2016 Pet Guide - Animal Reader
Voice, body language and energy are key as Jo Maldonado helps humans and pets find common ground.
Jo Maldonado and her best friends at her home in DeLand.
Eleven years ago, Jo Maldonado’s pets came to the rescue when she broke her hip at her Longwood home.
“I lay in agony, calling my husband, who didn’t hear me. The dogs came running over to me, barking so wildly one of them finally got Henry,” she says of husband Henry Maldonado, president of Maitland’s Enzian theater.
During her 16-week recovery, the longtime public relations executive began reading everything she could about a topic that always had interested her—animal communication. Soon after, she launched a new career as an “animal reader” and teacher working with pet owners and animal groups. But don’t call her a pet “whisperer,” because her multi-pronged approach involves communicating with animals using voice, body language, and energy.
“If people were more familiar with their body language, the voice they use, how they walk into the room, if they only learned the impact on animals, their communication would be more fluid,” says Maldonado, who shares her DeLand home with two cats, Kitty and Francis, a 110-pound Great Pyrenees-Bernese mountain dog named Koda, and three long-haired dachshunds named Lil, Bear, and Sydney. “We are all beings of various species; however, we all communicate with the language of energy.”
The energy Maldonado reads from animals can be remarkably on target, says Todd Langston, local dog behaviorist and master trainer for Cesar Millan of National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer.
“When she first met one of my dogs who was totally healthy at the time, she looked at me and said that he would struggle with kidney issues,” says Langston, who has worked with Maldonado. “A couple of years later, that dog died of kidney disease. I’ve watched Jo get a horse to lie down from about 25 feet away just by using her thoughts and her energy. She is the real deal.”
Maldonado, who studies the ancient energy-balancing practice of Qigong (chee-gung), has met her share of skeptics, but that doesn’t deter her. An instructor at the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning (RCLL) since 2015, she has taught two courses—“Animal Communication, the Basics” and “Animal Communication in Depth”—which were so popular that students signed up on a waitlist, says RCLL director Jill Norburn.
“Even if people are skeptical about the topic, we have a lot of animal lovers who love the aspect of seeing the animals and learning more about how other people think,” says Norburn, adding that the Basics course is back Sept. 6.
Part of each curriculum typically involves mental energy exercises, animal role playing, and visits by rescue pets or sanctuary animals that join in classroom fun to help students hone their communication skills.
When Maldonado works with clients at a sanctuary or rescue center, the animals’ energy can reflect stress and previous abuse. Diane Delano of the nonprofit Wild Horse Rescue Center in Mims, says Maldonado has solved issues for many horses, mostly mustangs, rescued at the center.
“We don’t know everything about a lot of the horses that come in,” Delano says. “You can see they’re afraid. Jo can put together why they would be in that state of mind. She has the gift.”
Maldonado also works with Judy Sarullo of Pet Rescue by Judy in Sanford.
“She’ll sit with the animals and advise me what they’re feeling, and she calms them down,” Sarullo says. “She works with dogs and cats to settle them down so we can better interact and try to resolve their issues.”
Maldonado’s pet readings for individual clients can reveal surprise solutions. One frantic woman contacted her about a beloved pet cat that appeared to be dying.
“After dialoguing with the cat, the cat said he wanted her to just chill,” Maldonado says. “He wanted to live out his days walking in the garden with her, and he wanted to watch fish. The husband built shelves and got a fish tank. The cat got stronger. I told them to set up a time of day when the two of them would meditate together . . . and every day the cat would sit on their laps and chill out with them. It’s a great example of our energy and our mindset and how it affects our animals.
“I see people get better with their intuition, stronger, and more confident. If it weren’t for their animal, they would never have learned that. I think the biggest reward is seeing how people change for the love of their pets.”
For more information and video links about animal communication, visit www.animalreader.com
Six tips from Jo Maldonado for building a better relationship with your pet.
Balance your energy and behavior. After a challenging day, keeping your voice neutral and avoiding outbursts maintains balanced communication without projecting excessive energy to your pet.
Give your pets a job. Animals need purpose, so let them know what their jobs are, whether it’s to protect, comfort, fetch, or simply be playful and provide joy.
Respect the species. Understand your pets’ boundaries, and don’t humanize them. Animals have specific personalities—cuddling may not be their choice, for example. Don’t “baby” them—no bonnets and baby carriages, please. A dog has to be a dog and a cat a cat. Let them interact on their own terms.
Meditate and go for walks. Pets are happy when your energy is balanced. Meditation helps to keep you centered, and walks keep you grounded. Walking with them is a great bonding experience.
Know your animal’s body language. Each species has a significant meaning for certain postures. Check out the body language of the animal that interests you. Ears back for some species may mean one thing in a dog, yet another in a horse or cat.
Research your specific breed. Make sure your breed, with its lineage of traits, strengths, and weaknesses, fits your family's dynamic. Some animals many not respond favorably, for example, to a high-energy household with active children.