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If Snow White were in her fifties, she would probably look something like Sonya Fitzpatrick -- pressed and painted and polished, her hair fluffed just right. Maybe she would also have a pink-and-green parlor like Sonya Fitzpatrick's, and maybe, like Fitzpatrick, she would be selling her skills as an animal communicator.
"You expected to see me in a robe and Jesus sandals, didn't you, darling," Fitzpatrick said with a laugh. "Well, I'm changing that image, dear. You don't have to be a weirdo to have this ability."
In her parlor above La Madeleine in Highland Village, the walls and curtains and carpet are lime green, and everything else -- the couch, the clock, the desk, the headless Greek statue -- is utterly pink. There, in a pink chair, Fitzpatrick sat on a sunny day, trying to explain a transition in her life. For more than two years, she and her daughter, Emma James, have operated an etiquette business called "Sonya of London." Having labored long and hard to civilize the people of Houston, they have decided now to expand their services into the animal kingdom. For $120 an hour, Fitzpatrick says she'll have a talk with your pets. The etiquette teacher believes she understands animals so well that she's pretty sure she was one in a former life.
"We're all capable of speaking to the animals, darling, but not in the way I can," she said. "It's a gift I've had since I was a child."
Sonya of London does not actually bark or moo or meow. She talks to animals telepathically, she explained. They send her their feelings, and she feels them herself. That's what you have to do if you want to talk to animals. You have to learn to trust your feelings, she said.
In pumps and pearls, Sonya suddenly dropped down on all fours and gave a demonstration. "This is an animal," she said, looking up. When it has a pain in its body, she feels its pain -- in her hand if its paw hurts, in her eye if its eye hurts. "And if it's constipated, darling, that can be rather uncomfortable as well."
Her parents never encouraged this kind of behavior. Sonya grew up on an English farm, where her parents used to tell her she lived in her mind. Her three best friends were geese, until one Sunday when she was five years old and her best friends became her dinner. After that, Sonya quit talking with animals. She went away to school, and at 16, she says she went to London and became an international model. "I was very successful," she says. "Those were the days when models were trained properly."
After her modeling career, she opened her etiquette studio and began training models herself. Sonya was in London, so it only made sense that she call her business Sonya of London. And when she came to Houston ("Etiquette was needed here, darling"), somehow it still made sense to call herself Sonya of London.
For years, she had been a vegetarian, but it was an illness that led her "all into homeopathic medicine and acupuncture and positivity." Not long after these discoveries, Sonya of London finally regained her animal voice.
Her husband, Dennis, who had stayed behind in England to settle their affairs, told her their dog was harassing their cat. That distressed Sonya greatly, and she spent much time trying to understand why the dog chased the cat. One evening, just after giving an etiquette lecture at Magic Island, Sonya sat down and began to receive telepathic communication from her dog. He was thousands of miles away, but it was like e-mail -- instant and clear. Bella told her his problems, and Wellington the cat told his side of the story, and then Sonya told them to quit their squabbling. She sat back then as they filled her in on local gossip: Daisy was getting married, and Sylvia was having a baby. This was such good news that Sonya phoned Dennis in London, who told her the telepathic gossip was factually true.
"Well, dear," said Sonya to him, "I don't need to talk to you anymore, because Wellington tells me everything."
After that, she began tuning into her faraway pets every day. When a friend had a disagreement with her own cat, Sonya stepped in to interpret. The conflict was resolved, and thereafter, word just spread. Her work with animals soon began taking over her work with people.
"My business is growing," she said with a smile. "It's growing all over!"
If you've got a pet problem now, you simply step into Sonya's parlor. There's no need to bring the animal. She tunes into the pet through the "mind energy" of the owner, and if you can't come in, she'll tune in by phone, after you mail her a check. What she does is still a matter of dealing with behavior problems, but the problems are more fundamental now -- scratching, biting, pooping on the floor. Sonya also searches for lost animals and can now offer her services as a healer. She realized she had this ability not long ago when she was informed of it by a ghost in robes who called himself St. Francis. With his help, Sonya of London gets $70 per half hour of healing work. It might take several sessions; there are no guarantees.