A media practitioner for over 10 years in both TV and print.
Didi Almeyda with a dog. (Courtesy of Didi Almeyda/File)
Animal whisperer and author Didi Almeyda placed her hand on Picco, a black cat. The two shared a quiet moment together that spoke volumes despite the silence.
“Talking to cats is a bit like talking to people. As with humans, I asked Picco for permission to ‘talk’ to him” said Didi. “I started off by sending love and positive vibes to him. I also assured Picco that he is loved and in a safe space.”
As with other practitioners of her craft, she made reaching out to the 16-year-old feline look easy. Yet the unassuming communication, which seemed straight out of Robert Redford’s sensitive 1998 film The Horse Whisperer or Eddie Murphy’s slapstick Doctor Doolittle, took years to be realized.
Honing her skills as an animal whisperer
“I have been aware of my ability to communicate with animals since an early age,” Didi recalled. “But I didn’t sharpen that ability until I joined animal communication classes run by the Linking Awareness Adventures [www.linkingawareness.com] Journey in Bogor, West Java, in June 2017”.
She pointed out that tapping into this sense entailed an effort.
“Before communicating with animals, one has to meditate and have the right vibrations for the mind to connect with animals and other living things,” Didi said. “We also have to keep our feelings neutral and approach them with humility and lack of judgment. Stress, anxiety and other negative emotions will make animals unwilling to communicate with us.
“For starters, we communicated with cats, dogs and otters to feel their senses, including what they ate. One of the food sensations I felt was a wet, sweet taste that I originally thought was fruit, but it was actually fresh fish!”
But it was not until Didi entered the forests of the Tanjung Puting National Park with Linking Awareness Adventures in Central Kalimantan in March 2018 that she encountered a wide range of animal thoughts.
“I communicated with various animals [in Tanjung Puting], like insects, orangutans and birds,” the University of Indonesia (UI) alumna said. “Ants and other insects don't have any intention to harm people and accept that it is their destiny in life to be squashed by people. Since then, I've felt terrible for squashing them.”
Yet no less harrowing were the tales Didi heard from the orangutans at Tanjung Puting, which is the site of the Borneo Orangutan School (BOS).
“I cried when I sensed the sad vibes of a young orangutan. Apparently, his mother was killed by humans at an oil palm plantation, while he was shot with pellet guns,” she recalled. “Nonetheless, he forgave his tormentors.”
Didi’s work with orangutans in Tanjung Puting, as well as elephants in Way Kambas National Park in Lampung, gave her insights about the toll of habitat loss and conflicts with humans that took on their psyche.
“Like humans, orangutans and elephants suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “Like us, they feel a close affinity to their families, so losing loved ones is as painful for them as it is for us.
“Elephants are matriarchal and led by females like Kartini Gajah or Kartijah, a 38-year-old elephant in Way Kambas. She remembered how humans used hooks and prods to train her to carry people. As the leader of her group, she is observant of her surroundings and able to plan ahead. This is particularly vital in determining where they will go.”
A healing hand
Didi found out that animals and people share similar psychological issues beyond loss and trauma.
“I used to work with a stallion who was notorious for biting people who walk past his cage,” Didi said of the horse, whom she encountered at stables run by the National Police in Kelapa Dua.
As with humans, she found that the horse adopted a defiant attitude as a defense mechanism.
“Horses are perhaps the most sensitive of all animals, as they can detect our emotions, nerves and even motives through our heartbeat and rapid breathing. The stallion not only refused to cooperate when I reached out to him; he even suggested that I get myself under control!” she remembered with a laugh.
“It turned out that he was suffering from survivor’s guilt, as he was the only surviving offspring of his mother. Eventually, the horse let me treat him by recalling his past to release him from negative emotions or energies, after which he became more well-adjusted.”
Didi noted that animals are simpler than humans.
“If they can have it have their way, animals would depart this life more voluntarily. But people, like possessive pet owners or vets, who insist on euthanizing animals to end their suffering often get in the way,” she said.
Yet their instincts to protect their owners can make them seem cunning.
“A fellow animal whisperer talked to a cat who fell ill to keep her owners from traveling, as she had a premonition of a disaster happening to them. She then told the owners that the cat would like a salmon. They thought the request was incredible, as they didn’t realize the cat ‘requested’ the salmon from my friend. After they canceled their plans, the cat felt better, especially after he had a salmon,” she added.
Books written by Didi Almeyda. (Courtesy of Didi Almeyda/File)
Giving animals their say through books
Aside from reaching out to animals with her fellow animal whisperers, Didi is an author with four published books. Her books chronicle animal insights, starting with her debut book Pacoh, Ketika Kucing Bicara (Pacoh, When a Cat Speaks), which was published in 2012.
“Pacoh, Ketika Kucing Bicara and its sequel Pacoh and Friends are told in two points of view: Pacoh the cat’s and my own,” she said. “The difference is that the feline point of view is typed in italics, while mine is typed in normal print.”
Didi continued that style in her fourth book, sporting the tongue-in-cheek title Pengabdi Kucing: Kisah Nyata Seekor Manusia di Antara Para Kucing (A Trained Human Slave: The True Story of a Human Among Cats). Published in 2018 with more feline characters, the book recounts her experiences rescuing cats and keeping them. The narrative ranges from amusing incidents like one cat burying another in litter to a female cat’s heart-wrenching description of being cast to the streets by her owners before being rescued by Didi. On the other hand, her third work Miraculin is a young adult novel.
Didi said she planned to write more books in the near future.
“I have not determined the book’s plot yet, but it will be about animal wisdom,” she said. “Much of it is about my trips to Tanjung Putting and Way Kambas.”
While the book might still be in the works, it is not too much to say that they are worth looking forward to. (wng)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.