Old Rudi seems so much more whiny than usual—whimpering with a high-pitched howl, which is often disturbing. Of course, he’s a 16-year-old Dachshund, and the vet points out that he’s just old.
I’ve known Ben Scuglia as a fellow writer since the 1990s—lost touch for a while—but then bumped into him at a local theater, found out he lived in the area, and discovered his new hobby of “reading animals.” We invited him to come over and read Rudi.
Along the way, he read four other dogs, a cat and our bearded dragon—which was a first for Ben.
“It doesn’t work the way you see on TV, there’s no hocus-pocus,” Ben says. “I just seem to be able to pick up on what is bugging the animal, or what they’re concerned about. Sometimes I can let the humans in the household know of things they’re not aware of.”
Maybe there’s a stomach problem that needs to be taken care of, maybe they don’t like certain food, maybe there’s a simple adjustment that could help in the care of the animal.
“Sometimes the animal will bust someone,” Ben laughs. “There was a Yorkie who said he liked beef stew.” The owner said she never feeds food like that to her dog, but then later found out that the neighbor who often dog-sits has given the dog beef stew.
“I love when that happens,” Ben says.
Then, there was the cat that “told” him about being upset about the person coming into the apartment. It turned out the landlord was entering while the tenant was away.
He says he has communicated with ferrets, horses, birds, snakes, guinea pigs, squirrels, cats, dogs and even a turtle.
“I wasn’t sure if I would be able to connect with a turtle, but I could,” Ben recalls. The usually anti-social turtle circled around Ben, much to the surprise of the owner.
“Cats will express anything, dogs live for the moment and are a bit harder to read,” Ben says. “It is not a trick or anything, it’s just a heightened form of intuition that we all may have. It’s like an extra antenna.”
From the Pittsburgh area, it wasn’t until he talked to his family in 2002 that he realized his grandmother and other relatives had similar talents they never discussed. His grandmother said she could see auras.
Ben is fine with sticking to animals.
“I can tell people who to get their dog to stop barking, but the people have to be willing to change their habits,” he says.
Performer and Sittin’ Kitty pet service owner Joanne O’Brien said, “I highly recommend Ben’s gift to all pet owners! He truly made a difference and even deepened the bond that I have with my boys. Ben is the real deal.”
And author Hannah Dennison, said her husband at first was quite skeptical, but offered a high testimonial: “We cannot recommend Ben highly enough.”
For us, Rudi told us he felt bad about his failing eyesight and body functions (he soiled the bed the night before), and how he is afraid of water (he once nearly drowned in the pool).
The cat was concerned about a member of the family, the dog with one ear had a different story than the dramatic tale told by a previous owner, and Ben was able to get to the bearded dragon. He was cold too much, didn’t get enough water, and he didn’t like loud sounds (maybe too close to the piano.) We didn't find out what happened to two missing cats (we assume ), or hear from any other pets who have died at home, but it was a fascinating and fun experience to have a "voice" to our pets—and to know that Rudi's not in pain, just anxious.
“It’s a humbling experience and I really enjoy doing the readings,” Ben says.
His website is 500Turtles.com.