Gaye says, tests and x-rays couldn’t see the problem but Doris did.
She instructed Gaye to find an animal chiropractor and then told her what to tell him.
“He says she’s right,” said Gaye. "This dogs got nine vertebrae out of place. He adjusted her back and she was fine.”
Gaye says, that was the first of many dogs that Doris helped save or lost dogs she helped locate.
“She almost never misses,” said Gaye.
It sounds impressive but the experts aren’t as supportive.
The American Veterinary Medical Association doesn't endorse, support or promote animal psychics or animal communicators.
Many traditional veterinarians are also weary of their claims.
However, at Detroit Dover Animal Hospital in Westlake, Dr. Greg Cunningham says all animals do communicate.
“Growling, barking-- that’s all communication,” said Dr. Cunningham. “And it’s the same with cats; they communicate a lot.”
There’s also tail wagging, begging, barking, growling, meowing, and hissing.
Dr. Cunningham says the main way animals communicate with humans is through changes in the behavior. Changes in an animal’s eating, sleeping or “pottying” patterns can all be indicators of trouble.
“But communicating the way we think of communication? No,” said Dr. Cunningham.
Doris says she doesn’t have an answer for her unique talent either.
“Why I’m like this? I truly don’t know.”
But she is certain of one thing: all people and their pets instinctively have the ability to communicate effectively using the universal language of love.