The Rumpus Mini-Interview Project #51: Pet Psychic Marla Steele

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Each year on my dog Isso’s birthday, I give him the gift of voice: a reading with pet psychics/animal communicators who “talk” to Isso about his likes and dislikes, requests, preferences and physical ailments, if any. Of all the pet psychics I’ve worked with, Marla Steele has been the most informative, precise, and insightful, and has always provided me with information that improves my relationship with my dog.

Secretly, I want to become a pet psychic, so I interviewed Marla over the phone to learn more about her work. What might be seen as a light form of entertainment, the gift of animal communication actually opens up a whole different way of seeing and being in the world.

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The Rumpus: What’s the funniest thing an animal has ever shared with you?

Marla Steele: When I was on KZST radio, a woman called up asking about her dog, who was acting very differently towards her fiancé. Before I could censor myself, I said, “He smells the other woman on your fiancé.” And she said, “I knew it!” She wanted confirmation and the dog gave it to her.

Rumpus: Has an animal ever refused to talk to you?

Steele: I have had animals that don’t want to talk about past trauma. That’s the only time they’ll put up a block. If the trauma was intense enough, they don’t want to experience it again nor do they want anyone else to. It is helpful to just respect their boundaries and reassure them that they will be safe.

Rumpus: Can you tell me about your next book?

Steele: I’m currently working on a book about pets in spirit, how they’re very much around us and show up in concrete ways to get our attention.

Rumpus: How long do they stay around?

Steele: In some ways forever. But it’s not so much how long they stay around, it’s more about their energy frequency and density. Their energy can ascend. It’s like a radio station, where, closer to the time they pass, their signal seems stronger but over time it seems to fade. But if you have an intention or ask them to visit you in a dream, they’re right there.

Rumpus: Do animals try to talk to you when you’re walking around a park or other public places?

Steele: Yes, sometimes an animal will grab my attention because they know I could hear them or they see something in my energy field that looks different from others.

I once had a cougar experience in Olompali Park in Novato. I felt her all that day and thought I kept seeing her out of the corner of my eye. At one point I started hiking ahead of my husband on the trail, which I never do, and then clearly heard a voice say, “stop.” My husband caught up with me, and he was the one who saw the cougar. I had enough time to take a picture.

Later, when I blew up the pictures of her and her babies, I could see really interesting spirits, like images of faces hanging in the leaves and opossum hanging upside down. I saw pig heads and all sorts of weird things. The spirits in these trees really made me want to start doing nature photography. Olompali Park is where the Miwoks were. It’s really cool when you start to feel the connectedness with all of life.


Beverly Paras Parayno was raised in San Jose by immigrant parents from the Philippines. Her fiction, memoir excerpts and author interviews have appeared in Narrative Magazine, The Rumpus, Memoir Pool, Huizache, Warscapes and Southword: New Writing from Ireland. Parayno earned an MA in English from University College Cork and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. A resident of Oakland, she is a freelance grant writer and development consultant for Bay Area nonprofits. More from this author →