MISSOULA - In her living room high above the Missoula Valley floor in upper Miller Creek, Kathleen Mensing spends most of her early mornings in deep meditation, conversing with animals.
She calls herself an animal communicator, and for the past several years she has learned how to tap into an innate psychic ability, which she says all humans possess in varying degrees, to help heal human-animal relationships.
She's not a psychic medium. Rather, Mensing is a psychic mediator.
Her telepathic work most frequently involves locating lost pets, helping animals understand medical procedures, explaining to young or new animals the rules and expectations of living with humans, and helping abused or abandoned animals through trauma.
She doesn't have to be in the presence of her nonhuman clients; indeed, she prefers not to be when she is doing her work. Fewer distractions can mean a better telepathic connection, she says.
Within the first few minutes of explaining her unusual work and talent, Mensing is quick to say she knows what she does may sound bizarre to most people.
But, the pleasant, poised and self-deprecating middle-aged psychotherapist asserts she is not schizophrenic. She's even gone to a therapist to find out for sure.
"Telepathic communication between my mind and an animal's mind - how it works I don't really know," Mensing explains. "But it does, and because there is proof, I keep on doing it."
Mensing's journey into the murky world of telepathy began in 2001 when her dog, Wheatie, was almost trampled to death by a deer in her backyard. The deer was so aggressive that it turned on Mensing when she tried to chase it off.
Wheatie was so terrified that the small Bichon Frise-cross refused to leave the house for four days, and then, suddenly on the fifth day, she bounded outside and began her retaliation.
Wheatie became a 14-pound lion that could not be called back from deer hunting.
Frustrated, Mensing turned to Jane Heath, a Helena animal communicator.
After discussing the problem with Wheatie - in full sentences - Heath told Mensing the little dog was trying to keep her human safe, and that's why she refused to stop chasing deer.
Heath told Wheatie the best way to protect Mensing was to stay close to her, and during the conversation, heard from the little dog about its abusive past before Mensing rescued it.
As far-fetched as the conversation seemed to Mensing, Wheatie changed her behavior in a matter of days, and transformed from a shy and frightened creature into a confident and happy dog.
Curious about the telepathy, Heath encouraged Mensing to take a class to learn more about animal communication.
Mensing's teachings launched a full-blown journey to know even more, a journey that has taken her to Europe and Canada to learn from international masters in the field of animal communication.
Mensing, who has worked in many fields, including journalism at the Missoulian, said she communicates with animals in words and writes out the conversations on her computer as she talks with each individual.
Artists, she explained, are more likely to experience the communication in pictures just as dancers are more likely to received the information through feelings.
Born with a gift
Telepathy, Mensing said, is a gift most people are born with, but is something that needs to be developed just like any other skill.
"I think it's like music," she said. "Almost everybody can learn to play some musical instrument. Some are more gifted than others, but we all have some basic idea of how to play an instrument."
When Mensing is hired to help an animal owner better understand a pet - be it a dog, cat, horse, rabbit or any other creature - she first asks her human clients to fill out an intake form that gives her a description of the animal, its living situation and to explain the issue as they understand it.
In the early morning hours, just after waking and a cup of coffee, Mensing quiets her mind and envisions the animal.
She then begins by calling out its name in her mind and introducing herself.
She asks simple questions at first and she asks the animal of the hour to describe its eating area, its living area, where it is at the time they are talking.
Mensing gathers what she calls the "tangibles" - things that prove what she is doing works. Things like the color of the food dish, the place where the animal sleeps, the thing they like best.
Many of her work's results are told in Mensing's newly published book, "The Way I Hear Them."
Among the stories is the tale of two terriers that return after being lost in the mountains for 10 days, and a poodle that makes instant friends with a kitten after Mensing explains the new house pet isn't a squirrel.
In the past eight years, Mensing's abilities have become more keen and she has become more confident as an animal communicator.
It's why she is now willing to step forward to talk about it.
Her agenda, Mensing said, is not financially based. She wants to help improve the lives of animals and to inspire others with the same curiosity - and the same talent - to explore the possibilities.
"I used to say I was always amazed when telepathy works," Mensing said. "And now, after all this time, I'm amazed when it doesn't work."
Mensing, who has been quietly doing this work, is no longer afraid of skeptics, she said.
Her strength comes from those she helps and from Albert Einstein, whose words she cherishes and knows by heart:
"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant. We live in a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."