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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.
"Houston is a very metaphysical city," Sonya of London was pleased to report. Her business is "beginning to be quite profitable." Customers send letters expressing their satisfaction.
"Sonya's readings are remarkable," Clair Rowland wrote. "My Airedale described an arthritic condition in her hindquarters. The Airedale also told Sonya our Chihuahua had an ear infection."
One woman described how her cat had been sick for about five years until Sonya performed "some kind of laser surgery of the mind." Another was grateful that her turtle got better after Sonya relayed that it needed a larger tank. And then there was the amazing case of Karen Balloun's sick iguana. Zuki's green had turned to the lime green of the carpet when Sonya finally laid hands upon him. Her hands trembled up and down the reptile until, boom! Out popped the "intestinal blockage," right into the lap of Sonya of London.
"He's been perfect ever since and growing like a weed," Balloun testified happily.
Sonya's story is so amazing that it fills you with a desire to witness the miracles. Fortunately, there was that chance recently, when Sonya of London made her way into Borders Book Shop on Westheimer. A sign directed browsers to a place between the literature and romance sections, where Sonya Fitzpatrick would "teach us how to communicate with our animals." At the appointed hour, about a dozen people had gathered, almost all of them women. Emma James collected $15 from each one, and then Sonya of London began again at the beginning.
"I was born with a gift -- I realize that now," she said. She told about the geese and the modeling and how this tremendous power was locked within her for so many years. Finally, when she was done, she addressed the topic of the evening. To tune into your animal, she said, you have to clear your mind. She told everyone to close their eyes and relax and send their animals "a feeling of love."
It was not hard to imagine a great pink cloud of that feeling suddenly billowing overhead. One woman rolled her skull slowly from side to side. Another sat there kind of smiling, another sat with palms open, apparently meditating, and still another chewed gum and twiddled her thumbs. When they were told to open their eyes, the woman in the Annie Hall hat had gotten a message that her dog wanted to sleep in her bed. No one else had gotten anything, except for the lady whose dog had told her it was awfully noisy.
Thus, the time came for Sonya of London to take the stage. Who has a pet problem, she inquired, and a thin, nervous woman stepped forward and said her name was Cindy and that her dog, Spike, gets nervous when she leaves and "uses the bathroom in the house."
"All right," said Sonya of London, closing her eyes and putting fingers to her temples, "let me tune into Spike's energy."
She was quiet for a moment, and then she began to speak for Spike.
"Spike is telling me he's a very beautiful animal. I'm getting two colors."
"No, just red," said the woman.
"He's telling me two colors."
"No, just one color."
"Well, a bit of white on the chin."
"Okay, have you moved his bowls? He's telling me you've moved his bowls."
"Since you've had him -- it doesn't have to be lately."
"Well, several years ago."
He likes his bowls where they used to be, Sonya said, and it went on like this for a while, until Spike confessed that he couldn't control his bowels when Cindy left because he feared she would never return. Sonya of London eased Spike's anxious heart.
"He's frightened. I'm telling him it's okay to be frightened. I'm telling Spike you will always, always come back to him."
Cindy smiled and stepped down, and then a young couple raised their hands and asked why their cat hated the veterinarian. This one took no time at all. Sonya said it was because the anesthetic hadn't worked when the cat was neutered. The couple looked sad for a moment until Sonya told the cat this would never happen again. "Thanks," they said in unison.
The end came abruptly when Emma James emerged from the shelves and pointed impatiently to her watch. Sonya of London apologized for having to leave, but told her listeners there were tapes for sale. She closed with a prayer to "the god force" to watch over the animals.
The audience slowly broke apart then. On their way out, two women were debating just what they had seen. People believe what they want to believe, said one, but for herself, she didn't think people could converse with animals.
Her friend shook her head, though. Sonya of London had described little Angel perfectly.
"You'll see," she said. "When Angel stops chewing on the carpet, you'll see!