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Next on Sonya: I Can't Stop Licking Myself!

In case you're wondering, professional pet psychic is number 132 on the list of Jobs for People Who Don't Want to Actually Work, just behind television critic. Unfortunately it's also number 96,476 on the list of People Who Now Have Talk Shows, thanks to Sonya Fitzpatrick and her Animal Planet series, The Pet Psychic.

Come on people, aren't we talked out yet? What is this national obsession with hearing other people gab about their lives? Are we really so desperate for mindless blather and uninformed opinions we're turning to goldfish for their take on John Ashcroft? Why can't we just go back to the good old days of swallowing our emotion and turning it into a nice, quiet solar furnace of internal rage? At least then we could get some peace.

But you have to hand it to Fitzpatrick, if only for proving that normally staid Brits can be as shamelessly brazen about twisting television to their own evil ends as we Americans. Her show consists of a dozen or so pet owners sitting with their animals while Fitzpatrick visits with each one of them and explains to all the reasons Spot keeps chasing parked cars. It's never because Spot is a freaking dog with the mental acuity of a piece of soap, it's because his owners don't let him express his inner wolf. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick's "communication" is "telepathic," so we don't get to watch a middle-aged English woman barking in front of a national television audience.

The first observation one makes when watching The Pet Psychic is that animals apparently live in the same Star Trek universe where all the aliens speak English. What is truly amazing is that three-month old puppies can learn the complexities of our language, yet the fundamentals of not crapping on the couch continue to elude them.

Fitzpatrick's Animal Planet bio states that as a child she could communicate telepathically with her pets but deliberately stopped the practice when three geese, her best friends at the time, were served as Christmas dinner:

"Mmm, mommy, this Christmas supper is delicious. What is it?"

"Fred, Maribelle and Squawky."

After a career as a model and etiquette consultant, she had a "spiritual experience" and returned to talking to animals. I assume "spiritual experience" means "her looks vanished, nobody cares which one is the salad fork and she needed a quick con to pay off the bookies." So here she is, talking to the animals -- cats, birds, guinea pigs with festive little bows on their heads. On one show there was a dog that was feeling a little bit down, according to Fitzpatrick, because "he was missing something." Now this is the kind of specific, straight-to-the-point advice that makes Fitzpatrick the Dear Abby of pet psychics. Did the dog lose something? A squeaky toy? A rubber bone, perhaps. The owner hemmed and hawed for a while then said that his brother was sick.

Ahh yes, this dog was missing his brother's health. He knew his brother was sick. He also wanted more french fries. The audience was stunned. The shaken owner admitted that the dog's favorite food was indeed french fries, they had even stopped at a McDonald's on the way to the TV studio. How, the owner wondered, could Fitzpatrick possibly know about the french fries?

Now, most of us are probably not pet psychics. Yet if this dog had spent five minutes licking our faces, like he did Fitzpatrick's, I'd bet we could have told you the same thing. The odor of McDonald's french fries is burned into the minds of every American, whether it's coming from a new bag or the mouth of someone slobbering all over our face. With the way the dog was slipping Fitzpatrick the tongue, she could probably taste them too. While I'm not surprised the pet psychic nailed the dog's love of fried foods, I'm surprised she didn't pick up on his chief complaint: "Help, I can actually hear my arteries hardening!" or maybe "I really, really want to eat that guinea pig with the stupid bow in her hair."

Either dogs are wonderfully shameless or Fitzpatrick is holding back on what the pets are really saying in attempt to keep her show from turning into the domesticated version of Sally Jesse Raphael: "Help me, Sonya! I can't stop licking myself!" It's nice to see that the wholesome world of con artists pretending to talk to animals hasn't been sullied by the pressure to get ratings.

We can only hope that The Pet Psychic paves the way for other animal bastardizations of human-specific programming. I for one would love to see Crotch Sniffing Court, Survivor: South Jersey Kennel, or The E! True Hollywood Litterbox Story. In addition, Fitzpatrick's revelations have led to my own "spiritual experience," one which pays off this fall when my new show The Broccoli Empath premieres on The Food Network.


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