REVIEW: Secrets of a Pet Whisperer by Terri Steuben

12:30pm |  Book Review: Secrets of a Pet Whisperer by Terri Steuben

We love to read -- and we like to review and share the books we like. So far, we’ve done a few storybooks, but we’ve never written about anything practical.

About a year and a half ago, we had a terrific interview with animal communicator Terri Steuben, who told us about how she uses “Talking Pictures” to create a back-and-forth dialogue about a pet’s wants, needs and issues. Most interesting were her stories about her rescue efforts with the Humane Society of the United States’ National Disaster Animal Response Team (N-DART) in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She discussed family issues with one of Kate’s cats, Woodbine, who let Steuben (quite truthfully) know that the other cat, Mildred, isn’t “quite all there” and that he’s been gentle and tolerant since Mildred was introduced to the house a few years ago.

Now, Steuben has published her first book in which she shares her techniques of Talking Pictures with pet owners who are having trouble keeping their best friends from shredding or eating the sofa or using it as a toilet. In a nutshell, talking pictures are mental images coupled with positive statements that show and tell your pet what you want him or her to do. Pets, Steuben says, communicate with us telepathically with pictures, and we can learn to do the same thing by coupling our own mental images with positive phrases, thus creating captioned screenshots of what behavior we want from our pets.

“Talking pictures is not just for people with psychic abilities,” Steuben writes.

At this point, the more “grounded” reader may scoff, but those in tune with a companion animal will undoubtedly remember a time when he or she looked right at you and you immediately knew that your pet was thirsty, hungry, wanted to cuddle or had just read the label on the pet food and decided that it wasn’t worthy. Contrariwise, Judy’s glanced at the door thinking that she needs to walk Razi right now because today’s schedule butts up against the regular walkies time, and here comes Razi with the leash in her mouth. Stuff like that. Animals do communicate, and Steuben has plenty of her own experience to share.

Terri Steuben using Reiki techniques to help Chester.

Steuben lays out the process chapter by chapter. Chapter 2 is devoted to explaining talking pictures and a list of phrases to help create the images in your mind and in the pet’s. She advises against using negative words like stop, don’t, not, and no coupled with what you don’t want. Pets don’t understand negatives, she says, and some people have trouble with it as well. For example: Don’t think of a hippopotamus. (What’s in your head right now?) A command like Don’t hang from the flat screen! will have the cat jumping up there repeatedly. Instead, you say “Eunice! All four feet on the floor!” as soon as the cat starts eyeing the television.

The following chapters list typical unwanted behaviors (there are quite a few of them, as you know) and how to deal with each one; pet behaviors in circumstances other than the generic “at home” such as visiting the dog park or dog beach, adding a baby or a new pet to the household, and traveling. The book also covers different behaviors at each stage of life, from newborn to “crossing over.” Language again is important—one unique usage is the word dark to explain the passage of time. “Animals can’t read a calendar or plug a date into a BlackBerry, but they do understand the concept of time passing,” Steuben writes in the “Comings and Goings” section. “To mark the passage of days, our pets think in terms of the number of nights, or ‘darks,’ that pass….To your pets, ‘one dark’ equals one full day.”

Like any cookbook, you want to bake the cake before you recommend it, and so we implemented a few of Steuben’s Talking Pictures. Kate’s Woodbine has a habit of walking in front of the computer monitor and standing there. Generally, she scoops him onto her lap (which is no doubt what he wants), but she’s had complete success with “Woodbine, let me see the screen,” and nearly 100 percent of the time he moves out of the way. “Come sit on my lap” has gotten even more success. Of course, Woodbine is exceptionally bright; the aforementioned Eunice, is a work in progress (as well as a piece of work), and this could be because she’s a friend’s cat. With Kate using Talking Pictures for “All four feet on the floor” and the friend simultaneously squirting a water pistol at her creates a mixed message, Steuben says. This can confuse an animal or at least have the pet shrug his or her barely existent shoulders and go on with the bad behavior just because it’s fun. Steuben advises to not expect miracles—it takes practice, and she has some pretty funny gaffes of her own that she writes about. Talking Pictures aren’t magic, and the pet owner isn’t Houdini—or is that Hound-ini?
Breaking Harry’s Law and a couple of others.

Even if you’re an ultimate skeptic and can’t see yourself doing any of this, Secrets of a Pet Whisperer contains an interesting section about Steuben’s experiences during the Katrina emergencies and a chapter devoted to caring for your pet in an emergency. The latter is invaluable. There’s a description of steps to take and a checklist of what to have ready in general as well as for particular animals—not just cats and dogs but also birds, reptiles, rabbits, horses, cattle and swine.

There’s also a couple of “bonuses”—a photo-illustrated chapter on how to effectively walk a dog and a “cheat sheet” that summarizes the steps to using talking pictures.

Excuse us one moment. Eunice! All four feet…!

Animals can communicate quite well. And they do. And generally speaking, they are ignored. 
~ Alice Walker, American author

Pet Projects

Book signing and Mini-Sessions for Terri Steuben’s Secrets of a Pet Whisperer: Stop Telling Your Pets to Misbehave, Pussy and Pooch, 4818 E. 2nd St., Long Beach, 90803, Saturday, April 28, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

  • Want to try out Terri Steuben’s techniques? Terri will be signing copies of Secrets of a Pet Whisperer and will also be doing little readings for your own babies! Pets are always welcome there, or bring photos (the cat would prefer that). Call (562) 434-7700 for information.

Poets for Homeless Pets in Long Beach, corner of Studebaker Road and Fairbrook Street, (6915 E. Fairbrook St., for GPS and MapQuest purposes), Long Beach, Saturday, March 24, 1–5 p.m., and Sunday, March 25, noon–2 p.m.

  • Talk about poetic justice—in observation of Worldwide Poets Day of Service, a wondrous group of bards of the beach from Whittier College are planning a goodie/necessity drop-off for pets at our shelter. Bring the following items to a group of enthusiastic poets (both honorary and students/alumni) along with you: 

- Kong Toys (for the Animal Care Services Kong Toy Drive)
- Dry or canned cat and dog food
- Doggie treats
- Toys for cats and dogs (remove anything that an animal may inadvertently swallow
- Scratching posts
- Plastic child-size wading pools
- Collars, Leashes, Harnesses, Gentle Leaders and Clickers 
- Heating pads, towels, blankets and fleece bedding
- Cat litter (no scoop or clay-based types, please)
- Cat carriers and dog crates

PFHP knows that a toy will occupy and calm a frightened animal and make him and her more sociable. The group wants to remind you, too, that poets always adopt, spay and neuter!

Shoestring City Ranch Country Fair, 1003 W. Carson St., Long Beach, CA 90810, Saturday, March 24, 11:30 a.m.–4 p.m.

  • Long Beach has urban wildlife and urban gardens, and we also have an urban ranch! The Shoestring City Ranch provides free and low-cost rural experiences to city kids while teaching teamwork, respect and leadership skills in an ecologically friendly green space while working with rescued animals. In keeping with the country thang, the Ranch will be hosting a fair near the end of March. Admission is free, and there will be food, live music, a horse show especially for kids, face painting and fun with farm animals and bunnies. Shoestring City Ranch is a 501(c)3 nonprofit; find out more about this great place by clicking here.  

Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office Presents the Animal Cruelty Education Conference, Skylinks at Long Beach, 4800 E. Wardlow Rd., Long Beach, 90808, Thursday, March 29, 6 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Free admission, no RSVP necessary
  • The office of City Prosecutor Doug Haubert is hosting this conference to educate the public about animal cruelty. Attendees will learn ways to identify animal cruelty, including hoarding, neglect and fighting, and how to safely report it. The target audience is the general public and concerned citizens of Long Beach and the surrounding areas. Speakers will include Eric Sakach, senior law enforcement specialist for the HSUS, and Deputy District Attorney Deborah Knaan, who supervises prosecution of all animal cruelty and neglect cases. Come early to get a good seat. For information, call (562) 570-5626 or click here 

Free Cat Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Clinics, various locations, Long Beach Animal Care Services and Parks, Recreation and Marine, Saturday, April 14

  • Long Beach is doing its best to make it easy for pet owners to protect their pets from illness and disappearance. Free cat clinics for rabies inoculation and microchipping will take place at 9–10:30 a.m., Houghton Park, 6301 Myrtle Ave., and at 12:30–2 p.m., Admiral Kidd Park, 2125 Santa Fe Ave.
  • Arrive early; supplies are limited. Sponsored by Southern California Veterinary Vaccine Clinic. For more information, click here

The Big Meow, ongoing, various locations

The Big Meow is a program sponsored by SEAACA and Pet-Connections, Inc. to provide no-cost spay and neutering of owned outdoor cats. Pet owners can make an appointment now. The surgery clinics will be held weekly and are open to cat owners who live in the SEAACA service area (Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Buena Park, Downey, Lakewood, La Palma, Montebello, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, South El Monte, South Gate and Vernon.) Your participation will be an important step in reducing the surplus cats in our community. In addition to the altering surgery, each cat will receive at no cost a microchip for a permanent ID, vaccines (FVRCP and rabies), and the first month of flea preventive treatment. Call today for an appointment. Click here for information.

Update on Repeal of Hayden Law

The Hayden Law, as described in a previous article, reduces the killing of shelter animals by increasing shelter holding periods from only 72 hours to four to six business days so that the pet can either be reunited more efficiently with its caregivers or be put up for adoption. The bill also allows rescue groups to take the shelter animals who are scheduled to be euthanized and find them homes. Gov. Brown is lobbying to repeal the act entirely; however, it’s already been suspended in several areas because of budget cuts. Our own Animal Care Services (ACS) has not suspended it, and our city council has unanimously agreed to oppose the complete repeal. Leaving the law suspended will cost nothing, and when (it is hoped) that the economy has improved, it will cost nothing to enable it again. However, repealing it and the resulting efforts would cost plenty.

Advocacy groups like Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIS) and Stray Cat Alliance have been doing the paw-work in Sacramento to ask legislators to reject the repeal. We got word from both organizations that during the week of March 12, the California State Assembly Budget Subcommittee voted unanimously to reject the governor’s plan to repeal the Hayden Law’s reimbursable state mandates, although, as the press release stated, “some small, non-reimbursable provisions remain intact.” 

“Animal advocates should be happy—for the moment—that Hayden remains untouched,” said Christi Metropole, executive director of Stray Cat Alliance, who was in Sacramento for the meeting. “But this issue continues until at least April 11 when it faces the State Senate budget subcommittee, so we will continue too. We’re not taking no for an answer.”

Metropole also considered the temporary victory “hollow”; as an animal advocate, she feels that allowing the legislation to be suspended would continue the euthanizing of shelter animals. And she’d be correct. When you’re standing in the face of budget cuts everywhere, however, the only thing you can do is to fight the best fight possible. We thank Metropole and Judie Mancuso of SCIL for being continuously on the forefront. And we thank ACS and the city council for their own conscientiousness in attempting to find homeless pets loving homes and reuniting lost ones with their humans.

Virtually Pets

This feller was found in the L.A. area. If you recognize this nice pit bull, please use this e-mail contact for details: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Elsa                                   Ritz                                   Coco

These are but three cats who were found in a hoarder situation. They’re all spayed or neutered (except for a 3-month-old kitten), vaccinated, disease tested and friendly. E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information. They can be transported to a new, loving home.

March Madness, Long Beach Animal Care Services and spcaLA, Pitchford Companion Animal Village, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, through March 31

  • You think that department stores have good sales? SpcaLA’s P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center and Long Beach Animal Care Services are teaming up for a great one: the March Madness cats and kittens adoption event! Featured are two feline adoption specials: Adopt a team of two with Double Dribble—two—that’s two—cats or kittens for $105! Or adopt an all-star with Ready for the Big Leagues, which offers $25 off the adoption rate of cats one year older. Really—two are better than one when it comes to cats! Check out this wonderful YouTube video —see if you can resist!

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